News Stories about WWALS 2023.
For the rest see News.
Douglas Now, November 10, 2023, GEORGIA CONSERVATIONISTS MEET IN WAYCROSS TO PROTECT THE OKEFENOKEE FROM MINING (and WWALS blog post,
“Beyond Trail Ridge, cities and counties in the Suwannee River Basin value the Okefenokee Swamp and the Suwannee River, and are passing resolutions supporting the Okefenokee Swamp and legislation protecting it, including the City of Valdosta and Clinch and Echols Counties,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman.
Douglas Now, November 10, 2023, GEORGIA CONSERVATIONISTS MEET IN WAYCROSS TO PROTECT THE OKEFENOKEE FROM MINING,
The Georgia Water Coalition hosted its Fall Member meeting in Waycross November 8—10, 2023. Conservationists from around the state learned more about the Okefenokee and how to protect it from risky mining operations.
Attendees toured the Okefenokee Swamp Park, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, and the St. Marys River. During the member meeting at South Georgia State College, Georgia Water Coalition members learned about how mining proposals along Trail Ridge threaten the Okefenokee.
Mike Worley, CEO, Georgia Wildlife Federation welcomes Georgia Water Coalition members at the Okefenokee Swamp Park, and inside Okefenokee NWR Manager Michael Lusk, St. Marys Riverkeeper Emily Floore, Local resident Charlene McIntosh, Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. Photo: Southwings.
“The Okefenokee touches everyone that touches its dark waters,”…
2023-10-19: Brittanye Blake,
WALB TV, October 19, 2023,
Valdosta stores reopen 3 days after sewage leak,
Suwannee River[k]eeper John Quarterman said the issue was concerning since the building is at the top of the creek that runs into Lake Sheri, and then into the Withlacoochee River.
“We’re lucky about Ollie’s because according to the utilities department it did not get off the property, which is good. Other sewage spills have gotten in the river. And what happens is Ecoli gets in the river, when you’re swimming or fishing,” Qua[r]terman said.
Quarterman said that parking lot pollution and sewage spillage have been an ongoing issue in Valdosta for many years, due to old infrastructure, but he says that the city has been enforcing ordinances and regulations so there has been improvement.
“There’s room for improvement, it’s better but the only number of spills anybody wants to see is none,” Quarterman said.
Special to the Dalton Daily Citizen Oct 4, 2023,
Area songwriters win Best Folk/Bluegrass/Americana Song in songwriting contest,
A song of Tom Brown of Dalton and Robert Thatcher of Signal Mountain, Tennessee, “This Ol’ River,” was selected as Best in the Best Folk/Bluegrass/Americana category in the WWALS Watershead Coalition Songwriting Competition.
Finals were at the Turner Center for the Arts in Valdosta on Friday, Sept. 22. In a special exception by the contest’s committee, Brown and Thatcher were able to compete in the finals by submitting a video of the song which begins “Let’s protect this ol’ river/ For everything it brings/ For a way of life we can’t let disappear.”
Since June 2012, the WWALS Watershed Coalition Inc. (WWALS) has been an IRS 501©(3) nonprofit charity working for a healthy watershed with clean, swimmable, fishable, drinkable water. The organization 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.
In the fall of 2017, Brown and Thatcher embarked on a musical adventure with the intention of combining their creative juices to enter songwriting competitions. Their collaborations have resulted placing three times in the John Hartford Songwriting Challenge, third place in the 2018 American Songwriter Contest, third place in the 2018 Woody Guthrie Songwriting Competition, runner-up in the Podunk Bluegrass Festival and numerous honorable mentions.
Valdosta Today, September 26, 2023,
Suwannee Riverkeeper announces songwriting contest winners,
Suwannee Riverkeeper with the Winners: Cindy Bear and Franc Robert, Best Folk; Jane Fallon, First Prize; Bacon James, Best from Outside; Kyle Bird Chamberlain and David Rodock, tie for Best from Inside; Chamberlain, Best Blues; Rodock, Best AmeriKinda; Kevin Stephenson, Best Country; and Robert Thatcher (not pictured). Photo: Chuck Roberts
HAHIRA — Ten musicians wrote songs — and seven sang them — about the delights of the waters of the Suwannee River Basin and the need to preserve them against numerous threats. Jane Fallon came all the way from Dunedin, Florida, to the Turner Arts Center in Valdosta, Georgia, to sing a story about legendary Sun Daughters reflecting on a proposed mine near the Okefenokee Swamp, the headwaters of the Suwannee River.
