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WWALS Press Releases
- 2022-09-25: High E. coli near One Mile Branch fish kill, and maybe fuel spill 2022-09-23.
- 2022-09-23: One Mile Branch Fish Kill 2022-09-23.
Majority of Georgians Say Governor Should Immediately Protect the Okefenokee from Risky Mining 2022-09-15.
Clergy, scientists, local governments, and elected officials have spoken out for protecting the Okefenokee swamp from risky mining proposals. And now a poll of Georgia voters shows that they are in good company.
A clear majority (69 percent) of Georgians said that Georgia’s Governor should take “immediate action” to protect the Okefenokee swamp from risky mining proposals. “Across the state, from congregations in downtown Atlanta to the mountains to the coast, Georgians understand what’s at risk with proposals to mine near the Okefenokee,” said Codi Norred, Executive Director of GIPL. Last year GIPL released a letter signed by over 100 clergy asking local and federal leaders to protect the Okefenokee. “We have a spiritual imperative to protect this special place.”
“Valdosta’s Mayor, Council, and Citizens are united in supporting any and all level of protection for the awesome beauty and resource that is the Okefenokee,” said Scott James Matheson, Mayor of Valdosta, which passed a resolution in 2021 urging protection of the Okefenokee.
A majority of Georgians (53 percent) have been to the Okefenokee or plan to visit the National Wildlife Refuge in the future.
“I personally don’t think a mine belongs near the pristine Okefenokee Swamp,” said WWALS Watershed Coalition member John Melton of Fargo. “My relatives have always been there. They were keepers of the swamp to manage the swamp for the benefits of the inhabitants, the ecosystems, and the animals that thrive there. We’ve had forest rangers in the family, we’ve been there with the fires, and when it’s been flooded. A mine is a danger to ruin the ecosystem that we have so long held in trust, we, the stewards of that land.”
One week left to comment on FERC LNG Rulemaking, deadline 2022-09-20,
Here’s how you can comment or intervene on the FERC Rulemaking on small inland LNG export facilities:
It’s easy to comment or intervene, so you can do it by the deadline of September 20, 2022. Public Citizen and Food and Water Watch have already intervened.
We guess they are preparing comments to convince the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to resume the responsibility it abdicated in 2015, of environmental oversight of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) export facilities even when are not located where they can directly load LNG onto ocean-going tanker ships. Instead, those inland facilities send highly compressed and explosive LNG in trucks and train cars down public highways past schools, business, churches, and homes, through counties none of which have adequate emergency plans. And where-ever that gas eventually gets burned, in Europe, Caribbean, or Asia, it adds to the atmosphere more methane, a worse greenhouse gas than CO2, cooking the planet and raising sea levels.
You are affected, even if you do not have an LNG export operation near you.
- 2022-08-22: Winners, Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2022 2022-08-20.
Hahira, Georgia, August 22, 2022 — Everyone had a good time, it was a successful fundraiser for WWALS, and here are the winners of the Fifth Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest.
The winners were chosen by judges….
Judges, Headliner change, raffle kayak, Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2022-08-20,
Hahira, Georgia, August 18, 2022 — We’re announcing our singing judges, and raffle tickets still available for the kayak Georgia Beer Co. donated. But we also have to say the pandemic is not over. A key member of one of our
finalistsheadliners went to Atlanta to hear a famous band and came back with COVID-19.
So our new second headliner is Dirty Bird and the Flu, from Valdosta, Georgia. “Funky-blues-soul-fusion born straight out of the South Georgia swamps and a charismatic front-man who catches comparisons of all the famous soul singers. No two shows are ever the same!”
Our first headliner is Sweet William Billy Ennis from Palatka, Florida, our First Prize winner last year. “His fifty years of original songs cover multi genres and subjects including love, war & environment, Folk, Country & Blues. On August 26, 2018, he won the North Central Florida Blues Regional Solo Challenge and represented North Central Florida in the 2019 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee. His songs of the Santa Fe and Suwannee Rivers won best in Folk Genre, 3rd, and 1st place in the 2019 Santa Fe River and 2021 Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contests. His acoustic finger pick style weaves through songs of his life with a simple feel of storytelling and his deep resonant voice grabs the essence of his stories.”
So come on down and support WWALS and fishable, drinkable, swimmable water by listening to music at the Turner Center Art Park in Valdosta, Georgia, 7-11 PM, Saturday, August 20, 2022….
Five Finalists, Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2022-08-20,
Hahira, Georgia, August 11, 2022: Five finalists have been selected to play at the Finals of the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, coming from Tallahassee and Gainesville, Florida, and Lake Park, Valdosta, and Adel, Georgia.
“I’m very excited to hear everyone sing!” said organizing committee chair Angela Duncan. ”It’s going to be a great event.”
That’s 7-11 PM, Saturday, August 20, 2022, at the Turner Center Art Park in Valdosta, Georgia.
Chuck Roberts will be the Master of Ceremonies….
Here’s what the five songwriters want Chuck to tell the three judges and you the listeners about themselves and their song….
FERC Requests Comments on Rulemaking for small inland LNG export facilities,
Hahira Georgia, July 26, 2022 — At the request of WWALS Watershed Coalition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has opened a process that could correct its mistakes of eight years ago when it disclaimed oversight of dangerous compressed methane export facilities as long as they did not load directly onto ocean-going ships. Those decisions produced environmental, safety, and economic problems. The request provides FERC with an opportunity to “revisit” and “revise” those old decisions, as FERC Chair Richard Glick has recommended.
LNG tanker truck, Southbound I-75, 2018-03-26; Photo John S. Quarterman
Anyone can comment and organizations can intervene on this new FERC docket for potential Rulemaking on Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) export. The deadline is September 20, 2022. That’s Docket RM22-21 on ferc.gov. Detailed instructions are below.
Please also contact your state and national elected officials and ask them to ask FERC to resume its oversight.
The Introduction of the Petition lays out the problem we want to get solved:
Another deadline, August 3, for song submissions to Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, August 20, 2022,
Hahira, GA, July 23, 2022 — Here’s another opportunity for new songs about any river, creek, spring, sink, swamp, or pond in the Suwannee River Basin or Estuary, including the Okefenokee Swamp and the Little, Withlacoochee, Alapaha, Alapahoochee, and Suwannee Rivers, (but not the Santa Fe River; that has its own contest).
Since we’re told some songwriters experienced technical difficulties, we’re re-opening song submissions yet again for the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest. “”We know there are musicians out there who share our love for nature – especially for our local waterways. Now is the chance to share that inspiration with everybody!” said Organizing Committee Chair and musician Angela Duncan.
Here is the entry form: https://forms.gle/A2tpW1c7HJK3Tjuf7
Songwriters, if that form does not work for you, email your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org. And if that doesn’t work, email it to Committee Chair Angela Duncan: email@example.com. If you’re still having trouble, call 850-290-2350.
Army Corps resumes oversight; miners have to reapply for strip mine too near Okefenokee Swamp,
Hahira, GA, June 5, 2022 — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has reversed its October 2022 abdication of oversight over the proposed titanium strip mine site too near the Okefenokee Swamp. That puts Twin Pines Minerals back to re-applying for a USACE permit, in addition to its permit applications to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD).
This Friday, Michael Connor, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, issued a memorandum revoking the previous decision by USACE that said there were no Waters of the U.S. related to the proposed mine site. He said the Muscogee Creek Nation had not been properly consulted, despite their request for such consultation. Twin Pines Minerals must resubmit an application if they still want to mine there.
“The Okefenokee is a sacred natural resource. It is a wildlife refuge that must be protected,” said U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff, May 6, 2021. https://wwals.net/?p=55536
Name That Bass Contest, Suwannee Riverkeeper 2022-06-02,
Hahira, GA, June 2, 2022 — WWALS presents the “Name That Bass” contest, for the naming rights of our beautiful WWALS mascot. Well respected artist Hank Hershey has given reproduction rights to WWALS for his image of this magnificent fish, found in the waters of the Suwannee River Basin.
The Contest kicks off June 2, 2022, and names will be accepted through July 2, 2022. The winner will be announced at the Fourth Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest on August 20th, 2022, at the Turner Art Center. The winner gets bragging rights for creativity and will be introduced at the Contest.
