People from Brooks County, Lowndes County, Valdosta, Madison County, and SRWMD paddled with new Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson down the Withlacoochee River. For the first time, we got not one but two reporters in a boat. The media got most of the point of that stretch at least was cleaner, the Withlacoochee is well worth protecting, and there is much more to be done. The Florida counties Task Force about Valdosta wastewater meets tomorrow, Thursday, at 4PM in Lake City; its Chair, Rick Davis of Madison County, paddled and was quoted in news stories.
Photo: Robin Postell, Valdosta Today, of Valdosta Mayor Scott James and Florida Task Force Chair Rick Davis on the Withlacoochee River with WWALS.
Good and rather extensive coverage of the Mayor’s Paddle WWALS organized Saturday, January 18, 2020, is linked into the WWALS Valdosta Spills web page (scroll down), and the WWALS News web page. Here are some highlights.
- 2020-01-20: Desiree Carver, Valdosta Daily Times, top of the front page, January 20, 2020, Gently Down the Stream: Mayor’s Paddle tours Withlacoochee:
Mayor’s Paddle tours Withlacoochee,
[New Valdosta Mayor Scott James] Matheson said in his new role as mayor, he hopes to help and plans to tackle such improvements as manhole rehabilitation, adding extra signs, performing more testing and electronic meters.
- 2020-01-20: Emma Wheeler, WCTV video, January 20, 2020, First annual Mayor’s Paddle brings dozens on the river,
The event was organized as a response to ongoing sewage spills, and near constant concerns from communities downstream in North Florida.
- 2020-01-20: Robin Postell, Valdosta Today, January 20, 2020, “Mayor’s Paddle” Beautiful, but Stigma Remains,
Also present was Madison County Commissioner Rick Davis, who put in with the group at 10 a.m. Not only is Davis concerned about the health of his community in Madison County, he’s concerned about that stigma and how that will [a]ffect eco-tourism. At a recent public City of Valdosta meeting he said, “How do we go about repairing the reputation of our river? Where do we go from here?”
Davis’ presence and participation in the paddle demonstrated his ongoing willingness to not merely confront, but collaborate with the City of Valdosta to help solve the problem going forward.
“The river is beautiful and we just want to keep it that way,” Davis said at the midway point of the paddle. “I see a lot that City of Valdosta is doing and let’s just hope that they keep continuing to do it.”
- 2020-01-18: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, January 18, 2020, First annual Mayor’s Paddle brings dozens on the river,
Among the group was several members of the Brooks County Fire Department, taking any opportunity to get in some training in a fun way.
“Kayaking down the river we’ll exercise our arms, stuff like that, help control our breathing,” said Firefighter Ryan Owens. “We all kind of connect and have fun inside the fire department, but when we come outside it’s all another experience.”
Gretchen Quarterman’s test results from samples she took on the paddle were: Above the WWTP Outfall, 166 cfu/100 mL, below, 66, and below some stinking flotsam: 0 (zero).
I will post an updated spreadsheet once I get more recent data from Lowndes County (which, remember, has its own sewage system that did not spill) and SRWMD or other Florida agencies. If I can pry any more data out of Valdosta, I will include that, as well.
And I will post more about what needs to be done, and about all the WWALS members who made Saturday’s paddle possible.
First, more meetings to go to.
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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