Press Releases

See also News.

WWALS Press Releases

  • 2021-10-15: 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.
    https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wwals-boomerang-paddle-race-2021-tickets-168646372841

    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.”

    ….

  • 2021-10-07: 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.

    [Parking lot, Hightower Creek]
    Parking lot, Hightower Creek

    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)….

  • 2021-09-16: 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.

    [Flyer]

  • 2021-08-30: 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.”

    [Flyer]
    Flyer
    PDF

    Tickets are on sale now, $20 online until October 15, then $30 online or at the event.
    https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wwals-boomerang-paddle-race-2021-tickets-168646372841

  • 2021-08-23: 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.

    [All winners]
    All winners.
    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.

  • 2021-08-19: 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.
    https://wwals.net/pictures/2021-08-21–songwriting/

    VIP tables seating six in front of the stage are $150; inquire to song@suwanneeriverkeeper.org.

    [Flyer]
    Flyer
    PDF

    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.”

  • 2021-08-04: 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.

    [Nine Songwriters, Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2021]

    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.
    https://wwals.net/pictures/2021-08-21–songwriting/

    VIP tables in front of the stage are $150; inquire to song@suwanneeriverkeeper.org.

  • 2021-08-02: 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.

    Suwannee Riverkeeper and Big Country Wes James on WAAC FM Rivers Radio 2021-04-20
    Photo: John S. Quarterman for WWALS of Wes James on WAAC FM Rivers Radio 2021-04-20

    Tickets are on sale now, $10 online; they will be $12 at the door.
    https://wwals.net/pictures/2021-08-21–songwriting/

    VIP tables in front of the stage are $150; inquire to song@suwanneeriverkeeper.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 ….

  • 2021-07-08: 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:
    https://forms.gle/tWrqas7qPWDKgpqF6

    “Laura liked it so much she joined the organizing Committee,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman.

    [Flyer]
    Flyer
    PDF

    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…

  • 2021-07-07: 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:
    https://forms.gle/tWrqas7qPWDKgpqF6

  • 2021-06-23: 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.”

    [Presentation and Play, Alapaha River, Naylor Beach]
    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:
    https://wwals.net/pictures/gretchen/2021-06-21–wwals-naylor-ga-power/

    “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….

  • 2021-05-12: 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.”

    [Troupville Boat Ramp, Salty Snapper, Troupville River Camp]
    Troupville Boat Ramp, Salty Snapper, Troupville River Camp

  • 2021-04-19: 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:
    https://wwals.net/pictures/2021-04-24–blrpr/

    Photo: Phil Hubbard, of Dan Phillips placing second in BLRPR 2018.
    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….

    [Joree Millpond, trash, Withlacoochee River]
    Joree Millpond, trash, Withlacoochee River
    Photos: Russell Allen McBride.

  • 2021-03-22: 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.

    [Tandem female canoe, orange (BW)]
    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.”

  • 2021-02-25: 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 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….

  • 2021-02-09: Petition to EPA: protect from radioactive phosphogypsum stacks,

    Many groups in many states yesterday petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to improve federal oversight of radioactive waste and wastewater from 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.”

    PCS Phosphate Mine, 2016-10-22, WWALS Southwings flight
    PCS Phosphate Mine 2016-10-22, Southwings flight for WWALS, pictures by Jim Tatum, https://wwals.net/?p=32043


    For Immediate Release, February 8, 2021….

  • 2021-02-04: 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]
    Troupville Boat Ramp, WWTP Outfall, midpoint, Spook Bridge
    Photos: Gretchen Quarterman for WWALS 2020-01-18

  • 2021-02-03: 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,”

    [Empty US 19 Photo: Janet Barrow 2020-12-19]
    Empty US 19 Photo: Janet Barrow 2020-12-19

    Newton Cook, President of United Waterfowlers of Florida said,…

  • 2021-02-01: 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.”

    [Joe Brownlee at rest stop]
    Photo: John S. Quarterman for WWALS, January 18, 2021: Mayor at the midpoint.

