Georgia Anchorage Discussion Summary as 6/14
This is a compilation of the comments from various readers in this ongoing discussion of Georgia’s new anchoring restrictions. The listings, most recent to earliest, will be updated regularly.
Other than to say that anchoring, within the guidelines of good seamanship, is basic to boating and should be honored, Cruisers Net is attempting to serve as a neutral reporter in this conflict.
If you wish to make positive, constructive suggestions, please use one of Cruisers Net’s comment avenues or, if by email, include “for publication” in the text.
6/13/19 Roger Long’s letter to GA DNR
Comments to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources on Rule Making for Coastal Marshland Protection and Boating Regulations.
As the former Harbormaster of Cape Elizabeth, Maine I was charged with supervising anchoring and mooring in that town. Since retirement, I have cruised over 40,000 miles between Halifax, Nova Scotia and the Florida Everglades with a dozen transits of the ICW and extensive exploration of Georgia’s waters. I have thus had the opportunity to view the anchoring question from both sides and followed the decades long controversy and legal actions over anchoring in Florida. I have been asked to advise other commenters on the proposed Georgia regulations.
I strongly endorse the position, widely expressed in social media, and in the drafts of comments to your agency which I have been permitted to review, that the proposed rules as published
would be damaging to the overall interests of Georgia. Rather than comment on specifics of the proposed rules, which I think will be adequately covered by many others, I would like to offer a background analysis of anchoring issues to help the DNR reach a clarity that was lacking in the Florida processes as well as in discussions since the issue arose in your state.
Anchoring is a protected activity under well established common law as part of navigation. Restrictions must show an over riding public interest such as safety, not impeding other’s navigational rights, and (increasingly) environmental concerns. The long standing and court upheld status of anchoring has been often cited in relation to issues of vessels being abandoned or stored long term in navigable waters. The point that has seldom surfaced is that the most essential element of a vessel engaged in navigation is a crew. If there are no people aboard, the vessel can not be considered to be navigating and the state has greater latitude in regulating the craft’s use of a public resource.
A state could probably prevail in court on challenges to a rule that required that vessels at anchor always have a crew aboard capable of handling and moving the vessel if the anchor drags. I am only pointing out that the state has this option and a not advocating it. The fact that the state could do this does not mean that it should. There would be a huge backlash from boaters and it would be a very damaging to businesses along Georgia’s waterway. There are places in the state where people anchor to go ashore, spend money in local businesses, and hike in state parks and the National Sea Shore. These activities benefit the state economically and increase public support for protecting the unique and special environment of Georgia. Many cruisers already avoid the state by taking the outside route due to its navigational challenges. Any general restrictions on anchoring, paperwork (even if free), or even just the perception that interaction with law enforcement may be needed to justify a routine navigational operation, will increase this avoidance with resulting economic harm.
Even though vessels anchored so that the entire crew may go ashore are no longer navigating in the strictest sense of the word, it would be in the interest of Georgia to recognize the intermediate status of an “Attended Vessel”. The crews of vessels anchored in places like St. Marys may have left their vessel unoccupied but they are still generally in a position to monitor the weather and return within a short time period to deal with anchors dragging or other problems. If the crew of the vessel is far away, unable to return in a fairly short time period, and unable to be contacted, the vessel is neither navigating nor attended and the state has much greater latitude in regulating it. I would endorse a regulation that requires vessels anchored and unoccupied to post a phone number on a portlight or window where the owner may be contacted. Even if law enforcement is not involved, the ability of a nearby vessel to contact the owner could prevent or mitigate damage to the vessel, other vessels, shore structures, and the environment in the event of the anchor(s) dragging.
As both a former harbormaster and life long cruiser, I do not believe that unoccupied or unattended vessels should be left at anchor for more than very short periods. Anchors are most prone to breaking out and dragging when the current reverses. This is especially true in Georgia with its high tides and fast currents. Monitoring and returning to a vessel is more difficult in the dark and any “attending” crew ashore are likely to be asleep. It would be legally supportable to require that any vessel anchored overnight be occupied by a crew capable of handing the anchors and moving the vessel. In order to avoid economic damage to the state by denying cruisers the ability to dine or visit ashore while anchored, and the resultant avoidance of the state by many, I would propose that “overnight” be defined as between the hours of midnight and dawn. Establishing that unoccupied vessels may not be anchored between those hours would have little impact on either transient or local cruisers and would give the state an immediate handle for dealing with improperly stored and abandoned boats that are at risk of becoming derelicts.
Vessels anchored but neither occupied nor attended should be in a marina, tied to a dock, or on a mooring. Moorings are rare in Georgia and most of the discussions I have seen in both states have lacked clarity on the important distinctions between anchors and moorings. It is much more than just a difference in the kind of gear used to secure the vessel to the bottom.
Anchors are designed and intended to be deployed and retrieved by a vessel and carried aboard as an essential part of navigation. As such, compromises need to be made with their weight and holding power so that they may be handled. Moorings are heavier, semi-permanent installations that must normally be installed by a larger vessel dedicated to the purpose. Moorings are significantly less prone to dragging, generally immune to the effects of current shifts, and capable of securing the vessel against more severe weather events.
I have seen comments and opinions in both states that waterfront property owners will want to “anchor” their boats in front of their houses and that anchoring restrictions would prevent that. However, most property owners will actually want to have a mooring. It is much more convenient to pick up or drop the rope on a mooring buoy than to haul up and deploy an anchor. The mooring will also reserve their spot so they will be sure of it being available when they return. The vessel will be much more secure if the owner leaves for an extended period.
