Atkinson County supports Recreational redesignation, Alapaha River 2021-06-23

We thanked the Atkinson County Commission for this letter, and later got a copy of it. The letter probably helped with GA-EPD deciding to redesignate Recreational an upper segment of the Alapaha River Water Trail, one containing Willacoochee Landing in Atkinson County. More redesignations are possible later. There’s a GA-EPD Update Meeting next week.

[Letter, Commission, Willacoochee Landing]
Letter, Commission, Willacoochee Landing

Letter from Atkinson BOCC to GA-EPD (PDF)

Atkinson County Board of Commissioners
86 Main Street South, P.O. Box 518
Pearson, Georgia 31642
Phone 912-422-3391 Fax 912-422-3429
LACE FUTCH, Chairman

Commissioner Gloria Farrell
Commissioner Charlton Gillis
Commissioner Tom Morris
Finance Officer/HR Director Nina Lott
Building Inspector Jerry Worzella

Commissioner Buddy Willis
Commissioner Johnny Durrance
County Clerk Miranda Peterson
County Attorney Jerome Adams
EMA Director Robbie Stone

June 23, 2021

EPD.Comments@dnr.ga.gov
Elizabeth Booth, Environmental Protection Division
Watershed Protection Branch
Watershed Planning & Monitoring Program
Suite 1152 East, 2 Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr., Atlanta, GA 30334

RE: Georgia Triennial Review of Water Quality Standards

It has been brought to our attention that WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS) has requested an upgrade from Fishing to Recreational in GA EPD’s designated use of the Alapaha River. This Recreational designation would set higher water quality standards for this river. Atkinson County is in favor of that redesignation, applied uniformly, year-round. It really speaks to Atkinson County that all nine of the state’s Riverkeepers have proposed this progressive change, and we give our entire support to such a feat.

Atkinson County is defined by the Willacoochee and Alapaha Rivers on the west and the Satilla River on the east. The Alapaha River provides public opportunities for canoeing, boating, kayaking, overnight camping, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and education. The Alapaha River is mentioned in the Comprehensive Plan of Atkinson County, Pearson, and Willacoochee as a local and regional recreational, economic, and conservation asset. Due to the recent completion of the Alapaha River Water Trail, Atkinson County’s Willacoochee Landing will be placed in the Ecotourism brochure and website through the Southern Georgia Regional Commission as well.

The Alapaha River Water Trail (ARWT) is a “blue trail” organized by WWALS.
https://vwals.nel/maps/alapaha-waler-trail/

Atkinson County passed a resolution in support of the ARWT on January 18, 2018. https:/wwals.net/?p=41301

Atkinson County Commission 2021-01-18
Atkinson County Commission 2021-01-18; Photo: John S. Quarterman

Willacoochee Landing is the name that resolution gave the one Atkinson County public access point to the Alapaha River, at GA 135.
https:/wwals.net/maps/alapaha-water-trail/arwt-map/arwt-access/#willacoochee-landing

Willacoochee Landing 2016-02-20
[Willacoochee Landing @ GA 135, Atkinson County, Alapaha River Water Trail]
Willacoochee Landing @ GA 135, Atkinson County, Alapaha River Water Trail; GDOT road sign paid for by WWALS; Photo: John S. Quarterman for WWALS.

WWALS is now testing water quality at Willacoochee Landing weekly, and so far, all results have been below 126 cfu/100 mL. WWALS also sometimes tests downstream at Lakeland Boat Ramp at GA 122, where results have been equally low. WWALS provides an ongoing online composite spreadsheet of water quality test results from these and other sources, plus red and green indicators on Swim Guide, an international water quality advisory smart phone app. https://wwals.net/issues/testing We know of no other local area in Georgia (or Florida) with such a magnitude of frequently updated water quality data, which lets everyone know when our rivers are clean or not.

[Fox 31 Reporter Typhani Gray, WWALS water quality tester Valerie Folsom]
Fox 31 Reporter Typhani Gray, WWALS water quality tester Valerie Folsom; Photo: John S. Quarterman for WWALS.

GA-EPD has screened out from Recreational classification stretches within 10 river miles downstream of an NPDES wastewater location. The next public Alapaha River access upstream from Willacoochee Landing is Sheboggy Boat Ramp at US 82. The City of Alapaha WPCP is little more than two miles upstream from Sheboggy Boat Ramp, which Berrien County paid to renovate in 2018. Sheboggy Boat Ramp is essential for people to boat downstream to get to Willacoochee Landing, and all the Alapaha River in between should be redesignated as Recreational.

[Map: filthy upstream clean down Swim Guide]
Map: filthy upstream clean down Swim Guide

In our subtropical climate, people boat and swim year-round. Some people even prefer to be on the water in the winter because there are fewer insects. Thus, the proposed second-class Recreational designation with overall lower bacterial contamination limits and even lower winter limits is inappropriate for waterways in Atkinson County.

It is extremely important to us as citizens, parents, and community leaders to do our best to preserve the wildlife, natural beauty, and cleanliness of our environment for future generations. Therefore, Atkinson County believes that the higher standards designated for Recreational waterbodies are applicable for the Alapaha River and are in full support of this change. Further, Atkinson County wishes the same higher, first-class, Recreational standards year-round, and for the entire extents of the Alapaha River along Atkinson County.

[Atkinson County Commission and Clerk]
Atkinson County Commission and Clerk

Thank you for the opportunity to provide input into this decision.

Sincerely,
[signed]
Gloria Farrell,
Commission Vice-Chairperson


[Suwannee Riverkeeper at Atkinson County Commission, by WFXL Fox 31, Albany, GA]
Suwannee Riverkeeper at Atkinson County Commission, by WFXL Fox 31, Albany, GA

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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

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