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Your complete online news, information, and recreation guide to Lake Lanier
Sep. 30, 2014
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Corps of Engineers

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 http://www.sam.usace.army.mil.

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 http://www.sam.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/Recreation/LakeSidneyLanier/ShorelineManagement.

More info: 770-945-9531, www.sam.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/Recreation/LakeSidneyLanier.aspx


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 http://gohuntgeorgia.com/ and http://www.sam.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/Recreation/LakeSidneyLanier/hunting.
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 www.sam.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/Recreation/LakeSidneyLanier.aspx. 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 recreation.gov 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.

Hunters often dress in heavy insulated clothes to stay warm this time of year. This type of clothing can fill with water and weigh you down if you fall in. To avoid drowning, wear a PFD or Coast Guard-approved float coat at all times.

Knowledgeable outdoor users will avoid water accidents because they know why boating and water related deaths occur:
• Overloading, or improper balance of boats
• Use of alcohol or drugs
• Inexperience or unfamiliarity with equipment
• Standing up in a boat
• Equipment failure
• Inappropriate equipment
• Unsafe firearm handling
• Misuse or non-use of personal flotation devices (PFDs)
• Unsecured or improperly secured equipment
• Wading accidents

Over the winter, remember the premise is simple, it almost goes without saying but boating safety experts agree that the message cannot be repeated enough: “Wearing your life jacket can save your life.”

When hunters leave for a day on the water, they seldom expect to find themselves in the water. But if they do and they are not wearing a life jacket, they increase their chances of becoming a statistic.
Be sure when you hunt waterfowl this season to wear your PFD and dress warmly. Follow all water safety and hunting safety rules so that you can enjoy the lake.

If you have questions regarding water or hunting safety, please contact the Corps of Engineers Project Management Office at 770-945-9531.



December 2013 column

Corps continues enforcement of timber trespass, tree removal

By Ernest Noe, Chief Ranger
 
Did you know that it is illegal to remove trees from public lands surrounding Lake Lanier? It’s just like going on your neighbor’s property and cutting down trees. The US Army Corps of Engineers is continuing its dedicated program to enforce timber trespass on public lands to protect the shoreline.

In some cases, selected trees have been removed from Corps property. In others, the land has been clear cut. And while it may be difficult to determine exactly how many and what types of trees have been removed, the US Army Corps of Engineers South Atlantic District has retained the services of an attorney to assist in resolving these situations.

When it is obvious that trees have been removed from Corps’ property, rangers will come out and talk with the homeowners adjacent to the public lands. The Corps will make every effort to determine when the trees were removed and who was responsible for removing them before taking any action.

Fines and replanting
The penalty for removing trees from public lands can be a combination of fines and a requirement to replace trees as much as a two-to-one ratio, depending on the size of the trees that were removed. If there is a dock permit associated with the property, the permit will be tagged noting the encroachment and may also be voided. If it is voided, all dock facilities will be required to be removed.

The standard for replacement is 2-inch caliper for overstory trees and a one-inch caliper for understory trees. The Corps requires the use of native trees, available at area nurseries. The Corps can provide a list of the acceptable tree species. As part of the enforcement process, the Corps provides a replanting plan for property owners which includes the number, size and types of trees that must be planted on the public land.

There are several reasons for continuing to have trees on Corps’ property. They establish and maintain natural habitat for wildlife; they help reduce soil erosion; and they keep the shoreline natural to reduce the noise levels. Lake Lanier has a very limited natural environment on its shorelines and the Corps is working hard to maintain and protect what is there.

For more information about the timber trespass program, contact the Lake Lanier Shoreline Help desk at 770-945-9531.

