BoatUS Fights Back Against New Georgia Anchoring Law

In a letter sent to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) urged the governor to reconsider regulations put in place restricting overnight anchoring within 1,000 feet of any structure, such as public and private docks, wharves, bridges, piers and piling, except in areas near marinas. The national advocacy, services and safety group asks recreational boaters to send a message now to the state of Georgia regarding the new prohibitive anchoring law.

With little notice or engagement with boating stakeholder groups, the Georgia Legislature approved, and the governor signed, House Bill 201 in the 2019 session. This legislation directs the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to develop rules regarding the anchoring of vessels in estuarine areas of the state. Georgia DNR then proposed a rule that raised significant concerns with the boating community, including BoatUS and the grassroots group Save Georgia’s Anchorages, which was created in response to the law.

“This 1,000-foot offset needlessly eliminates anchorages all over the state. It will affect numerous boaters, many of whom transit Georgia waters as part of the annual migration along the Intracoastal Waterway. There is no reasonable safety or waterway-management reason for taking such a significant swath of state waters from the boating public. Boating and fishing are the second largest outdoor recreational activity in Georgia, bringing in more than $500 million a year in economic activity. Eliminating scores of anchorages will put a severe damper on this very important economic driver to many coastal areas that gain from boater spending,” Chris Edmonston, vice president of government affairs for BoatUS said.

Edmonston notes DNR did create so-called “Marina Zones” that allow boaters to anchor as close as 300 feet to marinas or facilities that provide fuel, dinghy access, provisions, vessel maintenance or other services, regardless of whether other structures exist nearby.

BoatUS believes the final rule runs counter to the public trust doctrine as codified in Georgia Code § 52-1-2 (2015) which states: “The State of Georgia, as sovereign, is trustee of the rights of the people of the state to use and enjoy all tidewaters which are capable of use for fishing, passage, navigation, commerce, and transportation, pursuant to the common law public trust doctrine.” BoatUS notes the anchoring of vessels is an integral part of navigation.