Press Releases

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WWALS Press Releases

  • 2020-01-13: Press release: Water quality permitting, paddle with Mayor of Valdosta this Saturday 2020-01-18 .
  • 2019-12-24: Pictures: WWALS Light Parade at Banks Lake 2019-12-21,

    Lakeland, Georgia, December 24, 2019 — Five boats participated in the first-ever WWALS Light Parade on Banks Lake, with 30 to 40 viewers on the fishing pier, at the winter solstice, Saturday, December 21, 2019.


    “We had lots of spectators and enjoyed the evening with our S’Mores and hot chocolate!” said Shelby Miller, whose idea this WWALS Light Parade was.

    The winners were:

    1st place: Bobby McKenzie

    [Bobby McKenzie paddling]
    Bobby McKenzie paddling

    2nd place: Eli Harrell

    [Eli Harrell]
    Eli Harrell

    3rd place: Allison Ray

    [Allison Ray and daughters]
    Allison Ray and daughters


  • 2019-12-23: E. coli at Little River Confluence, Spook Bridge, and Knights Ferry, Withlacoochee River 2019-12-21,

    Hahira, GA, Monday, December 23, 2019 — At Knights Ferry Boat Ramp Saturday Suzy Hall tested 4,966.67 cfu/100 mL E. coli, far higher than anything previously recorded there, and almost five times the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream alert level. There were still no warning signs, not at Knights Ferry, and not at State Line Boat Ramp, where Suzy Hall got 100 cfu/100 ml, when all our previous readings were zero (0).

    “It appears that Valdosta’s record-largest wastewater has caused a public health emergency in the Withlacoochee River and Valdosta is not even warning people about it at river access locations,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Florida is being proactive; what is Valdosta doing? How about Lowndes Health? Lowndes County (didn’t cause this problem, but needs to help deal with it). GA-EPD? EPA? Statehouse and Congressional delegations? This report will go to all of them today.”

    [Knights Ferry & State Line Ramps]
    Photo: Suzy Hall, of her Petrifilms of water samples taken from the Withlacoochee River at Knights Ferry & State Line Boat Ramps.
    Method: count blue dots with bubbles (E. coli colonies) on each plate.
    Add the counts, divide by three, and multiply by 100, to get colony forming units (cfu) per 100 mililiter of water.

    The Georgia Adopt-A-Stream Bacterial Monitoring manual says:

    E. coli counts (cfu/100ml) that exceed 235 cfu/100 ml are considered “high” and should be closely monitored, but when counts exceed the 1000 cfu/100 ml threshold, they warrant special action.A count of 235 cfu/100 ml correlates to 8 incidents of 1000 people getting sick, but a count of 1000 cfu/100 ml correlates to about 14 incidents of 1000 people getting sick.

    That’s not linear, so it’s not clear how many people getting sick would correlate to 4,966.67/100, but more than 14, and any is too many.

    “Thanks to all who have already donated, we are ordering more Petrifilm today,” said WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman “Looks like we’re going to need it. Nobody else appears to be testing at the Little River Confluence, or at Spook Bridge, Knights Ferry, Nankin, or State Line Boat Ramp.”

    The only Valdosta warning sign on any river remains the one at Troupville Boat Ramp on the Little River, upstream of the Little River Confluence with the Withlacoochee River.

    [Valdosta Caution sign]
    Photo: Scotti Jay, of Valdosta Caution sign at Troupville Boat Ramp, 2019-12-21.

    Someone has decorated that signpost with flowers, like the crosses you see at highway wreck sites….

  • 2019-12-19: Suwannee Riverkeeper asks Georgia EPD to require Valdosta to do better about its record sewage spill,

    Hahira, Georgia, December 19, 2019 — Compelled by the severity of Valdosta’s record raw sewage spill and the expenses and stigma incurred nearby and downstream, Suwannee Riverkeeper for WWALS Watershed Coalition has sent a letter requesting ten enforcment actions to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD). WWALS member Deanna Mericle of Hamilton County, Florida, summed it up: “As a person living downstream on the Withlacoochee River in Florida, I feel shat upon by Valdosta over and over. I cannot drink the water from my well. I worry about the health of the river itself and the animals that live in it and drink from it. We in Florida were patient while Valdosta was improving their wastewater plant, which apparently was not adequate since we still have spills when it rains heavily. But this time it was not a rain event. It was gross negligence. I am out of patience. I believe it is time for legal action.”

    The Suwannee Riverkeeper letter notes GA-EPD already has a legal action against Valdosta, a Consent Order. WWALS asks GA-EPD to use its enforcement power to require notification, water quality testing, education, and plans and procedures not only for preventing such spills but also for tracking them as they travel down our creeks and rivers and for remediation of effects on wells and reputation.


