Collins Demands More Answers from Corps on Increased Permit Fees

U.S. Representative Doug Collins, along with four other U.S, Representatives from Georgia and two more from the Carolinas are demanding a more thorough explanatio on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to raise dock and facility permits.

On June 6, 2019, the Corps announced the implementation of a revised real estate administrative fee schedule for dock and land-based facility permits along the shorelines of Federal reservoirs and waterways in the South Atlantic Division.

That includes Lake Hartwell, Lake Lanier, and other Corps lakes in Georgia.

Under the revised fee schedule, new dock or facility permits will increase from $400 to $835 and re-issue permits will increase from $175 to $835.

In June, Corps Savannah office spokesman Russell Wicke said the rise in permit fees is a consolidation of a number of other fees in addition to the dock permit fee.

“What this does is it consolidates everything into one cost, no matter what,” Wicke said. “The same amount of work and cost to the government and time takes place. It’s just that now a number of things are assessed for different things, which is hard to follow. So, this just consolidates everything.”

The fee increase he said includes a $35 fee for a Shoreline Permit and an $800 administrative fee for the Real Estate License.

According to Wicke, the administrative fee will cover costs the Corps incurs for the issuance or re-issuance of dock permits and licenses in connection with the private use of fee-owned public lands by landowners adjacent to the reservoirs.

Examples he said include dock anchorage, lighting, walkways, and steps to improve access to permitted boat docks and similar facilities.

But Collins and his fellow Congressmen aren’t buying that explanation.

“This is a classic case that we’ve dealt with the Corps before,” he said in June. “They believe that they are an entity that can operate by themselves without input from public, even though every action like this has an affect on the public. That’s been my concern from the beginning. They don’t get input from anyone else, they only talk with themselves and they end up with issues once they put something out because typically it’s not well thought out. And this is another very classic case of a not-very-well-thought-out process that has an affect on homeowners.”

A joint letter was sent to the Corps Commander in Atlanta demanding an explanation on how and why the fee hike was instituted with no input from Congress or the taxpaying public.

On June 28, 2019, the Corps responded to Members’ dated June 14, 2019, but Collins said they failed to provide adequate justification for the fee increases.

Now the Congressmen have sent a second letter asking for a more detailed explanation of the fee increases, claiming not all of their initial questions were answered.

In this latest letter, the Congressmen want to know why an assessment by the staffs at the Corps reservoirs within SAD of administrative fees to cover administrative expenses was initiated in 2006 but no decision on a revised fee schedule was made for thirteen years.

They also want an explanation as to why the Corps left the fee schedule unchanged for more than a decade and then decided to increase the amount exponentially. Explain why a more gradual phase-in to increase fees was not implemented.

Additionally, they want the Corps to explain why the Corps did not follow required notice and comment procedures under 5 U.S.C. 553

Finally, the want the Corps to provide evidence to jusstify the fee increase to $835.

Collins said Congress has given Brig. Gen. Diana Holland, Commander of the Corps’ South Atlantic Division until September 9 to respond.

The new fees will go into effect on January 1, 2020.