Increasing criticism and confusion continues over Georgia’s new regulations for boaters who want to spend the night on their vessels. Following a public hearing in Brunswick on June 17, 2019, boating groups and industry representatives have expressed strong opinions that the new laws scheduled to go into effect in January are not necessary and the most restrictive in the United States.
At the core of the issue is how Georgia defines “live-aboard vessels” and where and when those vessels may anchor in the state’s coastal waters. There are additional regulations for requiring a permit to anchor, proof of pumping out holding tanks and criminal offenses for non-compliance.
Georgia-based marinas are also affected by the new laws, which are the result of passage of House Bill 201 (HB201) in the last session of the state’s General Assembly. Citing increased problems from derelict and abandoned vessels, and irresponsible boaters dumping untreated waste into the state’s waterways, the legislation purportedly was crafted to address those concerns. No empirical evidence has been offered by the state to support these issues.
Charlie Waller of Isle of Hope Marina says, “Unfortunately, the bad press from this bill is overshadowing some really creative work going on right now by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Georgia DNR who are making some of the most significant improvements to the state’s Intracoastal Waterway that we have seen in many years, such as dredging the channel near Jekyll Creek and other problem areas.”
Boaters are aiming their disapproval of the new laws across member forums, social media platforms and in blogs. The six distinct issues causing alarm are:
- The unclear and ill-defined label of “live-aboard vessels”
- Directing Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources to designate where boats may anchor versus where they cannot
- Restating provisions of the Clean Water Act specific to holding tank regulations
- Requiring boaters and marinas to create and maintain logs of when and where their vessels’ holding tanks were pumped clean
- Creating a permit and possible fee structure that vessels must apply for prior to anchoring
- Rolling up all the new laws into a criminal offense for non-compliance if cited and convicted
Discussions continue with Georgia DNR representatives who have taken the lead on evaluating comments from public hearings and submissions. While already signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp, another round of discussions may be forthcoming in the weeks ahead with industry representatives to assess the regulations and consider options for revisions.
Written comments are important to the official record and will be accepted through July 15, 2019. You are not required to be a Georgia resident. Send comments to: Kelly Hill, Coastal Resources Division, One Conservation Way, Brunswick, GA 31520. Email: [email protected]