    “Valdosta says it does what GA-EPD tells it to do, so we’re asking GA-EPD to tell them,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Today we’re forwarding the letter to the U.S. EPA, the affected parties, and of course to Valdosta,”

    Back in March 2015, WWALS helped organize a meeting with the City of Valdosta and interested parties, including Deanna and Chris Mericle.

    At that time, four and a half years ago, we thought that lawsuits against Valdosta would merely take away from funds needed to fix the problems. Yet tens of millions of dollars later with two new Wastewater Treatment Plants and a Force Main system, one of that system’s Pump Stations failed when there was not even any rain, causing Valdosta’s record-largest raw sewage spill. We have had to think again, and at this time it appears that it will take something more than meetings and mild reprimands to get Valdosta to fix its chronic sewage problems.

    Here is the letter in PDF.

  • 2019-11-28: Thanks to organizations for the Okefenokee Swamp, against the Titanium Mine,

    Valdosta, GA, Thanksgiving Day, 2019 — Thanks to the more than two dozen organizations, local, regional, statewide in Florida and Georgia, national, and international, that oppose the titanium mine that would be far too close to the Okefenokee Swamp. The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (ONWR) provides boating, birding, fishing, and hunting nearby to the tune of more than $60 million a year and more than 700 jobs, making it the NWR of most economic benefit to each of Georgia and Florida. The Okefenokee Swamp is a unique ecological treasure, and is the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers. The burden of proof is on the miners, and they have not met it.

    [Organizations For Okefenokee Swamp, Against Titanium Mine]
    Organizations For Okefenokee Swamp, Against Titanium Mine
    Add your organization here:

    You can still file a comment with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. If the Corps actually issues a permit, which they may in the next few weeks, anything filed can be used in any ensuing lawsuit.

    Exactly how many organizations oppose that strip mine is hard to say, since….

  • 2019-10-30: Winners: WWALS Boomerang paddle race 2019-10-26

    Hahira, Georgia, October 30, 2019 — Twice the paddlers this year participated in the Second Annual WWALS Boomerang Paddle Race into Florida and back to Georgia. That’s two dozen paddlers and about fifty people last Saturday at State Line Boat Ramp on the Withlacoochee River.

    [Winner: russell-mcbride-crop]
    Winner: Russell McBride

    “Paddlers from 3 to 69 years old included five parent-child tandems, and three solo children. All were led by overall winner and first male paddler Russell McBride, of Quitman, Brooks County, Georgia, in a solo kayak, and first female paddler Jennifer James of Waldo, Alachua County, Florida, on a stand up paddle board,” reported Boomerang mastermind Bobby McKenzie.

    [MVI_1263-russell-mcbride-old-bridge-closeup] [MVI_1263-jennifer-james]

    Winning in categories were….

    [Winners and other participants]
    Winners and other participants

  • 2019-10-22: WWALS Boomerang paddle race, sponsors, silent auction, on Talk 92.1 FM Radio

    [River Radio]
    River Radio

  • 2019-10-15: Still $20 until midnight tonight: WWALS Boomerang 2019-10-15


  • 2019-10-11: Winner Tumbler for WWALS Boomerang and last call for early bird tickets 2019-10-26
  • 2019-09-16: Free boat rental at WWALS Boomerang, from Georgia to Florida and Back Again 2019-10-26
  • 2019-09-12: Who wants to boat, fish, bird, or hunt next to a strip mine?

    Valdosta, Georgia, September 12, 2019 — Defending the headwaters of the Suwannee River in the national and world treasure, the Okefenokee Swamp, Suwannee Riverkeeper today sent 22 pages of questions to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Georgia Department of Environmental Protection asking, Who wants to boat, fish, bird, or hunt next to a strip mine?

    Specifically, Suwannee Riverkeeper asks the Corps and GA-EPD to deny the permit.

    If they won’t do that, Suwannee Riverkeeper asks them to require several documents, the key one of which is an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), to accept comments until at least ninety days after those documents are all available to the public, and to hold public hearings in Georgia and Florida.

    One criterion for doing an EIS is controversy. Which seems to be happening, with at least 27 main news stories thus far, some of which have been picked up by AP and carried dozens of places all over the country, in addition to at least 10 op-eds and 3 editorials. All this is on radio, TV, and in newspapers from Valdosta to Atlanta to Savannah to St. Mary’s, Georgia, to Jacksonville, Florida. Plus Associated Press pickups as far as San Francisco and Chicago.

    We hear that the Corps has already received more than 10,000 comments, and more are pouring in today.

    For details, see

    Also, Floridians may want to know that The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge brings the most economic benefit to Florida of any NWR in Florida:

  • 2019-08-25: Winners: Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest ,

    Valdosta, Georgia, August 25, 2019 — Everybody had a good time before plaques were awarded for Best in each Genre, from Folk to Funk, at the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, before two finalists won the money prizes, at the Salty Snapper in Valdosta, Saturday afternoon.

