Comments: 20,338 on titanium mining near Okefenokee Swamp –USACE 2019-09-12

If this and the 27 news articles on radio, TV, and newspapers in Georgia and Florida, several of them carried by Associated Press across the country, plus the ten op-eds and three editorials, is not enough to establish controversy, I wonder what is. Maybe still more comments and news articles and social media?

[Public Notice: 20,338 comments]
Public Notice: 20,338 comments
PDF

Nedra Rhone, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 13 September 2019, Mining proposal near Okefenokee draws more than 20K comments from public

The Suwannee Riverkeeper, on Thursday, sent 22 pages of questions to the Corps and the Georgia Department of Environmental Protection asking the agency to deny the permit. The Riverkeeper joined the SELC and other organizations and individuals in asking the Corps to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement, the highest level of analysis available when a proposed federal action may significantly affect the quality of the human environment.

Also in that AJC story:

Commenters expressed concerns ranging from the acres of wetlands that would be lost to what they considered inadequate studies conducted to determine the potential impact of the mine.

In a letter to the Corps, the Southern Environmental Law Center said Twin Pines has misrepresented the scale and severity of the project impacts throughout the applications process and most recently at a public meeting.

Controversy is one of the indicators that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is needed, but about that and about public hearings all yesterdays’s notice says is:

Once we reach a decision on the appropriate level of NEPA analysis and additional forums for public information and comment, we will provide notice.

You may wonder when you will get an acknowledgement that your comment was received. I asked that of Billy Birdwell, Senior Public Affairs Specialist, Corporate Comm Office at Savannah District, US Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah, Georgia. He checked and said they are working through the comments in the order they are received. So far they are up to those received September 3rd. They expect to finish acknowledgments probably some time next week.

He, like this notice, was quite clear that comments are closed. However, when asked directly whether comments received after the nominal deadline would be read by the Corps, he said he would not commit to that, but he would not say they wouldn’t.

So I recommend that if you have something new to say, or a different perspective, especially if it is a question you think nobody else might have asked, send it in anyway.

Even better, also send it as a letter to your local newspaper, publish it on your website, or post it on social media.

This isn’t over until the Corps or GA-EPD denies the permit, or at the least starts an EIS. Contact your state Senator and Representative, and your U.S. Senator and Congress member, and ask them to ask for denial or an EIS.

How to Comment

The Georgia Water Coalition has provided a convenient action portal for writing to the Georgia governor. You don't even have to live in the state to use it!

You can write to your Georgia state representative or senator or governor or lieutenant governor and ask them to refuse any such instrument.
To find your legislator you can type in your ZIP code here: http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/

These are the Georgia state Senators with districts most involved with the Okefenokee Swamp:

  • District 007 Senator Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) (Tift, Berrien, Irwin, Ben Hill, Coffee, Bacon, Atkinson, Ware, and Charlton Counties), (404) 463-5263, tyler.harper@senate.ga.gov. His district includes the Okefenokee Swamp, and he is the Chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee.
  • District 008, Senator Ellis Black (R-Valdosta) (Lowndes, Lanier, Echols, Clinch, Cook, Brooks, and Thomas Counties), (404) 463-6597, (229) 559-7546, ellis.black@senate.ga.gov. Ellis Black is retiring.
    Russ Goodman won the election for this seat: 912-218-0447, rustingoodman@gmail.com.
  • District 003 Senator William T. Ligon, Jr. (R-Brunswick) (Brantley County), (404) 463-1383, (912) 261-2263, william.ligon@senate.ga.gov.

These are the Georgia state Representatives with districts most involved:

  • 174, John Corbett, R - Lake Park, 404-656-0213, john.corbett@house.ga.gov. His district includes the mine site.
  • 180, Steven Sainz, R - Woodbine, 404.656.0177, steven.sainz@house.ga.gov, Charlton and Ware Counties
  • 176, James Burchett, R - Waycross, 404.656.0188, james.burchett@house.ga.gov, Lowndes, Lanier, Atkinson, and Ware Counties
  • 177, Dexter Sharper, D - Valdosta, 404.656.0126, dexter.sharper@house.ga.gov, Lowndes County

You can also write to your U.S. Representative or Senator and ask them to urge the Corps to reject this mine or at least require an EIS, like Rep. Al Lawson (FL-05) already did.

For the requested Georgia state permit regarding Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, you can send a comment or request for public hearing to
Stephen Wiedl, Wetlands Unit, stephen.wiedl@dnr.ga.gov
Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division, Water Protection Branch, 7 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Atlanta, Georgia 30334.
Be sure to mention Applicant: Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, Application Number: SAS-2018-00554.

For the Georgia Coastal Management Program certification, you can send a comment to
Federal Consistency Coordinator, Ecological Services Section, Coastal Resources Division,
Georgia Department of Natural Resources, One Conservation Way, Brunswick, Georgia 31523-9600
Telephone 912-264-7218.

The Army Corps public announcement of the miners' re-application last spring says: “The applicant may also require assent from the State of Georgia, which may be in the form of a license, easement, lease, permit, or other appropriate instrument.”

You can also write to the Georgia DNR board, asking them to refuse any such instrument.
Georgia Board of Natural Resources
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, SE, Suite 1252, Atlanta, GA 30334

To submit a letter to the editor of the Charlton County Herald, you can email editor@charltonherald.com.
Or write to your local newspaper.
You can also contact radio, TV, and of course post on social media.

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, SAVANNAH DISTRICT
100 WEST OGLETHORPE AVENUE
SAVANNAH, GEORGIA 31401-3604

September 12, 2019

Regulatory Branch
SAS-2018-00554

PUBLIC NOTICE
Savannah District

The Savannah District has received an application for a Department of the Army permit, pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C § 1344), as follows:

Application Number: SAS-2018-00554

Applicant: Steven R. Ingle, Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, 2100 Southbridge Parkway, Birmingham, Alabama 35209

The Public Comment Period for the Twin Pines project closes today. To date, we have received 20,338 comments regarding this project, including comments from the Cherokee of Georgia Tribal Council, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 4, and 14 Non-Governmental Organizations. Many commenters have requested an extension to the comment period. At this time, the Corps is not going to extend the public comment period. Currently we are reviewing the comments we have received and evaluating our path forward under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Once we reach a decision on the appropriate level of NEPA analysis and additional forums for public information and comment, we will provide notice. We are still awaiting the submittal of additional project studies from the applicant, including hydrology studies. Once received, we will provide notice and this information will be available through our website or through a Freedom of Information Act request.

If you have any further questions concerning this matter, please contact Ms. Holly Ross, Project Manager, Albany Field Office at 648-422-2727 or via email at holly.a.ross@usace.army.mil.

Much more is on the WWALS website here:
https://www.wwals.net/pictures/2019-07-12–tpm-usace/

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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