Highlights August 19, 2019
The subject of the meeting was of course the outrageous fee increase proposed by the Corps of Engineers. Our position on the issue is for the Corps to forget about this unjustified fee increase and we urged out representatives to implement a permanent solution by giving the lakes to the electric utilities as the Corps has no business in management and has proven over the years to be an extremely poor manager.
Before we started, David Thompson, Chairman of the Board of Assessors, stated that they need two responsible people to fill vacancies on the Board. Stop by the County Office Building to volunteer.
There were about 200 folks in attendance. Five legislators sent representatives: Andrew Seaver (Senator David Perdue), Nancy Bobbitt (Senator Johnny Isakson), Joel Katz (Rep. Doug Collins), Carolyn Dallas (Rep. Jody Hice), and John Wallace (Rep. Barry Loudermilk). Corps personnel attending were Shoreline Program Manager, Sandy Campbell, and Hartwell Project Operations Manager Aaron Wahus. There were also two folks from the Lake Lanier Association. TV Channel 3 in Hartwell and the Hartwell Sun newspaper covered the meeting. A DVD of the meeting is available at Hart Telephone Co.
The Corps has proposed a massive fee increase of 200 to 500 times greater than existing fees for dock permits. These fees would be effective January 1, 2020 and renewals would be the same price as new permits. Lake Hartwell permit holders will have an additional $50 to $150 fee for a dock electrical inspection as required in the new Shoreline Management Plan. Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-SC) introduced an amendment in the House Appropriations Committee that would have specifically banned this fee increase but the amendment was blocked by the Democrats and not taken up by the committee.
Five members of Congress wrote a letter to the Corps requesting information in five areas: justification of fees; explain how the decision was reached to raise fees; explain why the increase was not gradual; and explain why a renewal is as expensive as a new permit. The Corps responded with an extremely condescending letter that basically said we are raising the fees because we can. Additionally the Corps claimed that the permits benefit only the permit holder with no public benefit.
The five who were representing the legislators all said their offices are aware of the situation with the Corps' unexpected and high increase in new and renewal permit fees and were at the meeting to learn more from their constituents’ points of view as well as the from the Corps. Joel Katz (Doug Collins’ Field Rep.) said that their office had a second letter to go out to the Corps the next day. Sandy Campbell (Corps) gave a Power Point presentation of the background and reasoning for the fee changes. The meeting was then opened for questions from the audience. Many questions and thought provoking comments were brought to the floor - lasting about 45 minutes! The Corps effort to “manage” permits does not add up to the increased fees proposed. Interestingly, after the meeting Joel Katz (Doug Collins’ office) said he thought they might make some revisions to their outgoing letter based on what he had heard at the meeting.
We are encouraging the Lake Lanier Assoc., and the Friends of the Savanna River Basin to have meetings on this topic.
If you have not already done so, please contact both Senators Perdue and Isakson and Congressman Doug Collins. They can be reached through their webpage accessible by Goggle.
Be assured we will continue to follow-up with elected officials and will keep you informed. We look forward to seeing you at our next meeting September 16.