    Jay Jourden of Ponte Vedra, Florida, swept the awards, winning Best Newgrass Bluegrass, and $50 for Best Song from Outside the Suwannee River Basin, and the $300 First Prize, all for “Save Our Suwannee.” Jay promised to submit a new song next year, before he played it again for the very happy audience.

    [Jay Jourden Winning]
    Jay Jourden Winning

    “Yes, Jay submitted the same song last year,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “But this time he stopped in the middle, said he forgot some verses, and rattled off names of a whole bunch of rivers, all in perfect time. Naming rivers was one of the criteria, and it’s a great song: Save Our Suwannee!”

    Dick Grillo of Live Oak, Florida, won both Best Folk/Country, and $50 for Best Song from Inside the Suwannee River Basin, for “Dear ‘Ol Suwannee,” and his cheering section demonstrated it was the loudest….

  • 2019-08-10: Finalists selected for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2019-08-24

    These are the seven Finalists who will play live at the Second Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, 1-5 PM, Saturday, August 24, 2019, for you and the Judges to hear, so the Judges can select the winners, at The Salty Snapper in Valdosta, GA.

    “We got another awesome line up. Glad I’m not a judge,” said Sara Squires Jones, one of the Committee that selected the Finalists.

  • 2019-08-08: WWALS Boomerang: Paddle and a Pint, from ​Georgia to ​Florida and Back Again,

    Valdosta, GA, August 8, 2019 — Join us for a fun filled day of paddle racing and leisurely paddling on the idyllic blackwater Withlacoochee River. Plenty of water, no deadfalls, plus shoals! We will paddle from State Line Ramp in Georgia, with staggered starts for turnarounds in Florida at 1, 2, and 3 miles, then back to where we started. Tickets are $20 until October 15th, then $30.

    “Sign up to race and get a beer for participating!” said Boomerang mastermind Bobby McKenzie. “Thanks to Georgia Beer Company!”

    Vendors vested in conservation or stewardship of our waters already signed up include VSU CORE, Boy Scouts, and TNT Hot Dogs. Nonprofit vendors are free, and $20 fee for for-profit vendors.

    “This is good ecotourism for Lowndes and Brooks Counties, Georgia, and Hamilton and Madison Counties, Florida,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Maybe we can get a little friendly state-line rivalry going on!”

    McKenzie added, “Also another fun opportunity to wear your Halloween Costumes!”

    Sponsors get their name and logo on a banner, in announcements, and in flyers, with various other perks at different levels of sponsorship.

    [Simple Flyer]
    Simple Flyer

    Everything about WWALS Boomerang 2019 is here:—boomerang/

  • 2019-07-15: Deadline Extended for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest,

    Hahira, Georgia, July 15, 2019 — “Last year I got in through the extension,” said last year’s winner Laura D’Alisera, because someone “emailed the songwriting community and l had my song 95% in place.” So the Contest Committee has voted to extend the deadline a week, to this Friday, July 19, 2019! “Come on songwriters, send in your song by Friday,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “We already have enough songs for the contest, but we want yours, too! Everyone else, you can get some tickets and come and listen!”

    [MC, Headliners, Judges, Sponsors]
    MC, Headliners, Judges, Sponsors

  • 2019-07-08: Headliners Selected for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest

    Hahira, Georgia, July 8, 2019 — Before the judges pick the winners at the Second Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, Joe Smothers of Valdosta will lead off, followed by last year’s winner, Laura D’Alisera of Jacksonville, FL. Radio personality Chris Beckham of Tifton, GA, will M.C. Submit your song by Friday, or just get some tickets and come and listen!

    Joe Smothers and Laura D’Alisera

  • 2019-07-01: Judges Selected for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest

    Hahira, Georgia, July 1, 2019 — Three judges are ready to pick the winners at the Second Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest: two from Georgia and one from Florida. Tony Buzella, J.J. Rolle, and Tim Teasley will mark finalists on originality of lyrics and music, musical consistency, showing the integrity and value of the waters, historical value, performance, and more. Radio personality Chris Beckham of Tifton will M.C.


  • 2019-06-10: Make Georgia Power buy more solar again, Suwannee Riverkeeper asks Georgia PSC,

    Hahira, GA, June 10, 2019 –On the eve of the final hearings for Georgia Power’s Integrated Resource Plan, Suwannee Riverkeeper asked the Georgia Public Service Commission to do what it did in 2013: make Georgia Power buy more solar power. Far more, this time: 12 gigawatts (GW) instead of 1 GW. “One GW by 2024 would merely catch Georgia up to where snowy Massachusetts is today,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “We need to catch up for lost time, since Georgia Power has done little the past two years, while the rest of the country has been doubling solar deployment every two years.”

    Suwannee Riverkeeper also asked the PSC to implement the record fine of more than $2 million that PSC staff had recommended on Atlanta Gas Light (AGL) for the explosion in Homerville, Georgia, last fall, that blew up the cofeeshop Coffee Corner and sent three women to the hospital with third-degree burns. PSC staff apparently did not buy any of AGL’s excuses about the gas that came from an AGL pipeline.

