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Your complete online news, information, and recreation guide to Lake Lanier
Nov. 30, 2015
1:46 pm


Corps of Engineers

Prescrived burns help protect the environment

By Craig Sowers, Park Ranger
Once again this winter, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be conducting prescribed burns on public lands around Lake Lanier. The Corps began the program on Lanier in the winter of 2011-2012 to reduce the risk of wildfires and ensure the health of the ecosystem.

Prescribed burns are controlled fires under specific environmental conditions with appropriate precautionary measures that confine the fire to a specific area. These fires are implemented by trained and experienced land management professionals under permits issued by the Georgia Forestry Commission.

Two prescribed fires are planned this winter: one in Gwinnett County near Buford Dam Park, and the other on an island in the lake. The exact dates have not been scheduled at this time. Since the program was begun at Lake Lanier, the Corps has used controlled burns in five areas, totaling 124 acres.

Prescribed fires have several benefits to the safety and health of the environment. First, these controlled fires help reduce the build-up of forest fuels, such as fallen leaves, pine needles, branches and dead trees. By periodically burning them through the prescribed burn process, the ecosystem is kept relatively clear of debris that could result in a destructive wildfire that starts from the lightning strike or an out-of-control recreational fire.

This process also improves the quality of wildlife habitats for plants and animals. In nature, forests in the Southeast evolved through fires. Native plants and animals are accustomed to frequent fires and depend on them for their survival. Remember that these fires are conducted under the watchful eye of trained professionals and are conducted for specific purposes.

And when you’re camping, using fire rings or cooking out, please be careful to keep fires contained and make sure they are completely extinguished before leaving them unattended. Stir the ashes and dowse them thoroughly with water until they are cold and have no remaining glowing embers.
More info: 770-945-9531,

October 2015 column

Here are some answers to quetions about hunting dates, fishing on Lanier

By Craig Sowers, Park Ranger
At this time of year the Corps of Engineers usually starts getting two questions from the public who hunt and fish on Lake Lanier. Hunters ask, “Are you going to have the hunts again this year?” Fishermen ask, “Can I get a permit to sink brush in the lake?” The answer to both questions is, “Yes.” If you have been asking yourself these same questions, here is a little information that you need to know.

For those familiar with the hunting opportunities on Lanier, not much has changed for this year. Deer hunting on Corps of Engineers’ property around Lanier is limited to two archery-only quota hunts – “Islands Hunt” and “Buford Dam Hunt.” The Islands Hunt occurs on specified, undeveloped islands in Lake Lanier. Access is typically by boat only. The hunt is divided into three four-day hunts. This year the hunting dates are November 12-15, November 26-29, and December 10-13. The Buford Dam Hunt is a three-day hunt that occurs on the south end of the lake on lands around the Lake Lanier Project Management Office. This year the hunt is scheduled for November 17-19, with a required pre-hunt safety meeting on November 16 at 7 p.m.

To participate in these hunts, hunters must obtain a permit from the Corps of Engineers in addition to the required state licenses. Permits are issued by lottery drawings. To be entered in the drawings, hunters must apply by letter to: Operations Project Manager’s Office, Attn: Craig Sowers, P.O. Box 567, Buford, GA 30515. Letters must contain full name, address, phone number, email address, and indicate the specific hunt(s) applied for. Disabled veterans are given preference for the Buford Dam Hunt. Eligibility for this preference should be indicated in the applicant’s letter. Application letters must be received by October 15.

Waterfowl hunting on Lanier is divided into two seasons – an early season for Teal and Canada Geese and a late season for Ducks and Canada Geese. The Corps allows hunters to use some of the closed parks as access for waterfowl hunting. Hunters do not need a Corps permit to hunt waterfowl on Lake Lanier. The regulations on hunting hours, bag limits, locations and required licenses can be found at and

To improve fish habitats in the lake, a permit is required from the Corps to sink brush in the lake. Much of the woody vegetation between elevation 1035 mean sea level (msl) and 1070 msl was cleared by the Corps during construction of the lake. This left the top 35 feet of Lanier without much fish habitat. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Corps of Engineers and the public have worked through the years to restore the fish habitat, generally with man-made structures called fish attractors. Fish attractors can be made with a variety of materials, but sunken brush and used Christmas trees are the most common.

The Corps issues permits for creating fish habitats. The permit is free of charge, but for safety there are some restrictions on types of materials, water depth and locations. Here are some general restrictions:

  • No metal, used tires, or other “trash” may be used to construct the fish attractor.
  • No portion of the fish attractor may be situated above elevation 1050 msl.
  • Fish attractors must be placed in locations that are not obvious hazards to boating or swimming.

To obtain a fish attractor permit, apply by letter to: Operations Project Manager’s Office, Attn: Craig Sowers, P.O. Box 567, Buford, GA 30515. Letters must contain full name, address, phone number, a detailed description of the materials that will be used, the final size of the fish attractor, and a map showing both the location and water depth where the fish attractor will be installed.

Lake Lanier is a great hunting and fishing destination. If you are interested in hunting or installing fish attractors, but have more questions, please contact Park Ranger Craig Sowers at (770) 945-9531.

September 2015 column

Let's go camping on Lanier

 By Robert Daniel, Park Ranger
The summer recreation season is drawing to a close but that doesn’t mean that Lake Lanier shuts down. Most of the Corps of Engineers day-use parks and campgrounds typically close at varying times during September. However many of the lake’s boat ramps remain open all year.

Good news for people who want to camp lakeside this fall, winter and spring, the area features more than 150 campsites ranging from tent sites to 50-AMP RV locations. As for camping, this year the Corps will operate two lakeside campgrounds – Sawnee Campground off Buford Dam Road and Bolding Mill. Both will offer camping through next spring by reservation.

