Illegal buoys cause problems along Savannah River

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. (WRDW) -- A new problem is popping up in the Savannah River and it could affect your safety.

Just this weekend 45-year-old Lisa Gepfert died in a jet ski accident on the lake, and boaters we talked to on the river say they're being more careful. But it's not just rocks or debris they have to worry about anymore. Illegal buoys are also becoming a problem.

Taylor van Hasstrecht has been boating on the Savannah River for around seven years now, so he's used to seeing signs and buoys in the water. But there seems to be a lot more of them now.

"Down by the marina those have been there forever so we know those are legit, but these keep popping up more and more every year," van Hasstrecht said.

Some of them are illegal. Neighbors have admitted to News 12 they've been putting them out, out of frustration. They tell us they're tired of big wakes and loud music.

But for boaters like Mitchell Gilbert, these not so legal buoys, are causing a lot of trouble.

"We've actually had an instance where we've run over the rope, and it wrapped around our prop and it did some damage," Gilbert said.

The problem is, people can't tell the difference between the legal buoys and the illegal ones, they look exactly the same. The buoys might look the same, but that doesn't mean they're safe.

"When they're mounted incorrectly. the buoys will actually lay on their side, and the water will even run over them, and that will cause even more problems cause you can't see it," Gilbert said.

If you can't see it, you can't avoid it.

The Army Corps of Engineers maintains the buoys at New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam on the Augusta Pool. The Coast Guard maintains the navigation buoys. DNR helps to maintain the buoys in the Savannah River, and they also help with removal of illegal buoys. You can call South Carolina or Georgia DNR to report illegal buoys, depending on which side of the river they are on.

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