    AGL and Georgia Power are owned by Southern Company.

    Drawing from eight years of Southern Company stockholder meetings and other evidence, these are Suwannee Riverkeepers recommendations to the Georgia PSC today, addressed to Commissioner Jason Shaw, whose district encompasses the Suwannee River Basin in Georgia:

    1. Implement staff’s recommended fines and other actions related to the Homerville explosion of natural gas from an Atlanta Gas Light (AGL) pipeline. See PSC Docket 42166.
    2. Once again require Georgia Power to buy more solar power than it requested in its IRP, to a significant number such as 12 gigawatts by 2024. See PSC Docket 42310 for this and the following suggestions.
    3. Require Georgia Power to pay for most, if not all, of the cost of disposal of coal ash, in properly lined and otherwise protected landfills, on property owned by Georgia Power, not by shipping it to local landfills.
    4. Ask the parties responsible for airborne mercury into our rivers to provide compensation for the negative impacts that mercury emissions have on recreational fishing.
    5. Stop any more money and renewable energy opportunity costs from being wasted on the years-late and far-over-budget Plant Vogtle nuclear power project.
    6. Promote wind by demanding Georgia Power get on with it.

    “The PSC has the power and the responsibility to steer the utilities to renewable solar, wind, and storage energy on a smart grid now, for reliable, dependable, sustainable power for Georgia. I look forward to seeing that happen. I urge you and the other Commissioners to make that happen.”

  • 2019-05-01: Winners, BIG Little River Paddle Race 2019-04-27,

    Tifton, Georgia, May 1, 2019 — “This was the first year a canoe finished first to win the $100 cash prize,” said Bret Wagenhorst, main organizer of the BIG Little River Paddle Race, last Saturday, April 27, at Reed Bingham State Park. “It was a two-person canoe of gentlemen from Gray, GA: Wayne Hale and Terry Donahue.”

    [Tandem male canoe, green (BW)]
    Tandem male canoe, green (BW)
    Photo: Bret Wagenhorst, of Wayne Hale and Terry Donahue winning the BIG Little River Paddle Race. They won in the male tandem canoe category last year, and they won overall this year.

    Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman said, “Thanks to the paddle race sponsors, Dr. Bret Wagenhorst, Georgia Beer Company, and Cook Medical Center.”

    Dr. Wagenhorst added, “Thanks to all the paddlers from across Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, as far away as Mexico, who came out on a glorious south GA spring day to help raise money for the WWALS Watershed Coalition and the Friends of Reed Bingham State Park group by paddling a scenic and winding stretch of the Little River. Lots of fun in the sun for friends and families.”

    [Below the bridge (BW)]
    Below the bridge (BW)

    First woman across the finish in a solo kayak was….

  • 2019-04-26: Tomorrow! BIG Little River Paddle Race 2019-04-27,

    Valdosta, Georgia, April 26, 2019 — We’ll get a nice cool spring morning start Saturday, as paddlers from Georgia and Florida race (or saunter) down the tea-colored Little River through Reed Bingham State Park, in a friends and family fun event.

    “Thanks to Georgia Beer Company for being a sponsor of this seventh annual BIG Little River Paddle Race!” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman.

    Onwards (BW), Racing
    Photo: Bret Wagenhorst, of BLRPR 2018.

    Dianne Walters, president of Friends of Reed Bingham State Park (FORB), said, “This is a great community event, with volunteers from all around helping paddlers from everywhere.”

    BLRPR mastermind, Tifton eye doctor Bret Wagenhorst, said, “Some come to try for the $100 cash prize for first boat to cross the finish in around 35-40 minutes. Others come to do a leisurely 1-2 hr paddle with friends or family and take in the incredible subtropical scenery. Some do it to support the Friends of Reed Bingham group and the WWALS Watershed Coalition.”

    Many others win in categories: male or female kayak or canoe, and two-person male or female or mixed.

    WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman said, “Come bid in the silent auction, and you can get kayak raffle tickets. Lunch is included.“

    WWALS lead water quality tester Sara Jay said, “Dedicated water quality testers will attend training afterwards.

    [Sponsor package]
    Georgia Beer Co. is also the top level sponsor of the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest in August.

    “BLRPR is on the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail, which WWALS is wrapping up by planting signs at landings,” said WWALS Trails Committee Chair Dan Phillips.


    BLRPR tickets are $30 online,–blrpr/, along with a printable flyer.

    Or you can get tickets at the event registration….

  • 2019-04-22: Georgia Beer Company Sponsors Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest,

    Georgia Beer Company Sponsors Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest

    Hahira, Georgia, April 22, 2019  The first brewery in the Suwannee River Basin is the top-level sponsor of the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest. When the finalists compete for the judges and music lovers at The Salty Snapper on August 24, 2019, at the top of the sponsor banner will be Georgia Beer Company. This maker of brews, such as Cypress Knee – Single Hop Mosaic, understands clean water is essential to every beer. So Georgia Beer Company, as the Aria level sponsor, supports Suwannee Riverkeeper for fishable, swimmable, drinkable water.