Anchors further differ from moorings in that a vessel takes its gear with it when it leaves whereas a mooring continues to occupy and restrict the use of a portion of a public resource when the vessel is absent. Since a mooring can not be considered a part of a vessel’s navigational equipment, a vessel on one is not navigating. Mooring are closer in the legal and regulatory scheme to docks than they are to anchors. Moorings appropriate a portion of a public resource for private use (or commercial in the case of a marina) so can and should be regulated by the state. There are recognized standards for mooring gear specifying the size of anchors, chain, and other components relative to vessel size.
A vessel which simply drops an anchor, intended for navigational use and to be carried aboard the craft, and is then left unattended for long periods is not navigating. It would be more accurate to think of it as being moored but with inadequate securing tackle that presents a risk to the vessel, other vessels, shore side structures, and the environment. One approach for the state would be a requirement that any vessel left unoccupied in the water for more than some short time period, say seven days, be either secured to a dock or on a permitted mooring. Insuring that the mooring gear met the recognized standard selected by the state would be part of the permitting process. The regulation could reasonably exempt boats below a certain size, perhaps 18 feet . This approach would increase the safety of all vessels, shore structures, and the environment. It would clearly distinguish boats that are in use from boats that are being stored or abandoned without infringing on the navigational rights of legitimate cruisers. The mooring permit could require vessel owners to agree to removal of their vessel and mooring without notice if the permit was allowed to elapse.
A more difficult issue is the occupied vessel that remains anchored in the same spot for long periods. Since the vessel is occupied, it can claim that it is navigating so long as it has a means of propulsion. At some point however, it becomes clear that the vessel is not engaged in navigation but is residing and being used as a habitation. I believe it would be reasonable, and legally defensible, for the state to require that any vessel remaining in the same location over 60 days obtain a mooring permit. I would define “location” as anchoring within the same anchor circle (radius of seven times the water depth around the original anchor location) and require an absence of seven days with relocation at least a mile away to restart the 60 day period. The exact numbers can be explored.
Finally, I commend Georgia for attempting to clean up and protect the waters which comprise one of the most beautiful areas on the whole east coast. However, I must point out that the huge brouhaha that has erupted over this was the result of failure at both the legislative and rule draft writing level to fully research the issues and understand the constituency effected by them. I urge your agency to issue a second draft of proposed rules followed by an additional comment period and to obtain further advice on the issues I raise above. I was part of a very productive and successful rule making process to create new Coast Guard regulations in which an industry/USCG task force was set up to draft the rules. We educated the Coast Guard, the Coast Guard educated us, and the result was a very workable set of regulations. I would highly recommend such an approach to the Department of Natural Resources.
6/8/19 Jack J White, former Georgia Legislator
My wife and I are avid cruisers out of Sunbury, GA just inside St Catherine’s Sound. I served in the Georgia Legislature several years ago and over the last 24 hours I have had numerous conversations with my former colleagues. I can assure all of you they voted for HB201 in both the House and Senate because they were UNAWARE of our position, so keep those letters and calls coming. One of those colleagues has been a cruiser, is still in office and is an avid Georgia boater. He has assured me he will be with us at the meeting in Brunswick on the 17th. The lesson for everyone here is that both sides on any issue must be fully vetted in committee for effective and reasonable legislation to be passed. All of this could have been avoided if those pushing this bill had factored this fact in. Expect the 2020 session to have legislation providing a course correction to the code section to fix this disaster.
Jack J White
6/7/19 Jim Healy’s Letter to GA DNR
Ms. or Mr. Kelly Hill
Coastal Resources Division,
One Conservation Way,
Brunswick, GA 31520
Subject: Rulemaking in re: Rules of Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resources Division, Chapter 391-2-3, Coastal Marshlands Protection Regulations and Wildlife Resources Division, Chapter 391-4-5, Boating Regulations.
Reference: Notice of Rule Making for Coastal Marshland Protection and Boating Regulations, Doug Haymans, dated May 28, 2019.
Ms. or Mr. Hill,
As I understand the revisions to the subject Georgia Statutes, there are two components. First is the discharge of sewage. Second is a new requirement for permits needed in order to anchor in Georgia estuarine waters. I will comment on each in turn.
With regard to the discharge of sewage:
The Federal Clean Water Act of 1972 established limits on the discharge of raw sewage within the territorial waters of the United states. It has been unlawful under federal regulations to dump any raw sewage into the territorial waters of the United states since that act took effect. Boats with treatment systems which have been tested and certified by the USCG to comply with the strict requirements of onboard sewage treatment may discharge the treated effluent except in a “No Discharge Zone.” So far as I know, the estuarine waters of Georgia have not been designated as NDZs. To emphasize, it is today unlawful to discharge the contents of a holding tank or otherwise directly discharge sewage into the territorial waters of the US, and it has been unlawful for at least 40 years. This would seem to render the sanitation portion of the subject Georgia Statutes unnecessary in the first place.
Continuing, however, any requirement for the mechanical removal of component parts of a boat’s plumbing system is a severe hardship and unreasonable imposition on boaters who travel offshore, discharge sewage lawfully beyond the US territorial three-mile limit, and subsequently enter Georgia estuarine waters seeking safe overnight anchorage. In this circumstance, there is no way to document compliance with the proposed statute, which can lead to misunderstanding and false accusations with Georgia law enforcement officials.
The revised Georgia statue also imposes an unreasonable hardship on transient cruising boats in navigation on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and other estuarine waters of the state. Many cruising boats take only two or three days to transit low-country estuarine waters. A variety of circumstances might result in a boat pumping out in a non-Georgia jurisdiction (South Carolina or Florida) prior to entering Georgia state waters. In this circumstance, there may be no way to document compliance with the Georgia statute. A southbound transient boater who pumped out in South Carolina, subsequently transited the low country, and pumped out again in Florida, is in compliance with Georgia statute, but is unable to meet the newly imposed documentation requirement to demonstrate that compliance.
