Constitutional Right to Clean Water: RTCW for Georgia, WWALS Webinar 2022-04-19

Update 2022-04-24: Videos: Constitutional Right to Clean Water for Georgia, WWALS Webinar 2022-04-19

Hahira, Georgia, April 5, 2022 — Trying to protect clean water with current laws and regulations is like trying to defend free speech without the First Amendment. Montana, Pennsylvania, and just last year New York have enshrined Rights to Clean Water, Air, Land, and a Healthy Environment (RTCW) in their constitutions alongside free speech and other basic rights. Florida has a statewide petition signing right now for the 2024 ballot. How can Georgia get RTCW into its constitution? Why should it? And what would such an amendment consist of? This webinar explores those questions. We invite your participation and feedback.

[RTCW, Speakers]
RTCW, Speakers

The zoom meeting will be Tuesday, April 19, 2022, from 7:00 to 8:00 PM Eastern Time.

Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Moderator, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper

He (jsq) will present some introductory information, introduce each speaker, and moderate the question-and-answer period.

[John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper]
John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper

John S. Quarterman (jsq) lives on land his grandfather bought in 1921, a longleaf pine forest with a cypress swamp, a pond, and a creek that runs through it to the Withlacoochee River. He has a bachelor’s degree in Computer science from Harvard College, and worked for many years on the Internet and operating systems before moving back to the farm. In 2016 he was appointed Suwannee Riverkeeper by the board of WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS), founded in 2012. His background has facilitated getting the state of Georgia to publish sewage spills the same day they get them, as well as assisting a Consent Order on Valdosta for chronic sewage spills (greatly improved lately).

As a Florida Waterkeeper, jsq moved for Waterkeepers Florida (WKFL) to support RTCW, and has continually promoted it. As a Georgia Waterkeeper he started a statewide committee about RTCW. All the presenters are members of that committee, which compiled the information presented in this WWALS webinar. We are speaking for ourselves in this first public presentation of this material.

Legal Brief, Chris Bertrand, Satilla Riverkeeper

Chris, who is an attorney, will summarize the five-page legal brief for the Georgia RTCW Committee.

[Chris Bertrand, Satilla Riverkeeper]
Chris Bertrand, Satilla Riverkeeper

Chris grew up in Alpharetta, Georgia, where he was a Boy Scout. During college, he worked at the Chattahoochee Nature Center as a canoe instructor and an outdoor adventure guide. He went to law school at the University of Georgia to study environmental law because of his interest in protecting clean water and wild places. During law school, he interned with Georgia Sea Grant, the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, the Southern Environmental Law Center, and EPA Region 4. Chris is currently the Satilla Riverkeeper and Executive Director.

Why RTCW, Damon Mullis, Ogeechee Riverkeeper

Damon will present some examples of current waterway problems that are difficult to address under current rules and laws, which would be easier with RTCW.

[Damon Mullis, Ogeechee Riverkeeper]
Damon Mullis, Ogeechee Riverkeeper

Damon grew up in rural south Georgia, where he spent his free time outdoors fishing and exploring local rivers and streams. He has bachelor’s and master’s of science degrees in biology from Georgia Southern University. His research has focused on how physical and chemical changes in freshwater ecosystems affect their biological communities. His projects include studies on the connectivity between rivers and floodplains, the effects of beaver dams on freshwater invertebrate communities, secondary production of macroinvertebrates, nutrient monitoring, and water quality monitoring in rivers and streams. Before pursuing a career in science, Damon managed small businesses for more than 13 years. Since 2018, Damon has been the Ogeechee Riverkeeper.

RTCW in Florida, Chuck O’Neal, President of Speak Up Wekiva, Inc.

Chuck will be available to answer questions, and jsq will summarize the Florida situation.

[Chuck O'Neal, President of Speak Up Wekiva, Inc., Florida]
Chuck O’Neal, President of Speak Up Wekiva, Inc., Florida

Chuck majored in Mathematics and Public Policy at Duke University. He runs a small business, and has served as Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee and as First Vice President of the League of Women Voters of Florida. He has helped draft Florida conservation legislation. In 2015, Chuck won the Cox Conserves Hero award as a leading conservation advocate in Central Florida. That award was voted upon by the viewership of WFTV, covering eight counties. The League of Women Voters of Florida Education Fund was awarded $10,000 in his honor from the Cox Foundation and the Trust for Public Land. He was instrumental in getting a Right to Clean Water charter amendment passed in Orange County (home of Orlando) with more than 89% of the popular vote. This made Orange County, Florida, the largest municipality in the United States to pass such an initiative. It also demonstrated that in a time of increased antipathy between the political parties, there is one thing upon which we can agree, that our waterways need the highest level of protection: a rights-based form of protection. Chuck is now concentrating on the lawsuit he brought against a developer and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, based on the Orange County charter amendment.

How-To for Georgia, Gordon Rogers, Flint Riverkeeper

Gordon will present the logistics and politics of getting RTCW into the Georgia constitution.

[Gordon Rogers, Flint Riverkeeper, kayak]
Gordon Rogers, Flint Riverkeeper, kayak

Gordon lives in the lower portion of the upper Flint River in Talbot County. A native of South Georgia, Rogers attended college at Oxford College of Emory University, the University of Georgia–Athens, and Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. Following his formal schooling, he was employed for ten years by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources at the Coastal Resources Division in Brunswick, first as a fisheries statistician and later as a marine biologist and analyst. There he conducted basic research, management-oriented research, and marine policy development. Rogers then entered the private sector, as owner-operator of a Brunswick-based waste and recycling facility.

A professional fisherman, he has participated in tournaments, provided instruction and conducted fishing charters. He was formerly Executive Director of Satilla Riverwatch Alliance, Inc., and the Satilla Riverkeeper® from 2004 to 2009. He became Riverkeeper® and Executive Director of Flint Riverkeeper®, Inc., in 2009.

[WWALS Logo]

About WWALS: Founded in June 2012, WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS) advocates for conservation and stewardship of the surface waters and groundwater of the Suwannee River Basin and Estuary, in south Georgia and north Florida, among them the Withlacoochee, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Little, Santa Fe, and Suwannee River watersheds, through education, awareness, environmental monitoring, and citizen activities. Since 2016, John S. Quarterman is the Suwannee Riverkeeper®, which is a staff position and a project of WWALS as the member of Waterkeeper® Alliance for the Suwannee River Basin.

Contact: John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper
WWALS Watershed Coalition
PO Box 88
Hahira, GA 31632