    [Sponsor package]
    Left to right: Bartender, Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman receiving sponsor merchandise and check from Jack “J. Ryce Martin” and Chris Jones, founders of Georgia Beer Co.

    “When I was a reporter in Madison, Florida, I wrote about Valdosta sewage frequently,” said Georgia Beer Co. co-founder Chris Jones. “Unfortunately, that is still a story. We support Suwannee Riverkeeper to help stop that problem, and to clean up other things getting into our rivers.”

    “I’m thrilled for this support of our water quality testing program by Georgia Beer Company,” said WWALS lead tester Sara Jay. “We can buy more testing materials and….

  • 2019-04-16: The limpkin likes the BIG Little River Paddle Race

    Tifton, Georgia, April 16, 2019 — Bret Wagenhorst calls this limpkin, “One of the many local spectators along the upcoming BIG Little River PADDLE RACE on Saturday, April 27 at Reed Bingham State Park. Come experience the beauty of a south GA blackwater river. Come have fun with family and friends. Come see if you can paddle fast enough to win the $100 to the first boat across the finish line. Come help support our region’s state park and the WWALS Watershed Coalition.”

    57244754 10220061966758606 1181012450443526144 N,
    Photo: Bret Wagenhorst

    The event is entirely within Reed Bingham State Park, between Adel and Moultrie, Georgia, on the Little River in Cook and Colquitt Counties.

    Dianne Walters, president of Friends of Reed Bingham State Park (FORB), said….

  • 2019-04-01: Submissions open for Second Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2019-04-01

    Hahira, Georgia, April 1, 2019 — No fooling but fun: today songwriters can start submitting new songs about the Suwannee, Withlacoochee, Alapaha, or Little Rivers, or other lakes, swamps, springs, or sinks in the Suwannee River Basin. New this year is a separate winner category for finalists younger than eighteen, in the Second Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest. Well-known radio personality Chris Beckham will be the Master of Ceremonies inside in air conditioning Saturday afternoon, August 24, 2019, at The Salty Snapper in Valdosta, Georgia. Three judges will select winners as finalists play. Snacks are included, plus a silent auction and kayak raffle. Come have some family musical fun supporting your local nonprofit WWALS Watershed Coalition and Suwannee Riverkeeper.

    Photo: Bret Wagenhorst, of Emmett Carlisle playing at the 2018 Contest

    Last year’s winner, Laura D’Alisera has driven from Jacksonville for every contest organizing committee meeting this year, and will sing this year while the judges are judging. She says, “To encourage working songwriters, this year we will pay mileage for finalists to the venue in the biggest city in the Suwannee River Basin, from 50 up to 125 miles. Yes, and mileage for judges, too.”

    Tickets are $10 online.
    Or $12 at the door.
    Or $150 per eight-seat VIP table right in front of the stage.

    Everything about the contest is online here:–suwannee-riverkeeper-songwriting-contest/

    The song submission deadline is Friday, July 12, 2019. The entry form is online, for your song lyrics and information about the song and to introduce you if you become a finalist. You can send your song as an electronic file or on a USB stick.

    The Contest Committee will choose….

  • 2019-03-27: One month before BIG Little River Paddle Race,

    Hahira, Georgia, March 27, 2019  It’s one month until the Seventh Annual BIG Little River Paddle Race (BLRPR) in Reed Bingham State Park, between Adel and Moultrie, Georgia. You can just paddle along this scenic stretch of tea-colored river on the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail among cypress, turtles, birds, and yes, alligators. (Don’t pet them and they won’t bother you.) This three-mile race also has fierce competitors, with last year’s winner finishing in barely more than half an hour. Plus lunch, a silent auction, and a kayak raffle, at this family fun sporting event in support of two local nonprofits.

    Photo: Bret Wagenhorst, of paddlers in BLRPR 2018

    BLRPR mastermind Bret Wagenhorst, an eye doctor in Tifton, GA, and a charter board member of WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS), said, “You can win in any of a dozen categories: one- or two-person canoe or kayak, male or female or mixed, as well as oldest, youngest, and from farthest away.”

  • 2019-02-27: Second Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2019-08-24,

    Hahira, Georgia, February 27, 2019 — WWALS is pleased to announce the M.C. for the Second Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest will be well-known radio host Chris Beckham. Once again, the Contest will be at The Salty Snapper on Gornto Road in Valdosta, Georgia. This year it will be 1-5PM, Saturday, August 24, 2019. Submissions will open in April, for selection of half a dozen finalists by the Contest Committee, and judging of the finalists by three judges at the Contest.

    Emmett Carlisle performing at the 2018 Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest
    Emmett Carlisle performing at the 2018 Contest.