The three judges marked her high on storytelling and presenting the value of the waters, on originality of lyrics and music, and on performance, with extra credit for naming waterways. She took home first prize in the Sixth Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest.
Fallon said, “Thank you for the honor in recognizing my song ‘Chant For The Okefenokee” in your contest. It is always a special feeling to sing a song for an audience that truly understands its meaning. Thank you also for the work you do in trying to preserve the waterways. It is so important.”
Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman said, “Thank you, Jane, and all the other finalists, for bringing your great songs to the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest. Thanks to the people who bought tickets and attended. Thanks to the judges for attentively listening and judging: Anna Stange from Madison, Florida, Tony Buzzella from Lake City, Florida, and Joe Smothers from Valdosta, Georgia.”
Robert Thatcher of Signal Mountain, Tennessee, won….
See WWALS PR for the rest.
- 2023-09-10: Radio: water quality, cows, trash, mining too near the Okefenokee Swamp @ WKUB FM 2023-09-07.
How WWALS water quality testing discovered cow manure was contaminating the Withlacoochee River and got it (mostly) fixed.
About that titanium dioxide strip mine proposed too near the Okefenokee Swamp, plus trash and water trails.
Thanks to Bryan Blount for inviting me on WKUB 105.1 FM, from Pierce County, Georgia.
2023-09-06: WWALS River Revue on WKUB 105.1 FM 2023-09-06
Thanks to Bryan Blount for inviting me on WKUB 105.1 FM, from Pierce County, Georgia, to talk about the WWALS River Revue, a sit-down-dinner fundraiser, with three speakers, silent auction, and the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, all 6-10 PM, Friday, September 22, 2023, at the Turner Center for the Arts in Valdosta, Georgia.
Tickets are available online only here:
Bryan says he’s broadcasting on low power due to Hurricane Idalia, so maybe a few more people will hear the interview this way.
Here’s the 30-second Public Service Announcement he’s been playing by our headliner Katherine Ball:
Valdosta Today, August 17, 2023,
WWALS invites community to River Revue,
HAHIRA – WWALS invites the community to the River Revue to hear speakers and finalists in the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest.
WWALS River Revue will be held at the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts on Friday, September 22, 2023 from 6-10pm. The community is invited to come hear speakers and ten finalists in the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest. Tickets can be purchased in advance at:
Valdosta Today, August 4, 2023,
Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest deadline extended,
HAHIRA – The Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest deadline has been extended for another week to receive more submissions.
See WWALS PR.
Rebecca Galardo, Lanier County Advocate, August 1, 2023,
Banks Lake paddling event held August 1 (see WWALS blog post),
Just under 20 excited paddlers surrounded the boat entrance at Banks Lake on August 1. They listened to the safety briefing given by first-time outings leader, Meredith Crosby. Crosby was friendly, bubbly and as eager to get out on the water as every one there.
Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman was there as well. While overseeing the event, he was happy to answer any questions or help in any way.
After a slight delay, the group began their paddle. Lots of laughter and excited chatter could be heard across the water. Event members chose their own path to the first meet-up location. Some went in pairs in single- person kayaks. Others had two-person kayaks or the canoes from Banks Lake. These canoes were rented for free for the outing (courtesy of the Lakeland-Lanier Chamber of Commerce and Banks Lake Outdoors)….
Ariel Schiller, ABC27 WTXL, July 27, 2023,
City of Valdosta matches Georgia EPD water planning seed grant (see also WWALS blog post),
VALDOSTA, Ga. (WTXL) — The city of Valdosta approved matching funds for a water planning seed grant, the total amount with the grant and matching funds equals $150,000. The WWALS Watershed Coalition says the grant will help them identify more areas that need improvement throughout the city.
“It’s about finding more problems, doing some testing, finding them so they’ll know what to fix so that’s a good thing,” said John Quarterman, the Suwan[n]ee Riverkeeper with the WWALS Water Coalition. “And I would think that I’m the one that told them about that grant opportunity in the first place so it’s good to see they’re getting some use out of it.”
