STATE REGULATORS CAN’T HAVE THAT.
If private citizens are governing themselves well – generally maintaining order, keeping to themselves, and protecting their own property – why would governmental authorities butt in and stop them? That’s a question Wayne Hobin has been asking lately.
Hobin has lived on the shoreline of Lake Keowee, a lake traversing Pickens and Oconee counties, for decades. Twenty-seven years ago, he and other residents were having serious trouble with boaters roaring past their docks at high speeds and doing damage to their docks and boats.
He and his neighbors repeatedly contacted the Department of Natural Resources – the agency charged with governing the conduct of boaters on the waterways – but DNR failed to do anything. “The response I got was always the same,” he tells me. “DNR is on Hartwell, they’re over here, there’re over there; they just can’t get here soon enough. It seems they have to actually see the violation to do anything about it, and since they were never here, they never did anything about it.”
He asked DNR officials to simply put out bouys advising boats to reduce their speed, but nothing happened. For several years speeding boats sent massive wakes onto the shoreline, thrashing boats and docks.
So Hobin did what many others in his position would do. He bought bouys himself, attached signs saying “SLOW – NO WAKE,” and put them out himself. Section 50-21-870  of the state law code specifies that no boat may travel over idle speed within 50 feet of any moored boat, dock, wharf, etc., so Hobin seems to have been simply reminding boaters of existing law, not creating it anew.
The result: Boats began slowing down.
“Problem solved,” he says. “I mean, once in a while you still get some half-drunk maniac speeding through, but basically the there’s no longer much of a problem. Most people know how to behave themselves when you give them a polite reminder.”
The problem was solved, that is. Recently Hobin found green sickers applied to the buoys. They’d been put there by DNR and advised that the buoys would soon be “seized.” The sickers provided a phone number to call in case anyone had questions, and Hobin had plenty of those.
“I got bounced around between all kinds of people,” he tells me. “I spoke to several different officials. Finally they put me in touch with a Major, and he seemed to know a lot.”
That’s when he learned the pertinent detail.
“Eventually,” says Hobin, “I was told that on Lake Murray there were certain ‘individuals’ who didn’t want ‘no wake’ signs in their coves, and these ‘individuals’ exerted enough influence to have the agency issue new regulations requiring the removal of the buoys.” (Most of Lake Murray is located in Lexington County.)
Did he say who these “individuals” were, I ask? Politicians? Lawmakers? Agency higher-ups? “He wouldn’t say, but the impression I got was that they were politically powerful.”
Lake Murray is more than a hundred miles from Lake Keowee. Why did what happened at one have to affect the other? “He told me, ‘All lakes have to be treated equally.’ Well, I laughed out loud at that.”
To sum up: For a quarter century private citizens in one corner of Lake Keowee have governed themselves well, using no public resources and requiring no new laws or regulations. Now, thanks to some influential people occupying houses on a different lake – people with direct access to state regulators, seemingly – public resources will be used to stop those citizens from governing themselves, almost certainly increasingly the likelihood of accidents and damage to private property.
“It wasn’t costing the state anything to maintain those buoys,” Hobin complains. “I bought them myself. No one’s complained about them. I don’t get it.”
How common are such nonsensical impositions by state regulators? Tell us your story in the comments section below, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember: we have an anonymous tip line.