Sawnee’s 46 sites, shower house and laundry facility will be open through March 1, 2016. It has eight 50-AMP sites, 31 30-AMP sites and 17 tent sites, plus playground facilities and a boat ramp.

All of Bolding Mill’s 92 campsites will be open through December 16. After that time, the Corps will be performing routine maintenance at the facility and the number of campsites will be reduced to 48. The park has two shower houses and a laundry facility. After December 16, one shower facility and the laundry facility will be closed for maintenance as well. These amenities will reopen in early March 2016. Work being done at Bolding Mill also includes selected removal of underbrush so that people can have better views of the water from the campsites.

Both of these campgrounds were open all year in the 2014-15 recreation season. The Corps lowered the fees Mondays through Wednesdays to encourage more weekday camping, and the lower fees will remain in place this season on those days again.

The Corps initiated a pilot program at Bolding Mill by using volunteers to manage campground operations, from manning the gates to cleaning up campsites and shower houses. This has helped with keeping the campground open during the winter months.

Reservations for these campgrounds are required between October 1 and March 1 and may be made by calling 877-444-6777 as late as your day of arrival. You can also go online at to reserve a campsite.

No August 2015 column

July 2015 column

Leases with Corps enhance recreation opportunities at Lanier

By Zachary Lambert, Real Estate Specialist
As one of the most visited US Army Corps of Engineers lakes in the United States, Lake Lanier offers a number of recreational opportunities for the public. From parks with camping and boat launches to picnic areas and beaches, the Corps maintains these facilities through the allotment from the federal budget.

Since the reservoir was constructed, the Corps has been allowed to enter into lease agreements with other public entities to help maximize access to the lake and use by consumers. A fine example of this partnership is demonstrated by the lake’s marinas.

Currently, there are nine commercial marinas on Lanier. In most cases, the marina’s management has entered into a lease with the US Army Corps of Engineers that stipulates certain terms of usage, maintenance, amenities and responsibilities. Before improvements or changes can be made, the marina management must present a written plan to the Corps for approval. This includes the addition or removal of docks and changes in how docks are constructed. In addition, marina projects that take place on public lands – typically those on the shoreline at or below 1085 feet above sea level, must be submitted, reviewed and approved.

Depending on the scope of the project or change, those approvals may be determined by the Buford Dam Project Office, but projects of a more significant impact may require review by the Mobile District Office or the South Atlantic Division staff.

The Corps has also partnered with a number of area governments for the management and maintenance of parks along the shoreline. Under these agreements, the entities can make approved improvements to these parks and they are responsible for maintenance and upkeep. For instance, the City of Cumming holds the lease for Mary Alice Park. The park is open to the public, but the city is responsible for changes and improvements, of course with prior approval from the Corps.

In all, there are 16 public park sites that are leased around the lake. These parks offer a range of sizes and services, but they can offer roped-off swim areas, boat ramps and public-use docks, camping or sporting activities. Hall County leases Laurel Park, which is frequently the site of statewide, regional and national fishing tournaments. Clarks Bridge Park is another example of a partnership lease; this lease is shared between Hall County and the City of Gainesville.

Although certain parks and facilities are leased to separate entities, the Corps requires that every organization secure special event permits as outlined by law.  Fishing tournaments, sailing regattas, boating competitions and other activities that affect the use of the lake and the public’s access to the lake are among the activities that require permitting.

Lanier Islands is also a leased facility. In reality, the Corps entered into an agreement with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources back when the park was operated by the state of Georgia. Over the years, the facility has transitioned to private management, but the direct lease remains between the Corps and the DNR and the Lake Lanier Islands Management Authority. In August 2005, LLIDA entered into a formal agreement with Lake Lanier Islands Management Company, which is owned and operated by the Virgil Williams family.

Being able to lease public lands to separate entities helps the Corps continue to provide quality access and amenities at Lanier while maintaining the environment. In these times of shrinking budgets and increased financial responsibility. the Corps is grateful for its ongoing partnerships that help the public continue to enjoy all that Lake Lanier has to offer. 

June 2015 Column

Gearing up for summer: tips from the Corps of Engineers

By Nicholas Baggett, Natural Resource Manager
Memorial Day is nearly here and that signals the start of the summer recreation season at Lake Sidney Lanier. School’s out and people will start heading back to the lake for some serious fun. A trip to the lake for picnics, swimming, and boating has become a tradition for many over the last several years. Lanier provides so many wonderful water-related resources for people to enjoy – parks, campgrounds, marinas, boat ramps, walking trails, beaches, islands – all located just a few miles from the hustle of city and suburban life.

However, a fun weekend outing can turn to tragedy as people unexpectedly lose their lives while at the lake. Lanier can and should be a fun place for responsible water recreation, but visitors should be ever mindful of the risks that they may encounter while around water.

Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions surrounding water safety. As a result, many people are not as cautious as they should be when wading, swimming, or boating at the lake. For example, sometimes people hear about a drowning and sometimes dispel the risks incorrectly assuming the individual could not swim, was swimming alone, or was swimming irresponsibly far from shore. The facts about drowning are very sobering:
  • Approximately 6,000 people drown each year in the U.S.
  • 63 percent of adult drowning victims knew how to swim.
  • 72 percent of drowning victims were not alone at the time of the accident.
  • Most drownings occur within 10-30 feet of safety and in less than 10 feet of water.

Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in the United States for persons 15-44 years of age. Many of these deaths are preventable with a few, simple precautions. Among adolescents and adults, alcohol use is involved in up to 70 percent of deaths associated with water recreation and about one in five reported boating deaths. Alcohol influences balance, coordination and judgment, and its effects are heightened by sun exposure and heat.