The rules are simple:…
A new sponsor benefit at Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2022-08-20,
Hahira, Georgia, May 26, 2022 — Sponsors of the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest get an additional perq, as well as entry tickets, and other benefits. Georgia Beer Company has donated a Vibe Yellowfin 120 kayak, worth more than a thousand dollars retail. WWALS draw raffle tickets for that kayak at the Contest, August 20, 2022, at the Turner Center Art Park in Valdosta, GA. Each $100 cash sponsor donation gets one of those raffle tickets.
“Sponsoring the Contest is a great way to support the work of WWALS, from paddle outings, water trails, and water quality testing, to opposing trash, mines, and toll roads.” said WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman, “But there’s a cap of 30 tickets, so get your sponsorships in early.”
Follow this link for sponsorships and much more about the Contest, including song submission form, contest Rules, and, soon, entry tickets:
Winners, BIG Little River Paddle Race 2022-04-30,
Adel, GA, May 3, 2022 — Nineteen canoeists and kayakers set out on a beautiful blue-sky morning on Saturday, April 30, 2022, and one from far away won the BIG Little River Paddle Race.
They paddled three miles from Red Roberts Landing to the Colquitt County boat ramp on Reed Bingham State Park Lake.
The overall winner was….
Song submissions open for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2022-04-18
Hahira, Georgia, April 18, 2022 — With online voting for finalists, and judges selecting winners at the Turner Center Art Park in Valdosta, GA, with $300 in cash to the First Prize winner, the Fifth Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest seeks songs. Submissions open Monday, April 18, 2022.
“Submissions can be songs about any river, stream, spring, sink, swamp, lake, or pond in the Suwannee River Basin or Estuary (except not the Santa Fe Basin; that has its own contest),” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman.
“It’s like a recital, except these songwriters come from everywhere, and it takes a committee to organize it,” said Angela Duncan of Azalea City Music Academy, and Chair of the WWALS Songwriting Contest Committee.
“There’s always room for a new song about the Suwannee River, or other rivers in the Basin or Estuary!” said 2018 winner and 2019 headliner Laura D’Alisera, now a member of the WWALS Songwriting Contest Committee.
We will have online voting on the songs submitted, which the Committee will take into account when selecting finalists.
Finalists will play at the Contest, 7-10 PM, Saturday, August 20, 2022, and judges will judge at the Turner Center Art Park, 605 N. Patterson St., Valdosta, GA 31601. There will be food and a cash bar, as you watch and listen, and you can browse the artworks at the Turner Center. There will also be a kayak raffle and a silent auction, as well as a range of buttons, stickers, hats, notecards, signs, shirts, and posters for sale (this is a fundraiser for WWALS Watershed Coalition).
So you’ll know what you’re supporting, there will be talks about….
It’s back! The Tenth Annual BIG Little River Paddle Race at Reed Bingham State Park 2022-04-30
Adel, Georgia, April 12, 2022 — After pandemic and bad weather the previous two years, the BIG Little Paddle Race is back this year.
You could win in any of a dozen categories, or up to $300 if you beat the previous winning record time. But you are not required to race: it’s a nice spring paddle anyway! On Saturday, April 24, 2021, in Reed Bingham State Park, between Adel and Moultrie, Georgia, it’s the ninth annual BIG Little River Paddle Race. There will be lunch and a kayak raffle. You can just paddle along this scenic three-mile stretch of tea-colored river on the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail among cypress trees, turtles, birds, and yes, alligators. (Don’t pet the alligators and they aren’t likely to bother you.) This race also has fierce competitors, with one past winner finishing in barely more than half an hour.
Photo: Bret Wagenhorst, of 2019 First female tandem kayak: Megan Robinson & Lily Robinson, of Tifton, GA.
- 2022-04-05: Constitutional Right to Clean Water: RTCW 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.
The zoom meeting will be Tuesday, April 19, 2022, from 7:00 to 8:00 PM Eastern Time.
Register in advance for this meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcldeGqqDkvHdc3RUptCbwuKzxkpmzfb4-U
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
Withlacoochee Florida Paddle and Cleanup 2022-06-04
Hahira, Georgia, March 30, 2022 — WWALS and Madison and Hamilton Counties, Florida, invite you to join us for a summer paddle to see springs and sinks and to clean up the Withlacoochee River, on Saturday, June 4, 2022. It’s 12.5 miles from Sullivan Launch to Madison Ramp along this wooded blackwater river, with a lunch stop along the way. At lunch, Brett Hemphill of Karst Underwater Research will tell us about the many local caverns connected to the river and its creeks.
Distributary, Boats, Withlacoochee River, Hardee Spring, Trash, M, in Withlacoochee Florida Paddle and Cleanup, by John S. Quarterman, for WWALS.net, 4 June 2022
Rescheduled: Third Annual Mayor and Chairman’s Paddle, Withlacoochee River 2022-02-19,
Valdosta, Georgia, January 26, 2021 — An unusual cold snap is expected this Saturday, too cold for novice paddlers. So we’re rescheduling three weeks later, for Saturday, February 19, 2022. Everything else is the same; only the date has changed.
Lowndes County Chairman Bill Slaughter summed it up, “Safety should be considered above all and hypothermia is a huge issue if someone was to go in the water!”
Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman added, “Water temperature was already down to 47 degrees Monday at US 84 on the Withlacoochee River, and air temperatures for this Saturday are predicted to be low of 22 and high of 42. So hypothermia is indeed a risk, however seldom seen in south Georgia. Also not many people would turn out in such cold.”
Valdosta Mayor Scott James said, “So we’re all agreed: Saturday, February 19, 2022. Come as early as 8AM to get on the shuttle!”
We hope there will still be plenty of water for this annual eleven-mile river paddle, past the future site of Troupville River Camp and Nature Park, along the west side of the most populous city in the Suwannee River Basin, past Valdosta’s clean outfall of its Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant, with many creeks, oaks, cypresses, pines, fish, turtles, and maybe an alligator, down to Spook Bridge, so scary it has its own movie.…
Third Annual Mayor and Chairman’s Paddle, Withlacoochee River
Valdosta, Georgia, January 19, 2021 — Looks like there will be plenty of water for this annual eleven-mile river paddle, past the future site of Troupville River Camp and Nature Park, along the west side of the most populous city in the Suwannee River Basin, past Valdosta’s clean outfall of its Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant, with many creeks, oaks, cypresses, pines, fish, turtles, and maybe an alligator, down to Spook Bridge, so scary it has its own movie.
Valdosta Mayor Scott James said, “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. Valdosta is proud to hardly ever have a sewage spill anymore, and now we’re working on eliminating trash from the river. We remain committed to preventing any issues that may impact our Withlacoochee River. I invite everyone to come out and join us for a day of fellowship on the river!”
“Come on down to where I used to fish as a child, and with my children!” said Lowndes County Chairman Bill Slaughter. “I’ve spoken at this paddle every year, and this year I hope you will paddle.”
“Welcome to this one of our many paddles,” said WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman. “We have at least one daytime river paddle a month, in Florida or Georgia, plus an evening Full Moon paddle at Banks Lake, near Lakeland, GA. We’ll be testing temperatures with an infrared thermometer as people arrive. If you’re ill in any way, please stay home.”
Troupville to Spook Bridge, Withlacoochee River, Mayor’s Paddle, by John S. Quarterman, for WWALS.net, 27 March 2021,
Suwannee Riverkeeper asks FERC to oversee inland Liquid Natural Gas export facilities,
Hahira, Georgia, November 26, 2021 — After years of trying to get FERC to pay attention to an economic, health, and safety issue, Suwannee Riverkeeper for WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. has asked FERC to make a rule requiring inland LNG export facilities at least to ask FERC whether it has oversight.
Because the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) half a decade ago disclaimed oversight of export facilities for explosive compressed Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) unless ships loaded right there for overseas shipping, such facilities are lacking FERC’s environmental, construction, and safety oversight, causing risk of “loss of life and significant environmental and economic consequences,” according to FERC’s own strategic plan. Residents of densely populated neighborhoods where inland LNG export plants are being sited, constructed, and operated are in harm’s way. FERC has relegated the responsibility to citizens to police potential threats to public health, safety and welfare posed by these high-risk LNG operations. There are no official Dockets that provide the public an opportunity to participate in any approval process.