He says water quality testing is integral to make sure the water is safe. The city posts results of water quality testing on their website, but after several sewage spills in the last year he says the concerns are at an all time high.
“Results were still very high down stream on Knights Creek yet they stopped testing after a week,” he said. “They need to do more testing to see if it’s continuing. They also need to check to see if it’s coming out upstream or is it still just running off from where it did previously.”
Thursday July 20, the city approved $75,113 in matching funds for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s grant. The now former utilities director, Brad Eyre, made the presentation, where he said the money will help them with identifying septic systems near major creeks and tributaries, and provide educational materials to effected residents. It will also help create a committee to update storm water quality codes, water quality testing, and more. City of Valdosta Community Relations and Marketing Manager, Sharah Denton, confirmed to ABC27 Thursday that Eyre is no longer with the city.
Quarterman says the water from Knights Creek looks normal for creek water, he says the problem is there’s no evidence of testing in the last week so there’s no way to know what levels of contaminants are in the water.
His end goal is making sure the city is more forthcoming with information on sewage spills.
“Let the public know because you don’t want to be fishing in that creek with that stuff in it,” Quarterman said. “Downstream there’s the the Alapahoochee river and Alapaha river people don’t want to be swimming, paddling, fishing if this is happening.”
The way the grant breaks down, Georgia EPD is contributing $74,887, the city is matching $30,087 for time and efforts and $45,026 in cash. ABC27 asked to speak with the mayor about the grant for this story but the city was unable to fulfill that request.
Ariel Schiller, ABC27 WTXL, July 21, 2023,
City of Valdosta working to fix outdated sewer system (see also WWALS blog post),
“It’s bad for people, it’s bad for wild life, it’s also bad for the economy. Valdosta is trying to be a place for ecotourism, and you’re not really helping that if you have sewage spills, if you have trash in the creeks and rivers,” [John S.] Quarterman said.
Valdosta Today, August 1, 2023,
Judges announced for WWALS songwriting contest,
HAHIRA – Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest announces Joe Smothers and other judges in the WWALS River Revue.
See WWALS PR.
Valdosta Today, July 14, 2023,
Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest returns (WWALS blog post),
HAHIRA — The Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest returns with Chuck Roberts as M.C. plus WWALS River Revue.
Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest returns –Valdosta Today 2023-07-14
in Pictures: Portage Big Shoals, Paddle Little Shoals, Suwannee River, by John S. Quarterman, for WWALS.net, 20 May 2023, MC Chuck Roberts, Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2023
Chuck Roberts returns as M.C. for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest plus WWALS River Revue.
Master of Ceremonies Chuck Roberts says about himself, “I grew up in Quitman and Valdosta, raised by two loving musical parents to enjoy and appreciate ALL kinds of music, because the arts enrich the mind and nourish the soul. Presbyterian Church Minister of Music for over 30 years. St. James Episcopal Soloist for over 25 years. Sang with Botie Chitty and The Singing Americans for 10 years. Recently sang two solos with Ed Barr Orchestra for Turner Center Arts AMERICAN SOUNDTRACK VOL. IX. I have the sweetest wife in the world, Sheila and three beautiful and talented daughters and two talented sons, and a new Golden Doodle puppy.”
“I’m very pleased to welcome Chuck Roberts back again as M.C.,” said WWALS President Sara Jay Jones.
This first-ever WWALS gala is an indoor fundraising gala, with catered sit-down meal, speakers, silent auction, and kayak raffle. It will be held 6-10 PM, Friday, September 22, 2023, at the Turner Center for the Arts in Valdosta, Georgia.
Follow this link for tickets, sponsorship opportunities, and more:
WWALS wins Rivers Alive Adopt-A-Stream cleanup award
Valdosta Today, June 6, 2023, VALDOSTA – The Georgia Rivers Alive recently presented WWALS with the 2022 Adopt-A-Stream Award for cleanups.
