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Anti-Boating Bill rushed

Dear editor:

I am writing about Georgia’s new Anchoring legislation known as HB 201 and the letter to you published (June 19) from GAMBA Executive Director Amy Thurman. The letter from Ms. Thurman was certainly full of dramatic headlines: “GAMBA played no part in boating bill,” and indignant denials and is very critical of Mr. Jack White. Mr. White is criticized for his letter to you on June 12 for “getting his facts wrong” regarding GAMBA’s role in HB 201, which is very much an anti-boating piece of legislation. I am not an old friend of Mr. White, having only met him once at the DNR public comments meeting in Brunswick, but I am a long-time Georgia resident and boater in Bryan, Liberty and Glynn counties.

I do not want to get into a point-by-point rebuttal of claims, denials and counter claims between Ms. Thurman and Mr. White because it is pointless. But the undeniable fact is that GAMBA has been a strong supporter (their words) of this bill since it was introduced. They were initially promoting a 1,000 foot set-off for anchoring from existing structures. This distance would essentially eliminate anchoring in the state of Georgia and GAMBA changed their recommendation after uproar from the boating and cruising community. To their credit they have modified many of their original positions due to pressure exerted from boating organizations and boaters themselves.

None of this changes the fact that this bill was ill-conceived and pushed through the legislature without consulting any major boating organizations and with no studies to back up claims being made. The bill’s sponsor – Representative Don Hogan (St. Simons) – used many untruths in his presentations to the legislature (who it was evident have zero boating knowledge or experience). Watching the live stream of all these proceedings makes it very evident that most of Mr. Hogan’s key statements promoting this bill are untrue. For instance:

Claim 1: “This is a very simple bill that only targets live-a-board boaters and requires them to pump out their waste tanks. It also allows DNR to establish mooring areas where boats can anchor.”

Truth: This bill targets every boater and goes well beyond these two issues, including a proposed permit to anchor (supported by GAMBA) and set-off distances, plus other requirements for boaters and marinas. It is a very complicated bill and intrusive to many aspects of boating in Georgia and was dishonestly promoted to save the environment and keep our waters clean.

Claim 2: “There are no current laws on the books to address overboard discharge of waste”

Truth: This is patently false because there are federal laws that prohibit raw waste discharge inside of the 3-mile limit. Mr. Hogan discusses the 3-mile limit but his non-boating colleagues do not know enough to challenge this.

Claim 3: “Overboard discharge is a real problem with live-a-boards docked up at a marina.”

Truth: This makes no sense and is untrue because live-a-board boaters docked at marinas have access to shore side facilities and have no reason to discharge overboard. This bill attacks everyone who anchors, not boats at marinas.

One claim he made that was true is when asked about the estimated volume of waste being contributed by these boats, and how does it compare to other sources (such as municipalities, agriculture and industry) he stated, “No idea.”

It is now clear that this legislation was created by select individuals who each have a specific derelict boat that they want to get rid of so are instead creating sweeping new laws that will not fix the problem but only create more problems for more people, more taxes and more bureaucracy. Derelict boats will only be removed when funding is provided and this law does not provide any funding. It actually removes funding from the proposed permits from DNR and moves it to the general fund which means it is another tax and will not remove a single derelict vessel. 

By any definition this is bad legislation that should never be supported by any organization claiming to be pro-boating. The only reasonable outcome for this bill is non-implementation and a reversal in the 2020 legislative session.

Bob Keller

Richmond Hill, GA

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