In light of the above, it seems the Georgia law is poorly thought out and constitutes an undue burden to transient boaters engaged in lawful navigation on Georgia Public Trust estuarine waters.
With regard to the proposed permitting process:
The Official Code of Georgia must acknowledge that there is a difference between the rights of 1) a boat anchored while engaged in navigation and 2) a boat that is in long-term storage upon the Public Trust waters of the state while attached to an anchor or mooring ball. The current and revised Georgia Statutes do not appear to recognize this distinction. Boats engaged in navigation are not at risk of becoming derelict. It is boats in long term storage at anchor or on a mooring ball that are at risk of becoming derelict.
Georgia statute does not define “Derelict” and does not provide objective criteria for 1) declaring a boat to be at risk of becoming derelict or 2) of actually being in a derelict state. This is an oversight (flaw) of Georgia statute.
Local Law Enforcement Officers who patrol Public Trust waters on a regular basis are well aware of stored boats that are either derelict or at risk of becoming derelict. Local nuisance laws can be used by local municipal authorities having jurisdiction to seize and remove derelict boats and to cite owners of at risk boats to require corrective action within a specified period of time.
I am completely opposed to permitting fees for transient boats lawfully engaged in navigation, of which anchoring is a lawful part. I believe there are federal court precedents that identify such license imposts as unconstitutional. For the short term (no more than 60 days) for boats in navigation (boats in transit through the State of Georgia), there should be no anchoring fees (license imposts) and no permit requirements.
I am not opposed to substantial fees for boats that are long term stored by anchoring upon Public Trust waters. It is these long term stored boats that create the problem, and it should fall to the owners of long term stored boats to fund corrective action and cleanup. These storage fees could attach to any boat anchored in the same place on Public Trust waters for an extended period of time; ex: anchored in one place for 60 days or longer. In the meantime, it is incumbent on local law enforcement officers and municipal authorities having jurisdiction to take action before a boat in their jurisdiction becomes derelict in the first place.
Very truly Yours,
l/s: James B. Healy
cc: Amy Thurman, GAMBA
6/5/19 James Newsome
Thanks for forwarding Jim Healy’s letter. It is well thought out and he makes excellent points. His information on local licensing of vessels under navigation is very interesting. I hope that precedence is relevant in our situation.
Jim is very respectful to Ms. Thurman and I agree with his comments. While GAMBA has done some excellent lobbying in the past that directly benefited the liveaboard situation in GA, her action on behalf of GAMBA this time does not measure up to helping or speaking for cruisers and boaters of GA. The fact that there wasn’t a public comment period prior to changing the law was a huge mistake by DNR.
As far as a fee for long term anchoring, there is also merit to his argument. But the state already had a law on the book to prevent living aboard unless the boat was in a marina with pump out capability and also one of the certified marinas by DNR. I really don’t see why DNR opened the door on this. But I guess it is possible to have long term anchored vessels that are not lived on. If this is a problem then deal with it specifically without affecting everyone else.
I hope Jim will also write or email DNR during the public comment period. Discussing this subject on Cruiser’s Net and Facebook is excellent, but at the end of the day all that counts are comments submitted to DNR.
Notice of Rule Making for Coastal Marshland Protection and Boating Regulations
Notice of Proposed Regulation Changes
A public hearing on the proposed amendments will be held in Brunswick, Georgia on Monday, June 17, 2019, 5:30p.m. at the Coastal Regional Headquarters of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Written public comment will be received through Monday July 15, 2019. Mail or email comments to:
Coastal Resources Division
One Conservation Way
Brunswick, GA 31520
6/5/19 Jim Healy
I am following this exchange on the SSECN and the AGLCA Group as time permits, since we are now actually cruising. In GA, we sometimes stay at Brunswick, Jekyll Island, and Isle of Hope/Thunderbolt. This trip, we stayed at Isle of Hope and Kilkenny Creek. In the past, we have stayed at facilities on Turner Creek. We anchor at Walburg Island, the Wahoo River, Cumberland Island and various other “outback” anchorages. We are snowbirds who live aboard full-time, and have been transiting Georgia for many years. We do thoroughly enjoy the low country, and we consider it a National Treasure.
First, it is not helpful of my cruising colleagues to use words like “ridiculous,” “stupid” or “ignorant” in response to this matter. Social media invites people to present themselves at their worst, not their best, in discussions like this. What I will say is, this law was passed without public input, and does not appear to me as well thought out. Since it is well known “here abouts” that Florida has just been through 10 years of “anchoring wars,” it is particularly disappointing that no one seems to have consulted with Florida authorities to see what could be learned, and might therefore usefully apply, to Georgia.
Second, in your role as Executive Director of GAMBA, it certainly appear to me – and others – that you have a conflict of interest in this matter. I lived through, and advocated on behalf of cruisers during, the “Florida anchoring wars.” It was clear that many of the initial efforts to curtail anchoring in Florida were proffered by the marine industry against the interests of cruising boaters. Marine industry goals can operate against the interests of cruisers. Looking at market economics, anything that forces those who would anchor to instead use marinas is consistent with the economic goals of the marine industry. So to quote Shakespeare, “methinks the lady doth protest too much.” Whether that is your intent or not, it is the clear appearance of your advocacy.