Photo: Clyattville-Nankin Boat Ramp on a WWALS cleanup that started at Knights Ferry Boat Ramp on the Withlacoochee River and the 2023 Alapaha River cleanup at Statenville Boat Ramp in Echols County, Georgia. Russell Allen McBride (pictured on the left), Amy Myers (light top holding the WWALS banner), Will Hart (dark blue), Bobby McKenzie (with trash picker holding Suwannee Riverkeeper banner)
Release: [see WWALS PR].
- 2023-05-16: Valdosta Today, May 16, 2023,
WWALS hosts 2023 Inaugural Fundraising Dinner,
HAHIRA – WWALS will incorporated the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest with the River Revue for the 2023 Inaugural Fundraising Dinner.
Release: [see WWALS PR).
Valdosta Lee Street Detention Pond Trash Trap –Florida Specifier 2023-05-03.
This brief mention in a Florida state-wide bi-monthly environmental review newspaper is mostly right as far as it goes. Many more people and some personnel changes at the city of Valdosta were involved.
Florida Specifier, April-May 2023, Valdosta trapping trash from entering waterways,
The City of Valdosta announced the deployment of the Lee Street detention pond trash trap to stop trash from entering waterways. John Quarterman, the Suwannee [R]iverkeeper and the riverkeeper watershed organization, WWALS, have expressed concern over trash in the city’s waterways for some time.
The City responded with the newly installed trash trap designed and constructed for roughly $5,000.
The Lee Street trap is being considered a model for installation at similar sites.
The Riverkeeper also is advocating solutions such as issuing citations that enforce trash littering regulations.
Valdosta Today, April 24, 2023,
WWALS give paddlers free Little River tour (see WWALS PR),
HAHIRA – WWALS will host a free guided tour of the Little River for paddles to learn about the rivers natural history.
Local News, Valdosta Today, April 3, 2023,
Valdosta City officicals invited to help cleanup river,
HAHIRA – WWALS invited Valdosta City officials to help with the third cleanup to collect trash from the Withlacoochee River.
See WWALS PR for the rest.
Malia Thomas, Valdosta Daily Times, March 9, 2023 (see also WWALS blog post), Group calls for city trash reforms,
VALDOSTA — In the WWALS Watershed Coalition’s eyes, the city needs to clean up its act.
John Quarterman, Suwannee [R]iverkeeper of WWALS, and Bobby McKenzie, [former] WWALS intern, have expressed concern over trash pile ups in the city’s waterways, particularly in Sugar Creek.
“Sugar Creek itself could be a recreational asset for the city, at least from Baytree Road to the Withlacoochee River, with sand beaches, willow and sycamore trees and a long stretch of right bank owned by Valdosta above Gornto Road, plus Bland Park backs up from Park Lane to the creek. Many other cities make parks of their creeks and rivers, with hiking and biking trails, picnic tables and boating facilities,” Quarterman said.
valdosta Daily Times (see also WWALS blog post), March 5, 2023,
Up the River: Paddle focuses on clean waters
See also the WWALS video of what the Mayor and Chairman said.
VALDOSTA — Mayor Scott James Matheson and Lowndes County Commission Chairman Bill Slaughter led the Fourth Annual Withlacoochee River paddle last weekend.
Malia Thomas, Valdosta Daily Times, February 27, 2023,
Elected officials continue paddle tradition,
VALDOSTA — Mayor Scott James Matheson and Lowndes County Commission Chairman Bill Slaughter are making a splash with the return of the annual Withlacoochee River paddle Saturday, March 4.
Matheson and Slaughter will embark on an 11-mile river paddle, past the future site of Troupville River Camp and Nature Park, along the Suwannee River Basin, past Valdosta’s outfall of its Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant and down to Spook Bridge.
Matheson started the tradition in 2020 and has partnered with the WWALS Watershed Coalition ever since as a way for the community to appreciate its surroundings.
“I am excited to partner once again with WWALS, plus this time with Lowndes County, to show people our fabulous blackwater rivers, only a few miles from City Hall and VSU. After the largest infrastructure project and single largest financial commitment in the history of our city was made toward a completely modern sewer system, we are now exploring the next phase toward beautifying our area’s waterways,” he said.
“Council and city staff will be addressing the most cost-effective way to educate our citizens and eliminate the trash littering our streets that eventually makes (it) into our creeks and rivers. The fight will begin with further education of our friends and neighbors combined with additional focus from city staff and volunteers. I invite everyone to come out and join us for a day of fellowship on the river.”
