This is good news for boaters who want to spend extended periods of time on Georgia’s coast.
Boaters in Georgia’s saltwater coastal region might soon be able to get permission to spend more than 30 nights on their vessels under a rule change to be considered next month by the Natural Resources Board.
Since 1992, state law has limited stays to 30 days. The cut off was imposed by the General Assembly as a way to rid the Altamaha River of derelict houses on stilts that were considered eyesores as well as a source of pollution since they didn’t have sanitation facilities, according to Doug Haymans, policy coordinator with the Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Resources Division.
“They sort of did it in a broad, sweeping matter,” he said of the legislators.
Now, the owners of saltwater marinas that want to play host to visiting yachts are lobbying through their trade group, the Georgia Marine Business Association, for relaxed limits.
“The chatter out on the Internet is that Georgia is not boater friendly,” Haymans said.
For example, many Florida boat owners are required by their insurance to move their watercraft out of the state during hurricane season, according to Bubba Strickland, manager of Hogan’s Marina in Savannah and an association member.
“With a no-liveaboard law, they are bypassing Georgia to hang out in North or South Carolina,” he said.
Yet transient boaters can be attractive tourists who buy groceries, fuel and tickets to sightseeing. Besides, the current restrictions were essentially voluntary anyway, Haymans said.
“How do you enforce that?” he asked. “It was impossible the day it was written. The only way to know if someone stayed more than 30 days was to watch them, and you can’t do that for a misdemeanor.”
On Friday, the Coastal Marshlands Committee considers a proposal to allow longer stays for people staying in saltwater marinas that have sewage pump-out facilities. Boaters would have to lock or disable their vessel’s sewage-discharge mechanisms and keep a log of when they empty their sewage holding tanks.
Next, the DNR board will consider it at next week’s monthly meeting. That would start a 30-day period of public comment before the board’s September meeting when the new rule could be formally approved.
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