Lack of life jacket usage is a rising problem on Lanier and elsewhere. The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control reported that 72 percent of boating deaths were caused by drowning, with 88 percent of victims not wearing life jackets.

With a little preparation and responsibility, we can all increase our chances of a safe and fun summer on Lanier if we remember a few rules of water safety. Simple steps can be taken to minimize the risk of drowning on the lake this summer:
  • Learn how to swim.
  • Never swim alone; always swim with a person who can help you if trouble does happen.
  • Wear a life jacket while out on the water and ensure that children’s life jackets fit them.
  • As the adult in charge, carefully watch your children while at the beach; other siblings will get distracted while playing and quickly lose track of the child that cannot swim.
  • Don’t consume alcohol and swim.

If you plan to go boating on the lake, please remember to:
  •  Complete a boating safety course.
  • Wear your life jacket.
  • Know where you plan to go and let someone else know your plans.
  • Check your boating equipment to make sure it is operational and safe.
  • Make sure you have all the required safety equipment on board your vessel.
  • Be courteous and know the “rules of the road.”
  • Don’t consume alcohol and operate a vessel.
  • Watch out for others who may not be operating their boats safely.

For a complete copy of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources “Handbook of Georgia Boating Laws and Responsibilities,” visit:

In getting ready for a trip to the lake, remember to plan for water safety. Have a very safe and enjoyable summer at Lake Lanier.

No May 2015 column

April 2015 column

Please keep your permit information current with the Corps

By Ernest Noe, Park Ranger
Do you know whether your permit contact information is up to date with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers? If you are a permit holder for a dock or other approved shoreline project, please ensure that your contact information is correct. Here’s why.

The Corps currently maintains a Shoreline Outgrants database that includes the name, address, phone and email address, so that we can easily access information to assist with various inquiries. The information in this database is also used to expedite contact with permit holders for various reasons.

The Corps operates a Shoreline Help Desk for Lake Lanier to provide customer service to people who hold the more than 10,500 Shoreline Use Permits (dock permits), answer questions from prospective buyers of properties that include shoreline permits, and respond to questions from the public regarding various permits and properties adjacent to Lake Lanier. When our database contains current and accurate information, it is much quicker and easier to provide good customer service and respond accurately to inquiries.

Additionally, the Corps periodically sends out correspondence and communications to permittees, such as notices, reminders of the need for permit renewal, and other pertinent documents. Much of this type of information is distributed through the US Postal Service. In too many cases, this important correspondence is returned to our office marked “Undeliverable” because the permittee has moved and their postal forwarding order has expired.

When we check our database for an alternate method of contact, we often find that the phone number is no longer operating. More and more people are discontinuing their land lines and only using their mobile phone number as their main contact. If this is the case with you, please notify us of your new phone number.

When time permits, the Corps may research contact information through county tax offices to identify property owners and find their most current contact information. This is a time-consuming process that can cause further delays in our ability to communicate in a timely manner with you.

To help us provide better customer service and respond to citizens, the Corps plans to implement a new database that will be accessible to rangers from their vehicles. Currently being tested, the new database will allow real-time updates that rangers can transmit from the field. The new database, which we hope will be ready within the next 12 months, should also allow us to communicate with permittees via email – as long as we have accurate email addresses – and will save on the costs of postage and printing. Some letters from the Chief Ranger will still be sent via standard postal means.

It is the goal of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to serve the public better and the processes smoother for you and us. If you have changes or updates in your contact information, please call the Shoreline Help Desk at 770-945-9531. The Help Desk is manned on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

March 2015 column

Corps sets sights on abandoned boats and docks with community parnterships

By Nicholas Baggett, Natural Resource Manager
More and more abandoned vessels and docks have started to appear at Lake Sidney Lanier over the past few years. After receiving several reports of abandoned vessels and docks around the lake, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided to initiate a concerted effort to remove these eyesores.

As managers of the lake and its shoreline, the Corps is working very hard to protect Lake Lanier. But, we do have limitations on our manpower and resources in addressing abandoned property issues. Because the Corps does not have the appropriated funds to remove abandoned vessels and docks from the lake, we reached out to some of our partners, particularly the Lake Lanier Association and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, in the spring of 2014 to discuss partnering to address this issue.

Abandoned vessels and docks in disrepair violate the 2004 Shoreline Management Plan on Lanier. Once a vessel or dock is identified as an issue, the Corps attempts to contact the owner and require him or her to remove the property from the lake and/or repair the vessel or dock so that it is safe and useable.

Depending on the situation, the Corps has different tools that can be used to address violations, such as imposing fines on owners of the abandoned/unauthorized property, impounding the abandoned/unauthorized property in place, revoking dock permits associated with the owners of the property, and/or issuing citations to appear in federal magistrate court.

If the owner is known, the Corps will first notify the owner verbally, and then send a written notice and/or a warning citation, allowing 30 days to make the necessary repairs and/or remove the vessel or dock from the public property. If corrective actions are not completed by the deadline, the next step is issuing a citation requiring that the owner appear in court. Pending the outcome of the court case, the judge may require compliance and assign a deadline to have the issues corrected.

However, sometimes the Corps cannot determine who owns an abandoned vessel or boat dock. These are the cases that challenge the Corps and its partners. In response to this challenge, the Lake Lanier Association has developed a spreadsheet to assist in tracking abandoned vessels and docks.

Since the beginning of this partnership, the association has been very instrumental in removing two vessels from Lanier – one houseboat and one sailboat. The Corps has also been working with local, county, state and federal agencies in the removal of various abandoned vessels and boat docks around the lake. The Georgia DNR is also assisting this effort by locating registered owners of the vessels and the reporting of abandoned vessels.

