News Stories about WWALS 2020.
For the rest see News.
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:
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. https://wwals.net/?p=53931
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.
- 2020-11-13: Valdosta Today, 13 November 2020, Valdosta Mayor invites residents to attend ‘Mayor Paddle’, see WWALS PR.
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…
Staff Reports, Albany Herald (also McDuffie Progress),
WWALS coalition named Adopt-A-Stream Volunteer of year
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.
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
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
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.
2020-08-18: Staff reports, Albany Herald, 18 August 2020,
Suwanee Riverkeeper songwriting contest picks up top-tier sponsor (see also WWALS PR),
HAHIRA — New WWALS President Tom H. Johnson Jr. came to Valdosta recently and picked up a $1,000 check from Georgia Beer Company founders Chris Jones and Jack Martin, as top-tier sponsor of the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest.
“Everything depends on clean water, especially beer,” said Chris Jones, originally from Madison, Fla., where he used to report on Valdosta sewage coming down the Withlacoochee River.
“We appreciate Georgia Beer Co.’s increased support. In addition to the check, we look forward to having merchandise in the silent auction,” said WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman.
“We met in college, and we’ve been brewing ever since,” said Jack Martin. “We use Valdosta city water; we just remove the chlorination.”
“They really have their act together, especially hearing about their entrepreneurship in starting Georgia Beer Company,” Johnson added. “And we thank Georgia Beer Company for helping us stage the acts for the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest!”
The third annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest will feature live performances, 7-10 p.m., Saturday at the Turner Center Art Park, 605 North Patterson St., in Valdosta.
For additional information, follow the link.
- 2020-08-01: Staff reports, Albany Herald, 1 August 2020, Georgia Power grant will allow for more water quality testing of state rivers (see WWALS press release)
- 2020-07-29: Pat Mueller, WCTV, 29 July 2020, WWALS Watershed Coalition to use grant money for more water testing (see WWALS press release)
Amber Spradley, WCTV, 13 July 2020,
Withlacoochee River contaminated in parts of South Georgia and North Florida (
WWALS blog post),
“Right now, the results are not good,” Suwannee [Riverkeeper] John [S.] Quarterman said.
For counts of E. coli, Quarterman says anything less than 410 is okay, but zero is always ideal.
On Saturday, his team discovered numbers as high as 5,233 just west of Clyattville at the Knights Ferry Boat Ramp in Lowndes County.
“Every time this happens, they immediately point and say it’s Valdosta,” Quarterman said. “Well, this time it’s almost certainly not Valdosta.”
The high data was collected just below the city from Knights Ferry Boat Ramp to Madison Blue Spring in Florida.
“You know it’s something that we’re continuing to keep an eye on, but as far as the numbers around the city of Valdosta, those have all stayed relatively low,” the City of Valdosta’s PIO Ashlyn Johnson said.
City crews test the river three times a week for 40 river miles down to the Georgia-Florida line….
John S. Quarterman, Gainesville Sun, 1 July 2020,
Watered-down bill won’t fix water quality issues,
Gov. Ron DeSantis just signed into law SB 712, the so-called “Clean Waterways Act,” which falls far short of that mark.
This bill has been praised by its supporters as one of the most environmentally progressive pieces of legislation in over a decade. Yet after the cuts and rollbacks to our environmental regulations by the last state administration, that isn’t saying much. The bill pays lip service to most of Florida’s major sources of pollution, but lacks the specificity and enforceability to actually solve any of the problems.
The bill directs the establishment of a “real-time water quality monitoring program” but allocates no funds for it. It says nothing about detecting contamination in rivers (whether from out-of-state or local sources) and following its travel downstream, and nothing about alerting the public in a timely manner.
The bill allows agricultural violators of Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) to self-monitor their own water quality. Assessments are required only every five years, and then only for undefined “reasonable progress” with no realistic methods to reach 20-year goals.
Proponents of the bill claim that it implements recommendations of the Blue Green Algae Task Force, but even those common sense, albeit vague, recommendations will not be achieved through the implementation of SB 712. For example, the Task Force recommended that projected changes in demographics, land use and hydrology should be incorporated into the BMAP process.
With 1,000 people moving to Florida every day, over the 20-year life of a BMAP millions of people and their new homes will have added strain to our already-stressed natural resources. A BMAP that does not anticipate these changes and incorporate a plan to deal with them is destined to fail. Unfortunately, SB 712 ignores the common-sense recommendations and doubles down on the ineffective BMAP system that has resulted in the water quality crisis that we are in today.