Valdosta passes resolution opposing strip mine near Okefenokee Swamp 2021-11-11
Valdosta, GA, November 12, 2021 — Yesterday the most populous city in the Suwannee River Basin unanimously passed a resolution opposing the proposed Twin Pines Minerals (TPM) strip mine or any others within ten miles of the Okefenokee Swamp.
“This is a national resource that Valdostans and surrounding cities and counties have enjoyed for a long time,” said Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson. “Anything that would threaten it: I would hope this Council would come out in support of its citizens, and the activities that this natural resource presents to all of us.”
“If the state of Georgia will risk the Okefenokee, what won’t they risk?” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Many thanks to Valdosta Mayor and Council for helping stop this threat to the Okefenokee Swamp, a gem of an ecosystem that supports 700 jobs and is the headwaters of the Suwannee River. You can also ask the state to stop this mine:” https://wwals.net/?p=55092
The resolution further asks the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reverse its abdication of oversight, asks GA-EPD for a moratorium on all mining permits until effects are settled of the recent court overruling of 2020 Clean Water Act changes, as well as to reject the TPM permits, or at least to review those applications as thoroughly as the Army Corps would, and asks the Georgia legislature to prevent such strip mines near the Swamp or any blackwater rivers in the Suwannee River Basin.
For the text of the resolution and video of the Valdosta Mayor and Council passing it, follow this link: https://wwals.net/?p=57073
Winners: WWALS Boomerang paddle race 2021-10-23,
Hahira, Georgia, November 10, 2021 — The 2021 First Prize winner set a new record for the WWALS Boomerang paddle race, from Georgia into Florida and back: Lloyd Reeves of Crescent City, Putnam County, Florida, in the St Johns River watershed. He was also generous, handing back the prize money.
All seventeen paddlers had a good time on a cool, sunny, fall morning. The Withlacoochee River water levels were just right, so everybody floated right over the one shoal. Two college paddlers from Valdosta State University CORE were sponsored by Dry Pocket Apparel and Packaging Corporation of America (PCA). WWALS thanks those and other sponsors, the other paddlers, and the silent auction bidders, for a successful fundraiser.
Of the nine female and eight male paddlers, 12 were from Georgia, and 5 from Florida. Tallahassee’s Leon County, Florida, had almost as many paddlers (4) as local Lowndes County, Georgia (6), and Tallahassee had as many as Valdosta (4 each). The farthest paddler came from DeKalb County, GA, on the other side of Atlanta.
Lloyd Reeves drove 167 miles to win the six-mile course (3 down and 3 back) in 58 minutes and 43 seconds with his accurately-labeled fastkayak.com.
That beats the previous record of 1:16:42, made last year by Jackson Buttery of Tallahassee.
One week to WWALS Boomerang paddle race from Georgia to Florida and back 2021-10-23
Hahira, GA, October 15, 2021 — We have a group coming three hours from Dublin, GA, to paddle down the Withlacoochee River from Georgia three miles into Florida, and back upstream, in the WWALS Boomerang, one week from now, Saturday, October 23, 2021. Last year’s winner came from Tallahassee, FL. In one week, you could be the winner of the $100 First Prize! Or win in one of the many categories.
Today is the last day for the $20 early bird tickets. Later it’s $30 online or at the event.
Canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards are welcome to register starting at 9 AM, Saturday, October 23, 2021, to be on the water by 10:45 AM. There will be prizes, and food, and drink.
You do not even have to bring a boat, if you reserve soon and let us know what type of boat you need: kayak or canoe, single or tandem. Free boat rental is provied by Madison Outpost Adventures of Lee, Madison County, Florida, and VSU CORE of Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia.
Boomerang mastermind Bobby McKenzie says, “Water levels were steadily dropping and now they are rising slightly.” We have a plan if the Withlacoochee River is running too fast to paddle up; we’ll just straighten out the course to go to Sullivan Landing.
“This is a great way to bring the outdoors community together and showcase the recreational opportunities we have to offer locally,” Bobby McKenzie added. “This event caters to all ages and skill levels, you can either blaze ahead and take first place overall, or push yourself for a personal achievement on the main course or one of the modified routes. You can even just come do a leisurely paddle with like minded outdoor enthusiasts. Just remember to make your way back before the time expires, at most will be 2.5 hours.”
A trash source success: parking lot on St. Augustine Road, Valdosta,
Valdosta, GA, October 7, 2021 — Other businesses can do what Stafford did, and our creeks and rivers will be a lot cleaner! That will make Valdosta, Lowndes County, and every place downstream, more attractive to new and existing businesses, and healthier for people who live here.
After many times cleaning up trash from Sugar Creek near the Withlacoochee River, WWALS member Bobby McKenzie went upstream in Valdosta, found some sources, and one of the big ones listened. Other businesses can follow this example: put trash cans in parking lots, empty them, and keep them swept.
Bobby tells the story:
We identified hundreds of pounds of trash being thrown into the tree line just feet from Hightower Creek. The parking lot owner is Valdosta Mall Corners c/o Stafford Development Company (Stafford)….
River and Creek Cleanup, WWALS, Lowndes County, Valdosta 2021-10-09,
Hahira, GA, September 16, 2020 — WWALS has found some of the sources of the infamous trashjam on Sugar Creek, and at least one upstream property owner has made progress in stopping litter before it escapes. But there are other sources, and trash still collects back of the Salty Snapper.
Downstream on the Withlacoochee River, flood waters spread that trash all over the Land Between the Rivers at the Little River Confluence, where one day there will be a River Camp and a River Park. You are invited to join us at Troupville Boat Ramp to walk downstream and help clean up that property, too. Valdosta and Lowndes County also have cleanup locations that same day.
“If you are looking to help make a difference, these locations need the most help, 9AM, Saturday, October 9, 2021!” said WWALS member Bobby McKenzie, who has been on this trash case for a year now.
WWALS Boomerang paddle race, Withlacoochee River, Georgia, Florida 2021-10-23,
Hahira, GA, August 30, 2021 — For the fourth year, people will paddle down the Withlacoochee River from Georgia three miles into Florida, and back upstream, in the WWALS Boomerang! Canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards are welcome to register starting at 9 AM, Saturday, October 23, 2021, to be on the water by 10:45 AM. There will be prizes, and food, and drink.
“This is a great way to bring the outdoors community together and showcase the recreational opportunities we have to offer locally,” said Boomerang mastermind Bobby McKenzie. “This event caters to all ages and skill levels, you can either blaze ahead and take first place overall, or push yourself for a personal achievement on the main course or one of the modified routes. You can even just come do a leisurely paddle with like minded outdoor enthusiasts. Just remember to make your way back before the time expires, at most will be 2.5 hours.”
Tickets are on sale now, $20 online until October 15, then $30 online or at the event.
Winners: Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2021-08-21
Hahira, GA, August 23, 2021 — Chosen by three judges from a record number of Finalists from Atlanta to Palatka, WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS) is pleased to announce the winners of the Fourth Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest.
L-R: KJ Wingate, Katherine Ball, David Rodock, Sweet William Billy Ennis, Jimi Davies and his brother, Kathy Lou Gilman, Rachel Hillman.
Photo: Angela Duncan for WWALS.
A Model Festival During Pandemic: The Fourth Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2021
Hahira, Georgia, August 19, 2021 “We regret to say that Dirty Bird and the Flu will not be one of our Headliners this Saturday, because two of their band members have caught COVID-19,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “But Scott Perkins and his band, Little Perks in Paradise, are coming from Atlanta to play as a Headliner.”
Tickets are on sale now, $10 online; they will be $12 at the door.
VIP tables seating six in front of the stage are $150; inquire to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Finals will be a fun festival for the whole family, 7-11 PM, Saturday, August 21, 2021, at the Turner Center Art Park, 605 North Patterson Street, Valdosta, Georgia, 31601.
“Yes, the show will go on, with all pandemic precautions, ” said organizing Committee Chair and WWALS President Tom H. Johnson, Jr. “There will be plenty of music: all nine songwriters will be Finalists! Their songs are all so good, the WWALS Songwriting Contest Committee couldn’t bring itself to omit any of them.”