Paddlers can gather at Troupville Boat Ramp, 19664 Valdosta Highway, 8 a.m., leave at 10 a.m. and return at 4 p.m., March 4.
A slot can be reserved for $30 online or at the event.For more information, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mayor-and-chairmans-paddle-little-and-withlacoochee-rivers-tickets-518815951477
Fernando Figueroa, WUFT, February 14, 2023,
Community members speak up about new “forever chemicals” study
“This stuff is in everything,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman.
These compounds can affect the human immune system at very low levels, which impacts antibody levels in response to vaccinations or how well people can fight off infections, she said. People’s livers, kidneys and reproductive organs are also at risk.
PFAS chemicals that were phased out decades ago can still be found in fish and other wildlife, and current wastewater processing techniques are not designed to filter them out.
“It just passes right through,” Quarterman said.
As a result, these chemicals can build up in natural environments by leaching from landfills and into rivers or other waterways. Then, they stick to proteins in vegetation, such as seagrass, which is then consumed by fish, which are then eaten by larger fish, and so on, until they get caught and consumed by humans. It is important to note that fish lower in the food chain can still contain high concentrations of PFAS.
For Quarterman, the inaction from the EPA and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is a result of decades of defunding. He is also concerned with the state of Florida politics.
“I mean, if there was political direction, why is there a red tide every summer?” he asked.
2023-01-30: Valdosta Today, WWALS partners with Valdosta Mayor for river paddle,
VALDOSTA – The community is invited to join the fourth annual Mayor and Chairman’s Paddle on the Withlacoochee River.
See the WWALS press release.
- 2023-01-26: Lowndes County nixes planned Dollar General –VDT 2023-01-26,
Thank you, Lowndes County Commission, and all the opposition speakers and writers, for this win written up in the local newspaper of record.
This win keeps some trash out of the Withlacoochee River, upstream from Valdosta and Florida, while stopping a foothold for further development too close to the river, avoiding clearcutting, impervious surface, and the flooding that would have caused.
Malia Thomas, Valdosta Daily Times, January 26, 2023, County nixes planned Dollar General,
VALDOSTA — Lowndes County residents felt heard as a contentious zoning request for a rural Dollar General was denied by the Lowndes County Commission.
Keep tugging on the not-to-mine end of the Okefenokee rope –Dink Nesmith 2023-01-25,
Yes, why not this? “Why not have a rural development strike force that can laser in on the Charlton counties of Georgia? With enough bright minds, willpower and sufficient investment, oxygen can be pumped into the gasping communities that are—for the most part—on life support.”
That would be way better than a strip mine near the Okefenokee Swamp, the headwaters of the Suwannee and St Marys Rivers, above the Floridan Aquifer, from which we all drink.
Dink Nesmith, Georgia Recorder, January 25, 2023, Okefenokee tug-o-war is long way from over,
The opposing sides are not barefoot on Jekyll Island’s beach, but there’s a definite line drawn in the sand. Feet are dug in, and muscles are straining. On one side is an Alabama mining company and its fleet of high-powered lobbyists. Pulling the other way are millions of nature-loving Georgians who want to thwart Twin Pines Minerals from strip-mining near the Okefenokee Swamp.
This tug-o-war has been off and on for years. First it was….
Maria Saporta, Saporta Report, January 9, 2023,
Southern Co. leadership moves continue smooth transition with several ‘firsts’,
2023-01-01: Terry Richards, Yahoo News and Valdosta Daily Times, January 1 2023,
Valdosta on record opposing mining operation (WWALS blog),
Jan. 1—VALDOSTA — More than a year ago the Valdosta City Council joined lawmakers across South Georgia opposing controversial mining plans near the Okefenokee Swamp.
At the time, the president of the mining company said he was not concerned about local resolutions like the one passed by Valdosta.
“The Valdosta City Council’s resolution has no impact on our plans whatsoever,” said Steve Ingle, president of Twin Pines Minerals, in a statement.
Valdosta City Council voted Nov. 11, 2021 to oppose Twin Pines’ plans to start a mining project near the Okefenokee Swamp, about 75 miles from Valdosta. The vote was 6-0….