There is still much more that can be done. If you would like to become a partner in this effort or would like to assist in any way, please contact me at the Corps’ Lake Sidney Lanier Office at 770-945-9531.

See related story >>>

February 2015 column

Beware of hypothermia when you visit the lake this winter

By Joe Fulcher, Park Ranger
With the colder temperatures this winter – not only air temperatures but the lake’s water temperature as well – be aware of the risks of hypothermia. From accidentally slipping on an icy patch on the dock or your boat, to simply being exposed to extreme cold without skin protection for an extended time, hypothermia is a dangerous and possibly life-threatening condition.

Most people think that hypothermia can only happen in extremely cold water, but it can happen any time your body is losing heat faster than your body can produce heat, and your body temperature drops to below 95 degrees.

Be sure to dress properly when headed outside, especially if you’re going to be outside for more than a few minutes. It’s also a good idea to prepare yourself for the unexpected; wearing additional layers can provide protection in case you find yourself in the cold longer than you had planned. Gloves and hats are recommended as well.

Runners and others who are exercising in the cold also need to take precautions to prevent sudden loss of body heat. When you perspire from intense activity, that’s your body losing heat. At first you may feel warm, but be aware of a sudden chill. It could be the first step toward hypothermia.

Symptoms of hypothermia
Most often the first signs are feeling chilled and shivering. This is the body’s defense mechanism to try to re-warm itself. Other common symptoms include dizziness, nausea, faster breathing, trouble speaking, confusion, drowsiness, lack of coordination, fatigue and increased heart rate. Your lips may turn blue; your skin may even feel somewhat clammy.

If not addressed quickly, the symptoms will often worsen. In more severe cases, your pulse will become weak, breathing will be slow and shallow. Increased confusion, slurring of speech and eventually loss of consciousness will soon follow.

If you fall into the lake, slowly make your way toward shore, a dock or boat nearby. Flailing around will cause you to lose body heat more quickly. It’s a good idea to use the buddy system when you’re coming to the lake in the winter; make sure your phone is charged and keep it in a waterproof pouch and that you are keeping an eye on each other at all times.

Tips to prevent hypothermia
Remember to dress appropriately for the conditions. If it’s cold and wet, make sure to wear at least one layer of water-resistant clothing. Be sure to wear gloves and a hat. Your body loses a significant amount of heat from the top of your head, so a closed hat is better.

Refrain from consuming alcoholic beverages that may mask the symptoms or give a false sense of warmth. Don’t over exert yourself to the point of perspiring if you don’t have somewhere you can go to warm yourself. Consider using commercially available products that can help warm the body artificially. These types of items include air/chemical-activated pocket warmers, electric and fuel heaters, and garments that wick perspiration away from the body.

What to do
If you or someone else displays any of these symptoms, move to a warm, dry environment. replace wet clothes with warm dry clothes or blankets. However, if you can’t get to a warm place, leave the wet clothes on to create a barrier and hold in convective heat. Cover the person with blankets or other available coverings. In severe cases it may be necessary to use a technique called body warming where the affected individual can be warmed by the body heat of others. Be very cautious about exposing the person to warm/hot water or direct heat; this could complicate the problem.

Hypothermia is a dangerous condition that can become serious in a very short time. It’s better to seek medical attention or call 911 because severe hypothermia can be life threatening.

January 2015 column

Earn free Day-Use Annual Pass from Corps: Learn boating safety

By Joe Fulcher, Park Ranger
Oh the weather outside is frightful.
But the spring will be delightful.
And since we’ve no place to go. (Sing it loud)
Let us Boat! Let us Boat! Let us Boat!

With the cold gray days and rain we’ve been experiencing lately, I’m sure many of you have not been venturing out to our lake for an exciting day of boating, kayaking, fishing, swimming or walking. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be gearing up for the recreation season and brushing up on our boating safety skills.

Why not give up a few hours of your time for a free U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Annual Day-Use Park Pass, valued at $30? You’ll no longer need to worry about having exact change for the honor vaults located at park entrances or boat ramps where applicable. This is not a misprint to be retracted in next month’s publication. I did say FREE!

As a courtesy for completing a Georgia boater safety course, whether in a classroom setting or online, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will give you a complementary Annual Day-Use Park Pass good for one year. The pass is not applicable for campgrounds. This pass is good at Lake Lanier’s 33 day-use parks and 27 day-use boat ramps, along with all US Army Corps of Engineers day use parks and boat ramps nationwide as applicable per that project’s guidelines.

You don’t need to be a boat owner to qualify for this offer; you merely need an appreciation of the great outdoors, must be a Georgia resident over age 16, and complete a Georgia-approved boater safety certification within one year of requesting your free pass. This opportunity applies to the free online class(s) and the home study, online and classroom courses that do require a fee. Get started now by visiting You’ll see a selection of options for classes.

Bring your completed course certificate in person Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. to the Corp’s Lake Lanier Project Management Office at 1050 Buford Dam Rd., Buford, to receive your free Annual Day-Use Park Pass. If you have questions, please call the office at 770-945-9531.

For those who may not qualify for the free offer, you may purchase an annual pass by calling the Corps office with a credit card, mailing a check to the Lanier Project Office or by visiting us in person where you may pay with exact change, check or credit card.

If you are a regular visitor to our parks, the $30 annual pass will quickly pay for itself if you are routinely paying the $3-$4 entrance/boat ramp fees where applicable.

Reminder: The New Boater Education Requirement became effective on July 1, 2014. Known as the “Kyle Glover Boat Education Law,” this law requires that anyone born on or after January 1, 1998, who operates any motorized vessel on Georgia waters must complete a boating education course approved by DNR prior to operation of such vessel.