    “August is an excellent month for this Contest, because we have inside air conditioning, and there are no competing outdoor music events in August,” said Laura D’Alisera, last year’s winner, and this year a member of the Contest Committee.

    “The Salty Snapper is great for music: cozy but lots of space. Thanks to manager Justin Stephens for his enthusiastic support,” said Scotti Jay, Chair of the WWALS Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest Committee.

    “Everybody had a fine time last year, and we have six more songs about the Suwannee River, or its tributaries the Withlacoochee, Little, and Alapaha. Move over Stephen C. Foster!” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman.

    Submissions can be songs about…

  • 2019-02-13: Paddle Georgia, Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers, into Florida 2019-06-15-21

    Hahira, GA, February 13, 2019 — From next to the largest Suwannee River Basin city, Valdosta, to between some of the smallest, Mayo and Luraville, Paddle Georgia brings 300 people this summer to venture for the first time across the state line from Georgia to Florida, on the Little, Withlacoochee, and Suwannee Rivers, June 15 through 21, 2019.

    Banners picture,
    WWALS Withlacoochee River outing 2017-06-24

    “Five years ago I suggested our Withlacoochee River to Joe Cook for Paddle Georgia, and he went one better, adding the Suwannee River, past two of the few second-magnitude springs in Georgia, McIntyre and Arnold, and two of the famous first-magnitude Florida Springs: Madison Blue and Lafayette,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Plus Spook Bridge and the orphaned railroad trestle near Madison, with many shoals and rapids at the GA-FL line! Special thanks to The Langdale Company for permission to take out just below Spook Bridge. Personally, I like that this paddle starts at my birthplace in Valdosta, Georgia and ends at my grandmother’s birthplace at the ferry site for Luraville, Florida.”

    This event is organized by Paddle Georgia, with catered dinners and buses to and from the rivers. WWALS is assisting, for example by organizing the Spook Bridge takeout, and by pointing out many sites that non-locals might miss, ranging from springs, and Withlacoochee River agates, and the halberd-leaf rosemallow, whose blooms last only one day, to perpetual bothers such as Valdosta’s Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Sabal Trail fracked methane pipeline, and Duke Energy’s Suwannee Power Plant.

    See also this map depicting the seven days of Paddle Georgia 2019:

    Detail from interactive google map by WWALS of the Journey Details.

    For pictures of many of the sites, see A week on the Withlacoochee River in June. For some of what Joe Cook and some others saw last summer, see Paddle Georgia discovers the Withlacoochee River.

    About WWALS: Founded in June 2012, WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS) advocates for conservation and stewardship of the Withlacoochee, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Little, and Suwannee River watersheds in south Georgia and north Florida through education, awareness, environmental monitoring, and citizen activities. John S. Quarterman is the Suwannee Riverkeeper®, which is a staff position and a project of WWALS as the Member of Waterkeeper® Alliance for the Suwannee River Basin.


    For prices and registration see the Paddle Georgia web page,

    For local context about our rivers:
    John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper
    WWALS Watershed Coalition
    PO Box 88, Hahira, GA 31632

  • 2018-10-08: Deadline extended for WWALS Boomerang early-bird tickets, through 2018-10-13

    Hahira, GA, October 8, 2018 — By popular demand at the Hahira Honeybee Festival, WWALS has extended the deadline for early-bird $20 tickets through Saturday, October 13, for the WWALS Boomerang paddle race, coming up Saturday, November 3, 2018. This new event goes downstream and back again on the Withlacoochee River and the west edge of Valdosta, the largest city in the Suwannee River Basin, only a few miles from Valdosta State University. Someone from the Atlantic coast of Florida won our spring BIG Little River Paddle Race this spring, and kayaks or canoes from everywhere are welcome at the Boomerang as well. If you don’t have a boat, two outfitters so far have signed up to supply those. There will be food and drink and music at this WWALS fall paddling festival.

    WWALS, Parade
    WWALS Boomerang organizer Bobby McKenzie and family with fellow WWALS board member Dan Phillips in the parade at the Hahira Honeybee Festival.

    Boomerang paddlers will race from Langdale Park Boat Ramp, just off of North Valdosta Road (US 41), down the Withlacoochee River to Sugar Creek Landing, and back upstream. If you don’t want to race, you can just paddle, and if you don’t want to paddle upstream, you can take out onto Gornto Road. Bobby’s four-year-old son finished our other paddle race, so paddlers of all ages are welcome.

    For all the details and to get tickets, follow this link:

  • 2018-09-13: All settled with Sabal Trail without jury 2018-09-13

    Valdosta, GA, September 13, 2018 — This morning two landowners from Moultrie, Colquitt County, Georgia, and the Bell brothers of a subject property in Mitchell County, Georgia, all settled with Sabal Trail Transmission about payment for easements for a 36-inch natural gas pipeline through their land.

    Defendant Jeb Bell said afterwards,

    I am extremely unhappy, but such is life.