Third, I am not a lawyer, but I have done some research on this subject out of my interest in the :Florida Anchoring Wars.” In the matter of the rights of boats in navigation, of which anchoring is a part, my understanding is that the US Supreme Court has ruled against license imposts for anchoring. I’m not sure what that does to solutions for long term anchoring issue (maybe nothing, if those vessels can be defined to be “stored” and “not in navigation”), but clearly, it does affect transient cruising boats, and appears to rule out any fee imposts for short term anchoring.
Citation: Huron Portland Cement Co. v. City of Detroit Mich, Supra at 447; Harman v. City of Chicago, 147 US 396, 13 S. Ct. 306 37 L. Ed. 216
Ruled that a vessel cannot be subjected to local license imposts for the use of a navigable waterway.
Furthermore, local marine police authorities know when locally anchored boats – anchored for the long terms – are in practical danger of becoming derelicts. Laws across the United States exist that allow local authorities to act to foreclose (seize and dispose of) those vessels and pursue their owners. Why don’t we simply advocate for local jurisdictions to use the condemnation and seizure powers they already have?
Fourth, considering your example of Turner Creek in (is the jurisdiction Wilmington Is, Whitemarsh Is or T’bolt) as an example. Turner Creek is a metropolitan/suburban area which IS NOT typical or representative of most of Georgia. Rulemaking that suits the residential waterfront landowners and commercial interests on Turner Creek is not at all in the best interest of most of the low country. All of the interested parties in Turner Creek, including the local authorities having jurisdiction, need to work together to come to a LOCAL solution suited to that creek, but a legislative solution crafted in Augusta and suited to the needs of Turner Creek IS NOT APPROPRIATE to the wider interests and needs of the rest of the state.
Conclusion: I think some of the suggestions being offered represent a reasonable approach going forward. I do not object to REASONABLE restrictions on anchoring. I do not object to a 150-foot setback. I like the idea of a large fee – a very large fee – to discourage long term anchoring in one place for over 60 days, because today, many prime anchorages are tied up with boats that are essentially in long term storage. I do feel short term permitting is counter-productive – probably illegal – to the public trust responsibilities of the State over Public Trust, Federal waters estuarine waters.
I cannot be at Brunswick. Obviously, that meeting timing suits the DNR, since most through cruisers are not available to participate and provide input in June. I will provide my input is writing. I can only hope that wiser and more thoughtful input prevails.
6/5/19 Tom Hale
The comments posted on the discussion Cruisers Net board are pretty typical of what you’d expect to hear from cruisers under the circumstances. it seems to me that Georgia created this new rule to address a perceived problem, but one which is unsubstantiated. Furthermore it appears that Georgia does not even know about the Clean Water Act which already addresses some of the issues. What we have to do at this point is create a discussion among level headed GA officials and level headed cruisers.
I’d go so far as to suggest that Cruisers Net start a new discussion thread as follows: Cruisers Net is working with several cruisers’ groups and with the state of Georgia to work through the new rules and address the concerns raised by many of our readers who enjoy cruising in GA. Cruisers Net is soliciting positive comments from our readers with practical suggestions to clarify the rules and improve the intended results which will meet the needs of Georgia residents and the Georgia DNR while ensuring that ICW cruisers can transit GA and leave a clean wake.
6/4/19 Charles Waller
I am the owner of Isle of Hope Marina and the president of The Georgia Marine Business Association (“GAMBA”) – so take aim now! We are seeing a firestorm of comments on these proposed regulations from our cruising customers, key leaders and leading organizations in the boating community, and from our long-time friends at Cruisers Net. And as facetious as this may sound based on the comments below, that is good as our community is clearly engaged on this important issue as it should be. As Americans, and more so as boaters, we cherish our personal freedom and rise up quickly when we believe it is threatened. As humans, we fear the unknown and quite naturally assume the worst when given incomplete or inaccurate information on a controversial issue, as is evidenced by many of the comments here and on other sites. In order to take two small steps toward some clarity, here are two specific suggestions on the proposed rules:
1) Anchorage Rules: This rule needs to encourage and support safe anchoring, not inhibit it. The setback from structures must be practical. The DNR should move quickly on this issue to quiet fears.
2) Anchorage Permits If these rules are too onerous, particularly for short-term stays, I do agree that this will drive boaters away from Georgia’s waters. We also need to ensure that a law-abiding boater’s privacy is protected as these rules are developed. * Apologies to Susan Parker as these comments mirror her excellent and succinct comments below
These are my personal comments. GAMBA is comprised of most of the major marinas on the coast of Georgia, as well as many of Georgia’s leading marine businesses. GAMBA, as an organization, will submit detailed comments in the near future. Contrary to comments posted by others, GAMBA has taken no specific position on these proposed regulations at this time. Coming soon….
6/3/19 Roger Long
Hmmm. I think Ms. Thruman better have a talk with the drafters of the proposed regulations. Maybe I’m getting flakey with age but I spent a large portion of my career helping clients interpret and comply with USCG regulations and even helped write some of them. Nothing from that experience would support my interpreting the draft rules that anchoring in places not specifically identified as state approved anchorages will be permitted. Hopefully, this is a tempest in a teapot resulting from careless writing but we must follow the development of the actual wording very carefully. I do not find happy talk from someone whose job it is to promote GA business and who does not appear to be part of the rule making process very reassuring at this point. The final rules must be clear. If there is any ambiguity, there will be problems for cruisers from law enforcement officers who miss-interpret the regulations as has happened often in Florida.
6/3/19 Wally Moran
Dear Ms. Thurman – The best legislation is the least legislation. These new rules, like all legislation, start out fresh and clean and with great hopes for the future, but I have no doubt that it will not continue that way. There are simply too many ways to twist something like this into something it was never meant to be, otherwise known as ‘the law of unintended consequences’.