Furthermore, the bill fails to meaningfully address one of the largest sources of nutrient pollution in our state: agriculture. The Task Force recommended….
Jen Lomberk, Orlando Sentinel, 1 July 2020,
Clean Waterways Act won&lrquo;t fix water quality | Commentary,
…If that weren’t bad enough, a late-stage amendment added a provision that would preempt local governments from passing Rights of Nature regulations, a growing international movement that recognizes species and ecosystems as entities with rights of their own that could be protected in a court of law.
Despite months of advocacy and proposed amendments by Waterkeepers Florida, Sierra Club, and Florida Springs Council, SB 712, in its final form, falls far short of the measures needed to halt and reverse the decline of our state’s waterways. We no longer have the luxury of taking incremental steps to try to address our water quality issues. We need strong, enforceable, science-based regulations that protect our waters now. SB 712 does not do that.
Jen Lomberk is the Matanzas Riverkeeper and the Vice-Chair of Waterkeepers Florida — the collective of the 13 independent Waterkeeper organizations working in Florida to protect and restore our water resources.
Amanda M. Usher, Valdosta Daily Times (also Moultrie Observer), 27 June 2020,
Watching over the Waters: WWALS sponsors paddles, songwriting contest
WWALS sponsors paddles, songwriting contest (WWALS blog post,
Photo: Gretchen Quarterman, Paddle Georgia from Spook Bridge, between Quitman and Valdosta, GA, Withlacoochee River, June 15, 2019.
“We’re not just a paddling organization,” Quarterman said. “… We do paddles, but we’re also an advocacy organization. We want to do conservation of stewardship.”
Quarterman is about awareness. He strives to bring attention to the rivers’ existence and informing people they can make use of the recreational rivers by boating or fishing.
“Getting people out there on the rivers to see what it is they are trying to conserve and protect is really important because until you see it for yourself, you’re not really appreciating the beauty of these rivers,” he said.
- 2020-06-16: Valdosta Today, 16 June 2020, Suwannee Riverkeeper hosts annual songwriting contest, See WWALS press release.
2020-05-22: Valdosta Daily Times, May 22, 2020,
QUARTERMAN: Strip mine would endanger swamp,
see WWALS blog post,
Signs at Exits 18 and 16 from I-75 say “Okefenokee Swamp, Stephen C. Foster State Park, 62 miles,” in hopes travellers will stay in Valdosta first.
The Swamp is the headwaters of the Suwannee River, a favorite paddling, birding, and fishing location of many people from here. The smoke from the 2017 West Mims Okefenokee fire reached Valdosta. Charlton County thanked L20owndes County for sending assistance.
Unfortunately, in the aftermath of that fire, some miners from Alabama bought up land…
- 2020-05-07: The Patch, reposting the Georgia Recorder article.
2020-05-05: Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder,
State calls for Valdosta to pay six-figure fine for spilling sewage in river,
See WWALS blog post and
WWALS blog post.
Sara Jones with the Suwannee Riverkeeper prepares to test the water at the Withlacoochee River following a December sewage spill. A Georgia Environmental Protection Division consent order calls for the city of Valdosta to pay a $122,000 fine for sewage spills and permit violations. Scotti Jones
2020-04-07: Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder, April 7, 2020,
Time running short for public to comment on Okefenokee mining plan,
Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman isn’t buying into Twin Pines assurances about the Charlton County mine leaving the groundwater, surface streams and swamp in the same shape as before mining starts.
“Why would we think (Twin Pines) would stop with just a nibble of Trail Ridge in Georgia?” he said. “Our Okefenokee Swamp with its fishing, boating, birding, and hunting nearby, is much more important than any mine, especially since it is the headwaters of the Suwannee River and the St Marys River.”
2020-03-31: Nedra Rhone, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 31, 2020,
New mining application near Okefenokee proposes ‘demonstration’ project,
Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman said a growing coalition of environmental organizations still wants the Corps to require an environmental impact statement from Twin Pines that would include impacts to Trail Ridge, Okefenokee Swamp and the St. Marys and Suwannee rivers.
- 2020-03-30: Valdosta Today, 30 March 2020, Suwanee Song Writer Competition Open April 1st, See WWALS press release.
- 2020-03-20: Valdosta Today, 20 March 2020, WWALS Earth Day Cleanup Postponed, See WWALS press release.
