James H Newsome Responds to GA DNR Inquiry re Anchor Restriction Limits
James H Newsome was one of the authors of the original protests over Georgia’s ultra restrictive HB 201, see Coalition Comments on Georgia’s HB 201, which resulted in the less restrictive HB 833. This issue now is not with the HB 833 legislation, but with the GA DNR’s implementation of those regulations. If you boat and anchor in Georgia, we invite your comments, so please let us hear from you.
Once again, GA DNR rulemaking pertaining to navigation in the state’s coastal waters is causing confusion and frustration with recreational boaters and cruisers. The green colored “buffer regions around shellfish harvest and growing areas” which was recently announced on DNR’s web site appears to indicate that these entire areas are off limits to anchoring.
A coalition of boating groups and cruising publications has reached out to DNR for additional information and clarification of the maps, but we have not received a reply at this time. However, information forwarded to me from an unnamed DNR representative stated that shellfish cages will not be placed within 150’ of any Federally maintain channel, and that the Army Corp of Engineers may apply more restrictive criteria when shell fishermen apply for permits at the federal level.
How are boaters to interpret this information? Does this mean there are holes in DNR’s green colored areas that conflict with federal navigation law and are therefore not included in the restricted areas? 150’ from a Federally maintained channel essentially eliminates much of the ICW from inclusion in oyster bed designated areas, but 150’ from what part of the channel, the middle, the edge?
At a minimum we are looking at 300’ from the center of the channel or essentially the length of a football field. With the elimination of the Magenta Line where is the center of the channel? Aids to Navigation (ATON) certainly cannot be used as indicators of the center channel.
A buffer for navigable channels, or exclusion from shellfish growing and harvesting areas, will exclude most of the marked channel in GA or at least a large part of it. So why has DNR colored these areas green when their own rule clearly excludes them for incorporation into shellfish beds? Would it not have been better to post accurate information for boaters to reference rather than confuse everyone again?
Also, define “(ii)” below. Bottom leases may be granted in areas with minimum width of 200.’ Does this mean that eligible areas must be at least 200’ wide, or does it mean that areas under 200’ cannot be leased?
“(6) Leasing of State-Owned Water Bottoms Terms, Siting, other Considerations.(a) The term of a state-owned water bottoms lease shall not exceed ten years and is subject to such provisions, requirements and conditions as determined by the Department. Leases may be renewed for additional terms if the lessee is in compliance with the terms of the current lease.(b) Subtidal water bottoms leases shall be sited in accordance with the following criteria: (i) In Approved Shellfish Growing areas as determined by the department;(ii) In areas with a minimum width of 200 feet at mean low water;(iii) In areas with a minimum depth of not less than 6 feet at mean low water; and….“
Boaters in coastal waters depend on ATON and charts as roadmaps for navigating an already confusing waterway. We should not be required to reference inaccurate and non-conclusive maps on a difficult to find web site link to legally comply with GA law and rulemaking. This is a confusing and overbearing burden on boaters.
Once again, it appears DNR has used the green brush rather liberally, and green does not mean “go,” it means “stop” don’t anchor. But where?