News 2021

News Stories about WWALS 2021.
For the rest see News.

  • 2021-07-09: Typhani Gray, Fox 31 WFXL, 9 July 2021, WWALS Watershed Coalition thanks Atkinson Commission for support, (WWALS blog post),

    WWALS Watershed Coalition was started after organizers were concerned about sewage spills, and roads being closed because of trees being down in the river.

    [Willacoochee Landing @ GA 135, Alapaha River Water Trail, Suwannee Riverkeeper at Atkinson County Commission, Reporter Typhani Gray and Tester Valerie Folsom, ARWT road sign]
    Willacoochee Landing @ GA 135, Alapaha River Water Trail, Suwannee Riverkeeper at Atkinson County Commission, Reporter Typhani Gray and Tester Valerie Folsom, ARWT road sign

  • 2021-06-11: Rebecca Heilweil, Vox, 11 June 2021, The controversy over Bill Gates becoming the largest private farmland owner in the US: People are drawing connections between Gates’s vast farmlands and climate change advocacy, (WWALS blog post),

    One Georgia farmer and environmental advocate, John Quarterman, told NBC that while he expected that Gates would encourage more sustainable practices after buying farmland nearby, his acquisition of that land didn’t change much. And the National Farmers Union has suggested that the growing number of non-farmer owners like Gates buying up farmland — and renting it out — could lead to practices that hurt the environment: Short-term farmers who rent land are less likely to take long-term conservation steps, the organization argues, and non-farmer owners don’t have the experience to “understand the importance of protecting natural resources.”

    [Photo: Chris Mericle, Dust storm in Hamilton County, Florida, March, 2014, Suwannee Riverkeeper by NBC News, June, 2021]
    Photo: Chris Mericle, Dust storm in Hamilton County, Florida, March, 2014, Suwannee Riverkeeper by NBC News, June, 2021

  • 2021-06-08: 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)