Corps says ‘Thanks’ with luncheon
By Jane Harrison

Public safety workers and volunteers from five counties surrounding Lake Lanier dined lakeside at Buford Dam Park in the annual Partners in Public Service Appreciation Luncheon put on by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nov. 14. The event drew about 250  attendees for the barbecue lunch and music on a sparkling fall day. “We lucked out” with the weather, said Nick Baggett, Natural Resource Manager for Lake Lanier. The event, held last year in October, was postponed due to the federal government shutdown.

The luncheon expressed the Corps’ appreciation “to all the people that make Lake Lanier work,” said Lanier Operations Project Manager Tim Rainey. Law enforcement officers, firefighters, Coast Guard Auxiliary members, and representatives from boating and safety organizations were among those attending. Six-year volunteers Carolyn and Bruce Zimmerle lunched with a group from the Volunteer Village who serve about 20 hours a week doing various tasks assigned by the Corps. “We’re not ready to sit down and do nothing,” said Carolyn Zimmerle, who assists in the Corps office. The couple keeps a home in Florida, but like others in the Volunteer Village, dwells in a RV camper while helping out on Lake Lanier.

Corps rangers dished up the barbecue plates, provided by Sonny’s Barbecue, while local singer/guitarist Brian Jarrett played country rock tunes. The event was sponsored by the Gwinnett, Dawson, Cumming/Forsyth chambers of commerce, Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, and the Atlanta Sail and Power Squadron.


November 2013 column

Updates from the Corps of Engineers

By Chris Lovelady, Assistant Operations Project Manager

Things are returning to normal for autumn operations at the Buford Dam Project Management Office following the recent government shutdown. Rangers are resuming their fall and winter duties, including the processing of applications for the remaining dock permits and other assignments as we begin the 2014 Federal Fiscal Year.

Additionally, Sawnee Campground is again open for fall and winter campers to enjoy the quiet time on the lake when there’s not as much boat traffic and the leaves are turning colors. Sawnee is open on a first-come, first-served basis from September 20, 2013, until March 23, 2014. Then it will close for two weeks in preparation for the summer recreation season. Sawnee will be open for the summer starting on April 10, 2014.

Through the fall and winter, campers can select their campsite and pay, review fees, rules and regulations, or obtain maps of the park and lake at the self-service registration station by the campground’s gatehouse off Buford Dam Road. Although the gatehouse is not staffed fulltime, park rangers and camp hosts will be making rounds regularly.

Sawnee Campground offers many beautiful waterfront sites from 50 AMP service for larger RVs to primitive pack-in sites for tents. Nearby amenities include grocery stores and restaurants. Easily accessible trails include the Little Ridge Trail to the west and the Laurel Ridge Trail to the east, a four-mile loop that includes excellent views of the lake and crosses through many U.S. Army Corps of Engineers parks. Within a short drive there are additional hiking and fishing opportunities in North Georgia. This is the second fall/winter season that Sawnee Campground has been open for campers. The program is managed completely by our Corps of Engineers volunteers.

Speed tables increase safety
Commuters and visitors traveling Buford Dam Road have no doubt encountered the three new speed tables that were installed in October. The speed tables are located at the three crosswalk locations associated with the Laurel Ridge Trail system. The intent of the tables is to increase safety for hikers using the trail system as they cross the paved roads.

Park improvements
Additional federal funding   made it possible to undertake paving projects within the Corps’ parks this fall. Roads within the parks will be repaved and campsites will also receive attention as the months progress. Some of the parks that will benefit from the program include Little Ridge, Old Federal Park, Bald Ridge, Bolding Mill and Duckett Mill.

You may wonder how the work was funded during the government shutdown. The Buford Dam Project Management Office was the recipient of federal funds through the Federal Land Transportation Program administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Corps staff will also be doing routine maintenance and improvements over the winter months, including various projects around the parks, boat ramps and campgrounds.

For more information or to volunteer, contact the Corps at 770-945-9531.