December 2014 column

Corps updates status of dock permit requests

By Ernest Noe, Chief Ranger
The Lake Lanier Project Management Office of the Corps of Engineers announced the availability of the remaining dock permits by normal procedures on September 16, 2014. As of November 17, 12 site visits have been completed.

Between taking visitors that walked in the morning of September 16 and taking phone requests a list was compiled and there were initially 160 requests received the first day with 144 requests taken in the first hour of operation.

For those who have their names on the request list and are waiting for the Corps Office to contact you, please be patient. The rangers have been working through the list and are calling the requestors as well as working their other duties for Shoreline Management. Those on the list are being contacted in the order that they signed up for the list.

The Corps is attempting to coordinate 10 requests at a time. Each group of 10 requests can take the four area rangers two to three weeks to accomplish. Due to the numbers of requestors, we anticipate that the process of working through the full list and the process may take up to a year to complete.

Also note that just because you have been put on the list does not guarantee that you receive a permit. Some sites will be denied and for some that at at the bottom the list there may not be permits available to accommodate your requests.

The Corps has received requests to put this list online so that the public will be able to monitor the progress however the only information that was documented was names and phone numbers. Due to privacy concerns this information can’t be posted for public view.

As a result of the Lake Lanier Shoreline Management Plan, Lake Lanier has a cap on permits at 10,615. At this time there are about 10,550 permits issued.

Corps seeking comments, input about community docks

By Pamela A. Keene

Now through December 15, the Corps of Engineers is accepting comments about a proposed revision to the community docks policy at Lake Lanier. The original policy set a deadline of December 1, 2014, as the expiration date for undeveloped communities to obtain an approved Local Issuing Authority (LIA) final plat.

“These permittees were given until December 1, 2014, to obtain an approved LIA final plat,” said E. Patrick Robbins, Public Affairs Officer in the Corps Mobile District Office. “However, since the economy didn’t recover as anticipated, several of these developments are just now getting to a point of being able to move forward.”

The Corps is proposing to change the SMP to allow these permittees to have until the expiration of their current permit to obtain the LIA. As part of the process of revising the policy, the Corps is accepting public comment until 4:30 p.m. ET on Monday, December 15.

Comments may be emailed to, with the “2014 SMP Update” in the subject line, or mailed to Lake Sidney Lanier, Shoreline Management, C/O 2014 SMP Update, P.O. Box 567, Buford, GA 30515.

November 2014 column

Corps provides update on prescribed burning at Lanier

By Craig Sowers, Park Ranger
In winter 2011/2012 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started a prescribed fire program around Lake Sidney Lanier. Many people have probably heard that the Corps is doing this, but probably only a few have seen the results. So, what has happened with prescribed fire in the past three years? What is the Corps planning for this year? And, why is the Corps doing this at all? All of these are very good questions. And here are the answers.

In the 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 seasons, the Corps, along with local partners, conducted five prescribed burns in three separate parks. One burn was conducted in Forsyth County while the other four were conducted in Hall County. The total area burned adds up to 72 acres.

The wet winter last year prevented any prescribed burning by the Corps in the 2013/2014 season. This may seem like a slow start to the prescribed burning program, but that is exactly what the Corps wanted. Because these areas had not burned in decades, large fuel buildup could mean really large fires. The Corps has kept the fires small for safety.

So what is the Corps planning for this year? This year the Corps’ goal is to conduct three prescribed fires and burn a total of 100 acres. One fire is planned for Gwinnett County and one for Forsyth County. The third fire will be something new for the Corps – a prescribed fire on an island in the lake.

The islands in Lake Lanier provide habitat for wildlife that would benefit from a prescribed fire. In addition, these islands get a great deal of summer recreational use and pose a threat for a large wildfire if a recreational fire accidentally escapes. This is one reason the Corps requires any recreational fire on an island to be contained within a device designed for fire, such as a barbecue grill. No open fires are allowed to be in contact with the ground.

And that leads into why the Corps is doing this. The two primary reasons are to 1) reduce the buildup of forest fuels and 2) improve wildlife habitat.

Forest fuels are leaves, pine needles, branches and dead trees that naturally build up in a forest. Historically, natural wildfires in the Southeast United States would consume these fuels. But as time went on, humans removed fire for the ecosystem. That allowed these fuels to continue to build to very unsafe levels. Prescribed fire is a safe way to apply a natural process to reduce the risk of a large, damaging wildfire.

The second reason is to improve wildlife habitat. Because natural wildfires were common in the Southeast United States, the native plants and animals are adapted to fire. By removing fire from the ecosystem, non-native plants that are not adapted to fire have been allowed to move in. Returning fire to the ecosystem in a safe, prescribed manner helps restore those native ecosystems that the native plants and animals depend on.

October 2014 column

Camping on Lanier: Fall provides another lake experience

By Daniel Barnes, Park Ranger
If you enjoy sitting around a campfire on a cool evening and relaxing come join us at Lake Lanier this fall. For years both area residents and visitors have camped at Lanier during the nontraditional recreation season. As cooler temperatures approach and leaves begin to change there are many that view the upcoming months as the optimum time to set up their RV or tent. This season, Campground Manager/Park Ranger Rob Daniel and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will keep both Sawnee and Bolding Mill campgrounds open for public camping this fall and winter.

A key to opening select campgrounds is the availability of trained volunteers, who will be the primary staff at these campgrounds. They are on hand to assist with management of the camping areas, as well as being able to answer visitor questions. The USACE Volunteer Program contributes tremendously to the success of the campground program for Bolding Mill and Sawnee. In fact, volunteers play such a vital role that the Corps is always seeking additional volunteers to support the availability of camping options during fall and winter.

