Okefenokee discussion in Moniac and mine site drive by 2020-11-06

A small group of people who value the Okefenokee Swamp and the rivers it feeds, the St. Marys River down to the Atlantic and Cumberland Island, and the Suwannee River of song and legend through Fargo and north Florida to the Gulf; this group met in Moniac, Georgia, on November 6, 2020, at Lacy’s Kountry Store. Most of us then visited the proposed mine site, which has quite a bit of equipment on it already.

If you want to help oppose this strip mine far too close to the Swamp, now that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has abdicated oversight, you can ask the Georgia government to reject these permits.

[Mine site, discussion]
Mine site, discussion

Georgia River Network Executive Director Rena Ann Peck had just written an op-ed in the Savannah Morning News.

[Rena Peck, Executive Director, Georgia River Network]
Rena Peck, Executive Director, Georgia River Network

Kim Bednarek, Executive Director, Okefenokee Swamp Park, echoed the comments OSP Chair S. William Clark III made a year ago.

[Kim Bednarek, Executive Director, Okefenokee Swamp Park]
Kim Bednarek, Executive Director, Okefenokee Swamp Park

Tom H. Johnson Jr., President, WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc., reiterated our staunch opposition to this proposed mine.

[Tom H. Johnson Jr., President, WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc.]
Tom H. Johnson Jr., President, WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc.

Gretchen Quarterman, WWALS Executive Director, took these pictures, and facilitiated the discussion.

[Rena Peck, John Peterson, Gretchen Quarterman, Executive Director, WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc.]
Rena Peck, John Peterson, Gretchen Quarterman, Executive Director, WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc.

Also in attendance were several other people, including Karen Byrd and Jane Winkler.

[John and Emily Peterson, owners, Lacy's Kountry Store and World Honey Market]
John and Emily Peterson, owners, Lacy’s Kountry Store and World Honey Market

John and Emily Peterson are the owners of Lacy’s Kountry Store and World Honey Market. John Peterson said,

We’re not opposed to honest progress, and we’re not opposed to economic benefits for the area. But if it compromises the environment; if it cannot be conducted in a manner that is a net positive, or minimally impactful, then I oppose it.

They would have to operate under parameters strong enough to avoid destroying the ecosystems we live in. It’s like a big sponge here: anything you pour on the ground ends up in the aquifer.

Everyone, the miners included, should celebrate what we’re a part of here. The Okefenokee Swamp should have paramount protection. The ecotourism that is being born out of the Okefenokee, this natural wonder, is a larger economic benefit than the mine itself to this impoverished area.

Flying the WWALS drone straight up from the highway right of way, it’s clear there’s quite a bit of equipment on the mine site.

[TPM mine site]
TPM mine site

[Banners and map at the mine site entrance]
Banners and map at the mine site entrance
L-r, WWALS E.D. Gretchen Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, WWALS President Tom H. Johnson Jr., GRN E.D. Rena Ann Peck, and Georgia L.B. Ritchie.

You can see how close the mine site is to GA 94, looking east.

[TPM mine site GA 94]
TPM mine site GA 94

More importantly, the edge of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is to the left in this picture of the mine site.

[TPM mine site with ONWR on left]
TPM mine site with ONWR on left

Even according to the miners, it’s only three miles from the mine site to the Okefenokee Swamp. You can’t really tell where the Swamp starts in this picture, which is part of the point: anything that happens uphill here could affect the swamp down there.

[T Model Road to Okefenokee NWR]
T Model Road to Okefenokee NWR

Several us met again Sunday on the Suwannee River in the Swamp.

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.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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

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