For example – determining a distance from bridge structures, docks, etc. Someone with an agenda, as we have seen happen in Florida, could draw the line in such a way as to make anchoring safely – and legally – impossible, by choosing a distance that renders a particular anchorage unusable.
Furthermore, I believe that it was determined that anchoring setoffs violated federal laws. That would also be the case in Georgia were it to take this route.
Georgia proposes a fee to ‘prevent’ abandoned vessels, but provides no details of the size of the problem here – nor do you other than a toss off of ‘half a dozen’ – or on how this happy event will come to pass. Furthermore, we have no information as to just how serious this issue is, because – no details.
If there are only a half dozen boats as per your guesstimate – or even a couple of dozen – then this legislation is overkill. How about you – since you seem to have some insight into what’s behind this bill – provide readers with the details? That way, we can make informed comments, rather than speculate blindly about what is actually going on here.
Finally – in determining the acceptable anchorages – who will choose? Will there be someone like myself available with extensive knowledge of the various anchorages along the coast, or will some faceless bureaucrat with a handful of darts tossed at a chart of the coastline make the decisions?
We – the cruising community – need a LOT more information here than we’ve received up to now. At this point, I’m about as trusting of what this legislation is about as I was this morning of the shark that was eyeing the fish on the end of my spear. That shark might go for the fish – but it might also get me. In both cases, the solution was to get out of the water.
Here in the Abacos, that meant getting into my dinghy. In Georgia, it will mean that cruisers just go offshore and avoid Georgia entirely.
I don’t think that’s what you want, is it? But it’s what you are going to get if the comments I’m seeing online are any indication.
6/3/19 Roger Long
The permit program is a disaster waiting to happen – for Georgia as well as cruisers who love the state. It seems so simple and the cost is modest. However…
Nothing spoils the ambiance and experience of being anchored in a remote and beautiful spot like seeing a boat with a flashing blue light coming at you. Am I going to have to stop watching the sunset and spend the next half hour showing my papers and watching them put dye in the head? Requiring a permit taped to a window raises the prospect of a law enforcement officers going by each anchored boat it sees close enough to check the permit and read the number of nights purchased. Then, they have to determine how many nights the boat has actually anchored. That means either an Orwellian tracking data base or the need to stop and talk to the vessel. This can only work as written if there are just a few approved anchorage areas in the state that can be monitored. Just the need of law enforcement having to cruise by close enough to read a document on the window will cause many to either avoid the inside route or zip through just as fast as they can. I’ve had people tell me that they avoid the state just because of the signs saying it is illegal to sleep on your boat more than 30 days a year. It wasn’t that they planned to stay longer but because they didn’t want to have to establish to law enforcement how long they had been there. I know this almost never happened but perception will keep people away just as well as fact.
Permits online? There are many boats that cruise without Internet. Sure, you can get the permit before you leave home but I’ve never gone into Georgia knowing how many nights I plan to spend there. That depends on weather and whim. Even on our 43 footer, we don’t carry a printer. If we purchased four nights and need another, what are we going to do? If a boat has purchased 5 nights and learns that Sunbury Crab Company is a must stop but it means another day, they are less likely to make the run up the river and spend money there.
We hear that the permits won’t be enforced but are just a tool to get a handle on abandoned vessels. Even if that is true, having laws on the books with no intent to enforce is terrible public policy. It is an invitation to abuse and the economic and racial profiling the south already has a bad reputation for. Furthermore, there will be little control over how this law enforcement tool is used in the future. Marina and waterfront property owners will exert pressure to check every vessel and, while they are at it, inspect the heads and papers. Local jurisdictions will use it as grant and budget writing support for additional boats and then need to justify them. This is what happened in Florida. They lost the fight to restrict anchoring so pressure was put on law enforcement to aggressively inspect anchored vessels. It got so bad that even the marina and shore business owners finally said, “Stop”. Now you can cruise the state in relative peace.
The DNR should have the flexibility to resolve problems like this within the final regulatory language. The question is whether they have the knowledge of cruising culture and the will to resist the pressure of interests that want to drastically restrict anchoring. Wording is powerful. “Every vessel intending to remain anchored *in one location for more than seven days* shall obtain a permit.” Put “overnight” inside the ** and you have a completely different situation. The first version would accomplish everything we are told is the aim of the law regarding derelict and abandoned vessels without significantly changing the status quo. I haven’t had a chance to review the law. Perhaps it has language that would restrict the DNR from making this adjustment in which case the state is going to become even more remote and less crowded. Marina and waterfront property owners will like the second version and can be expected to fight for it. The marina owners will come to regret it if they win. Consider our case. We cruise Georgia for the anchoring experience but the time spent usually results in a night at one of our favorite marinas because we need to re-supply and to pump out. If there is a restrictive and enforced permit program for short term overnight anchoring, no marina in the state will see us or our money again. We’ll join those running down the outside or make just a single midway stop in one of the approved anchorage areas.
6/2/19 James Newsome
Reply to Bob Keller and my thoughts on the anchoring debate in Georgia,
You wrote, “As a 30+ year resident of Georgia this law is the most outrageous I have seen. This is a classic case of legislators voting on bills proposed that they have no idea about and no knowledge of what they are doing. Just trying to cast their vote so they can go on summer break and don’t have a clue what they are voting about. Disgusting really. Would like to know who sponsored and introduced this bill? Then who voted on it. They had no lobbying pushback so they voted Yea on a bill they had no clue about. Sickening. This is an embarrassment to the residents and voters of Georgia. Georgia is an afterthought on the east coast ICW and this nonsense will ensure that GA is nonexistent.”
