News and PR

See also Press Releases.

News Stories about WWALS

  • April Glaser, NBC News, 8 June 2021, updated 9 June 2021 (WWALS blog post), McDonald’s french fries, carrots, onions: all of the foods that come from Bill Gates farmland: Gates does not appear to count his farming investments as the nation’s largest farmland owner as part of his broader strategy to save the climate.

    Algae bloom

    But some farmers whose land is adjacent to that of the Gateses have expressed disappointment that despite the couple’s wealth, they have not done more to preserve the environment. Quarterman also serves as the Suwannee Riverkeeper and advocates for conservation of the intricate network of springs and rivers in the region, where water from the swamps of Georgia flow into Florida before they release into the Gulf of Mexico. He said that this is where large tracts of rich farmland is used to raise livestock and grow many of the vegetables that end up in grocery aisles up and down the East Coast.

    [John Quarterman stands by the Withlacoochee River in Georgia. Matt Odom / for NBC News]
    John Quarterman stands by the Withlacoochee River in Georgia. Matt Odom / for NBC News

    All that farming has led to large water withdrawals from Florida’s aquifer system and requires fertilizer, which leaches through the ground into waterways, emptying nitrogen that has led to destructive algae blooms and severe loss of fish and marsh habitats.

  • 2021-05-09: Bryce Ethridge, Valdosta Daily Times, 9 May 2021, OSSOFF: Lawmaker tries Valdosta’s new public transit system; answers questions about mining near Okefenokee Swamp (WWALS blog post),


    During Ossoff’s visit, Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman asked about the proposed heavy mineral sands mine near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

    This refuge is the largest east of the Mississippi and carries a hefty amount of wildlife biodiversity. The mine could potentially impact the refuge’s native species, basin hydrology and overall integrity.

    An environmental review process was attempted but has since been encumbered because of a change in interpretation of the Army Corps of Engineers’ jurisdiction, according to a U.S. Senate letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s principal deputy director, Martha Williams.

    Ossoff said he and fellow Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock have already asked the USFWS to “engage and support” the Environmental Protection Division’s permit review of the mine.

    “We will be monitoring closely this process and urging federal participation in this process to ensure that proposed commercial developments don’t damage the refuge and swamp,” Ossoff said.

  • 2021-04-19: Valdosta Today, Spaces are filling up for the Ninth Annual BIG Little River Paddle Race (see WWALS PR)
  • 2021-04-07: Jill Nolin, Georgia Recorder, 7 April 2021, Feds propose protection for hefty Suwannee alligator snapping turtle (and Moultrie Observer; see also WWALS blog post),

    John Quarterman, who is the Suwannee Riverkeeper with the WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc., said he hopes potential new federal protections will highlight the need to shield part of the turtle’s potential habitat from a proposed mining project near the Okefenokee Swamp. The [Georgia] state Department of Natural Resource[s] is weighing whether to issue mining permits to Twin Pines [Minerals LLC of Alabama].

    The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is included in the turtle’s range outlined by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

    “It’s yet another reason to protect the swamp,” Quarterman said this week.

    Please send your comments to Georgia officials asking them to thoroughly review and then reject the five permit applications from the miners:

  • 2021-03-29: Bryce Ethridge, Valdosta Daily Times, 29 March 2021, Down the River: Mayor’s Paddle back on track (and WWALS blog post),

    VALDOSTA — Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson and 40-plus city and Lowndes County residents gathered Saturday for a three-hour trip down the Withlacoochee River.

    The Mayor’s Paddle is a fundraiser and kayaking experience that started in 2020 via a partnership with WWALS Watershed Coalition. “Last year, we formed it just to have a conversation with the cities and municipalities to our south, and to anybody who loved the river here,” Matheson said.

    [Troupville Boat Ramp, WWTP Outfall]
    Troupville Boat Ramp, WWTP Outfall; Photos: John S. Quarterman

  • 2021-03-24: Valdosta Today, 24 March 2021, from WWALS PR, Big Little River Paddle Race announced for late Apri.


  • 2021-03-14: Terry Richards, Valdosta Daily Times, March 14, 2021, SunLight Project: Sunshine Laws keep government meetings, documents in public view,

    VALDOSTA — State law requires local governments to be open and transparent…

    John Quarterman, a Lowndes County resident and a member of the WWALS Watershed Coalition, said he has had difficulties with both open meetings and access to public records.

    He said he has missed government meetings because of inadequate advance notice.

    “They’re required to make one posting (of a meeting’s time) and they have to send it to the county’s legal organ, the newspaper,” he said. “The newspaper may or may not print the notice … so you might not know there’s a meeting unless you see the notice posted to the courthouse door.”

