Update 2020-08-19: Valdosta concurs: Withlacoochee River quality still looks good 2020-08-17.
WWALS testers for Sunday after little rain found low water and good water quality upstream on the Little and Withlacoochee Rivers and Okapilco Creek in Cook, Lowndes, and Brooks Counties, Georgia, but very bad E. coli on Crooked Creek @ Devane Road in Brooks County.
Conn and Trudy Cole got 200 cfu/100 mL E. coli on the Little River @ GA 76 (Cook County Boat Ramp). That’s above the 126 long-term average limit, but still good enough to mark Cook County Boat Ramp green on Swim Guide. They remarked that’s the highest they’ve gotten there. Well, recently: back on April 25, 2020, after very heavy rain, they got 433, which is above the 410 one-time sample limit. That would be a red mark on Swim Guide, so it’s good they got 200 this time. See also What do these numbers mean?
A bit downstream on the Little River @ GA 122 (Folsom Bridge Landing) I got 100.
That’s green to go by any standards.
I wouldn’t object if Lowndes County fixed the potholes in the access road for Folsom Bridge Landing.
On the Withlacoochee River @ GA 122 (Hagan Bridge Landing), I got 33, which is even better.
A cleanup is needed at Hagan Bridge.
The Coles got 100 on the Withlacoochee River @ GA 84, also good. They remarked that the Withlacoochee River was the lowest they’d ever seen.
Photo: Conn Cole, 2.24′ (85.8′ NAVD88; Low Stage 85.5′) Withlacoochee River @ US 84
In the picture, that appears to be the USGS gauge float sitting on the bottom of the river.
In Brooks County, the Coles got a good 66 on Okapilco Creek @ US 84, but 9,200 on Crooked Creek @ Devane Road, which is very bad, way above the 1,000 Georgia Adopt-A-Stream alert limit. As discussed in Current Situation of Water Quality Testing, Suwannee River Basin 2020-08-02, the most likely source of all that E. coli is cow manure washing off pastures.
WWALS has actually gotten worse results at Devane Road: TNTC (Too Numerous to Count) on March 7, April 25, and June 10, each time after heavy rains in Brooks County. We got 22,000 on February 21, after lighter rains. That was before the local cattle owners had finished many Best Management Practices (BMPs) such as fencing the bovines back from waterways and planting vegetative buffers along fences. They’ve even been shipping cows out to Kansas to reduce the local ruminant population. It’s too soon to tell whether those BMPs are working, but so far the data at the very least does not say they aren’t.
Crooked Creek flows into Okapilco Creek downstream of US 84 and upstream of the Withlacoochee River. It will be very interesting to see what shows up in Valdosta’s Monday results for Knights Ferry, Nankin, and State Line Boat Ramps, and Madison Health’s Tuesday results for State Line, CR 150, and FL 6. Today we have no new results from Valdosta (most recent Wednesday August 12) or Florida (most recent Thursday August 13) since our last water quality post.
However, there was also low flow in Crooked Creek, so the chances are that very high E. coli at Devane Road will get diluted as it enters Okapilco Creek, and more as it reaches the Withlacoochee River, which has already jumped up a foot in water level since Sunday morning.
So for now, I’ve left all the WWALS “beaches” on the Little and Withlacoochee Rivers green on Swim Guide. Happy boating!
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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