October 2013 column

Hunters: It's almost time for waterfowl, deer hunting at Lanier

By Craig Sowers, Park Ranger

With fall approaching, many lake users are asking the Corps of Engineers about hunting opportunities at Lake Lanier. Although the opportunities are limited, the lake can provide an excellent, local location for hunting. Two types of hunting are allowed – waterfowl (Geese, Teal, and Ducks) and deer.

Waterfowl hunting is divided into two seasons; an early season for Teal and Canada Geese and a late season for Ducks and Canada Geese. The Corps of Engineers allows hunters to use some of the closed parks as access for waterfowl hunting.

Two important changes were made to the waterfowl regulations this year. The early season restriction on hunting in Bald Ridge Creek, Shoal Creek, or any area south of Lake Lanier Islands has been removed. And West Bank Park will be open for hunting January 1, 2014 through January 26, 2014.

For public safety, West Bank Park will be closed to all public use, except hunting, during this time. Hunters wishing to access West Bank Park will be required to enter the park by boat only.

The regulations on hunting hours, limits, locations and required licenses can be found at http://gohuntgeorgia.com and http://www.sam.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/Recreation/LakeSidneyLanier/hunting.  

Deer hunting
Deer hunting on Corps of Engineers property around Lake Lanier is limited to two archery-only quota hunts. The two hunts are known as the “islands quota hunt” and the “Buford Dam quota hunt.”

In addition to the required state licenses, participants in these hunts must have a permit from the Corps. 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, e-mail address, and indicate the specific hunt(s) applied for. Applications must be received by October 15 for the islands hunt and November 15 for the Buford Dam hunt.

The islands quota hunt is divided into three, four-day hunts. This year, the hunting dates are November 14-17, November 28-December 1, and December 12-15. Fifteen hunters are drawn for each four-day hunt. In addition, each person drawn is allowed to take one person to hunt with them. With an average 12 percent success rate, this hunt is excellent for children and beginners.

The Buford Dam quota hunt is a two-day hunt scheduled for November 19-21. Thirteen hunters are drawn for this hunt. Each person drawn for this hunt is also allowed to take one person to hunt with them. All hunters participating in the Buford Dam hunt are required to attend a pre-hunt meeting on November 18 at 7 p.m.

Safety first
For public safety, all Corps parks and trails located along Buford Dam Road, except West Bank Park, will be closed during the Buford Dam hunt. Hunter education courses are offered by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and in most cases are required prior to hunting. Many of these hunting opportunities take place around water and may require use of a boat. Hunters often forget to wear a life jacket because they do not associate drowning as a risk while hunting. No matter what your primary activity may be, wearing your life jacket is always recommended any time you are around the water.



September 2013 column

Sawnee Campground will be open this fall and winter

By Andrea Wagner, Park Ranger
 
If you’re looking for camping opportunities this fall and winter on Lake Lanier, consider Sawnee Campground. It will be open on a first-come, first-served basis from September 20, 2013, until March 23, 2014.

Campers can select their campsite and pay, review fees, rules and regulations, or obtain maps of the park and lake at the self-service registration station by the campground’s gatehouse off Buford Dam Road. Although the gatehouse is not staffed fulltime, park rangers and camp hosts will be making rounds regularly.  

Sawnee Campground offers many beautiful waterfront sites from 50 AMP service for larger RVs to primitive pack-in sites for tents. Nearby amenities include grocery stores and restaurants. Easily accessible trails include the Little Ridge Trail to the west and the Laurel Ridge Trail to the east, a four-mile loop that includes excellent views of the lake and crosses through many U.S. Army Corps of Engineers parks. Within a short drive there are additional hiking and fishing opportunities in North Georgia.

At Sawnee you can unwind in nature while being merely minutes to several amenities including grocery stores and restaurants. Trout fishermen will enjoy fly fishing and relaxing in the gorgeous Chattahoochee River just 1.3 miles away. Boaters can access Lake Lanier by a boat ramp inside the campground for use by campers only.

After March 23, 2014 the campground will be closed for two weeks for preparation of the summer recreation season and will resume normal operation April 10, 2014.