A Senator and Representative from St. Simon’s Island and Brunswick sponsored the bill. And apparently the only lobbying group was the GA Marine Business Association or GAMBA. It’s interesting that (apparently) none of the normal waterway associations or groups knew about this legislation in last month. This includes Brad Pickel with the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association, Waterway Guide, or Cruisers Net. To say that this bill flew under the radar is an understatement, and I don’t think this was by accident.
The bill pretends to address concerns about liveaboards, anchoring, and possibly derelict vessels, but I believe these are simply a ruse for the real purpose. What we need to know is the nexus for this law. We know that the Georgia DNR Coastal Resource Division and GAMBA were involved, but whose interests were being represented?
Let’s look at the public record so far from Doug Haymans of the Coastal Resource Division of DNR. In addition to removing the term “liveaboard” from all rules “the proposed amendments would create rules for over-night and long-term anchoring in the estuarine area of the state and establish an anchorage permit.” Hayman goes on to state that current law “doesn’t allow a live-aboard outside of an eligible marina.”
So now with the already passes amendments to HB201, DNR states that the main purpose is to establish rules for “for overnight or long-term anchoring in the estuarine areas of the state” by creating a new boating regulation.
Fortunately, GA law requires assessment of the economic impact on small businesses as part of any rule change. Here’s what Hayman has presented. “All the businesses possibly affected by this rule employ less than 100 persons. There are no additional costs to businesses, such as marinas, and if anything, these rules may direct additional customers to eligible facilities. For many years, Georgia has been viewed by transient boaters as unfriendly to their activities. The proposed amended rules should have the added benefit of opening Georgia estuarine waters to more transient boaters and therefore more business for coastal marinas.”
I think the phrase “these rules may direct additional customers to eligible facilities” is the real purpose of this amendment to HB201, and also why GAMBA is so involved. Does anyone with any sense really think that creating a permitting process, telling boaters where they can and cannot anchor, and charging boaters for anchoring is going to add benefit of opening Georgia waters to more transient boaters? At least we now understand how this is going to direct customers to eligible facilities (commercial marinas).
There is nothing about this change to HB201 that is friendly to Georgia boaters or transient boaters. It is heavy handed overreach of government and a thinly veiled effort to drive transient boaters to commercial marinas.
I have defended and advocated for cruisers to not bypass Georgia on their semiannual migrations. I’ve written many articles about Georgia’s wonderful cruising destinations and debated on social media platforms against folks who blatantly said to skip Georgia when asked for cruising advice. But I cannot defend this action by our state’s DNR and I am embarrassed that this has happened to us.
In the coming days and weeks, I think we will learn more about the changes to this law and I think the hand will be pointed to a few folks who are greedily trying to use their influential positions to line their pockets. I hope I’m wrong, I really do.
6/3/19 Bob Keller
I am a 30+ year resident of Georgia and have been boating in GA for nearly that long. First on fresh water lakes and the last 13 years on the coast. I spend most of my available time (when not working) on the GA coast between Ossabaw Island and Cumberland Island in my power boat in the summer and my sailboat the rest of the year. I find this legislation shocking, unneccessary and a blatant attack on boaters. I find it equally shocking that a supposed pro-boating publication such as yours would strongly support a draconian and one-sided bill such as this. While I look forward to the “clarification” that has been promised, the language that I read in the bill is pretty clear. The state of Georgia is now going to require boaters to buy a permit to anchor out overnight? Really? That is particularly outrageous in my opinion. So when I take my boat from St. Simons down to Jekyll to anchor out and enjoy the island for 3 or 4 days (as I just did a few weeks ago) now I am supposed to buy a permit for this? It is not enough that I usually spend $20 per night to land my dinghy and use the marina facilities and also spend many dollars at restaurants and bars. Now the state wants $5.00 per night just to drop anchor? Someone may contest this from a legal standpoint and have a good chance to beat it. Then when I take my boat south to Cumberland Island and drop anchor along the way in a quiet cove this also is being governed by a permit for $5.00 per night? As if I do not already pay enough to the state in personal property taxes and registration fees on my boat every year. Nevermind transient sailors who stop in GA on their way north or south and drop anchor for a night or two. The coast of Georgia is a quiet, lonely place which is what makes it special. The government is now in effect erecting toll booths along the quietest, most pristine parts of the whole east coast. This is yet another government attack on our personal freedom that is in decline with every new legislative session. This is not the same state that I moved to in 1988, that’s for sure! I do not know what the purpose of this bill really is but it is a solution looking for a problem. I do not see abandoned boats and boaters pumping sewage into the wetlands as a problem in coastal Georgia. The only sewage being pumped is typically done by municipalities at volumes that dwarf anything the boating community could ever do. I also do not recall ever seeing abandoned boats or any “bums on boats” from Ossabaw to Cumberland. This is a definite issue in Florida but in Georgia? Never seen it. Maybe it is a big issue further north in the Savannah area but that would be a big surprise if that were the case.
I could go on with this email because I find this to be so outrageous. This is another reason that I am considering taking my boat to Florida and keeping it there instead of Georgia. Much lower taxes and registration costs and I will likely do this next year once I am retired. I suspect most boaters will avoid Georgia even more that they already do and this will mean less business for marinas, not more. I look forward to hearing more about this implementation and whether or not boaters at anchor can expect to be harassed by law enforcement looking for our $5 permit to anchor overnight.
6/2/19 Susan Parker
I ask two things:
1) Restricted areas and rules be clearly communicated.
2) Anchoring permits be easily accessible/available on line.