Many people may not think about Lanier as an option for camping, but they are pleasantly surprised by the distinct offerings at each of these campgrounds. For those who seek for a place that’s not too far off the beaten path with peaceful views of the lake and wildlife, Sawnee Campground is a great place to visit. If you prefer something more remote to escape the daily grind, then Bolding Mill Campground can provide you this and more. Regardless of your choice, each campground offers sites that include water hookup and electricity. Additionally, there are bathrooms equipped with shower facilities for you to use.

Sawnee and Bolding Mill campgrounds are open for fall and winter camping through March 14, 2015. Campground operations during the fall and winter season will be different from summer operations. Camping is available by reservation only. Visitors can make reservations either by phone at 1-877-444-6777 or online at from 180 days in advance up to the day of arrival. The gatehouse will not be staffed full time; however, there will be volunteers on site to answer questions and rangers will be passing through periodically. Gates will still be locked at 10:30 p.m. and will reopen at 7 a.m. the next morning for visitor security.

To help us continue offering fall and winter camping at Lanier visit the campgrounds as often as possible. For more information please contact Park Ranger Rob Daniel at 770-945-9531, ext. 3259.

September 2014 column

How to prepare to request a new dock permit at Lanier

By Phil Stavale, Park Ranger
As some of you may be aware, Lake Sidney Lanier’s Corps office will soon be taking requests for remaining new permits for docks. The details of when and where to request a permit will be published at

Requests will be answered on a first call/come, first-served basis. A site inspection is required for new permits, and requests must comply with the 2004 Shoreline Plan. In order to be eligible for permits, you must own the adjacent property.

Once a request is received, the Shoreline Section of the Buford Dam Project Office will contact the applicant to set up an appointment with a ranger. It is important to provide a call back number that you will answer, not a voice mail or message service. Rangers only have a limited amount of time to spend on appointments during the week, so please be sure to contact them if you have to reschedule.

Starting from the time that you meet with the ranger, you will have 90 days to provide the Lake Lanier Project office with a completed application package containing ALL of the following:

  • Two original applications,
  • A recorded deed with deed description,
  • Plat/Survey of the property (Internet maps are not acceptable),
  • Site drawing (map of the area showing where the pathway and dock would be),
  • Dock plans with dimensions, and,
  • Check or money order for the total fees.

Permits can take two to three months to process, so it is important to follow directions precisely. If you cannot provide the paperwork within 90 days or cannot be contacted, you must reapply (if permits are still available).

In the meantime, if you perform any work on the shoreline without a signed permit from the Lake Lanier Office, you will likely be denied a permit and may also receive a citation.

Additional information on Lake Lanier and shoreline management can be located at

August 2014 column

Apply now for fall hunting opportunities on Lanier

By Craig Sowers, Park Ranger
As the steward of the lands and waters that make up Lake Sidney Lanier, one of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ missions is to manage and conserve natural resources while providing quality public outdoor recreation.

When most of us think about outdoor recreation and Lanier, we think of boating, swimming, and camping. But there is another recreation opportunity on the lake that directly serves the Corps’ mission to manage and conserve natural resources. That opportunity is hunting. Due to the setting of the lake, hunting opportunities are limited. But choosing to hunt at Lanier can be safe, enjoyable, successful, and give you a whole different perspective of the lake. The two types of hunting allowed are waterfowl (geese, teal, and ducks) and deer hunting.

Deer hunting options
Of the two opportunities, deer hunting seems to be the most popular. Deer hunting on Corps of Engineers’ property around Lake is limited to two archery-only quota hunts. These hunts are known as the “Islands Hunt” and the “Buford Dam Hunt.” These hunts started in 2007 and 2010, respectively, and provide the opportunity for approximately 100 people to hunt each year. Because of the large number of deer and the high hunter success rate, these hunts are perfect for children and new hunters.

The Islands Hunt occurs only on specified islands. Access is typically by boat only. The hunt is divided into three, four-day hunts. This year’s hunting dates are Nov. 13-16, Nov. 27-30, and Dec. 11-14. Fifteen hunters are drawn for each four-day hunt. In addition, each person drawn is allowed to take one person to hunt with them. This hunt has an average 19 percent success rate.

The Buford Dam Hunt is a three-day hunt that occurs on the south end of the lake on lands around Buford Dam and the Lake Lanier Project Management Office. This year the hunt is scheduled for Nov. 18-20. Fourteen hunters are drawn for this hunt, and each person drawn is allowed to take one person to hunt with them.

All hunters participating in the Buford Dam hunt are required to attend a pre-hunt safety meeting on Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Lake Lanier Project Management Office. For public safety, all Corps of Engineers parks and trails located along Buford Dam Road, except West Bank Park, will be closed during the Buford Dam Hunt. This hunt has an average 31 percent success rate.

To participate in these hunts, hunters must obtain a permit from the Corps in addition to the required state licenses. Permits are issued by lottery drawings. To be entered in the drawings, hunters must apply by letter to Operations Project Manager’s Office, Attn: Craig Sowers, P.O. Box 567, Buford, GA 30515. Letters must include full name, address, phone number and email address. Also indicate the specific hunt(s) you’re applying for. Disabled veterans are given a preference for the Buford Dam Hunt. Eligibility for this preference should be indicated in the applicant’s letter. Application letters must be received by Oct. 15.

Waterfowl opportunities
Waterfowl hunting can also be a very enjoyable experience on Lanier. There are two waterfowl seasons – an early season for Teal and Canada Geese, and a late season for Ducks and Canada Geese.

