AP NEWS

US Army Corps of Engineers delays dock fee hike on Ga lakes

November 2, 2019 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) — Dock owners on seven federally managed Georgia lakes are applauding a delay stopping a nearly quadrupling of fees originally planned to take effect next year.

Owners learned of the delay Monday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

For the past 12 years, people owning docks on lakes like Lanier and Allatoona 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 announced in June that the fees for both new permits and renewals would go up to $835 on Jan. 1.

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, according to a statement from the agency.

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 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.

Still, the news was welcome to John Barker, president of the Lake Lanier Association. Barker said he hopes that he and other members of lakeside communities will be included in future proposed fee decisions.

One of the chief complaints about the increase was that residents were not consulted before the decision was announced.

“It came out of the blue,” Barker said.

“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 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.”

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.

Collins said in a statement that he had met with the Corps’ head, Brig. 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-South Carolina, and Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-North Carolina, had previously sent Holland two letters demanding further explanation of the fee increases.

“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,” Barker said.

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Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com