Yesterday the most populous city in the Suwannee River Basin passed a resolution opposing the proposed Twin Pines Minerals (TPM) strip mine or any others within ten miles of the Okefenokee Swamp. The resolution further asks the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reverse its abdication of oversight, asks GA-EPD for a moratorium on all mining permits until effects are settled of the recent court overruling of 2020 Clean Water Act changes, as well as to reject the TPM permits, or at least to review those applications as thoroughly as the Army Corps would, and asks the Georgia legislature to prevent such strip mines near the Swamp or any blackwater rivers in the Suwannee River Basin.
You can also ask the state to stop this mine: https://wwals.net/?p=55092
3.f. Resolution in Opposition to a proposed strip mine near the Okefenokee Swamp.
Mayor Scott James Matheson presented the resolution, saying:
This is a national resource that Valdostans and surrounding cities and counties have enjoyed for a long time. Anything that would threaten it: I would hope this Council would come out in support of its citizens, and the activities that this natural resource presents to all of us.
Council Tim Carroll moved to adopt it, Council Andy Gibbs seconded, and all Council raised their hands in approval.
6. CTBH Thanks for Okefenokee resolution –John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper
I thanked Mayor and Council for passing the Okefenokee Swamp resolution, pointing out that they are by far the largest municipality to do so.
I also thanked them for:
- their continued sanitary sewage system improvements such as the two they approved in this meeting,
- their previous denial of a deannexation on Cherry Creek at the Withlacoochee River,
- Stormwater Division for cleaning up at the Sugar Creek Trashjam
- for Valdosta’s participation in a grant proposal WWALS is drafting to Coca-Cola for a couple trash traps, which will require ongoing maintenance funding from the City, but fortunately at least one Council thinks there are ways to do that.
Plus I invited everyone to the Chairman and Mayor’s Paddle, January 29, 2022, from Troupville Boat Ramp past the clean outflow of the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), to Spook Bridge, and I thanked The Langdale Company for access there.
The Mayor thanked me for the efforts of WWALS.
For the entire agenda of that meeting, and videos of each item, see the blog post by Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE).
All the other similar resolutions are on the WWALS website.
RESOLUTION NO. 2021-____
RESOLUTION IN OPPOSITION OF STRIP MINING IN THE OKEFENOKEE SWAMP
WHEREAS, the Okefenokee Swamp is a unique natural, cultural, and economic treasure known worldwide and is the headwaters of the St. Mary’s River and the Suwannee River; and
WHEREAS, approximately 85% of the Okefenokee Swamp is in the Suwannee River Basin and the Suwannee River and is frequented by citizens of Valdosta who value the both of these natural resources for water quality and habitat protection; and
WHEREAS, the Valdosta Mayor and Council have demonstrated their commitment toward water quality and waterway recreation and cleanliness by spending approximately $100 million on sanitary sewer system improvements and by participating in many paddles and cleanups on local rivers and creeks; and
WHEREAS, the Mayor and Council have further demonstrated their commitment to water quality and waterway recreation by passing a Resolution on April 5, 2018 which supported the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail and the Alapaha River Water Trail, both organized by WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS); and
WHEREAS, Twin Pines Minerals LLC (TPM), of Birmingham, Alabama, proposes to strip mine for titanium dioxide on Trail Ridge which is within three miles of the Okefenokee Swamp and they have no experience in titanium mining, and;
WHEREAS, TPM proposes to use drag lines, which is a method never used for such mines on Trail Ridge in Georgia or Florida, and TPM has not met the burden of proof in demonstrating that such a mine would not contaminate the Okefenokee Swamp or the Floridan Aquifer, or possibly even lower the water level in the Swamp or the Aquifer;
WHEREAS, lowering the water level in the Okefenokee Swamp would reduce the areas that can be reached by boat both in the Swamp and on the Suwannee River, and it would increase fire risk in and around the Swamp causing a direct health hazard to communities and citizens nearby;
WHEREAS, strip mining, which is very likely to disturb and distribute mercury previously deposited through the air from Coal Power Plants in Georgia, will cause harmful toxicity to wildlife and humans if it gets into the Swamp and the Suwannee River; and
WHEREAS, TPM is still under a Florida Consent Order for a range of infractions at Chemours mine sites in north Florida, including letting wastewater escape, not doing required water quality testing, and not doing required reporting; and
WHEREAS, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) has five permit applications from TPM related to the proposed mine, for which the GA-EPD is attempting to do the kind of extensive review that the Army Corps usually does; and
WHEREAS, the current TPM permit applications are for a demonstration site, yet they own hundreds more acres they plan to mine ever-closer to the Okefenokee Swamp, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wrote in 2019.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Valdosta Mayor and Council:
- Oppose the Twin Pines Minerals LLC (TPM) strip mine near the Okefenokee Swamp, as well as any other strip mine permit applications within ten miles of the Swamp.
- Request the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reverse their decision to abandon oversight of the mine site, and to resume permit review including preparation of a full Area-Wide Environmental Impact Statement with public hearings, public comment, and independent third-party review.
- Request the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to implement a moratorium on all mining permits until the legal ramifications become clear of the District Court overruling of the 2020 Clean Water Act changes.
- Request the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to reject the TPM permit applications.
- Request that if the Georgia Environmental Protection Division will not reject the permits, that it should thoroughly review them to at least the same degree and extent as a thorough U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Area-Wide Environmental Impact Statement with public hearings, public comment, and independent thirdparty review.
- Request the Georgia legislature to pass appropriate legislation to prevent such strip mines in the future, whether near the Okefenokee Swamp or near any of the blackwater rivers in the Suwannee River Basin in Georgia, including the Suwannee, Alapaha, Alapahoochee, Willacoochee, Withlacoochee, and Little Rivers.
PASSED AND ADOPTED BY THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL OF VALDOSTA, GEORGIA, this the ___ day of November, 2021.
CITY OF VALDOSTA, GEORGIA
Scott James Matheson
Teresa S. Bolden
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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