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Sep. 23, 2018
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Derelict docks, abandoned boats? Look who’s watching

By Pamela A. Keene
 
If your dock is in bad repair or you own an abandoned or sinking boat, take heed. The Lake Lanier Association is using its network to find you and make things right.
 
For the past three years, the association has actively pursued locating owners of abandoned boats and derelict docks to get the owners to pay for repairs and/or removal. Now, through social media and phones with cameras, the association has stepped it up a couple of notches.
 
“People are becoming more aware of this program and are using social media or photos taken with their phones to alert us to issues,” said Joanna Cloud, executive director of the association. “These docks and vessels threaten the safety of the lake. We are grateful to the Corps of Engineers and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources for supporting us and assisting in this work, and now we have even more partners helping us take this program to the next level.” 
 
In the past year, the association has also involved the solicitor’s office in Hall County to assist with pursuing legal action against owners. And now, the Forsyth County solicitor’s office have also become involved. 
 
The LLA’s Abandoned and Derelict Dock and Vessel Task Force now holds quarterly meetings with lake-wide officials as an organized initiative to further remove these items from the lake.

Representatives from the Corps of Engineers, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the Lake Lanier Association meet with solicitors’ office staff when an issue escalates. 
 
“We make every effort to identify and locate the rightful property owner and encourage them to remedy the situation,” Cloud said. “However, sometimes the taskforce needs to take more tactical actions to remove these eyesores and safety hazards.” 
 
Cloud said that Stephanie Woodard and Daniel Sanmiguel of the Hall County Solicitor’s Office have handled three of these cases and that Bill Finch of the Forsyth County Solicitor’s office has worked a case as well.
 
The association received financial support from the Georgia Legislature, which funded $25,000 in FY 2017 to aid in implementing the program. Cloud said that both Hall and Forsyth counties have matched funding needed to deal with projects in their counties.
 
Over the life of the program to date, the association has resolved 60 separate incidents. Most have involved property owners, but several have involved contractors.
 
“We want people to understand that there are eyes and ears on the lake to help us take care of this issue,” Cloud said. “Whether it’s a property owner or a contractor, we encourage the public to help us. When we get photos and social media messages about these problems, we are able to work with them in real time at our quarterly meetings. If you see something suspicious, please let us know. Community awareness by citizens to report these situations is the key to keep them from happening.”

Posted online 6/29/18
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