For more information, please visit www.sam.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/Recreation/LakeSidneyLanier/recreation/camping or contact the Lake Lanier Project Office, 770-945-9531. For summer reservation information visit: www.recreation.gov.


August 2013 column

High water brings hazards; Corps urges caution for swimmer, boaters

By Jay Liebrock, Park Ranger
 
Thunderstorms continue to roll across Georgia this summer, bringing heavy amounts of rain. Lake levels continue to stay above 1071 msl, while the water shed area for Lake Sidney Lanier fills the lake with debris. Along with the rains come winds and wave action that continue to erode shorelines, contributing to more debris in the waterway. After each rain you only need to look over the bow of your boat to see floating obstacles littering the lake. These visible tree branches and other debris are only a portion of what is really hidden under the surface.

Each year tragedy strikes our community as we read about individuals diving from structures, docks, or boats and are injured due to some unseen object that apparently wasn’t there just days before. They suffer injuries, paralysis or death, but most of these accidents could have been avoided by following some simple precautions.
  • The No. 1 thing that any person can do to be safe is to always wear a life jacket when in or near the water.
  • Always swim with a buddy nearby.
  • Swim only in designated swim areas.
  • Inspect the area where you are going to swim, including below the surface for unseen obstacles and objects.
  • Never dive head-first into the water, even if you think the water is deep and clear of debris.
We have especially seen incidents in our parks. For example, West Bank Park’s railing and retaining walls near other beaches tend to entice young folks into jumping or diving into the water. Parents should be very aware of where their children are and the hazards that accompany this type of play. Be sure to talk with your youngsters about safety precautions.

As for boaters, a floating log can ruin a beautiful day at the lake and could potentially cause thousands of dollars in damage to your vessel, in addition to possible injury to passengers. Always have a lookout on your boat to spot these obstacles and drive at a responsible speed to allow yourself plenty of time to avoid obstacles. Just because a boat can go fast doesn’t mean the boat driver should push reasonable speeds

Another danger from these thunderstorms is lightning strikes. Each year people are stuck by lightning because they continue to swim in the lake or hide under trees for protection during a storm. Both of these choices are very dangerous. If you want to wait out the rain shower, then do it in a vehicle on the shore. But, the only real safe thing to do is to take a break from the lake during these pop-up storms and return to a nearby park until the storm has moved out of the area.

Have fun swimming and boating at the lake and remember you are never too old to wear a life jacket.

The Corps of Engineers has a complete water safety campaign with information on its website at http://www.sam.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/Recreation/LakeSidneyLanier/WaterSafety.aspx.



No July 2013 column

June 2013 column

Boat and swim safely: Corps offers tips

By Jay Liebrock, Park 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 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.

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

Startling statistics
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 persons 15-44 years of age; 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.

Life jackets save lives
Lack of life jacket usage is a rising problem on Lake 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.



May 2013 column

Lanier reaches full pool thanks to seasonal rains

By E. Patrick Robbins, Public Affairs Chief/Mobile District
 
Lake Lanier reached full summer pool, 1071, on April 13, 2013, thanks to normal rains in the late winter and spring. Two things have contributed to reaching full summer pool this year. It was a combination of being in drought operations for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) rivers basin and the second was normal rainfall from January through the end of March.

Drought Operations called for conservation throughout the basin in an attempt to help the entire system recover from the drought. This operation plan limited releases at the projects to allow for recovery. The normal rainfall that occurred throughout the basin in January and February provided the flows needed for recovery. Drought operations ended on March 1, 2013.

At Lake Lanier Drought Operations meant that we were not releasing water for peak generation demands. We were able to meet that requirement from other Corps projects. Rainfall into the watershed that supplies Lake Lanier averaged 2,988 cubic feet per second from January until the end of March.