The Corps allows hunters to use some of the closed parks as access for waterfowl hunting. Hunters do not need a Corps permit to hunt waterfowl on Lanier. The regulations on hunting hours, limits, locations and required licenses can be found at and
As summer draws to an end and you begin making your hunting plans, keep Lanier in mind. You may discover your new favorite hunting spot in your own back yard. Whether you hunt or not, it is important to learn when and where hunting is allowed on public lands and waters so that you’ll be safe.

If you have any questions or would like more information about hunting around the lake, call Park Ranger Craig Sowers at 770-945-9531. Remember, think safety first.

July 2014 column

Keep water safety on your mind this summer

By Chris Arthur, Chief Ranger
The recreation season is in full swing at Lake Lanier following this year’s busy Memorial Day weekend. Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of summer, those lazy humid days where trips to the lake for picnics, swimming and boating are a rite of passage.

We are fortunate that Lake Lanier provides a welcome recreation spot only a few miles from the hustle of city and suburban life. Every year, however, fun weekend outings turn to tragedy as people unexpectedly lose their lives.

Lake Lanier can and should be a fun place for responsible water recreation, but it is crucial to be ever mindful of the drowning risks outlined in this article. With a little preparation and responsibility, we can all increase our chances of a safe and fun summer on Lanier.

There are many misconceptions surrounding drowning. As a result, many people are not as cautious as they should be when swimming or boating. People hear about drowning deaths and immediately dispel the risks incorrectly assuming the individual could not swim, was swimming alone, or was swimming irresponsibly far from shore.

The facts are more sobering:
• 63 percent of adult drowning victims knew how to swim
• 72 percent of drowning victims were not alone at the time of the accident
• Most drownings occur within 10-30 feet of safety and in less than 10 feet of water.

Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in the United States for people 15-44 years of age and almost 6,000 drowning deaths occur annually. Many of these deaths are preventable with a few simple precautions.

Among adolescents and adults, alcohol use is involved in up to 70 percent of deaths associated with water recreation and about one in five reported boating deaths. Alcohol influences balance, coordination and judgment, and its effects are heightened by sun exposure and heat.

Lack of life jacket usage is a rising problem on Lake Sidney Lanier. The CDC reported that 72 percent of boating deaths were caused by drowning, with 88 percent of victims not wearing life jackets.

Simple steps can be taken to minimize the risk of drowning on the lake this summer.
• Learn how to swim well.
• Never swim alone; always swim with a person that can help you if trouble does happen.
• Wear a life jacket while out on the water and ensure that children’s life jackets fit.
• Watch your children while at the beach; other siblings will get distracted while playing and quickly lose track of the child that cannot swim.

There are many days of summer ahead of us. Please enjoy them – responsibly.

June 2014 column

A ranger's perspective: Time to make those boat docks safe

By Philip Stavale, Area Ranger
Have you ever thought about your safety when you drive somewhere or get out on the water? How about when you fly on an airline? Do you ever listen to the flight attendant’s speech? Are you among the many who just take safety for granted? If you have a boat dock you may want to read on.

As we move into the recreation season here at Lake Lanier, many of you will be spending more time on and around the water. It’s a lot nicer out there in good weather than the dead of winter. For those of you privileged to have a dock, consider yourself fortunate, but to restate a famous quote, “With great privilege comes great responsibility.”

Shoreline Management Rangers have spoken with many of you over the years. We’ve written articles and letters about the need to get permits, protect the environment, and keep us updated with your current address and phone number. Let me tell you what we found out about some boat docks.

A couple of years ago, I kept statistics on docks I inspected for about six months. I found many safety problems. More than 30 percent had electrical problems; 18 percent had rotten, broken, or missing boards; and nine percent were outright hazardous. A few I did not even get on; they were that bad.

Here are some things you can do to get your dock safe:
  • Check for protruding nails that you could trip over.
  • Keep the walkways clear of chairs, fishing poles, skis and swim rafts.
  • If you have electric service, check the Ground Fault breaker at the shoreline for proper operation.
  • Make sure your upper-deck railing is solid; openings for gates to jump off are prohibited.
  • Remove diving boards and platforms; they’re prohibited as well.
  • Don’t leave grills or flammable chemicals and fuels unattended; they should be removed when not in use.

Just remember, you’re responsible for the condition and safety of your boat dock and the facilities you have on your permit, at all times. When things break – and they will – please get them fixed.

Always remember that electricity and water do not mix. Never place torches on docks or public land. And never, ever leave burning coals or firewood on a dock.

Don’t depend on your area ranger to tell you what needs to be fixed. Safety begins with you!

May 2014 column

Be aware about encroachments on Corps property

By Jeff Emmert, Chief Ranger
On Lake Sidney Lanier, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains approximately 760 miles of boundary line encompassing more than 56,000 acres of project land and water. Although some sections of the boundary line follow a specific contour or elevation, most of the government boundary consists of straight lines between points. These points are represented on the ground by either an angle iron or monument, with the occasional nail or pipe. Corps of Engineers Park Rangers often address violations where private property is placed on public lands. This is referred to as an encroachment.

The Corps defines encroachments as items placed on public lands longer than 24 hours or repeatedly placed on public lands that are not authorized by a permit. Such items are subject to removal at the owner’s expense. If impounded and unclaimed, these items will ultimately be disposed of. The Corps classifies encroachments in two categories: minor and major. Encroachments may be treated as a permit violation for those properties with a Shoreline Use Permit.

Minor encroachments are typically portable personal items. The Corps generally prefers to return or require the return of minor encroachments to private property. Some examples include small playground equipment, tables and chairs, hammocks, garden equipment and plants, boats/trailers and recreational equipment, yard waste, and fire pits. Some of these items, such as chairs, may be acceptable to use on Corps property temporarily but should be stored on private property when not in use. This could include properly storing the item on a dock or other permitted facility.

