Video: Earth Day Cleanup and Paddle –Suwannee Riverkeeper & Georgia Power on Scott James Radio 2020-03-12

Update 2020-03-19: Earth Day Cleanup Postponed due to pandemic: WWALS, Georgia Power, Valdosta, and Brooks County, GA, Madison County, FL.

Update 2020-03-14: Much better water quality: Withlacoochee River, Okapilco Creek 2020-03-11.

Joe Brownlee is bringing Georgia Power people and a grill to the Earth Day Cleanup, 8AM, Saturday, April 18, 2020, at Knights Ferry Boat Ramp. This WWALS cleanup is co-sponsored by Georgia Power, the City of Valdosta, and Brooks County, Georgia. Madison and Suwannee Counties, Florida, will be holding Earth Day cleanups that same day downstream on the Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers. The cleanups are free. The paddle is $10 per person, or free for WWALS members. No reservation necessary, but please check Going on the facebook event to encourage others to come.

[On Air]
On Air

We also discussed fecal bacteria in the river and the novel coronavirus. But first, we reminded people not to go on the Withlacoochee right now, because it’s high and fast and the risk of overhanging branches is high. Probably the river will be lower by then, and we plan to paddle about 11AM from Knights Ferry to Nankin Boat Ramp, about three and a half hours, and then clean up at Nankin.

We also discussed the Fecal bacterial contamination problem. This is one of the metal signs WWALS had made. They’re at Knights Ferry, Nankin, and State Line Boat Ramps (or the earlier laminated paper versions). We hope by a month from now we can take those signs down. If not, we’ll be cleaning up but not paddling. We can drive to Nankin to clean up there, as well.

[Fecal bacterial Caution sign]
Fecal bacterial Caution sign

I complimented the City of Valdosta on testing the Withlacoochee River three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and Okapilco Creek. Mayor Scott James added as a regional hub Valdosta has responsibilities, and “We can’t enjoy that riverway until everyone can.”

I said I was glad to hear him say that, and that as he knows, people downstream would like Valdosta to do just a little more having to do with things like expenses.

Joe Brownlee said he’s impressed that everybody is working together. Scott James said it wasn’t always this way. They agreed that it had already started to change even before he became mayor. Yes, we are inviting Lowndes County and especially Chairman Bill Slaughter to paddle. I pointed out that Lowndes County along with WWALS pioneered testing on Okapilco Creek in Brooks County. That testing and WWALS testing on a feeder creek is how we know, along with Lowndes County, Valdosta, and WWALS testing on the Withlacoochee River, that the recent contamination is almost certainly not coming from Valdosta, rather from non-point sources in Brooks County.

The Mayor actually worked in a compliment to me and WWALS for suggesting Valdosta do downstream testing on the Withlacoochee River.

More than once I indicated that I would talk to the Mayor more later about testing and expense reimbursments. He did promise on the phone before the radio interview that that would happen.

Everyone is talking about the WHO-declared pandemic of the new coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID 19, manifesting in worst cases as pneumonia. Apparently about 80% of people infected will have mild cases, but that means fever, cough, and weakness; anything short of needing oxygen. The older the infected person, the worse the disease. The fatality rate is at least ten times that of flu. Like flu, this virus is airborne; any sneeze can carry it many feet. The Georgia Department of Health recommends keeping six feet of distance. Unlike flu, there is no vaccine and no Tamiflu equivalent. And this virus is spreading faster than flu. In Italy, cases went from hundreds one week to thousands the next. Two cases so far have been detected in Lowndes County, and Moody AFB is testing two more people.

Since yesterday, Moody AFB has sent all nonessential personnel home, the University of Georgia has ordered all campuses closed, and Disney World is closing. You know it’s serious when Ireland cancels St. Patrick’s Day, and really when both Chicago and Boston do the same. Savannah has “postponed” its St. Patrick’s Day events. The U.S. has announced a partial travel ban with the European Union.

The most effective measures, according to numerous medical sources, are to wash your hands at least 20 seconds with soap, don’t touch your face, and keep your distance from other people.

For these reasons, WWALS has decided not to have a booth at Wild Azalea Festival in White Springs, Hamilton County, Florida, nor at Suwannee Spring Reunion at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Suwannee County, Florida, both not this weekend but next.

On the radio I pointed out that the Earth Day Paddle was not a problem so far as people in boats on the water, since they will be widely separated. The problem is the shuttle. We have people deposit their boats at the put-in, drive their vehicles to the take-out, and then cram into one or two vehicles to drive back to the put-in. That last part is the problem. We’re working on finding a solution.

Scott James brought up that Lowndes County is helping with the cleanup by grading the dirt roads into Knights Ferry and Nankin, even though it has not agreed to be listed as a co-sponsor. I added that Lowndes County Public Works also made the road signs at those locations and State Line Boat Ramp for the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail.

[Water Trail signs]
Water Trail signs

Plus WWALS has a long-standing agreement with Lowndes County Public Works that if we bag up the trash and put it all in one location, the county will come collect it.

Here’s the video:

Video: Earth Day Cleanup and Paddle –Suwannee Riverkeeper & Georgia Power on Scott James Radio 2020-03-12
Video by John S. Quarterman for WWALS Watershed Coalition (WWALS)

Don’t forget the BIG Little River Paddle Race, Saturday, April 25, 2020, at Reed Bingham State Park, between Moultrie and Adel, Georgia. I didn’t discuss BLRPR on this radio interview because the virus took up that time.

For more WWALS outings and events as they are posted, see the WWALS calendar or the WWALS outings and events web page. WWALS members also get an upcoming list in the Tannin Times newsletter.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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