Gordon Jackson, Brunswick News, March 18, 2020,
Twin Pines submits new permit application,
Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman said Twin Pines is already under a Florida consent order, along with Chemours, for violations at four mines just south of the Georgia state line. The Suwannee River’s headwaters are in the Okefenokee.
- 2020-03-16: Gainesville Sun, March 16, 2020, John S. Quarterman: More testing needed to track river pollution, See WWALS blog post.
Amber Spradley, WCTV, 26 February 2020,
Madison community fed up with contaminated water (WWALS blog post),
Still from video of Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman testing the Withlacoochee at Troupville Boat Ramp, taken by Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 15 January 2020, Withlacoochee River tested ahead of Mayor’s Paddle.
We applaud U.S. Rep. Al Lawson for taking a stand to protect the future of the Okefenokee Swamp.
It was an honor to arrange a flight for his staff to see this firsthand. Congratulations to Suwannee Riverkeeper and all of our partners who work tirelessly to protect this fragile and beautiful ecosystem for future generations!
No byline, Valdosta Today, February 26, 2020 (see WWALS PR):
LAKELAND, Ga. — The [WWALS] Watershed Coalition will host a boating Gear Swap event March 7, 2020. Boat and paddling enthusiasts will gather to trade, buy, and sell their materials with others. Since this event will occur on Banks Lake, attendees are welcome to test out their new equipment at any time throughout the event.
- 2020-02-22: Monty Stephens, Lake City Reporter, February 22-23, 2020, Paddling for Great Cause — Clean Water in Our Rivers (WWALS blog post, and see WWALS PR)
- 2020-01-29: Valdosta Today, 29 January 2020, Tests Reveal More Positive Results for E. Coli,
LOWNDES CO., Ga. – Since the December 2019 City of Valdosta raw sewage spill of 7.5 million gallons into the Withlacoochee River, local WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc., testers have been reporting frequent positive results of E. coli.
On January 26, 2020, WWALS’ certified water tester Suzy Hall tested Knights Ferry Boat Ramp. Her PetriFilms (pictured below) revealed a 500 count for E. coli, and a much higher, more dangerous count at the State Line Boat Ramp (GA 31) of 1233.
“I’m saddened. I feel like these numbers are conservative because I only counted the obvious larger purples, whereas some of the typical small ‘reds’ could be purple,” said Hall of the test results. “I honestly cannot rule that out. The sheer numbers of bacteria is horrid though.”…
- 2020-01-22: News coverage, Mayor’s Paddle, and Task Force meeting Thursday in Lake City
- 2020-01-20: Desiree Carver, Valdosta Daily Times, top of the front page, January 20, 2020, Gently Down the Stream: Mayor’s Paddle tours Withlacoochee:
Mayor’s Paddle tours Withlacoochee,
[New Valdosta Mayor Scott James] Matheson said in his new role as mayor, he hopes to help and plans to tackle such improvements as manhole rehabilitation, adding extra signs, performing more testing and electronic meters.
- 2020-01-20: Emma Wheeler, WCTV video, January 20, 2020, First annual Mayor’s Paddle brings dozens on the river,
The event was organized as a response to ongoing sewage spills, and near constant concerns from communities downstream in North Florida.
- 2020-01-20: Robin Postell, Valdosta Today, January 20, 2020, “Mayor’s Paddle” Beautiful, but Stigma Remains,
Also present was Madison County Commissioner Rick Davis, who put in with the group at 10 a.m. Not only is Davis concerned about the health of his community in Madison County, he’s concerned about that stigma and how that will [a]ffect eco-tourism. At a recent public City of Valdosta meeting he said, “How do we go about repairing the reputation of our river? Where do we go from here?”
Davis’ presence and participation in the paddle demonstrated his ongoing willingness to not merely confront, but collaborate with the City of Valdosta to help solve the problem going forward.
“The river is beautiful and we just want to keep it that way,” Davis said at the midway point of the paddle. “I see a lot that City of Valdosta is doing and let’s just hope that they keep continuing to do it.”
- 2020-01-18: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, January 18, 2020, First annual Mayor’s Paddle brings dozens on the river,
Among the group was several members of the Brooks County Fire Department, taking any opportunity to get in some training in a fun way.
“Kayaking down the river we’ll exercise our arms, stuff like that, help control our breathing,” said Firefighter Ryan Owens. “We all kind of connect and have fun inside the fire department, but when we come outside it’s all another experience.”
