U.S. Army Corps of Engineers delays dock fee hike on Georgia lakes

July 10, 2019 Buford  - Aerial view shows typical boat docks in Lake Lanier on Wednesday, July 10, 2019.  (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)



July 10, 2019 Buford - Aerial view shows typical boat docks in Lake Lanier on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

On Monday, dock owners on Lake Lanier, Lake Allatoona and five other federally managed Georgia lakes got a pleasant surprise. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it would delay a nearly quadrupling of dock fees, originally planned to take effect next year.

“It came out of the blue,” said John Barker, president of the Lake Lanier Association.

MORE | Georgia lawmakers say Army Corps' dock fee increase not justified

PREVIOUSLY | Lake dock permit prices soar, residents press for explanation

When the news of the potential increases came out in June, residents and a host of Georgia politicians decried the Corps’ plans.

For the past 12 years, people owning docks on lakes had to pay $400 for a new permit or $175 for a renewal. Once paid, the permit is good for five years. But the Corps, which manages the lakes, announced the fees for both new permits and renewals would go up to $835 on Jan. 1, 2020.

The increase would have affected permit owners in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina, states making up the Corps’ South Atlantic Division. A group of lawmakers, including lakeside Gainesville resident U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, had repeatedly pressed the Corps for more information behind the reasoning for the hikes, saying explanations had been insufficient.

Now, two months before the increase was initially scheduled to kick in, it’s been put on hold. The Army Corps’ national headquarters will conduct a review of its shoreline management fees, including the South Atlantic Division dock fees affecting Georgia, according to a statement from the agency.

A South Atlantic Division spokeswoman said there was no further information available about when a future increase would be implemented or if the dollar amount or format would change.

The news was welcome to Barker and his Lake Lanier neighbors. Barker hopes that he and other members of lakeside communities will be included in future fee decisions. One of the chief complaints about the increase was that residents were not consulted before the decision was announced.

“We’re excited that we feel like they heard us. We’re glad they have reconsidered it, and we hope we can get invited to the table to talk about a new plan,” Barker said. “They obviously have the right to increase their fees as necessary to cover costs and implement new and improved goods and services on the lake, but we’d like to see some transparency on that.”

Collins said in a statement that he had met with the Corps’ head, Maj. Gen. Diana Holland and planned on “continuing to engage with the Corps” on the issue.

Collins, along with Rep. Jody Hice, R-Monroe, and Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., and Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., had previously sent Holland two letters demanding further explanation of the fee increases.

Barker said he is remaining cautiously optimistic about what the delay could bring.

“That they acquiesced to reconsider the plan is a win for the dock permit owners on Lake Lanier. But it might only be a reprieve, and we will see,” Barker said. “If they go in a dark closet and make up the rules and just pop out again, then I’m sure there will be some consternation, but if we work together on a solution then all parties can win.”

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The Army Corps of Engineers plans to increase dock fees by up to $660 at lakes it manages. The agency announced in its letter to dock owners that new and renewed permits would both go up to $835 as of Jan. 1, 2020. Commander for the corps’ South Atlantic Division said the increase is to cover administrative costs. A group of state lawmakers, one of whom is a lakefront resident, are not satisfied with that reason. The increase affects more than 10,000 dock owners on Lake Lanier and thousands more at the si

The story so far

Previously: Dock owners received notice of a planned fee increase to $835 for a five-year permit in June. Members of Congress representing Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina sent two letters to the Army Corps of Engineers asking for more information about the decision-making process. Residents objected to the increase partially because they were not consulted.

Now: The fee increase has been indefinitely delayed and residents will continue paying dock fees of $400 for a new permit and $175 for a permit renewal.

What's next: The Army Corps will evaluate its Shoreline Management Program fees nationwide, including those affecting Georgia dock owners.