6/2/19 Amy Thurman, GAMBA
I’d like to clarify a few things about new laws in Georgia. I’m the executive director of the Georgia Marine Business Association (GAMBA), and the publisher of Southern Tides Magazine. I was also previously an executive director of an international cruising association.
This bill, which I strongly support, is NOT an attack on cruisers or on anchoring in Georgia.
Most liveaboard boaters/cruisers/transient boaters follow the principle of leaving no wake – meaning leaving no trace of their presence when visiting or transiting through an area. No trash, no waste, the smallest/least footprint possible. If you’ve been through Georgia’s coastal waters, you’re aware that what we have here is some of the last remaining undeveloped and unspoiled marshes, wetlands, barrier islands, and inland waterways on the eastern seaboard. This bill is an attempt to keep it that way by designating anchorage areas and restricting sewage pumpout in our state waters.
Some things to be aware of:
– Anchoring will still be permitted in most Georgia waters. Areas that will be restricted are shellfish beds (which are critical to our coastal ecosystem), and within a specified distance (still being decided) of structures, to include bridges, existing docks, and in navigation channels. This distance is for the safety of everyone involved and is not aimed so much at cruisers as at local boats that anchor in high traffic areas creating a hazard to navigation, and boats anchoring a couple hundred feet (or less) from a marina or other dock and causing dangerous situations for boats approaching and departing those docks.
– There will be a small permit fee, similar to what you’d pay to camp at a state or national park. The purpose of this fee is to prevent boats from being anchored in our coastal waters and abandoned, which happens far more frequently than you might imagine – I can think of half a dozen off the top of my head. It allows these abandoned boats to be dealt with (there currently isn’t a way of dealing with them). The other purpose of the fee was to fund the removal of these abandoned vessels, but it was struck down on the floor of the House, even though we fought hard for it. And we’ll continue to push for those fees to go directly into an abandoned vessel fund in the next congressional session.
– This law will be enforced by reporting – meaning law enforcement isn’t going to ride around looking for permits, inspecting your Y valve, etc. But it does allow reports of pumping sewage overboard, protection of our shellfish beds, vessels anchored in dangerous locations, and abandoned vessels (NONE of which we want) to be dealt with.
You are all still heartily welcome in Georgia waters! We rely on your patronage and have no wish to push you away. You are still welcome to anchor in our countless truly lovely areas or stay in any marina of your choosing, and there are pump-out stations (that only charge nominal fees) located throughout our coast. Please also note that this law will not go into effect until January 1, 2020, and before it does, the wording will be clarified and posted (as well as shared with Cruiser’s Net , Active Captain and Waterway Guide).
I welcome any questions, and of course you’re welcome to participate in the public comment to the GADNR.
Georgia Marine Business Association
Southern Tides Magazine
6/1/19 Jim Healy
So far, the only explanation I have seen for the actions Georgia has taken is pollution from boats pumping overboard, but I think the issue is broader than that, and is really targeted at the “derelict vessel” problem. There is no question that derelicts are a problem in many places, but this approach doesn’t get at the problem and swats a mosquito with a sledge hammer. It’s poorly thought out, typical of government bureaucrats. Does anyone actually know what the intent is? It would be helpful in any analysis of the actions being undertaken to know what the result is supposed to be. If it’s really pollution for pumping overboard, there are much bigger problems for states to tackle than boaters. How about agricultural runoff, storm overflow from municipal sewage treatment facilities, lawn fertilizers, and the plethora of industrial pollutants in places like Savannah harbor and Brunswick harbor.
Legally, this is an amazingly complex area with literally hundreds of years of Roman Law, English Common Law and US Constitutional law and International Maritime Treaty underlying. There are topics of jurisdiction, administration, Public Trust Lands, Supreme Court precedent and the evolution of public policies. I have an article on my website that tries to summarize the very tip of the subject. Here’s a link to the article: https://gilwellbear.wordpress.com/category/cruising-practica/general-cruising/anchoring-rights/. I will assume you will read that instead of having me re-post it here.
The State of Georgia is given money from the federal government for dredging, a public trust responsibility. That money comes to the state through its congressional delegation. The state has consistently diverted that money to other non-waterway uses (as has South Carolina), so we have places like Altamaha Sound, the Little Mud River and Hell Gate that are on the edge of impassible – or actually impassable – at low tide, and worsening. Before the state does something as extensive as what is being proposed, denying the free use of public trust lands to the public, should they not live up to their existing public trust responsibilities?
As with motor vehicle and highway law, should not the maritime laws of the various states be consistent with the laws of neighboring states? If so, we already have a mess on our hands, because there is no consistency from state to state on the A-ICW. This nonsense will just add to that. One wonder if they consulted with their neighbor, Florida, on the history of “derelict vessel” legislation there. Probably not; pride would preclude that reasonable course of action.
I do not object to REASONABLE controls, but a one-night permit for a through-cruiser to anchor on Wahoo Creek overnight which is applied for and received online? Nonsense. There are places in the salt marshes of the low country where no signal is available. And a $240 dollar annual permit? What’s that money to be used for? Is it destined for the general treasury of the state, or is it restricted for some waterway development use?
Boaters need to band together with BoatUS and the AIW Association to help manage this.
We must develop intelligent, factual, non-emotional suggested responses to be sent to Georgia legislators and the governor. Someone needs to lead that. Soon.
In the end, Georgia residents must lead this fight on behalf of all boaters. Georgia boaters have by far the most to lose here, because they can’t go out on weekends and drop the hook, and of course, they can’t go to remote, private locations, either. They’d have to go to “approved anchorages.” It was cleaver to single out “estuarine waters.” That immunizes the thousands of boaters on fresh water ponds like Lake Lanier. Keeps the noise level from the peanut gallery down. I tried once to write an email to then South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley about the condition of the A-ICW between Charleston to Georgetown (McClellanville, Andersonville). Since I am not a South Carolina resident, the state email system would not allow me to contact their governor’s office. How’s that for Bovine Excrement? Georgia residents have to own and lead this.
