Lt. Mark Fuller with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s marine patrol said the officers who serve and protect Alabama's waterways, including Lake Martin, categorize the summer according to the three major holidays: Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day. The Memorial Day weekend passed relatively quietly with just one minor boating accident reported on Lake Martin, he said.
"That's one down and two to go, and nobody was killed. That's a good thing," he told some 150 members of Lake Martin Resource Association who had gathered June 1 at Kowaliga Restaurant for the organization's annual meeting.
In addition to the good holiday report, Fuller asked the membership to help officers maintain safety on the lake by reporting and helping to prosecute reckless boating.
“There’s a lot of you; there are fewer of us,” Fuller told the members.
He reminded the LMRA membership that when a personal watercraft operator jumps the wake of another vessel, it constitutes reckless boating and is a prosecutable offense.
“If you see that, and you want to prosecute, please call us,” he said. “Jet skis are a high target for us. They are smaller, less visible and hard to catch. They have no lights. They are faster than we are.”
Fuller said personal watercraft pose a particular safety problem in Blue Creek, where the vessels frequently operate after dark, which is prohibited by law.
Also addressing the membership was LMRA board member Adams Hudson, who reiterated that LMRA members are the hands, feet, eyes and ears that help to protect boaters through the buoy placement program and help to keep the lake clean and litter free.
LMRA president John Thompson said he’d like to see more of those hands, feet, eyes and ears join the membership rolls of the organization.
“We especially would like to have more members in the Blue Creek and StillWaters area. There’s a lot of work to be done in that part of the lake, and we don’t have near enough participation there,” he said.
Increasing membership is one of three primary goals for LMRA this year, he said.
Another goal for the 2019-2020 year is continued growth of the lighted buoy program, which replaces unlit buoys with lighted models where appropriate.
“There is more traffic on the lake at night, and we need to get these lighted buoys out there to help keep the lake safe,” he added.
Each lighted buoy costs LMRA $450. The organization welcomes tax-deductible donations for the lighted buoy fund. Visit lmra.info to donate.
The third objective for the year is to strengthen the routine litter pick up programs and avoid incidences of litter buildup. For the past 10 years or so, LMRA has spearheaded an effort to rid the lake of accumulated litter and trash that, in some places, has collected since the lake was created almost 100 years ago.
Additional speakers at the meeting included LMRA legal counsel Steve Forehand, who reviewed two legal issues in which the organization is involved: the relicensing of R.L. Harris Dam and the ongoing Water Wars.
Stakeholders in the Harris Dam project have requested a higher winter pool level, and Forehand said, if the provision is included in the new license there, it could benefit Lake Martin with more frequent fall extensions. The Martin Dam license allows Alabama Power Company to extend the summer water level to mid-October when certain conditions exist within the river basin.
Forehand also told members that briefs have been filed in the second round of Water Wars lawsuits challenging the revision of the Army Corps of Engineers water manual, which authorizes retention of flow from Alabama’s water sources, including the Tallapoosa River, which feeds Lake Martin.
Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Association president Jerry Bynum discussed the organization’s continuing work to complete a bridge over Channahatchee Creek on the Forever Wild property south and west of Martin Dam known as the Yates Lake area. The bridge is expected to allow the opening of more area to hikers in the future.