BIG Little River Paddle Race in Lake City Reporter 2020-02-22

Thanks to Jim Tatum for sending us this very nice article by Monty Stephens, Lake City Reporter, February 22-23, 2020, Paddling for Great Cause — Clean Water in Our Rivers:

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The “Eighth Annual BIG Little River Paddle Race” is scheduled for Saturday, April 25, 2020. Everyone that drinks or uses water needs to support this worthwhile “Cause.” The “Cause” is clean water in our rivers. This is a [3] mile canoe, kayak, [but not paddleboard] race. It can be a leisurely float down the [Little] River to [Reed Bingham State Park Lake] or an “All out fierce race,” your choice. The [WWALS] Watershed Coalition is a non-profit organization that supports the Suwannee [Riverkeeper].

[Below the bridge (BW)]
Photo: Bret Wagenhorst, of the 2019 race start.

The [Suwannee Riverkeeper] works to protect the Suwannee River and its tributaries, the Withlacoochee, Willacoochee, Alapaha, [Little, and Santa Fe Rivers]. These rivers join together and become the Suwannee River as they flow through North Florida and out into the Gulf.

Here is the problem, civilization in general, tends to create pollution. The traditional method of dealing with pollution is to dump it somewhere, let the wind will blow it away, or dump it in a river. In other words, “Just get rid of it.” None of these methods deal with the real problem. Dumping pollution in the river just creates issues for people downstream. Since we’re in Florida, we’re “Downstream.” This is why we need a Riverkeeper.

Our Riverkeeper is John Quarterman [of Lowndes County, Georgia], who [with a team of volunteers] tests the waters of the Suwannee River Basin throughout south Georgia and into north Florida. He noted the major pollutant his organization detects in the waters is E. Coli bacteria.

If sewage runoff from cities, homes, and farms are not disposed of properly, they all create pollution. The result can be water that is unsafe to swim in, contamination of wells/aquifer, and a loss of ecotourism revenue.

To the north of us, the City of Valdosta’s sewage treatment plant has had a lot of issues with polluting the rivers.

In December 2019, an estimated volume of 7.5 million gallons of raw sewage was inadvertently released [from a manhole near the Remer Lane Pump Station] directly into [Sugar Creek, which runs into] the [Withlacoochee] River (this was a well-publicized event.) Progress is being made though. Mr. Quarterman noted the City of Valdosta has a new Mayor, Scott James who is very ecological minded and is working to ensure “Spills” don’t happen again. Mayor Scott has even [suggested and then participated in a Mayor’s Paddle organized by WWALS]. In the interview, John adamantly stated it would be unfair to not mention the City of Valdosta’s City Council, previous Mayor and other City Officials have all worked diligently for years to correct ailing infrastructure issues associated with the sewage plant and storm drain runoff. Serious progress is being made.

Our rivers in North Florida are regarded as pristine and unspoiled. It’s important we work to keep them that way. So pre-register for the “Eighth Annual BIG Little River Paddle Race” by visiting http://wwals.net/events-2/ to register. As previously noted, this race is scheduled for Saturday, April 25, 2020. The starting point is Sparks Georgia, Red Roberts Landing off of I-75 to be specific.

As an inside tip, the winner of the race [two years ago], I’m told he is from Florida somewhere around Flagler Beach. In order to beat this guy[‘s record], an enticement of an “Extra” $200 will be awarded to the Ist place finisher that also beats his wining time.

More about the Eighth Annual BIG Little River Paddle Race is here:
http://wwals.net/pictures/2020-04-25–BLRPR/

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I’ve added a few links, bolded a few paragraphs, and made a few [corrections] to the Lake City Reporter story, considering that things we deal with all the time can be quite confusing to those not used to them, such as Willacoochee River vs. Withlacoochee River.

Cheat sheet:

  • The Willacoochee River is a tributary of the Alapaha River, which it reaches west of Willacoochee, Georgia. It is not related in any way to the recent sewage problems.
  • Valdosta is on the Withlacoochee River, which is a tributary of the Suwannee River, which it reaches just downstream of Suwannee River State Park. In Florida, the Withlacoochee is sometimes known as the Withlacoochee North River.
  • (The Withlacoochee South River is entirely within Florida, flowing from the Green Swamp to the Gulf.)
  • The BIG Little River Paddle Race is at Reed Bingham State Park, between Moultrie and Adel, Georgia, on the Little River, which joins the Withlacoochee just west of Valdosta.
  • No, not the Little River of Suwannee County, Florida, that flows directly into the Suwannee River (when it flows that far).

Let also me reiterate that I do not now nor have I ever lived in Valdosta. I live on land in northern Lowndes County that my grandfather bought in 1921, with a cypress swamp and a pond and creek upstream of the Withlacoochee River.

There is more Valdosta and the state of Florida need to do about Valdosta’s December 2019 sewage spill, about tracking all sources of contamination of our waterways by frequent, closely spaced, regular water quality testing with timely online publication, and by eco-tourism marketing to gradually repair the decades-long stigma, the damage to the reputation of our rivers caused by Valdosta’s sewage spills and other sources.

Meanwhile, come on over to Reed Bingham State Park, Saturday, April 25, 2020, for the Eighth Annual BIG Little River Paddle Race!

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!