The current five-week forecast calls for the lake to remain at summer pool through the first week of May. Beyond five weeks is difficult to forecast which is why we only go out that far.  Obviously, how the lake fares through the remainder of the summer will depend greatly on rainfall, not only in the basin feeding Lake Lanier but also throughout the ACF basin since we operate the ACF as a basin, not individual projects.

During periods of normal rainfall the various project purposes throughout the system can usually be met. However, as rainfall decreases then operational decisions need to be made to keep the system in balance. Each federal project on the ACF system has specific congressional authorizations. In addition, there are various other laws and authorizations that the Corps must follow such as the Endangered Species Act, water quality and water supply requirements.

It’s also important to understand that each project has a different size drainage basin feeding the reservoir. Lake Lanier has the smallest drainage basin and is the deepest lake, thus it takes longer to refill. It is also the headwater lake in the system so it is a key resource when drought conditions worsen.

When drought conditions affect the system, downstream requirements are usually met by waters from the middle reservoirs. However, if conditions continue to deteriorate, then Lanier must be used to meet the requirements. Similarly, when the system begins to recover from a drought then the middle and lower reservoirs tend to refill more quickly because their drainage basins are larger. All of this is obviously dependent on where rainfall occurs during times of recovery and also during drought conditions. The ACF stretches from Lake Lanier in North Georgia to Apalachicola, Fla., so various weather patterns can affect drought and recovery.

The ACF is a dynamic system with many demands and requirements. The Corps makes every effort to meet all authorized requirements as best it can given the availability of the resource (water).

Dock permitting process continues to move along
By Pamela A. Keene

With regular meetings between the Buford Dam Project Office and the Mobile District, the dock permitting process through the US Army Corps of Engineers at Lake Lanier is moving along. “We’re making it a priority to process these lottery dock permits now that the lake is up,” said Ernest Noe, chief ranger for Shoreline Management. “We’re dealing with it along with our other shoreline issues this time of year, and meeting every two to three weeks about it.” Noe said that there’s a review panel that meets virtually to address the remaining permit requests from the lottery. It includes representatives from the Buford Dam office and Mobile.

Here’s where the numbers stand as of late April: 40 permits are pending, appointments have been scheduled or the requestor is still awaiting contact from the Corps; 18 are in recommended status but not yet formally approved; 95 requests have been approved; and 168 of the applications have been denied.

Noe said that the Corps is not currently accepting additional applications for docks beyond those submitted during the lottery. However, once the lottery process is complete, he said that the Corps will issue a news release to announce the process of accepting additional applications on a first-come, first-served basis.


April 2013 column

Lake Lanier campgrounds and day-use parks open for season

By Chris Arthur, Chief 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 11 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 recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777. Reservations can 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 can 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 will also be operating 32 day-use parks for the 2013 recreation season. Annual passes are available at the Lanier Project Management Office for $30. By purchasing the annual pass you gain immediate access to the day-use parks without the need for going through your pockets to find the normally required $4 user fee. The passes are good at all Corps operated day-use parks nationwide. Locally this includes Lake Sidney Lanier, Lake Allatoona, Carters Lake, West Point Lake, Hartwell Lake, Richard B. Russell Lake and Thurmond Lake.

To purchase annual passes at the Lanier Project Management Office, visit 1050 Buford Dam Rd., Buford, GA 30518. You may purchase your pass seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You may also make a check out to USACE F&A OFFICER for $30 and mail your check to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Attention: Annual Pass, P.O. Box 567, Buford, GA 30515. Once your payment is received, you should receive your annual pass by mail within seven to 10 business days.   

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

For more information about recreation at Lanier call 770-945-9531 or find us online at: www.sam.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/Recreation/LakeSidneyLanier.aspx.



