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Reaction to mega boat ramps mixed

ATLANTA - Gov. Sonny Perdue's announcement Friday that the state will build mega-boat ramps at 10 sites across Georgia drew vastly different responses, depending on the health of the local body of water.

Southwest Georgians were glad to see that the governor's Go Fish Georgia initiative will include lakes Blackshear and Seminole, both still brimming despite the severe drought affecting other parts of the state.

At depleted Lake Lanier, the reaction was incredulity.

"I kind of thought that Go Fish had gone away," said Jackie Joseph, president of the Lake Lanier Association. "We have ramps that aren't even in the water. ... To think of adding more, I don't know how to express it."

The governor unveiled Go Fish Georgia, a bid to lure more fishing tournaments and the revenue they bring, last January.

Since then, a drought that already was well under way has worsened, despite the recent uptick in rainfall.

As of last week, Lake Lanier had fallen to a record low of 1,050 feet above sea level. With a drier than normal winter expected, forecasts call for it to continue to drop by four feet per month.

A major fishing tournament that was to have been held at Lanier in November had to be canceled because the lake was too low.

But even as Lanier and many of Georgia's other federally managed reservoirs continue to shrink, the assumption is that the rains will return at some point, and the mega-ramps must be in place to attract the major tournaments that carry an economic wallop.

The sites announced by Perdue on Friday are well distributed across the state, from two sites on Lake Hartwell along the South Carolina border in northeastern Georgia to the Earle May Boat Basin Park on Lake Seminole in Bainbridge.

Sen. John Bulloch, R-Ochlocknee, whose district includes Bainbridge, said both Lake Seminole and Lake Blackshear, which will host a mega-ramp at Veterans Memorial State Park near Cordele, are well suited for the Go Fish project.

"Lake Seminole has no water withdrawal permits in it ... (and) Lake Blackshear is listed as a full-pool lake," he said. "We've got to have (the mega-ramps) where we have a consistently available water source."

That's why Joseph was perplexed on Friday that the state agencies in charge of Go Fish have chosen such an obviously inconsistent body of water as Lake Lanier.

A mega-ramp will be built along the lake's Hall County shore at Laurel Park.

Joseph suggested that the millions of dollars being spent on the fishing initiative could be put to better use finding ways to better manage Lake Lanier.

"If sport fishing is the goal, we need to focus on how to protect the water for the fish to live in," she said.

Eight of the sites selected for mega-ramps will receive state funds to match local financing. The two on Lake Hartwell will be built using money from the settlement of a PCB contamination lawsuit.

SideBar: At a glance

Here are the 10 sites chosen for mega-boat ramps that will be built as part of Gov. Sonny Perdue's Go Fish Georgia project:

Laurel Park - Hall County on Lake Lanier

Wildwood Park - Columbia County on Clarks Hill Lake

Richard B. Russell State Park - Elbert County on Lake Richard B. Russell

Pyne Road Park - Troup County on West Point Lake

Veterans Memorial State Park - Crisp County/Cordele on Lake Blackshear

Earle May Boat Basin Park - City of Bainbridge on Lake Seminole

Jaycee Landing - Wayne County/Jesup on the Altamaha River

Robert Baurle Ramp - Augusta/Richmond County on the Savannah River

Gum Branch Access - Hart County/Hartwell on Lake Hartwell

Tugaloo State Park - Franklin County/Stephens County on Lake Hartwell