The Army Corps of Engineers should impose fines rather than revoke dock permits for Thurmond Lake residents who violate shoreline use regulations, according to U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood.
The suggestion by Mr. Norwood was among several submitted to the Corps before Friday's closing of the public comment period for proposed revisions to Thurmond Lake's official shoreline use plan.
The shoreline plan, which outlines policies for clearing underbrush, building docks and other issues, has been criticized by some residents - and Mr. Norwood - as ambiguous.
Consequently, the Corps revised the plan a year ahead of schedule in efforts to resolve concerns among private-property owners and users of adjacent public lands.
The Corps owns the "apron" of land surrounding the lake. But residents with homes adjoining that apron often want landscaped yards and other amenities that stretch across the public's waterfront.
The agency's management of Thurmond Lake's shoreline came under additional fire in 1998, when Corps officials attempted to prosecute homeowners for clearing tornado-damaged debris in Lincoln County's Indian Cove area.
Debate over that issue expanded to include concerns over inconsistencies with dock and underbrush policies, and public meetings held later to discuss those issues attracted as many as 275 people.
Mr. Norwood says many of the Corps' planned revisions are helpful.
"Thanks to the willingness of so many constituents to step forward, get involved and go to work, this shoreline plan will benefit from the best public input of any Corps project I've seen," Mr. Norwood said.
Major changes proposed by the Corps include:
The size of vegetation that can be removed from Corps property would be increased from 3 to 6 inches. Limbing options would be increased to one-third of tree height, not to exceed 18 feet.
A family would be able to apply for individual docks for as many separate pieces of property as they own. Previous rules allowed only one dock per family unit, regardless of how many properties were involved.
Previously, only post-1977 subdivisions were allowed to have community docks. Under the new plan, all subdivisions would have individual docks if other criteria were met.
One proposed change, in which residents with grassy yards through Corps property must choose one of two options when their permits expire, might need further revision, Mr. Norwood said.
The Corps plan requires landowners to either allow natural regeneration or to replant trees and be allowed to mow and trim underbrush for 15 years while trees regrow.
Mr. Norwood's suggestion is to enact a uniform underbrushing standard in which all property owners would be held to a maximum 150-foot underbrushing width, regardless of dock size.
Other suggestions, which the Corps will consider before it issues a final version of the plan later this year, include creating a Citizens Advisory Board for better communication between the Corps and residents; and a 24-hour hot line for use by residents needing assistance after tornadoes or other disasters.
Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119.
Key points in Mr. Norwood's shoreline plan comments:
Eliminate a rule allowing only the American flag to be flown on Corps-permitted docks to avoid conflicts with free speech rights.
Create a uniform 150-foot maximum width underbrushing limit for all adjacent property owners, regardless of lot size.
Establish a 24-hour telephone assistance hot line for use by residents after a tornado or other disaster affects public and private lands.
Organize a Citizens Advisory Board to improve communication between residents and the Corps.