Recent rains are not enough to prevent the closure of yet another boat ramp on Lake Lanier. War Hill Park’s only boat launching ramp faces closure this week.
“As water levels continue to go down in Lake Lanier, we are once again faced with the impending closure of the boat ramp at War Hill Park,” said Dawson County Recreation Director Lisa Henson, who describes the closure as a safety issue.
“The end of the ramp is in approximately two feet of water, which is not enough to safely launch your boat. The trailers are dropping off the end of the ramp and becoming stuck, sometimes requiring tow truck assistance to get out of the lake,” she said.
A period of low lake levels forced Dawson County Parks and Recreation to also close the lake ramp last year.
Throughout that time department officials and volunteers met with representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to discuss alternatives for the ramp closure.
The Corps of Engineers recommended a plan that would have allowed Dawson County to do a modest ramp extension once the lake reached its lowest level for the season.
With plans in place and work scheduled to begin, lake levels began to rise as quickly as they had fallen due to an early fall rainy season.
“The window of opportunity was gone, but thankfully the lake level rose allowing the ramp to be reopened,” said Henson.
The Corps cautions “chasing the water” in a 50 year drought situation is not the answer. “Dumping a truck load of gravel off the end of the ramp or trying to import concrete slab extensions into the water are not viable solutions,” Henson said.
Two successful alternatives include either waiting for the water to recede to its lowest fall level, usually in late August to early September, and install a concrete extension off the existing ramp or build a coffer dam and literally ‘part the waters’ while installing the extension, the same method used at Charleston Park in 2007, according to Henson.
“Needless to say, ‘parting the water’ is very costly and could run upwards of $50, 000,” she added. The US Army Corp of Engineers will not contribute to the cost.
County Manager Kevin Tanner supports the need for permanent extension of the ramp. “We have explored all options and have determined we will wait until the water reaches the lowest level and then extend the ramp,” said Tanner.
“This will be done internally with Dawson County departments and will provide a longer period of seasonal use in years to come. The solution the county has chosen is estimated to cost approximately $3,000. This is the most cost-effective solution,” Tanner said.