March 2013 column

Corps explains dock permit process

By Ernest Noe, Chief Ranger, Shoreline Management

The number of dock permits on Lake Lanier is approaching the maximum of 10,615, as set by the 2004 Shoreline Management Plan. As many of you know, several years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted a lottery to determine the order of review for 187 remaining permits. People submitted applications and their names were put into a lottery-style drawing to place them in the order of review. At the time of the lottery, the Corps received 281 requests and it appeared that some of the people who applied would not be able to receive a permit.

However, based on the extensive review process, the Corps has been able to issue permits for many of those who applied. Those who were not allowed permits may have been denied for several reasons – the permit was a duplicate, the applicant was not eligible to have a dock, or the site/location was not suitable for a dock or other issues. When the Shoreline Management Plan was researched and written, Lake Lanier carried just slightly less than 8,600 private docks. Research showed that to protect the future of the lake and its shoreline, a maximum of 10,615 docks could be permitted. Between 2004 and 2008, more than 2,000 permits were issued.

Levels allow reviews to resume
The Corps continues to process the existing permit applications, but only does so when lake levels are above 1064. Because of lower lake levels over the past couple of years, the review process has been curtailed from time to time. Because we are coming into the season when water levels are traditionally higher, the Corps has resumed reviewing the permit requests in the lottery. The Corps is reviewing each permit request on an individual basis, using the same standards of review that are outlined in the Shoreline Management Plan.

In addition to the requirements that are identified in the 2004 Shoreline Management Plan, the Corps has initiated a team that reviews every recommendation and denial to verify that the actions taken during the lottery are following the Shoreline Management Plan. This team is comprised of Ernest Noe, the Natural Resources Manager Nick Baggett, Assistant Operations Project Manager Chris Lovelady, Operations Project Manager Tim Rainey and three representatives from the Mobile District office. These reviews are conducted by internet conference meetings.

Outlook for dock permits
At this time the Corps still has 91 permits remaining. Additionally, there are only 71 applications still to be reviewed. That said, it appears that there will be permits available after the completion of the review of already-submitted permits. Once the review of all the existing permit requests is complete, the Corps will evaluate the numbers carefully and announce its intentions for accepting new applications for dock permits.

For more information about requirements for dock permits and other information about the Buford Dam Project Management Office, please visit http://www.sam.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/Recreation/LakeSidneyLanier.aspx.


February 2013 column

Visible contributions: Managing natural resources at Lake Lanier

By Jeff Emmert, Chief Ranger
 
Every year the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages Lake Lanier’s parks and campgrounds, issuing more than 10,000 shoreline use permits, and administering leases on multiple marinas, parks and clubs. What many people may not know is that the Corps also manages the natural resources around the lake to the benefit of wildlife, which in turn benefits those who visit the area for fishing, hunting, bird watching, and wildlife viewing.

This includes creating and maintaining food plots and forest openings for deer and turkey, installing artificial fish structures, building bluebird and wood duck boxes, managing quota deer hunts, removing invasive species of vegetation, conducting prescribed burns, and selling timber. The Corps often uses the expertise of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, volunteers, and other local agencies to accomplish these efforts.

A visitor to Lake Lanier may notice some of these projects or already participate in and enjoy these opportunities. If not, here is some information.

Deer, turkey and waterfowl
Driving along Buford Dam Road, hiking the Laurel Ridge Trail, or entering several of our parks along the south end of the lake, you may notice the food plots located under the power lines. Power lines are helpful in creating openings in the forest, and the Corps utilizes these areas to plant vegetation that deer, turkey, and other wildlife use for food. These food plots, along with managed hunting, help the Corps manage a healthy deer population in this area.