Nine Finalists for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2021
Hahira, Georgia, August 4, 2021 — All nine songwriters will be Finalists! “Their songs are all so good, the WWALS Songwriting Contest Committee couldn’t bring itself to omit any of them,” said Committee Chair Tom H. Johnson Jr.
In alphabetical order, they are:
- Katherine Ball from Valdosta, GA, with Rock and Blues song, Something in the Water.
- Jimi Davies from Atlanta, GA, with Blues rock country song, Dark Water.
- Billy Ennis from Palatka, FL, with Folk song, Flat Bottom Boats.
- Brandon Fox from Leesburg, GA, with Americana song, Moonlight (as by BoDean and the Poachers).
- Kathy Lou Gilman from Kingsland, GA, with American Folk Revival song, The Legend of the Suwannee.
- Rachel Grubb from Lake City, FL, with Indie Folk song, Cruising down the Suwannee.
- Rachel Hillman from Tallahassee, FL, with Soul and Jazz song, Gossiping of Butterflies.
- David Rodock, from Adel, GA, with Folk song, Suwannee River Rag.
- KJ Wingate from O’Brien, FL, with Folk / Country song, The Hymn of Convict Spring.
“We’re still starting at 7 PM, but we may run a little later than 11 PM to fit them all in,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “The Finals will be a fun festival for the whole family, Saturday, August 21, 2021, at the Turner Center Art Park, 605 North Patterson Street, Valdosta, Georgia, 31601.”
Tickets are on sale now, $10 online; they will be $12 at the door.
VIP tables in front of the stage are $150; inquire to email@example.com.
Tickets and MC: Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2021
Hahira, Georgia, August 2, 2021 — “I am very excited and honored to be the Master of Ceremonies for this year’s Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriters Contest,” said Big Country Wes James, of WAAC FM Rivers Radio. “I can’t wait to hear all the great songs that have been submitted and to find out who this year’s winner will be.”
“We’re just as pleased that Big Country agreed to be Master of Ceremonies at the Contest!” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman.
Tickets are on sale now, $10 online; they will be $12 at the door.
VIP tables in front of the stage are $150; inquire to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Florida and Georgia songwriters sent many good new songs about our rivers, swamps, springs, and sinks, ranging through folk, country, blues, soul, and jazz,” said Laura D’Alisera, who won First Prize the first year and has been on the WWALS Songwriting Contest Committee ever since. “Public online voting is finished, and the Committee will announce its decision for Finalists this Wednesday, August 4, 2021.”
“The Finals will be a fun festival for the whole family,” said Contest Committee Chair Tom H. Johnson Jr., who is also WWALS Board President. “That’s 7-11 PM, Saturday, August 21, 2021, at the Turner Center Art Park, 605 North Patterson Street, Valdosta, Georgia, 31601.”
Because of the surge in the COVID-19 virus pandemic, we will test temperatures at the entrance with an infrared thermometer. Tables will be spaced for distancing. Masks will be required when people are close to other people not in their party.
“We have two headliners this year,” said Committee Member Angela Duncan. “Last year’s winner ….
Deadline Extended to July 14, Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2021,
Hahira, Georgia, July 8, 2021 — “I got in on the extended deadline, and won the contest!” said Laura D’Alisera, who won First Prize the first year.
Here is the entry form:
“Laura liked it so much she joined the organizing Committee,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman.
First prize is $300 plus one day of recording studio time, in the Fourth Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest. Plus $50 for best song from inside the Suwannee River Basin, and $50 for best song from outside. And plaques to best in each musical genre. Youth songwriters, we’ll add a prize for you if you send in your songs.
“Now you’ve got until Bastille Day to send in your song!” said Songwriting Contest Committee Chair Tom H. Johnson Jr.
Finalists (well, maybe not youth) get…
Deadline Today! Song submissions due July 7, Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2021,
Hahira, Georgia, April 7, 2021 — “Tired of tropical storms? Stay in, finish your song, and send it in by midnight!” said Laura D’Alisera, who won First Prize the first year. “Laura liked it so much she joined the organizing Committee,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman.
Here is the entry form:
Georgia Power Grants Again to WWALS for Water Quality Testing 2021-06-21,
Valdosta, GA, June 23, 2021 — “It’s really exciting to receive another generous grant from Georgia Power to help us continue with as well as increase our testing base,” said WWALS Testing Committee Chair Suzy Hall. “This is huge towards helping to keep tabs on the water health for this watershed.”
WWALS E.D. Gretchen Quarterman receives the envelope from Mary Beth and Elizabeth Brownlee via Hazel, Elleanor and Lindsey Williams; back: Suzy and Abbie Hall, at Naylor Beach on the Alapaha River in Naylor Boat Ramp Park, Lowndes County, Georgia. More pictures here:
“The Georgia Power Foundation is committed to environmental stewardship and supports efforts focused on improving waterways, lakes and streams across Georgia,” said Georgia Power Southwest Director Joe Brownlee, “We’ve learned that we can do more when we work together with local organizations where we serve, so we felt that supporting the WWALS efforts to perform quality testing in our local watershed fit perfectly with our goals. I think it goes without saying that we all want clean water to drink, bathe, and occasionally even play in. At Georgia Power, we have an employee volunteer organization called the ‘Citizens of Georgia Power’; one of the projects that they chose to work on this year was a clean-up on the Alapaha River landing in Lakeland. So when WWALS reached out and said they had a clean-up in Naylor it seemed like a great project, and thanks to the testing kits we knew the water was clean, which allowed our treasures (our children) to play a little while we cleaned up.”
“Clean water is a benefit to everyone,” said WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman. “The grant presentation by Elizabeth Brownlee was non-traditional, but most exceptional. The envelope got a little wet as it passed through little hands and got dropped in the water, however, the result was excellent. Funding for a second year for the WWALS water quality testing program is greatly appreciated. Thank you, Georgia Power!”
“We are thrilled that….
Salty Snapper Lunch and Withlacoochee River Wilderness, Langdale Park 2021-05-15,
Valdosta, May 12, 2021 — WWALS offers a pop-up paddle along the amazingly wild west edge of the most populous city in the Suwannee River Basin. Join us at Langdale Park Boat Ramp at 9AM this Saturday, May 15, 2021, to paddle three miles to Sugar Creek and the Salty Snapper for lunch. Then we’ll paddle another four miles to the future home of Troupville River Camp at the Little River Confluence, and a few thousand feet up the Little River to Troupville Boat Ramp, where someday will be facilities for Troupville River Park.
“What better way to enjoy a Saturday, than combining a wilderness paddle and one of Valdosta’s local restaurants,” said Bobby McKenzie, whose idea it was. “Come see what you’re missing!”
Garrison Wood, manager of the Salty Snapper Seafood & Oyster Bar, said, “We’ll give each paddler 10% off their meal and have a spot inside ready to serve.”
“I’ll paddle to the Salty Snapper!” said Valdosta Mayor Scott James, on the air on his radio show Tuesday.
“A sprinkle of rain mid-week is keeping the water level up, yet still below last week’s flooding, so we’re taking this opportunity to paddle this stretch,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “You can meet us at the Salty Snapper for lunch at 11:30 AM, but you only get the lunch discount if you paddle.”
Spaces are filling up for the Ninth Annual BIG Little River Paddle Race,
Adel, Georgia, April 19, 2021 — Southwell Medical of Tifton and Adel has become a sponsor of the annual WWALS and FORB race and leisurely paddle three miles down the scenic blackwater Little River in Reed Bingham State Park between Adel and Moultrie, Georgia.
“Spaces are going fast, with only four heats of ten people, so sign up soon!” said event mastermind Bret Wagenhorst, an eye doctor in Tifton, GA, and a charter board member of WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS). “First Prize is $100, and another $200 if the winner beats the record.”
All tickets are $30 online in advance, and you can also rent a boat online from the park and pick it up at the start at Red Roberts Landing. For tickets, boats, and all event details, including sponsor opportunities, see:
Photo: Phil Hubbard, of Dan Phillips placing second in BLRPR 2018.
You could win in any of a dozen categories, or up to $300 if you beat the previous winning record time. But you are not required to race: it’s a nice spring paddle anyway, at 8AM on Saturday, April 24, 2021.