    We fought as good as we could for as long as we could.

    The defendants’ attorney Jonathan P. Waters had no comment on the confidential settlement of these cases.

    These cases were originally filed by Sabal Trail Transmission against Georgia landowners in March 2016, invoking federal eminent domain supplied to Sabal Trail by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on February 2, 2016. The pipeline has since been built through the defendants’ land with no agreement and no payment.

    Defendants Attorney Jonathan P. Waters, Attorneys
    Defendants’ Attorney Jonathan P. Waters

    Judge Clay D. Land, Chief U.S. District Judge, Middle District of Georgia, told the jury afterwards that they had been working hard back there even if they didn’t know it. (The jury had been sequestered while the parties were negotiating.) The judge told the jury that the knowledge they were waiting to take the cases out of the hands of the parties helped them to settle.

    Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman said,

    Maybe Sabal Trail was tired of losing jury trials.

    From what the judge said and from what I saw on the previous days of these trials, I would guess that Sabal Trail was scared this jury might be even more generous than the previous two juries, which each awarded five times as much as Sabal Trail offered, on March 20, 2018, in Ocala, Florida and on June 27, 2018, in Valdosta, Georgia.

    I asked Sabal Trail’s attorneys Brooke Voelzke and Matthew J. Calvert if they had any comment, but they did not.

    Sabal Trail attorneys Matthew J. Calvert, Brooke Voelzke, Attorneys
    Sabal Trail attorneys Matthew J. Calvert (re-entering courthoue), Brooke Voelzke (wheeling documents out)

    All these jury trials were only….

  • 2018-07-02: Winners of the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2018
    In a good time with good food and good music, at the Salty Snapper in Valdosta, Saturday afternoon, June 23, 2018, three judges from Georgia and Florida deliberated a long time after six songwriters from Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida sang, and selected winners of the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2018.

    The WWALS Songwriting Contest Committee met many times to plan for the first annual contest. The purpose of the contest was to raise awareness of the WWALS watershed and its accomplishments. Will Eason of the Salty Snapper welcomed us, WWALS Ambassador Dave Hetzel spoke about the origins of WWALS, Board member Bret Wagenhorst spoke about Outings, Committee Chair Eileen Box spoke about the Committee, and WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman was the M.C.

    Winners and Judges (Sharon Yeago)
    Winners and Judges (Sharon Yeago), left to right: Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, WWALS E.D. and contest M.C. Gretchen Quarterman, ? (JJ), ? (JJ), Jay Jourden (JJ), Judge J.J. Rolle, Emmett Carlisle, Laura D’Alisera, Mike Tappan, Judge Cindy Bear, Dave Pharr, ? Tom Shed (JJ), Don Austin (JJ), Hollin Gammage, and the small child is next year’s contestant (JJ marks members of Jay Jourden’s band).

    The finalists, who played in random order, selected by drawing straws, with sound by Will Eason and other help by Scotti Jay, were:

  • 2018-06-26: Sabal Trail loses jury trial in Valdosta, GA 2018-06-26,

    The jury deliberated a bit less than an hour, delivering a verdict just before 7PM tonight: $103,385 for easement and $4,531.50 for timber. The figures offered by Sabal Trail were $19,979 for easement and $4,117 for timber. Assuming these numbers transcribed from various speakers are correct, the jury awarded five times what Sabal Trail offered for the pipeline easement and somewhat more than their offer for timber.

    “When Sabal Trail goes to jury trial, it loses,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman.

    Here are the winners, waiting in the hall before the jury came back:

    Fred Jones, Lynn Lasseter, Jonathan Waters, Reese Waters
    The winners: Fred Jones, Lynn Lasseter (Defendant), Jonathan Waters (attorney), Reese Waters (attorney’s assistant)

    This jury verdict from the U.S. Court, Middle District of Georgia, is very similar to….

  • 2018-06-14: Hollin Gammage from Tennessee, among 7 finalists for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, Valdosta, GA,

    Valdosta, GA, June 14, 2018 — Three judges from Florida and Georgia will choose from seven finalists from three states to award prizes in the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, Saturday, June 23, in Valdosta, Georgia.

    Sending in a song from the farthest away, Tennessee, and with the most laconic self-description, is Hollin Gammage:

    Performing songwriter from southeast north America will travel.

    She wrote a bit more on ReverbNation:….

    Each finalist has a good chance to win the first prize of $300. Or the $50 prize for a finalist from within the Basin, or the $50 prize for a finalist from outside, plus there will be a prize for one finalist in each musical genre or style.

    We’ll post about four more contestants in upcoming days. We’re not giving out their song titles, lyrics, or music: for those come to the contest and hear them live!

    Where: The Salty Snapper, 1405 Gornto Rd, Valdosta, GA 31602

    When: 1-5PM, Saturday, June 23, 2018

    Tickets: $10 each online, or $12 at the door

    For more details: see Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, 2018-06-23…..

