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Sep. 16, 2019
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Dock permit and renewal fees to increase

By Pamela A. Keene
 
Dock permit and renewal fees will increase as of January 1, 2020. The South Atlantic Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the increase in June.
 
“This increase in the administrative fee is effective across the South Atlantic Division, which affects more than Lake Lanier,” said Cesar Yabor, chief of public affairs and media relations in the Mobile District. “While Lanier is at capacity for new permits, this administrative fee will apply to all renewals or issuance of 5-year permits as a result of real estate transfers on or after January 1, 2020.”
 
A spokesman for the Corps Mobile District said permits with terms ending on or before December 31, 2019 will be processed under the current fee schedule, provided all paperwork and payment are send to the Corps in a timely manner. “Those agreements will be set to a new 5-year term,” Yabor said.
 
“If the shoreline license holder’s agreement term ends on or after January 1, 2020, the license holder – should he/she decide to renew a shoreline license – will be charged according to the newly announced 5-year permit fee structure scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2020.”
 
He said license holders will receive a 90-day notice indicating the upcoming expiration date of the current term. “The effective date of renewed 5-year term starts when the current term has reached its expiration date, not prior,” he said. “If the expiration date of the current term is on or after January 1, 2020, when the new fee schedule has already replaced the current fee, the renewal will be processed in line with the new fee.”
 
The new fee schedule applies to the transfer of ownership after January 1, 2020, as well. “When real estate is sold and the current owner has an active and paid-up dock permit, that permit is not automatically transferred to the new owner,” Yabor said. 
 
The new fee will apply to the following reservoirs and waterways: Okeechobee Waterway, Florida; Allatoona Lake and Lake Sidney Lanier, Georgia; Walter F. George Lake and West Point Lake on the Georgia-Alabama border; Lake Seminole on the Georgia-Florida border; Hartwell Lake and J. Strom Thurmond Lake on the Georgia-South Carolina border; Philpott Lake, Virginia; W. Kerr Scott Lake, North Carolina; and John H. Kerr Lake on the North Carolina-Virginia border.
 
“The new administrative fee reflects the steady growth in operation costs incurred by the federal government since the last increase in 2006,” Yabor said. “Over those 13-plus years, costs have grown in staffing to ensure that the recreation sites are meeting customer service, safety and maintenance needs as the parks have grown significantly in popularity. The other important part of this is that the Corps is compelled by both customer desire as well as environmental regulations to serve as good stewards of the lands under its care, and those costs, which by federal law must be recovered from all users of public lands, have also increased significantly over time. At what will average to $167 per year for permitted customer use of public lands, the Corps has determined the new fee structure is an equitable rate to recover those costs.”


Viewpoint: Corps of Engineers’ responds to questions about fee increases

By Ryan Hartwig
Natural Resources Program Manager
South Atlantic Division
US Army Corps of Engineers
 
As most of your readers probably know at this point, the administrative fee schedule for licenses associated with private docks and the shoreline management program will increase on January 1, 2020. This means any license expiring after 1 January 2020 will be issued under the new schedule.

License holders should note the expiration date of their license as the date this will affect them. I understand the sensitive nature of a fee increase as I served as a Park Ranger for the Army Corps of Engineers at Lake Lanier for almost eight years.
 
In my current role as the Natural Resources Program Manager for the South Atlantic Division of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), I would like to offer some more information on this increase from a regional perspective and why it was necessary.
 
First, this new fee structure reflects an ongoing increase in administrative costs to deliver the shoreline management program for private uses of public property. These fees include the rise in staff time and costs to improve processing new applications, renewals and change of ownership inspections, as well as manpower required for other inspections and actions to further protect the public property around the USACE lakes in the region.  
 
To remain regionally consistent in our execution of this program, we have reviewed it in detail, using organizational concepts to ensure we were employing the most efficient process possible and assign a cost to these steps. We concluded that the cost for delivering the program at a reasonable level of service would be $835 per the five year term. The term fee is equivalent to $13.92 per month or $167 per year.   The shoreline management real estate transaction involved in these private uses covers the entire process, from prerequisites to execution. These fees cover cost of labor, equipment, materials and supplies used to issue, reissue, or change owners of a license. The fee is based on the regional average cost to issue a real estate license. 
 
Many people do not realize that until this increase, the majority of the costs of the shoreline management program was shouldered by all taxpayers. With this change, the administrative fee paid by the end-users will be applied toward management of the program, minimizing use of funds from the general budget, which had been supporting much of the administrative costs. As responsible stewards of public property, we can no longer continue to rely as heavily on taxpayer dollars when there is no public benefit. Due to competing mission needs at multipurpose reservoirs such as flood control, hydropower, navigation and recreation, USACE can no longer subsidize the entire shoreline
management program with appropriations from our budget as has been common practice in the past.

The redirection of appropriated funds to the shoreline management program leaves noticeable gaps in other critical mission areas where life and property may be at risk. It would also have a negative environmental impact to issue these licenses without thorough consideration of natural resources.  Without the end user covering the cost of administration, the service levels to the permit/license holders would be noticeably affected as we have to ensure other mission areas are properly addressed using appropriated funds.
 
It is also important to note this fee structure only applies to the few USACE lakes where docks are allowed. Of the 33 lakes in the South Atlantic Division (which encompasses seven southern states in VA, NC, SC, GA, AL, MS and FL) only 11 lakes authorize these private structures to be placed on public property. The other lakes in this region, Carters Lake or Richard B Russell for example, do not allow this type of activity.
 
Public land is for everyone’s use. There is no public benefit when the Corps issues a Shoreline Management Permit/License for individual private use on public property. It only benefits the person(s) to whom the instrument is issued. Implementation of this administrative fee increase ensures that the individual benefiting from the use of public property appropriately bears the majority of costs incurred by the government for issuing these instruments and not the majority of taxpayers. Without charging an administrative fee, the entire cost of allowing the private benefit is the burden of the U.S. taxpayer, meaning the person living across the street with no lake access has to subsidize the cost of issuing a license for a dock on public property.  
 
Please take the time to go to our website for more information at: www.sad.usace.army.mil/shorelinemanagement.

Posted online 6/28/19
 
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