“That’s forty people, not forty boats, so now’s the time to sign up,” said Dianne Walters of Friends of Reed Bingham (FORB).
The race will start at ….
2021-04-09: Earth Day Rivers Alive Cleanups: Joree Millpond or Withlacoochee River 2021-04-17,
Valdosta, GA, April 9, 2021 — Pick from a pair of floating Georgia Rivers Alive cleanups for Earth Day, and bring your boat!
Gretchen Quarterman will lead a floating cleanup on Joree Millpond in Valdosta, Georgia, starting at 913 Millpond Road. You can return whenever you want to, but we expect this boating cleanup to last about two hours. If you have a jon boat and are willing to take a volunteer onto the pond to remove litter, please contact either Gretchen Quarterman (229-834-1945) or Austin Fiveash (229-563-6262). You can also participate in your kayak or canoe. Volunteers will remove litter from along the edge of the pond and from near the spillway. The City of Valdosta is providing a large trash receptacle at the site, thanks to Valdosta Stormwater Manager Angela Bray.
Bobby McKenzie will lead a paddle cleanup from Sugar Creek behind the Salty Snapper off of Gornto Road, down the Withlacoochee River, and a short hop up the Little River to Troupville Boat Ramp. That’s less than 4 river miles, and even with stops for trash collection should take less than three hours. We will leave the bagged trash at that destination, where Lowndes County Public Works will pick it up Monday
Gather 9 AM, launch 9:30 AM, end 12:30 PM, Saturday, April 17, 2021….
Fun race or paddle for the whole family: the Ninth Annual BIG Little River Paddle Race,
Adel, Georgia, March 22, 2021 — You could win in any of a dozen categories, or up to $300 if you beat the previous winning record time. But you are not required to race: it’s a nice spring paddle anyway! On Saturday, April 24, 2021, in Reed Bingham State Park, between Adel and Moultrie, Georgia, it’s the ninth annual BIG Little River Paddle Race. There will be lunch and a kayak raffle. You can just paddle along this scenic three-mile stretch of tea-colored river on the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail among cypress trees, turtles, birds, and yes, alligators. (Don’t pet the alligators and they aren’t likely to bother you.) This race also has fierce competitors, with one past winner finishing in barely more than half an hour.
BLRPR mastermind Bret Wagenhorst, an eye doctor in Tifton, GA, and a charter board member of WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS), said, “After having to cancel last year’s event due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we found a way this year, with staggered heats and limited boats, to try to keep the event within Covid guidelines for outdoor activities. This is a great opportunity to learn about the joys of paddling canoes and kayaks, to see the natural beauty of our region’s blackwater rivers, and to have fun while getting some outdoor exercise with family and friends.”
There are several categories in which you could win, from fastest paddler, one and two person canoe (male and female), solo or tandem kayak (male and female), youngest paddler, oldest paddler, paddler from furthest away, and slowest paddler.
Photo: Bret Wagenhorst, of 2019 First female tandem kayak: Megan Robinson & Lily Robinson, of Tifton, GA.
Dianne Walters, president of Friends of Reed Bingham State Park (FORB), said, “This is a great community event, with volunteers from all around helping paddlers from everywhere.”
Water level reschedule: Mayor’s paddle, Withlacoochee River 2021-03-27,
Valdosta, Georgia, February 25, 2021 — “We’re rescheduling four weeks later, for 8AM, Saturday, March 27, 2021,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “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.”
Spook Bridge this week and last year
Spook Bridge almost 20 feet different.
Photos: John S. Quarterman 2021-02-23 at 107.5′ NAVD88 or above sea level (24′ above the riverbed),
Gretchen Quarterman 2020-01-18 at 88′ NAVD88 (4.5′).
“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 ’till Saturday, March 27, at 8AM. 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!”
“As always, I will give a good safety briefing, ” said expedition leader Bobby McKenzie. “Wear your PFD and stick with the group. But conditions should be much better for novice paddlers in a few weeks.”
“Better safe than sorry!” said WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman….
Petition to EPA: protect from radioactive phosphogypsum stacks,
“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.”
For Immediate Release, February 8, 2021….
Rescheduled: Mayor’s Paddle, Troupville to Spook Bridge, Withlacoochee River 2021-02-27
Valdosta, Georgia, February 5, 2021 — “Out of an abundance of caution, all the organizers agree on rescheduling the Mayor’s Paddle because of thunderstorms predicted for this Saturday, February 6, 2021,” said WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman.
“We don’t want to risk inexperienced paddlers in this kind of weather,” said expedition leader Bobby McKenzie, who made the decision to postpone. He added, “The new date is Saturday, February 27, 2021.“
“We want to send a positive message about paddling, and the weather this weekend does not work for that, so we’re going for three weeks from now. I am still excited to partner with WWALS to hold the Mayors Paddle,”said Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson. “In the past year we have made huge improvements to our sewer system infrastructure, showing our commitment to preventing any issues that may impact our Withlacoochee River. I invite everyone to come out and join us for a day of fellowship on the river!”
“WWALS is happy to welcome everyone to this one of our many paddles. We have at least one daytime river paddle a month, in Florida or Georgia, plus an evening Full Moon paddle at Banks Lake, near Lakeland, GA. We’ll be testing temperatures with an infrared thermometer as people arrive,” said WWALS E.D. Gretchen Quarterman. “If you’re ill in any way, please stay home.”
Troupville Boat Ramp, WWTP Outfall, midpoint, Spook Bridge
Photos: Gretchen Quarterman for WWALS 2020-01-18
Resounding applause for M-CORES toll road boondoggle repeal bill 2021-02-03,
Elimination of the proposed boondoggle is just what the state needs
TALLAHASSEE, February 3, 2021 — The announcement today of a bill filed in the Senate (SB1030) and soon to be filed in the House, to repeal the bill that created M-CORES, the program that would construct 330 miles of unneeded and fiscally dangerous toll roads through rural Florida, was welcomed by No Roads to Ruin Coalition partners from across the state. After 93% of public comments were opposed to M-CORES, the failure by FDOT and outside analysts to identify any need at all for these roads, and the brutally obvious fiscal reasons to stop the M-CORES process in its tracks, repealing the bill and devoting the billions of dollars it would have devoured instead to critical state needs is exactly what Floridians need.
“Need should have been established before wasting millions of dollars on M-CORES workshops, but that was not possible, because there is no need,” said John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER, WWALS Watershed Coalition. “US 19 from Crystal River to Thomasville, Georgia has nowhere near enough traffic to justify the Suncoast Connector toll road, before even getting into the damage it would cause the Suwannee River, springs, farms, and forests. Cancel M-CORES and spend some of the money directly on pandemic relief, rural broadband, solar panels and batteries, and hurricane shelters,”
Newton Cook, President of United Waterfowlers of Florida said,…
Start earlier for shuttle: Second Annual Mayor’s Paddle, Withlacoochee River 2021-02-06
Valdosta, Georgia, February 1, 2021 — Shuttling is difficult during a pandemic, but we’ve found a way. Come as early as 8 AM, Saturday, February 6, 2021, to Troupville Boat Ramp, drop off your boats, and drive to Spook Bridge. Two 15-seat vans provided by the Boys & Girls Club will shuttle you back to Troupville. “We’re happy to do this,” said Bill Holt, VP of Operations, Boys & Girls Club of Valdosta. “Just remember to wear your mask and sit with social distancing.”
Valdosta Mayor Scott James said, “I am excited to partner with WWALS to hold the Mayors Paddle on February 6. In the past year we have made huge improvements to our sewer system infrastructure, showing our commitment to preventing any issues that may impact our Withlacoochee River. I invite everyone to come out and join us for a day of fellowship on the river!”
“WWALS is happy to welcome everyone to this one of our many paddles. We have at least one daytime river paddle a month, in Florida or Georgia, plus an evening Full Moon paddle at Banks Lake, near Lakeland, GA. We’ll be testing temperatures with an infrared thermometer as people arrive,” said WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman. “If you’re ill in any way, please stay home.”
WWALS President Tom H. Johnson Jr. said, “This stretch of river extends from the most populous city in the Suwannee River Basin past some suburbs and many rural woods. It is important for all the upstream city and county wastewater treatment plants to keep a grip on their sewage, because many people depend on the Withlacoochee River for swimming, fishing, and boating, plus water wells nearby may be affected by anything that goes into the river. It’s a joy that publicly- elected officials are involved in this activity, and that the Mayor is helping organize it.”