  • 2021-03-06: Staff reports, Valdosta Today, March 6, 2021, Mayor’s Paddle on Withlacoochee rescheduled … again (see also WWALS PR),

    VALDOSTA — The annual Mayor’s Paddle is having a tough time getting off the ground — and into the water — this year.

    “We’re rescheduling four weeks later, for 8 a.m., March 27,” Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman said of the fun, 11-mile paddle. “Right now, where we usually park the boats at the end of the paddle is under water. The Withlacoochee River is spread out in the flood plain, increasing possibility of people getting tipped over by overhanging branches. So a month later makes a lot more sense for attracting novice paddlers.

    “With the Withlacoochee River still hovering around flood stage, myself and WWALS, in consultation with Lowndes County Emergency Management Director Ashley Tye, have decided to postpone the Mayor’s Paddle until March 27. We again ask everyone with a love for our area blueways to mark that date and join us for a great day of fellowship on the river.”

  • 2021-02-09:, Pocatello, Idaho, February 9, 2021, Mayor’s Paddle on Withlacoochee rescheduled because of weather; see WWALS PR.
  • 2021-02-08: Center for Biological Diversity, February 8, 2021, EPA Petitioned to Protect Communities, Environment From Radioactive Phosphogypsum Stacks, Wastewater (see also WWALS PR),

    WASHINGTON— Conservation and public-health groups petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency today to improve federal oversight of the radioactive waste produced by phosphogypsum facilities, including wastewater from phosphoric acid production.

    Phosphogypsum and process wastewater from phosphogypsum facilities are currently excluded from certain federal hazardous waste regulations.

    Today’s petition asks the EPA to begin overseeing the safe treatment, storage and disposal of phosphogypsum and process wastewater, as required under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and Toxic Substances Control Act….

    “WWALS opposes expansion of the decades-old moonscape of a phosphate mine in Hamilton County, and another proposed in Union and Bradford Counties,” said John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper. “These mines not only suck up massive amounts of water that reduce spring and river flows, they feed ever-growing phosphogypsum stacks with radioactive waste.”…

  • 2021-02-05: Valdosta Today, 5 February 2021, Rescheduled Mayor’s Paddle to take place soon (from WWALS PR).


  • 2021-02-02: Valdosta Today, February 2, 2021, WWALS to host Mayor’s Paddle on February 6 (see WWALS PR).
  • 2021-02-05: Desiree Carver, Valdosta Daily Times, 5 February 2021, Mayor’s Paddle postponed due to weather,

    VALDOSTA – The Mayor’s Paddle scheduled for Saturday morning, Feb. 6, has been postponed, according to the WWALS Watershed Coalition.

    Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson started the Mayor’s Paddle last year. It was supposed to begin at Troupville Boat Ramp and end at Spook Bridge, same as last year. Spook Bridge is a private property owned by the Langdale Company that allows the use of the area for the event.

    “We want to send a positive message about paddling, and the weather this weekend does not work for that,” Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson said in a statement from WWALS.

    Bobby McKenzie, expedition leader, decided to postpone the event, stating the group doesn’t want “to risk inexperienced paddlers in this kind of weather.”

    The paddle has been rescheduled for Feb. 27.

  • 2021-01-28: Desiree Carver, Valdosta Daily Times, 28 January 2021, Mayor’s Paddle: Matheson continues river paddling tradition.
  • 2021-01-27: [your]NEWS (Lanier County News), 27 January 2021, Mayor’s Paddle, Withlacoochee River, Troupville to Spook Bridge (see WWALS PR)
  • 2021-01-27: [your]NEWS (Lanier County News), 27 January 2021, Banks Lake Full Wolf Moon Paddle (see WWALS PR)
  • 2020-12-29: Staff reports, Albany Herald, 29 December 2020, Environmental groups ask governor to stop mine near Okefenokee, (Henry Herald; WWALS blog post)

    HAHIRA — Environmental groups, including the Suwannee Riverkeeper and the WWALS Watershed Coalition, have sent a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp asking him to stop the proposed titanium strip mine from being allowed within a few miles of the Okefenokee Swamp in south Georgia and north Florida.

    The letter, which lays out evidence to support the groups’ request, states:…

  • 2020-12-23: John S. Quarterman, Valdosta Daily Times, 23 December 2020, Protecting our waters from a strip mine –Suwannee Riverkeeper in Valdosta Daily Times 2020-12-23,

    “Dear runoff candidates: What will you do to stop this proposed strip mine far too near the Okefenokee Swamp?”

    You can also ask that question of those candidates and of the Georgia governor and other elected officials:

    [Dateline, Op-ed]
    Dateline, Op-ed

    The op-ed in the Valdosta Daily Times of December 23, 2020, was slightly shortened. Below is what I sent, including links to references.