Other hunting opportunities include a quota deer hunt on the major islands and waterfowl hunting. Several of the closed parks and campgrounds allow waterfowl hunting. The quota deer hunt permits are offered through a lottery system. Before participating in any hunting, be sure to know the rules and regulations. Information can be found at www.sam.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/Recreation/LakeSidneyLanier/hunting and http://gohuntgeorgia.com/

Fish development
To help support the fish population and create fishing opportunities, the Corp installs artificial fish structures. The Corps targets areas around fishing piers and banks in parks and campgrounds, so visitors who like to fish will hopefully catch that big one. Various types of habitats have been used over the years, including pine trees, hardwood saplings, bamboo, and most recently, spindle type spheres.  With the low lake levels, some of these spindle spheres are visible and look odd, but during normal lake levels, these and all structures are below the water’s surface.

Prescribed burns
Another activity that the Corps performs on public property is prescribed burning. Prescribed burning has many environmental benefits and is a management tool used worldwide. Burning, along with removing invasive species and timber thinning, helps create healthy forests and habitats. For the public’s safety, parks, campgrounds, and other areas are restricted from public use during prescribed burns. Signs and notices are posted prior to the burn to notify visitors. The Corps typically has the Georgia Forestry Commission and county fire departments assisting during these burns.

Bluebird houses
Lastly, you may also notice blue bird boxes located in open grass areas in our parks and campgrounds. With diminishing natural habitat for the Eastern blue bird, these boxes provide nesting opportunities. With the help of our volunteers, the Corps manages more than 100 blue bird boxes located in almost every park and campground.

For questions about these projects or for more information, please call the Corps of Engineers at 770-945-9531 or visit our website at www.sam.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/Recreation/LakeSidneyLanier/.


January 2013 column

Shoreline compliance issues: Is everything OK?

By Philip Stavale, Park Ranger

For park rangers at Lake Sidney Lanier working in Shoreline Management, “Is everything OK?” is one of the most common questions we’re asked when we meet with lot owners about their boat docks. It seems as if everyone wants to know if their dock is OK, and whether the Corps of Engineers is going to want them to do something.

Our term for this is “compliance” or rather, are the facilities on the permit in substantial compliance with the Shoreline Management Plan. Sadly, the vast majority have numerous deficiencies. So, what is a deficiency? Simply defined, a deficiency is something related to the dock permit or associated area of public lands and waters that is in violation of the Shoreline Management Plan. A deficiency can be major or minor, depending on the extent of the violation.

For example, a couple of lawn chairs left on the shoreline is a minor issue while dozens of rotten boards on a dock is obviously a major problem. Another minor deficiency could include leaving a trash can or barbeque grill on the dock. Such items can be easily removed after use and returned to private property. However, a grill with hot coals would be characterized as a major item (docks have caught fire), as would interior electrical fixtures on the dock, the lack of ground fault protection for electric service, or a timber trespass. Items that compromise safety and property receive special attention by our staff.

Major issues of concern
Let’s move on to a few of the more important items we look for. Perhaps the most obvious item that would concern us is the electrical service to boat docks. Electricity and water just do not mix. Oftentimes we find the service is not ground fault protected, has interior type fixtures, or a physical break in the system that could permit water to enter.

Corps rangers have heard about people being electrocuted on Corps lakes due to improper wiring around docks. It is not enough to just sign off on an Exhibit E letter that the electric system was fixed. We also require a state licensed electrician to certify the system’s proper functioning. It is your responsibility to make sure the electrician follows all the guidelines on the Exhibit C form.

Other items that show up frequently during inspections include the placement of utilities, rip rap, and steps without a permit. Although these items can usually be issued to an applicant, every activity or construction on Lake Lanier (except for general recreation) must have a permit before proceeding. This includes any digging, construction of pathways, cutting trees (including dead ones), or other vegetation, and placing rip rap. If you desire to do any of these things please contact your area ranger.

Serious business
Unauthorized structures and timber trespasses are probably our most common problems and often involve destruction or damage to public property. An unauthorized structure is usually a dock or item constructed or placed on public land for which we cannot or did not issue a permit. Timber trespasses involve the cutting trees on public land, sometimes over a large area. These cases are the ones we end up in court over, since removal of the item and restoration/restitution is usually required. Don’t do
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