“All elected officials present, both from Florida and Georgia, will have three minutes each to speak, both at the put-in and at the midway point,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Don’t worry: only a few of them will. But you can paddle up to them and ask questions. Just remember to stay six feet apart. Wear a mask if you get any closer to anybody not in your party, either on land or water.”
Take a look at the signs by the boat ramp for the WWALS Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail. They show the whole trail and what you can expect to see near Troupville Boat Ramp.
The paddle starts…
Suwannee Riverkeeper asks GA Gov. Kemp to stop strip mine near Okefenokee Swamp,
Hahira, GA, December 1, 2020 — The letter lays out evidence to support this request: “Georgia is all that stands between a titanium strip mine within a few miles of the Okefenokee Swamp, proposed by coal miners from Alabama. Please direct the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to thoroughly examine the five state permit applications from Twin Pines Minerals, LLC (TPM). The evidence indicates DNR should reject those applications. At the least, an environmental review equivalent to an Environmental Impact Statement should be conducted.”
Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman said, “We’re asking everyone else to ask Georgia to stop this strip mine too near the Okefenokee Swamp, so it was time to send a letter to Governor Brian Kemp.”
The letter begins:
“Dear Governor Kemp and staff,
“Thank you again for being the first governor to visit Hahira since Jimmy Carter; it was good to speak with you there. Last year you sent a staff delegate to the Georgia Water Coalition (GWC) meeting. For the second year running, the Okefenokee Swamp is on GWC’s Dirty Dozen worst threats to Georgia waters, because of a threatened mine.
“The 60,000 people who wrote to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers against that mine are still opposed, despite the Corps abdicating its oversight.
“As the largest blackwater swamp east of the Mississippi, the Okefenokee is a state, national, and international treasure, supporting 750 jobs and bringing more than $60 million of income through entrances at the Okefenokee NWR near Folkston, Okefenokee Swamp Park near Waycross, and Stephen C. Foster State Park near Fargo, plus hunting on private land nearby. Any change in water level or quality would affect the whole Swamp, the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers, which flow from it, and the underlying Floridan Aquifer, from which all of south Georgia and north Florida drinks.”
The letter reminds the governor that he signed a law to stop railroad ties from being burned at a biomass plant promoted by the current president of the company that wants to strip mine. It notes that same company is still under a Florida Consent Order, and spilled wastewater during Hurricane Irma.
The letter asks where is Twin Pines’ plan to prevent spills during hurricanes, including of slimes (tiny particles of clay and titanium dioxide that can foul the gills of fish) and mercury that came by air from coal power plants? Where is its plan to keep wastewater from getting into the Floridan Aquifer or from lowering the Aquifer and Swamp levels?
At least one elected official is already involved, and all should be, especially during this runoff election season:
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, responding to an inquiry by Senator Perdue, noted that after the initial demonstration site, mining would move closer to the Swamp, ending up within 400 feet of the Swamp and half a mile from the Refuge.”
As so often, this environmental issue is also a private property rights issue:
“Private property rights are also at risk. TPM on its Corps and Georgia mining applications claimed as part of its project land owned by TIAA, the Fortune 100 financial services company. TPM only retracted that claim after TIAA complained. TPM then said it was negotiating with TIAA, which TIAA denies. Apparently penalties for false application could be up to a $10,000 fine or five years in prison.”
The bottom line is:
“Ingle and TPM have experimented more than enough already with our air and waters. They should not be permitted to do so again, especially not next to the Okefenokee Swamp.”
Everyone should be concerned about the Okefenokee Swamp, which is a local, state, national, and international treasure.
“The Okefenokee Swamp is of special concern to Suwannee Riverkeeper, since almost all of the Okefenokee Wilderness Area Canoe Trails that people paddle to fish and to see birds, alligators, bears, and cypress trees, are in the Suwannee River Basin. We just camped at Floyd’s Island a few weeks ago. Those animals and plants and the Swamp and the Suwannee and the Aquifer cannot speak for themselves, so we write to you for them, as well as in support of the economy of Georgia (and Florida).”
“I urge you and the state of Georgia to thoroughly examine the permit applications from Twin Pines Minerals, LLC. I believe the state will find the evidence supports rejecting those permits.”
The rest of the letter is here, including a link to a PDF version, links to the evidence, and how everyone, no matter where they live, can ask Georgia to stop this strip mine.
Help Georgia stop titanium mine threatening Okefenokee Swamp –Dirty Dozen 2020, Georgia Water Coalition 2020-11-17,
Hahira, Georgia, November 17, 2020 — Once again, the Okefenokee Swamp features in the Georgia Water Coalition Dirty Dozen, “the worst offenses to Georgia’s water.” The Swamp and 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, with your help.
Contact: This Okefenokee item was submitted by Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman (229-242-0102, email@example.com) and Georgia River Network Executive Director Rena Ann Peck, (404-395-6250, firstname.lastname@example.org).
They also recently….
Troupville to Spook Bridge, Mayor’s Paddle, Withlacoochee River 2021-02-06
Hahira, Georgia, November 12, 2020 — Join the Mayor of Valdosta and a hundred of his closest friends for a leisurely paddle on the Withlacoochee River. Mayor Scott James says, “Over a year removed from a terrible spill into our area waterways, and right at a year of massive improvements to our infrastructure since our last ‘Mayors Paddle,’ I am again looking forward to fellowship on the river February 6.”
All elected officials present will have three minutes to speak. And you can paddle up to them and ask questions.
WWALS President Tom H. Johnson Jr. said, “This stretch of river extends from the most populous city in the Suwannee River Basin past some suburbs and many rural woods. It is important for all the upstream city and county wastewater treatment plants to keep a grip on their sewage, because many people depend on the Withlacoochee River for swimming, fishing, and boating, plus water wells nearby may be affected by anything that goes into the river. It’s a joy that publicly elected officials are involved in this activity, and that the Mayor is helping organize it.”
It was fun last year, so let’s do it again! There is plenty of room to stay six feet apart, at Troupville Boat Ramp, the lunch stop, and at Spook Bridge, and of course on the water. We are still working out how the shuttle will work.
Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman said, “Thanks again to The Langdale Company for riverside access at the mid-way lunch stop, and at the Spook Bridge takeout.”
Attractions include Valdosta’s famous Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) Outfall, which has not spilled since December 2019. Yes, we know some people in the Valdosta city government consider that not a spill, since the raw sewage never actually got into the WWTP. We hope Valdosta’s new catch basin prevents that. Most of the route is downstream from GA 133, where Valdosta has frequently gotten high E. coli results from nobody yet knows what source. The entire route is upstream of Okapilco Creek, which sometimes carries cattle manure runoff after big rains. We will once again test the water quality from the river.
When: Gather 9 AM, launch 10 AM, end 4 PM, Saturday, February 6, 2021
Put In: Troupville Boat Ramp, 19664 Valdosta Hwy, Valdosta, GA 31602: on GA 133 off I-75 exit 18. in Lowndes County.
Take Out: Spook Bridge, west from Valdosta on US 84, left onto Ousley Road, right onto Old Quitman Highway, stop at the gate.
Thanks to The Langdale Company for access through their private property to Spook Bridge for this outing and for water quality testing.
Winners: WWALS Boomerang 2020-10-24,
Hahira, Georgia, October 29, 2020 — Everybody had a good time on a fine sunny day with the water just right. We had a few more paddlers than last year, and more vendors and sponsors, so WWALS Boomerang 2020 was a rousing success!
“The winner drove up from Tallahassee: Jackson Buttery, who finished the six-mile round trip in one hour sixteen minutes and 42 seconds. He got the $100 cash First Prize.” said Bobby McKenzie, the WWALS Boomerang mastermind….
This Saturday, with more sponsors and higher water: WWALS Boomerang paddle race into Florida and back to Georgia 2020-10-24
Hahira, GA, September 4, 2020 — The water’s up, and we’ve added sponsors at State Line Boat Ramp on the Withlacoochee River 9 AM this Saturday, October 24, 2020. For the WWALS Boomerang paddle race you can choose 1, 2, or 3 miles downstream into Florida, and then back up. There will be food, drink, prizes, and an online silent auction.