- 2020-01-17: Robin Postell, Valdosta Today, January 17, 2020, “Mayor’s Paddle” Officially on for Saturday
- 2020-01-15: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 15 January 2020, Withlacoochee River tested ahead of Mayor’s Paddle.
- 2020-01-15: Staff reports (see WWALS PR), Albany Herald, January 15, 2020, Suwannee Riverkeeper to host ‘Mayor’s Paddle’ for top Valdosta officials
- 2020-01-14: Valdosta Today, 14 January 2020, Water Testing Continues Ahead of ‘Mayor’s Paddle’,
VALDOSTA, Ga. – The Withlacoochee River still looks clean for the Mayor’s Paddle from Troupville Boat Ramp to Spook Bridge this Saturday, an event hosted by WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc., as a means of reducing the negative stigma attached to the latest sewage spill.
One of the concerns voiced by citizens at the recent public meetings was why there was not signage at various water entry points to warn the public of contamination. Lowndes County has put up signs in the last week.
The Suwanee River Water Management District (SRWMD) actually tested upstream from there last…
- 2020-01-13: Valdosta Today, 13 January 2020, Mayor Matheson Asks Public, Officials to Paddle Saturday,
Presiding alongside Valdosta City Manager Mark Barber at a public meeting last week for citizens to speak out and ask questions about the estimated 7.5 million gallon spill that took place in early December 2019, he opened the meeting saying he had “one vice,” and that was kayaks. He’s considered a “green” Mayor.
When WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc.’s John S. Quarterman talked to him about the spill after it first happened, Mayor Matheson did not shrink away from what was to become the first, and perhaps his ultimate legacy, of his mayoral tenure. Matheson asked Quarterman to schedule a paddle, call it the “Mayor’s Paddle,” and the two projected that it would be held Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020.
If the water tests by then reveal a decontaminated river, that is….
- 2020-01-12: Stew Lilker, Columbia County Observer, January 12, 2020, Valdosta’s 7.5 Million Gallon Raw Sewage Spill: For 7 days, like an unseen oil spill
- 2020-01-11: Stew Lilker, Columbia County Observer, January 11, 2020, 7.5 Mil Gal of Raw Sewage Headed Into N. FL From Valdosta – FL Sen. Bill Montford Wants Answers
- 2020-01-10: Robin Postell, Valdosta Today, January 10, 2020: Citizens Air Concerns Over Record Sewage Spill
- 2020-01-10: WCJB, January 10, 2020, State warns about possible sewage contamination in Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers
- 2020-01-10: Jim Turner, News Service of Florida in Tallahassee Democrat, January 10, 2020,
Debate over toll road projects continues to flare,
Members of the “No Roads to Ruin” coalition, which includes Florida Conservation Voters, Friends of the Everglades, Bear Warriors United, the League of Women Voters of Florida, Our Santa Fe River, Earthjustice and Suwannee Riverkeeper, contend the roads are being driven by business-related special interests and that the money would be better spent on alternative forms of transportation. If traffic warrants the work, they argue the state should focus first on expanding existing roads.
- 2020-01-09: Kristian Thomas, WTXL, January 9, 2020, Valdosta leaders taking full responsibility after massive sewage spill
- 2020-01-09: Chris Herbert, Valdosta Daily Times, January 9, 2020, Spill angers residents: People voice sewage concerns at meeting: People voice sewage concern at meeting
- 2020-01-09: Suwannee Democrat, January 9, 2020 DOH advises Withlacoochee, Suwannee contaminated by sewage spill
2020-01-08: Jim Turner, News Service of Florida in Orlando Sentinel, January 8, 2020,
Florida toll road fight is just beginning in Tallahassee,
Members of the “No Roads to Ruin” coalition, which includes Florida Conservation Voters, Friends of the Everglades, Bear Warriors United, the League of Women Voters of Florida, Our Santa Fe River, Earthjustice and Suwannee Riverkeeper, contend the roads are being driven by business-related special interests and that the money would be better spent on alternative forms of transportation.
- 2020-01-08: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, January 8, 2020, River Task Force addressed Valdosta sewage spills
- 2020-01-08: Nathan Dean, WTXL, January 8, 2020, Community pushes for solutions after massive sewage spill in Withlacoochee River
- 2020-01-05: Robin Postell, Valdosta Today, January 5, 2020, Public Meetings to Discuss Valdosta Sewage Spill Jan. 8