  • 2018-06-13: WWALS prepares to sue FERC for shirking LNG Export oversight

    Washington, D.C., June 13, 2018 — WWALS Watershed Coalition (WWALS) prepares to sue the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for shirking its legally-required oversight of inland liquid natural gas (LNG) terminals. “LNG trucks barrel down I-75 right by my old high school in Lowndes County, Georgia,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, after meeting with WWALS’ attorneys in Washington, D.C. “Those trucks from LNG terminals in Alabama and Georgia pass a technical college, a conference center, motels, homes, and businesses, going to I-10 for Jacksonville, Florida, where that LNG goes at least as far on ships as Puerto Rico.”

    Since the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2015 abdicated its jurisdictional duties under the Natural Gas Act to regulate the siting, construction, operation and maintenance of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) small-scale inland export facilities, instead these facilities operate with basically no Federal oversight.

    “I am greatly concerned that an LNG commercial project of this magnitude is not only planned, but that apparently has slipped through the cracks of local and federal regulators,” said WWALS member Harriet Heywood of Citrus County, Florida.

    At the ends of the Sabal Trail pipeline chain in Florida, trucks go out from half a dozen LNG export operations authorized by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Fossil Energy (FE). If any of those trucks wrecks, federal standard everyone should be evacuated half a mile downwind, including high schools and hospitals. Very few local emergency responders know this and fewer have appropriate emergency plans.

     LNG Railcar Explosion, SE Cove Rd and SE Dixie Hwy, in Vulnerability of LNG by Rail, <br>by Martin County Fire Rescue, December 15, 2015.” /></a><br>
LNG Railcar Explosion, SE Cove Rd and SE Dixie Hwy, in <a href=Vulnerability of LNG by Rail, by Martin County Fire Rescue, December 15, 2015.

    “The unintended consequences of FERC’s abdication of Congressional jurisdictional authority are mind-boggling,” said WWALS member Cecile Scofield of Palm City, Martin County, Florida, “They include….”

  • 2018-05-21: New location: Valdosta, GA for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest,

    Hahira, GA, May 21, 2018 — The Contest has moved to The Salty Snapper on the Withlacoochee River in Valdosta, Georgia, in the biggest city in the Suwannee River Basin! The contest date is the same: Saturday, June 23, 2018. You can still send in a song through Friday, June 1, 2018, about the Withlacoochee, Little, Alapaha, Suwannee, or other rivers, springs, swamps, etc. in the Basin. The first prize gets $300, plus a $50 for a finalist from within the Basin, a $50 prize for a finalist from outside, and prizes to one finalist in each musical genre or style.

    “Thanks to Will Eason, General Manager of The Salty Snapper, for finding the perfect afternoon time slot for a songwriting contest on the Withlacoochee River in the population center of the Suwannee River Basin,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman.

    The Salty Snapper, Location

    Deadline to send in songs: Friday, June 1, 2018

    How to send in a song: Here is the entry form

  • 2018-04-29: Top Three Winners, BIG Little River Paddle Race 2018-04-28

    Hahira, GA, April 29, 2018 — With the first-ever winner from Florida and a new record time, the next two categories one each from Tift and Lowndes Counties, Georgia, and a record number paddlers from 4 to 67 years old, the BIG Little River Paddle Race at Reed Bingham State Park Saturday was a fun time and a successful fundraiser for Friends of Reed Bingham State Park (FORB) and WWALS Watershed Coalition (WWALS).

    Trophy, The winner: Lloyd Reeves, Crescent City, FL

    Lloyd Reeves drove three hours from Crescent City, Florida, with a very fast kayak, to become the first-ever Florida winner, and he proved himself a winner in another way with the prize.

    Trophy, The winner: Lloyd Reeves, Crescent City, FL

    In addition to the First Prize trophy, winner Reeves got a hundred dollar bill from race organizer Bret Wagenhorst of WWALS. and a matching hundred dollar bill from Dianne Walters of FORB. Reeves then donated both Benjamins back to the contest. Now that’s a winner!

  • 2018-04-21: WWALS clean sweep at site of old Troupville, GA

    Hahira, GA, April 23, 2018 — Fifty children and adults helped WWALS clean up the site of old Troupville Saturday, with permission and thanks from the landowner where that former Lowndes County seat goes down to the Little River Confluence with the Withlacoochee River, just west of Valdosta.

    Cleanup leader WWALS member Bobby McKenzie said:

    We met at the signs for safety/execution briefing. I was able to talk about the signs and water trail to 50 folks and when I asked who knew about the Little and Withlacoochee Rivers and being able to kayak them, only 2 folks were aware. Now 50 more folks are aware…and half were kids…but some of the best kind of kids…Boy and Girl Scouts!

    Scouts and all, Sign
    Photo: Bobby McKenzie for WWALS 2018-04-21, at Troupville Boat Ramp, by the WWALS signs for the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail (WLRWT) that Phil Hubbard p

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