WWALS Boomerang 2020-10-24
Hahira, GA, September 4, 2020 — For the third year, people will paddle down the Withlacoochee River from Georgia three miles into Florida, and back upstream, in the WWALS Boomerang! Canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards are welcome to register starting at 9 AM, Saturday, October 24, 2020, with the race to begin at 11 AM. There will be prizes, and food, and drink. “There will be plenty of water, no deadfalls, and probably some shoals to make it more interesting,” said Boomerang mastermind and WWALS Outings Chair Bobby McKenzie.
WWALS Honored at Georgia DNR Confluence Conference as Volunteers of the Year 2020-07-29
Hahira, GA, August 31, 2020 — WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman zoomed into the annual Georgia Adopt-A-Stream Confluence conference on Saturday, August 29, 2020, so WWALS could receive the statewide Volunteer of the Year award while we were finishing the Twomile Branch Cleanup.
The award is for “Individual has gone beyond the call of duty to improve water quality and meet AAS goals.” We emphasized it was not just one volunteer, but many, in our one-minute award acceptance video. We also thanked Georgia Power again for a grant. We didn’t have time to mention we’re getting testing kits to WWALS testers in Florida, upcoming WWALS water quality testing training, and branching out to the Santa Fe River, but all that is in this post.
Winners: Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2020-08-22
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)
Georgia Beer Co., top-tier sponsor, Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2020-08-13,
Hahira, GA, August 17, 2020 — New WWALS President Tom H. Johnson Jr. came to Valdosta and picked up a thousand dollar 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, Florida, where he used to report on Valdosta sewage coming down the Withlacoochee River (that situation is getting better now).
“We appreciate Georgia Beer Company’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 entrepeneurship in starting Georgia Beer Company,” said WWALS President Tom H. Johnson, Jr. “And we thank Georgia Beer Company for helping us stage the acts for the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest!”
“Come on down to the Turner Center Art Park Saturday and enjoy some live music,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Local stars Dirty Bird and the Flu are our headliners. Each of the three judges will sing a song. And then the five finalists will play for you and the judges. A $300 First Prize will be awarded, and other prizes, as well!”
For much more, follow this link: https://wwals.net/pictures/2020-08-22–songwriting/
Five Finalists Chosen for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest,
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (see also PDF)
Five Finalists Chosen for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest
Hahira, Georgia, August 7, 2020 — The organizing committee has reviewed the songs received, and chosen five finalists, for the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest:
- Brian Barker, from Live Oak, FL, with a Folk Rock song, “The River.”
- Ronni Dillon, from Waycross, GA, with a Folk-Alternative song, “Okefenokee Memory.”
- Sweet William Billy Ennis, from Palatka, FL, with a Folk song, “Choctaw Spirits of the Suwannee.”
- Kathy Lou Gilman, from Kingsland, GA, with an American Music Revival song, “The River Song (My love, my Suwannee).”
- Scott Perkins, from Smyrna, GA, with a Southern Boogie song, “Hoochie-Coochie for the Withlacoochee.”
Our headliner, Dirty Bird and the Flu, will play first, and then each of the three judges will play a song. The finalists will play, and the judges will select winners of the $300 First Prize, the $50 prize for best song from within the Suwannee River Basin, the $50 prize for best song from outside, and plaques for each musical genre.
“We are pleased to get all this far-flung interest by songwriters,” said WWALS Songwriting Contest Committee Chair Tom H. Johnson, Jr., who was also recently elected president of WWALS.
“The judges are equally far-flung,” said Committee member Laura D’Alisera, who won the contest its first year. “Emmy Law is from Nashville, Tennessee, Cindy Bear is from Jacksonville, Florida, and J.J. Rolle is from Valdosta, Georgia.”
“We invite everyone local and far to come listen,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “We will also be livestreaming to online ticket holders.”
Tickets to listen are on sale now, $10 online, or $12 at the door (children under 12 free).
For VIP tables in front of the stage, contact email@example.com.
Scott James, of 92.1 FM Radio, will be the M.C. at the Contest Finals. They will be from 7-10 PM on Saturday, August 22, 2020, at the Turner Center Art Park, 605 North Patterson Street, Valdosta, Georgia 31601, just north of the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts. Rico’s Tacos will provide food, and the Pour House will provide drinks. There will be a silent auction and kayak raffle tickets will be available.
Our top-tier sponsor, Georgia Beer Company, will say a few words, as will our host, the Turner Arts Center, and several WWALS people will speak about programs, projects, stewardship, and advocacy. Each elected official present will get three minutes to speak on any subject; just remember it’s a festival.
Due to the virus pandemic situation and executive orders by the Georgia Governor, we will be …
Water quality testing grant from Georgia Power 2020-06-27,
Georgia Power grants funds to WWALS for Water Quality Testing
Hahira, GA, July 27, 2020 — Aiding our attempts to clean up the Withlacoochee River, Georgia Power Foundation has provided a substantial grant to WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (“WWALS”). WWALS will buy more water quality testing kits and supplies with the funds, as well as other expenses related to our volunteer water quality testing program.
“Please accept our most sincere thanks for your recognition and support of WWALS Watershed Coalition and our work for clean, fishable, swimmable, boatable water,” said WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman. “We look forward to a productive water quality testing program this year.”
“We’re honored to get to help,” said Joe Brownlee, Georgia Power Southwest Region Director. “One of our goals is to make sure the people of Georgia know about our great natural resources. And also that they’re safe. And y’all help do that by making awareness around water testing. And you build strong relationships I know now, coordinating with the City of Valdosta, making sure they publish their test results. Everything seems to be working and getting better. We’re on a sharp upward curve of getting better with what we do with water and getting to enjoy it. And my little girl, I’m working for her future, and Georgia Power is. Thank y’all, thank you to the volunteer testers, and the Riverkeeper.”
Photo: WWALS, of Georgia Power Southwest District Director Joe Brownlee, Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman, and WWALS Testing Committee Chair Suzy Hall, at Troupville Boat Ramp on the Withlacoochee River, near Valdosta, Georgia.
“The response of the Georgia Power grant and Mr. Brownlee’s comments are quite touching (to me) due to the recognition of how difficult it is for a volunteer organization to do biological water testing over a huge area. The grant enables regular testing that can pinpoint multi-source pollution, which requires a varied response. It’s quite gratifying that both individuals and large companies realize this is a complex situation,” said WWALS President Tom H. Johnson, Jr.
“We have several testers already trained, waiting for testing kits. Thanks to Georgia Power, we can buy them kits and get them started testing!” said WWALS Testing Committee Chair Suzy Hall. “Plus we can buy enough kits to train new testers with physical distancing even during the virus pandemic.”
“We like to think WWALS water quality testing has already done some good, helping warn people when the waterways are contaminated, helping find contamination sources, and encouraging several governmental organizations in Georgia and Florida to test more,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “With these funds from Georgia Power we can do much more. Also thanks to Valdosta Mayor Scott James for introducing us to Joe Brownlee.”
“The more testing, the more we can also check to see whether fixes such as fencing cattle away from waterways are actually working to improve the situation,” said WWALS Science Committee Chair Dr. Tom Potter. “Interested governmental, educational, or agricultural organizations please contact us about that.”
More than 30 groups organize to save Okefenokee Swamp 2020-07-14,
See also Suwannee Riverkeeper’s call last month for people to contact the Georgia governor and other elected officials.
Headliner: Dirty Bird and the Flu; song deadline today, for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest
Hahira, Georgia, July 14, 2020 — Our headliner is Dirty Bird and the Flu, “Funky-blues-soul-fusion born straight out of the South Georgia swamps and a charismatic front-man who catches comparisons of all the famous soul singers, Dirty Bird and the Flu is not your typical fare! Come see us live – no two shows are ever the same!”
- Deadline Extended for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest
Judges selected, so send in your song: Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest,
Hahira, GA, June 23, 2020 — From Nashville, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Florida, and Valdosta, Georgia, the WWALS Songwriting Contest Committee has selected judges for the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest.