    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…

  • 2020-12-01: 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.”

    [Mine site, Okefenokee Swamp, TIAA land, TPM land]
    Mine site, Okefenokee Swamp, TIAA land, TPM land

    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.

    https://wwals.net/?p=54187

  • 2020-11-17: 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.

    [Great Blue Heron, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, TPM mine site]
    Great Blue Heron, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, TPM mine site

    Contact: This Okefenokee item was submitted by Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman (229-242-0102, contact@suwanneeriverkeeper.org) and Georgia River Network Executive Director Rena Ann Peck, (404-395-6250, rena@garivers.org).

    They also recently….

  • 2020-11-12: 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.”

    [Pictures from last year]
    Pictures from last year, 2020-01-18.

    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.

    GPS: 30.851842, -83.346536

    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.

    Bring: ….

  • 2020-10-29: 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!

    [WWALS Boomerang 2020]
    WWALS Boomerang 2020

    “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….

  • 2020-10-20: 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]
    WWALS Boomerang 2020
    PDF

  • 2020-09-04: 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.

  • 2020-08-31: 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.

    [Award and Cleanup]
    Award and 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.

  • 2020-08-25: Winners: Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2020-08-22

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

  • 2020-08-11: 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!”

    [T2, Jack, Chris, jsq, Georgia Beer Co., Suwannee Riverkeeper]
    WWALS President Tom H. Johnson, Jr., Georgia Beer Co. founders Jack Martin and Chris Jones, Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman 2020-08-13

    “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/

  • 2020-08-07: 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).
    https://www.eventbrite.com/e/third-annual-suwannee-riverkeeper-songwriting-contest-finals-tickets-110284875030

    For VIP tables in front of the stage, contact song@suwanneeriverkeeper.org.

    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.

    [Third Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest]
    Third Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest

    Due to the virus pandemic situation and executive orders by the Georgia Governor, we will be …

  • 2020-07-27: 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.”

    [Joe Brownlee, Georgia Power Southwest District Director]
    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.”

  • 2020-07-14: 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.

    [Okefenokee Protection Alliance (OPA)]
    Okefenokee Protection Alliance (OPA)

  • 2020-07-14: 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!”

    [Dirty Bird and the Flu]
    Dirty Bird and the Flu

  • Deadline Extended for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest

    [Deadline Extended to July 14, 2020]
    Deadline Extended to July 14, 2020

  • 2020-06-23: 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.”
    https://forms.gle/Ztxm8xmwwoAjPLj86

    [Judges and banner]
    Judges and banner

    The new judge this year is…

  • 2020-06-16: 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.)

    Scott James, Talk 92.1 FM

    “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.”

    [Mine to Gulf and Ocean]
    Mine to Gulf and Ocean in the WWALS map of all public landings and boat ramps in the Suwannee River Basin.

    To attend the virtual Public Meeting, first you must RSVP by emailing:
    To: CESAS-SpecialProjects@usace.army.mil
    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…

  • 2020-05-04: 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.

    [Photo 2: Dead largemouth bass in Sugar Creek below Bay Tree Road.]
    Photo 2: Dead largemouth bass in Sugar Creek below Bay Tree Road.

    “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:
    https://wwals.net/pictures/2020-04-13–ga-epd-vld-enforcement-order

    “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
       Lewis.Hays@dnr.ga.gov
       404-463-4953

  • 2020-04-23: 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.”

    [Project Location Map]
    Project Location Map

    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.

    Compressor Station from FL 200
    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.”…

  • 2020-03-30: 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!

    [Third Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest]
    Third Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest

    “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.
    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.
  • 2020-03-16: 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.

    [Figure 1: Location of the Proposed Saunders Demonstration Mine]
    Figure 1: Location of the Proposed Saunders Demonstration Mine
    PDF

    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….

    [Map: TPM Mine, Okefenokee Swamp, Suwannee River]
    Map: TPM Mine, Okefenokee Swamp, Suwannee River
    in the WWALS map of All Public Landings in the Suwannee River Basin.