One important issue is, what is Georgia’s legal definition of “LIVEABOARD?” When Florida went through this, they had to change the definition in a way that DID NOT include cruising boats that are simply exercising their rights of passage. If cruisers don’t fit the definition of “live aboard,” then none of this is an issue for us. And frankly, a column in the logbook that gets a check mark when I pump out is pretty simple. I started doing that years ago when North Carolina flirted with a law requiring a pumpout log.
A lot needs to be done here, fast, on behalf of the cruising community. If I can help, I’m happy to do so. But, I’m not a Georgia resident and not in a position to lead the fight. Someone resident in Georgia is going to have to step up. Peg and I are cruising now, so my Internet Access and personal availability are constrained.
5/31/19 Kim Russo, AGLCA
The State of Georgia has passed a bill that restricts anchoring and adds some requirements for boaters regarding their marine sanitation systems.
It appears this will mean some new requirements for Loopers, such as keeping logs of pumps outs in Georgia and securing the black water discharge valves, similar to what is currently required in the Great Lakes and Canada. It will also restrict where you can anchor and require you to obtain a permit in order to anchor overnight. Please read below or view the attached bill for more specifics.
At this point in the process, Georgia DNR has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to start the process of implementing this new law. Details can be found here. They are suggesting a nominal fee for anchoring permits, with permits obtained in a number of ways including online. No information is included on what areas will be designated as anchoring areas, other than a notice that those area will be posted on the DNR website.
This is the most restrictive anchoring law I’ve seen pass. Thankfully, the AICW through Georgia is less than 150 miles. AGLCA will participate in the process for the notice of proposed rulemaking as DNR works on implementation. We will let members know what assistance is needed as we continue analyzing the new law and it’s proposed implementation. In the meantime, if anyone has followed the evolution of this bill or has any additional information, please contact me.
The highlights of the bill are:
-The Board of Natural Resources is authorized to adopt and promulgate rules and regulations relating to
overnight or long-term anchoring within the estuarine areas of this state to include the establishment of an anchorage permit.
-The Department of Natural Resources is authorized to establish anchorage areas within the estuarine areas of this state as well as areas where anchoring is not allowed.
-It shall be unlawful for any person to dock or anchor at night any vessel within the estuarine areas of this state unless it is in an anchorage area established by the department and in compliance with all rules and regulations adopted by the board pursuant to this Code section or at an eligible facility. Nothing in this Code section shall prohibit short-term anchoring for fishing or similar activities, nor shall it prohibit the owner of a vessel from docking at a private recreational dock or noneligible facility so long as such vessel is not utilized as a live-aboard vessel.
-It shall be unlawful to operate or float any live-aboard vessel within the estuarine areas of this state, whether anchored in an anchorage area or at an eligible facility, which has located within or on such vessel a Type I, Type II, or Type III Marine Sanitation Device, as defined in 33 C.F.R. 159, unless such device has a secured mechanism which is constructed and installed in such a manner that it can be emptied only by pumping out to prevent discharge of treated and untreated sewage or is equipped with a holding tank, as
such term is defined in Code Section 52-7-3. Examples of secured mechanisms considered to be effective at preventing discharges include, but are not limited to, closing the seacock and padlocking, using a non-releasable wire tie, or removing the seacock handle with the seacock in the closed position.
-Persons operating or floating live-aboard vessels with marine toilets and subject to the requirements of this Code section shall create and maintain for at least one year after creation records which indicate the name and location of pump-out facilities used and the dates of such use. Persons who own or operate pump-out facilities shall also create a record and maintain, for at least one year after creation, records which indicate the name and vessel registration number, the date of pump-out, and verification of pump-out for each vessel for which pump-out services are performed.
America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association
5/31/19 Roger Long
I was shocked to click into Cruisers Net this morning and see NOTHING about the new Georgia anchoring law that was snuck in under the radar. There was a small, easily overlooked item yesterday but it has aged down to page two. Do you not realize that, if this stands, we are looking at the beginning of the end of ICW snowbirding for everyone not wealthy enough or inclined to stay in a marina every night? This will be the formula that FL uses to finally shut down the state. It will likely spread to the Carolinas. There is a comment and rule making process in play. There should be an all stop call for emergency action.
I posted on some social media sites yesterday and am almost as shocked by the reaction of many in our community as the idiocy of Georgia government, comments generally along the lines of:
We always go outside so this doesn’t effect us.
We always stay in a marina so this doesn’t effect us.
If $5.00 a night is a problem for you, you can’t afford boating.
I’m in favor of keeping sewage out of the water.
We can afford one marina stop and get through Georgia in two days so what’s the big deal?
I find this fragmentation of interest disturbing. Do boaters only care about people who cruise exactly as they do? We are a small enough community as it is and such narrow perspectives will leave us powerless.
For us personally, exploring the remote corners of Georgia and anchoring in the many creeks and unspoiled spots is major reason for all the expenditure of time and money to maintain a large boat and take it south. If anchoring in the state is restricted to a few designated areas, which will certainly be only near places convenient for law enforcement to patrol to check for permits, and crowded, we will not be taking our boat south of Norfolk again. I know that we are probably a minority as most of your readers view the ICW as just a speed bump on the way to the Bahamas and Florida but, if our community fragments like this, there won’t be a Cruisers Net or need for it in a few years.