“We have two returning judges and a judge from a younger generation,” said Contest Committee Chair Tom H. Johnson, Jr. “Submissions are due by July 8. We’d like songs from every age group and every genre.”
The new judge this year is…
Outside in the Art Park, Scott James as M.C.: Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest,
Hahira, GA, June 16, 2020 — The new Turner Center Art Park, across from the Turner Center for the Arts in Valdosta, GA, has plenty of room for physical distance while listening to the finalists play in the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, 7-9 PM, Saturday, August 22, 2020, at 605 North Patterson Street, Valdosta, Georgia, 31601. (See also PDF.)
“I’m honored to be the Master of Ceremonies for this celebration of our rivers, creeks, swamps, and springs,” said radio personality Scott James, of Talk 92.1, WDDQ, out of Valdosta, GA.
“Songwriters, don’t forget to send in your song by Wednesday, July 8, 2020!” said Laura D’Alisera, our 2018 overall winner and 2019 headliner, and now two years on the organizing committee.
“Tickets are on sale now, $10 in advance, $12 at the door, and we’re working on livestreaming for ticket holders who do not want to go to in-person events,” said Songwriting Contest Committee Chair Tom H. Johnson, Jr.
2020-05-07: Unprecedented Army Corps virtual Public Meeting about strip mine application near Okefenokee Swamp 2020-05-13,
May 7, 2020, Hahira, Georgia — In an apparently unprecedented move, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is holding a “virtual Public Meeting” about a mining application. Suwannee Riverkeeper calls on everyone who can to join this online Public Meeting, for at least a few minutes between 2 and 5 PM on Wednesday, May 13, 2020. This will help show there is substantial controversy about the proposed titanium mine on the doorstep of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. That could cause the Corps to at least require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), or maybe even to deny the permit.
“The Corps needs to know people consider the beauty of the Okefenokee Swamp, and the birding, boating, fishing, and hunting nearby that it provides, to be too important to risk with a strip mine far too close to the Swamp,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Everyone down to the Gulf of Mexico should be concerned about this strip mine at the headwaters of the the Suwannee River, and east on the St. Marys River to the Atlantic. Way west at Valdosta, Georgia, exits from I-75 say Okefenokee Swamp this way, so the economic benefits of the Swamp are widespread. People visit the Swamp and the Suwannee from all over the world, and the public outcry needs to be just as widespread.”
To attend the virtual Public Meeting, first you must RSVP by emailing:
Subject: “RSVP for 13 MAY Public Meeting TPM”
Make sure that you include your full name, email address, and contact phone number with area code.
Before the meeting, you will receive the meeting link and security code. Just click the link and follow the prompts.
The meeting will use the WebEx platform, so…
Three weeks to comment on GA-EPD Valdosta wastewater Consent Order
(see also PDF)
Hahira, GA, May 4, 2020 — May 27th is the deadline to comment on the Enforcement Order the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) finally issued on Valdosta for sewage spills. For decades, Valdosta has spilled wastewater into the Withlacoochee River. People downstream, even on the Suwannee River all the way to the Gulf, worry about fishing, swimming, or even boating and some even say their wells are contaminated by fecal bacteria from these spills. Many had hoped that Valdosta’s big spills were over in 2016 with the new Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant uphill out of the flood plain, plus a Force Main with two Pump Stations. Valdosta says it has spent about $80 million on water system improvements. Yet the spills continued. The Order also reveals a massive fish kill.
“The December 2019 spill was the biggest yet, with no rain, and nothing actually broke. It was a massive failure of supervision,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Citizens and elected and appointed officials in Georgia and a dozen counties in Florida demanded something be done.”
This Enforcement Order includes the most popular request, a fine, plus many requirements for management and technology.
“Well, I’m glad they are doing the enforcement order, requiring them to get the fixes in place,” said Deanna Mericle of Hamilton County, Florida, who was among the WWALS members who met with the City of Valdosta back in 2015 about these same sewage issues. She added, “I’m not sure what the $122,000 will be used for, but the fine seems small. I just want the problem fixed for good if possible.”
The Order addresses much (but not all) of what Suwannee Riverkeeper asked GA-EPD to do: https://wwals.net/?p=50979 For example, it requires the City to test water quality all the way down to the state line. One thing it does not include is any requirements for reimbursing downstream well and river testing expenses.
“It’s good to see that the EPD is FINALLY taking this issue seriously!” said Suzy Hall, WWALS Testing Committee Chair. “I can’t help but feel WWALS’ diligence in testing has been a big part of this action, and must continue regardless of any order for the City to conduct testing.”
The entire 93-page Order is on the WWALS website, here:
“This Order has been a long time coming. It includes an outline of a sad history of mistakes and neglect. I hope the Order will finally get the City’s attention,” said Dr. Tom Potter, WWALS Science Committee Chair and taxpayer of the City of Valdosta.
Send your comments by Wednesday, May 27, 2020, to:
Mr. Lewis Hays
Manager, Watershed Compliance
Environmental Protection Division
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SE, Suite 1152 East
Atlanta, GA 30334
On Earth Day, FERC approved Sabal Trail Albany, GA, and Dunnellon, FL, compressor stations 2020-04-22,
FERC on Earth Day rubberstamped Sabal Trail pipeline compressor stations in Georgia virus hotspot and Florida location that already leaked
Hahira, Georgia, April 23, 2020 — “What better way to say they don’t care, than to do this on Earth Day?” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) broke out its rubberstamp during a virus pandemic, ignoring its own process, as well as all the comments and our motion against, to approve turning on two compressor stations, including one in Albany, Georgia, which is the Georgia city worst-affected by the virus, and another at a site near Dunnellon, Florida, which already leaked multiple times even before construction started.”
Methane from fracking is not more important to push through a Sabal Trail pipeline than the health of local people or even Sabal Trail’s own workers.
Photo: WCJB, of Sabal Trail Dunnellon Compressor Station after leak, 2017-08-11.
Quarterman added, “With the price of oil negative and “natural” gas down 40%, it’s time to ask investors if they want to go down with the fossil fuel ship of fools and time to ask politicians if they want this to be their legacy.”…
Song submissions open April First (no fooling!): Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest,
Song submissions open April First (no fooling!): Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest
Hahira, Georgia, March 30, 2020 — Bigger and with a new venue, the Turner Center for the Arts, the Third Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest seeks songs. Submissions open Wednesday, April 1, 2020, yes, no fooling!
“Georgia Beer Co. is back as our top-tier sponsor, which helps us get these new songs about our rivers, swamps, springs, and sinks,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman.
Finalists will play at the Contest, 6-9 PM, Saturday, August 22, 2020, judges will judge, at the Turner Center for the Arts, 527 N Patterson St, Valdosta, Georgia, 31601. There will be food and a cash bar, as you watch and listen, and you can browse the artworks at the Turner Center. There will also be a kayak raffle and a silent auction, as well as a range of buttons, stickers, hats, notecards, signs, shirts, and posters for sale: this is a fundraiser for WWALS Watershed Coalition.
Photo: Sara and Scotti Jay for WWALS, of Kyle Chamberlain and David Rodock playing Alapaha Laphogs
at the 2019 Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest.
“I heard so many good things about last year’s Contest when I was in Newfoundland, that….”
- 2020-03-19: Earth Day Cleanup Postponed due to pandemic: WWALS, Georgia Power, Valdosta, and Brooks County, GA, Madison County, FL.
Supporters of the Okefenokee Swamp ready to stop new strip mine application by Twin Pines Minerals,
Hahira, Georgia, March 16, 2020 — The coalition of supporters of the Okefenokee Swamp against anything that would harm it stands ready to stop the new strip mine application, same as the old one.
Twin Pines Minerals (TPM) of Birmingham, Alabama, in its new application claims its proposed titanium strip mine less than three miles from the Okefenokee Swamp would be on a “reduced mining area,” which is actually 86% of what they proposed last time. They say they want to do a “demonstration” mine.
Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman says, “Let their foot in the door and it will be even harder to get rid of them later. TPM is under a Florida Consent Order along with Chemours for violations at four mines due south in north Florida. Chemours now wants a fifth Florida titanium mine on Trail Ridge. Why would we think TPM would stop with just a nibble of Trail Ridge in Georgia? 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.”
Despite TPM’s assurances, the miners have not proven….