    A company from Alabama, Twin Pines Minerals LLC, proposes to strip-mine for titanium dioxide for paint within a few miles of the Okefenokee Swamp. Twin Pines is under a Florida Consent Order for titanium mines in north Florida. Its president was a proponent of the Franklin County, Georgia, biomass plant that caused a massive fish kill. The state had to pass a law to stop it from burning railroad ties.

    The miners have promised jobs, from 150 to 300, with no specifics. And at what cost?

    A sign at I-75 Exit 16 for Valdosta says: “Okefenokee Swamp… 62 Miles.” The Swamp is an internationally-known treasure that…

  • 2020-11-25: From staff reports, Albany Herald, 25 November 2020 (see also WWALS PR) Environmental groups continue fight against strip mine near Okefenokee

    HAHIRA — The Okefenokee Swamp is again one of the Georgia Water Coalition’s “Dirty Dozen,” recognized as the worst offenses to Georgia’s water. The swamp, the Suwannee and St. Marys rivers and the Floridan Aquifer are still threatened by a strip mine, but this time only Georgia can stop it.

    [Great Blue Heron crowned with flowers, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07]
    Photo: John S. Quarterman, Great Blue Heron crowned with flowers, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07

  • 2020-11-13: Valdosta Today, 13 November 2020, Valdosta Mayor invites residents to attend ‘Mayor Paddle’, see WWALS PR.
  • 2020-09-04: Amanda M. Usher, Valdosta Daily Times, 4 September 2020, WWALS to visit Banks Lake (see also WWALS blog post),

    LAKELAND — The WWALS Watershed Coalition works to draw attention to the South Georgia rivers with its monthly paddles and cleanups.

    The group sponsors the Banks Lake Full Harvest Moon paddle, 6:50 p.m., Oct. 1, at the Banks Lake Boat Ramp, 307 Ga. 122. Guests will gather at 6:30 p.m.

    The event is held each time there is a full moon, John Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper, said.

    “The more people we can get out on our waters, the more they will realize Banks Lake is a gem and our rivers (Alapaha, Withlacoochee, Little, Suwannee and more) are fun and different every time,” he said.


    At Banks Lake, Quarterman said spectators can view bats coming out of trees, an alligator and a moon rise.

    Participants are asked to bring…

  • 2020-08-31: Staff Reports, Albany Herald (also McDuffie Progress), WWALS coalition named Adopt-A-Stream Volunteer of year (see PR)

    HAHIRA — The [WWALS] Watershed Coalition received the statewide Adopt-A-Stream Confluence conference Volunteer of the Year award Saturday while members of the environmental group were finishing a cleanup of Twomile Branch.

    [Award and Cleanup]

    The award is for the “individual who has gone beyond the call of duty to improve water quality and meet AAS goals.”

    WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman emphasized that it was not just one volunteer, but many responsible for the award, during an acceptance video.

    Testers who have been vital to WWALS’ work include Sara Jay, Scotti Jay, Suzy Hall, Alex Chesna, Bobby McKenzie, Jacob Bachrach, Trudy Cole, Michael Bachrach, Conn Cole, Tasha LaFace, Renee Kirkland and Laura Bauer.

    Adopt-A-Stream is a program of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

  • 2020-08-25: Staff reports, KPVI (Pocatello Idaho), 29 August 2020, Suwanee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest winners named (see WWALS PR)
  • 2020-08-25: No byline, Valdosta Today, 25 August 2020, Suwannee Riverkeeper announces song contest winners (see WWALS PR)

    [Winners*: Brian Barker* via zoom, accepting for, Scott Perkins*, Laura D'Alisera, Kathy Lou Gilman*, John S. Quarterman, Billy Ennis*, Ronni Dillon (not present)]
    Winners*: Brian Barker via zoom*, accepting for him, Scott Perkins*, Laura D’Alisera, Kathy Lou Gilman*, John S. Quarterman, Sweet William Billy Ennis*, Ronni Dillon (not present)

  • 2020-08-22: Amber Spradley, WCTV, at GA 31 and Grand Bay Wildlife Management Area (WMA), August 22, 2020, GDOT discovers rare plants ahead of road project (WWALS blog post),

    Hooded Pitcher Plants are the answer to Lanier County Sheriff Nick Norton’s question to the Georgia Department of Transportation as to why the ditches were not being mowed on GA 31 between Valdosta and Lakeland.

    Amber Spradley, WCTV, at GA 31 and Grand Bay Wildlife Management Area (WMA), August 22, 2020, GDOT discovers rare plants ahead of road project,

    [Clockwise: Amber Spradley, Gretchen Quarterman, potted pitcher plants, Hooded Pitcher Plants]

25 thoughts on “News and PR

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