On newly-proclaimed Okefenokee Swamp Day, a bipartisan bill to ban mining on Trail Ridge by the Okefenokee Swamp appeared in the Georgia legislature: HB 1289.
What You Can Do
You can ask Georgia Governor Kemp to get the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) to deny the permit request from Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, for a titanium dioxide strip mine within three miles of the Okefenokee Swamp, which is the headwaters of the St. Marys and Suwannee Rivers. Or ask your city or county government to pass a resolution supporting the Swamp and opposing the mine, as half a dozen have already done.
Or write directly to GA-EPD: TwinPines.Comment@dnr.ga.gov
Or use this convenient Georgia Water Coalition action alert form to ask your statehouse delegation to pass HB 1289 and to ask GA-EPD to deny the permits.
More than forty scientists signed a letter spelling out dangers of that mine, including that it would lower the Floridan Aquifer under the Okefenokee Swamp. That would draw water from elsewhere, including into Georgia from Florida, which already suffers from lowered water flows.
Floridians, remember that a recent Supreme Court ruling says underground water flow between states is subject to equitable apportionment just like surface waters.
Waterkeeper Alliance pointed out some effects of mining on underground water in comments on an EPA and U.S. Army Corps rulemaking on Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS). WWALS also commented, spelling out interchange between surface and groundwater in Georgia and Florida above the Floridan Aquifer, and asking the Corps to take back up its oversight of the mine site, which it abdicated in October 2020 because of a previous change to WOTUS.
Floridians can complain to Georgia legislators or the Georgia governor or GA-EPD. Please also ask Florida elected officials and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to intervene.
- Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder, February 9, 2022, Bipartisan group of Georgia lawmakers push bill to prevent Okefenokee mining
- Dave Williams, Capitol Beat News Service, February 9, 2022, Georgia House bill would ban mining near Okefenokee Swamp.
BY THE GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF GEORGIA
OKEFENOKEE SWAMP DAY
WHEREAS: The State of Georgia is blessed with the unrivaled beauty of the Okefenokee Swamp, the largest blackwater wetland in North America; and
WHEREAS: The Okefenokee Swamp is recognized as one of Georgia’s seven natural wonders and a natural area unique not only to the State of Georgia, but also the United States of America and the world; and
WHEREAS: The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is being considered for nomination as an internationally recognized natural area for United Nations World Heritage Site designation; and
WHEREAS: The Okefenokee Swamp spans 438,000 acres with 93 percent of it protected as the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, including 353,000 acres designated as a National Wilderness Area by Congress; and
WHEREAS: Georgia’s Stephen C. Foster State Park lies within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and is designated as an International Dark Sky Park; and
WHEREAS: The Okefenokee Swamp hosts more than 650,000 visits by Americans and international tourists to Georgia on an annual basis, generating upwards of $64.7 million annually for the economies of Ware, Clinch, and Charlton Counties and creating some 750- swamp tortism-related jobs; and
WHEREAS: The Okefenokee Wilderness Canoe Trail is part of the National Water Trails System, and anglers and tourists visit repeatedly, seeking a true wilderness experience; and
WHEREAS: The Okefenokee Swamp has inspired countless Georgia naturalists, artists, and writers and gave us our very own state opossum, Pogo Possum; now
THEREFORE: I, BRIAN P. KEMP, Governor of the State of Georgia, do hereby proclaim February 8, 2022 as OKEFENOKEE SWAMP DAY in Georgia.
In witness thereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the Executive Department to be affixed this 1st day of February in the year of our Lord, Two Thousand and Twenty-Two.
Chief of Staff
LC 51 0070
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
1 To amend Part 3 of Article 2 of Chapter 4 of Title 12 of the Official Code of Georgia
2 Annotated, relating to surface mining, so as to prohibit the director of the Environmental
3 Protection Division of the Natural Resources Department from issuing, modifying, or
4 renewing any permit or accepting any bond to conduct surface mining operations on the
5 geological feature known as Trail Ridge between the St. Marys and Satilla Rivers for future
6 permit applications and amendments; to provide for legislative findings; to provide for
7 related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.
8 BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF GEORGIA:
9 SECTION 1.
10 The General Assembly finds that:
11 (1) The Okefenokee Swamp is a vital part of Georgia with more than local significance,
12 is of equal importance to all citizens of the state, is of state-wide concern, and
13 consequently is properly a matter for regulation and protection under the authority of the
14 State of Georgia to ensure the values and functions of the Okefenokee Swamp, including
15 its status as a popular and historic tourist attraction, are not impaired and to fulfill the
16 responsibilities of each generation as public trustees of the Okefenokee Swamp for
17 succeeding generations; and
18 (2) Trail Ridge is a key element in the formation and continued existence of the
19 Okefenokee Swamp. It shapes the hydrology of the area and controls drainage of the
20 Swamp to the Atlantic Ocean. Trail Ridge contains heavy mineral sands, resulting in two
21 major surface mining proposals in the past 25 years. The people of Georgia as well as
22 state and national leaders overwhelmingly rejected the first proposal. Surface mining on
23 Trail Ridge risks adverse impacts to the wetlands, water quality and quantity, wildlife
24 habitat, air quality, and wilderness values of the Okefenokee Swamp. As a danger to the
25 future of the Okefenokee Swamp, Trail Ridge mining impacts the cultural heritage of
26 indigenous peoples of the area, as well as the historic heritage of the people and
27 communities whose existence has been shaped by the swamp.
28 SECTION 2.
29 Part 3 of Article 2 of Chapter 4 of Title 12 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated,
30 relating to surface mining, is amended by adding a new Code section to read as follows:
31 surface mining, is amended by adding a new section to read as follows:
33 The director of the division shall not issue, modify, or renew any permit or accept any bond
34 to conduct surface mining operations on the geological feature known as Trail Ridge
35 between the St. Marys and Satilla Rivers for any permit application or permit amendment
36 submitted after July 1, 2022.”
37 SECTION 3.
38 All laws and parts of laws in conflict with this Act are repealed.
The proposed mine site is at the red underline, in the Saunders Tract on Trail Ridge
Figure 5: Heavy Mineral Mining In The Atlantic Coastal Plain-0006 Trail Ridge heavy mineral deposits, including Folkston West and Saunders Tracts, in L. Pirkle, Fredric & A. Pirkle, William & Rich, Fredrick. (2013). Heavy-Mineral Mining in the Atlantic Coastal Plain and What Deposit Locations Tell Us about Ancient Shorelines. Journal of Coastal Research. 69. 154-175. 10.2112/SI_69_11. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/275619883_Heavy-Mineral_Mining_in_the_Atlantic_Coastal_Plain_and_What_Deposit_Locations_Tell_Us_about_Ancient_Shorelines
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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