Major encroachments generally involve structures or facilities. These are more complex, require more effort to resolve, and often require surveys to determine the extent of the encroachment and confirm that an encroachment has been resolved. Examples of major encroachments include all or a portion of a deck or steps, gazebo, patio, pool, house, eaves of a house, or retaining wall.

Resolution of both minor and major encroachments can be time-consuming and costly. The easiest solution for encroachments is to prevent them. For adjacent landowners, the first step in preventing encroachments is to understand and recognize where the property line exists. Boundary line markings and signs on trees indicate that the public property line is nearby. Before building homes or additions to homes, such as decks or patios, the Corps recommends a landowner hires a reputable surveyor to properly locate and identify the property line and markers. The surveyor should obtain boundary line information from the Corps Project Management Office. Care should then be taken to ensure that structures are not built beyond the property lines.

Resources are available on the Corps’ website to assist the public in understanding Corps property and authorized activities. Please visit the website and the Shoreline Management page at Here you will find the Corps’ Shoreline Management Plan (2004 SMP), which includes information about the Corps boundaries and encroachments, the Boundary Line Guide (brochure), and other information related to public property. Park Ranger staff is also available to answer Shoreline Management questions on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 8 a.m. 4 p.m. at 770-945-9531.

April 2014 column

Campgrounds and day-use parks open for 2014

By Christie Pinson, Park Ranger

The camping season is almost here and the Corps of Engineers is busy preparing to open its campgrounds at Lake Lanier. The Corps operates seven camping areas at the lake. Facilities range from fully developed sites with water and electric hookups to primitive tent sites. Camping fees range from $12 per night for primitive sites to $32 per night for sites with water and 50-amp electric hookups.

Bald Ridge and Old Federal campgrounds open April 10 and will be taking reservations throughout the week. Bolding Mill, Van Pugh South, Duckett Mill, and Sawnee campgrounds open April 10 and will only be open on Thursdays at noon with check-out Sundays at 3 p.m., except for extended holiday weekends on Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day.

For more information about reservations visit or call 1-877-444-6777. Reservations may be made from two to 180 days in advance and include holidays. No additional fees are charged to make reservations; however, there is a $10 cancellation charge. Reservations may be made by Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover cards.

Campers are reminded that:
  • No alcoholic beverages are permitted.
  • Campsite occupancy is limited to a maximum of eight people and three vehicles.
  • Pets are welcome but must be kept on a leash.
  • Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m.
  • Check-out time is 3 p.m.

The Corps of Engineers will also be operating 32 day-use parks for the 2014 recreation season.  Annual passes are available at the Lanier Project Management Office near Buford Dam for $30. The passes are honored at all Corps of Engineers-operated day-use parks nationwide. Locally this includes Lake Lanier, Allatoona Lake, Carters Lake, West Point Lake, Lake Hartwell, Richard B. Russell Lake and Thurmond Lake.

Visitors are reminded to make safety a No. 1 priority while taking advantage of the various recreational opportunities that can be found at Lanier. Always wear your life jacket. It’s an idea everyone can live with.

To purchase annual passes at the Lanier Project Management Office, visit 1050 Buford Dam Road, Buford, seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Passes are also sold at six park gatehouses (West Bank, Buford Dam Park, Little Hall, Van Pugh North, Old Federal Day Use, and Lanier Park) Friday through Sunday from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

You may also order an annual pass by mail. Write a check to USACE F&A OFFICER for $30 and mail it to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Attention: Annual Pass, P.O. Box 567, Buford, GA 30515. Or call 770-945-9531 and pay by credit card. Once your payment is received, you should receive your annual pass within seven to 10 business days by return mail

No new March column

February 2014 column

Improving fish habitats on Lanier

By Jeff Emmert, Chief Ranger
This time of year, especially when we are getting single digit temperatures, it is hard to get motivated to get out on the water to try that favorite fishing hole. However, those who enjoy fishing know that now is the time of the year to be thinking about fish habitat for the season and future years.

The Corps of Engineers’ office often gets asked whether placing fish attractors is allowed on Lake Lanier. The Corps allows brush-type fish structures (such as Christmas Trees) to be place in Lake Lanier as long as a permit has been issued.

As with all other species of wildlife, fish require the proper habitats to survive. During the construction of Buford Dam and Lake Sidney Lanier, the majority of vegetation was removed from the top 40 feet of the lake. There is still standing timber in deep portions of the lake; however, habitats and structures are needed in the other depths as well. Fish use structures for protection, shade, spawning, and even to hide to catch prey.

As recreation areas around the lake have been developed, the Corps has installed fish attractors to improve bank fishing for visitors. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources and private groups, plus individuals, have also completed various habitat improvement projects.

When resources allow, the Corps organizes larger events that can involve the help of volunteers. All of these projects have benefited species such as bass, sunfish, crappie and catfish. A map of the designated areas that the Corps maintains fish attractors can be found at the Corps website.

Obtaining a permit from the Corps of Engineers is simple and can be done at our Project Management Office located near Buford Dam on Buford Dam Road. The permit is free, but it does need to be picked up in person. The desired location for the fish attractors needs to be identified before the permit is issued. Please keep in mind that this permit does not allow for trees to be cut at the shoreline or bank and felled into the water.

For additional information or if you would like to obtain a permit please contact our office at 770-945-9531.

January 2014 column

Corps urges hunters, boaters to be safe this winter

By Chris Arthur, Chief Ranger
Safe, responsible hunters will use extra care to avoid accidents on the water. Drownings happen on lakes, rivers, and ponds each year, especially during hunting season. When boats are used while duck hunting at Lake Lanier, help can be far away. Hunters must rely upon themselves or companions to prevent or deal with the two major threats on or around water – drowning and hypothermia.

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