Through the new program, recreational boaters earning a certificate from an authorized Safe Boating Class will be rewarded with a complimentary annual day-use pass valid for one full year.
Boating safety certificates earned within the past year can be presented to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Project Offices at Allatoona or Lanier along with a valid photo ID to claim their annual day-use pass.
“The main reason we’re offering the annual passes is as an incentive to try and get people a little more educated about boating laws. We see problems here on the lake every year with boaters that think they can get a boat and just come on out. Georgia is one of the few states in the region that does not require boating education at the moment,” said USACE Park Ranger for Lake Allatoona Chris Purvis. “We see everything from boats overloaded with too many people on the boat, people not wearing life jackets when they’re supposed to, not having enough life jackets on board, not knowing exactly what buoys and markers mean. It would be like people driving cars and not knowing what stop signs and yield signs mean.”
According to statistics from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, cases of boating under the influence, boating incidents and boating-related fatalities all increased in 2012 from the year before, including 180 BUIs, 118 boating incidents and 12 boating fatalities. Although the number of drownings decreased in 2012, there were still 36 drownings across the state down from 49 in 2011 and 51 in 2010. Each of these statistics, however, are numbers the USACE, DNR and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary are hoping to see diminish with more education and awareness.
“This is a pilot project, the first of its kind for the corps of engineers and right now it’s just Allatoona and Lake Lanier because we are two of the busiest lakes in the nation,” Purvis said. “In some other places, the state of Alabama for example, has a boater education requirement. So this pilot program is geared toward educating Georgia boaters.”
The next qualifying course to be offered in the area will be an all-day course from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 2-2 in April. Although based out of Marietta, the Flotilla 2-2 will be leading the April 6 course out of the Cartersville USACE Project Office at 1138 County Road 294N, located at the end of Highway 20 Spur toward Allatoona Dam. The cost of the course is $40.
“We offer a variety of courses. For the general public, the best one is the About Boating Safely class,” said U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla Staff Officer Jonathan Dawe. “It is an eight-hour class, we offer about six of those a year and we cover all the topics someone would need, whether they’re an old salt or very new to boating. We cover every aspect of your facilities, whether it’s sailboats, personal water crafts like jet skis, or motor boats, power boats or yachts. We cover technology and terminology. We go over how to trailer boats, how to launch them, how to navigate and all the navigation rules, how to handle boating emergencies, and all the legal requirements both federal and state.
“Most insurance companies will give people a discount on their insurance for having completed our course and it’s a [National Association of State Boating Laws Administrators] approved course so if Georgia joins the ranks of other states that pass a boating license requirement similar to a car license requirement, anyone that has completed our About Boating Safely class will be grandfathered in and granted a license. So there are many benefits to boater education.”
Other certified classes include those taught by Georgia DNR, the Golden Isles Sail and Power Squadron and certain at-home or online courses. For a list of approved courses available online, visit www.georgiawildlife.com/boating/education. Persons acquiring an annual pass from the USACE after verifying completion of an approved education course will be required to sign a release form stating they will not sell the pass. Lost or stolen passes will bot be reissued without a new Safe Boating Class certificate. For more information, call Purvis at 678-721-6700.
The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is a volunteer arm of the U.S. Coast Guard operating all Coast Guard operations on America’s inland waterways. U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary may be seen on Georgia lakes and rivers in full U.S. Coast Guard uniform, with auxiliary identifying insignia, conducting safety and security patrols in addition to other duties and public service actions.
“We’re all in the Coast Guard, but we’re in the Coast Guard Auxillary. The Coast Guard Auxillary is an all-volunteer organization. We are a civilian component of the Coast Guard, but we go through the same training as the active duty and the reserve guys based on the qualifications we’re pursuing,” Dawe said. “Our mission is primarily focused first on recreational boating safety. We educate the public through our classes and we don’t just offer the About Boating Safety class. We have an On the Water Class, we have a Navigation class and several other classes. The other thing we do is conduct complimentary vessel safety inspections to make sure people have the right safety equipment and their vessels meet federal and state Coast Guard and DNR legal requirements.
“The other thing we do is on-the-water patrols. We provide safety and security patrols on the lake. We do not do law enforcement. In the auxillary, we do not do combat operations and we do not have direct law enforcement operations. ... We also are available for search and rescue operations.”
For more information regarding the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or available boater safety courses, visit www.cgaux.org or call Dawe at 404-395-6139.