Author Archives: jsq

BIG Little River Paddle Tour, Red Roberts Landing, 2024-04-27

WWALS charter board member Bret Wagenhorst will guide a tour of the Little River from Red Roberts Landing to Reed Bingham State Park Lake. All reservations online in advance, limited to 20 paddlers.

When: Gather 8 AM, launch 9 AM, end 12 PM, Saturday, April 27, 2024

Put In: Red Roberts Landing, 4727 Rountree Bridge Rd., Adel, GA 31620. River left at Rountree Bridge south of Rountree Bridge Road (CR 251) west of Adel; exit 41 off I-75.

GPS: 31.192222, -83.520333

[BIG Little River Paddle Event, Red Roberts Landing, 2024-04-27, led by Dr. Bret Wagenhorst to Reed Bingham State Park]
BIG Little River Paddle Event, Red Roberts Landing, 2024-04-27, led by Dr. Bret Wagenhorst to Reed Bingham State Park

Last year we saw bald cypress, pond cypress, pines, willow, tupelow, river birch, water oak, primrose, fetterbush, sparkleberry, holly, titi, wild grapevines, native wisteria, lichen, resurrection fern, goldenclub, mistletoe, and blooming Spanish moss. We also saw many turtles, some alligators, and a great blue heron. Continue reading

Okefenokee bills, Georgia legislature 2024-02-21

As crossover day approaches in the Georgia legislature, events are moving faster about the proposed strip mine too near the Okefenokee Swamp.

In addition to a mining prohibition bill that has been in the legislature since last year, now there is a fine, draft permits, and two new bills, for increased criminal penalties, and for a mining moratorium (with a big catch).

None of these are likely to stop this specific “demonstration” mine, but some of them could prevent any further such mines.

Crossover day is the day by which a bill has to have been passed by one house to get into the other house. It’s February 29 this year, Thursday of next week.

[Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge: 15 miles]
Okefenokee NationaGl Wildlife Refuge: 15 miles
Map courtesy Prof. Can Denizman and students, Valdosta State University.

Draft Permits

As previously mentioned, On February 9, 2024, GA-EPD published draft permits (surface mining, water withdrawal, and air quality). for the applications by Twin Pines Minerals, LLC (TPM) to strip mine for titanium dioxide (TiO2) within three miles of the Okefenokee Swamp, between Moniac and St. George, Georgia. You have until April 9 to comment, and there is a public online meeting on March 5.

Details here:
https://wwals.net/?p=64142

Consent Orders

Back in January, I was told by a former state legislator that these miners be very careful to avoid infractions, because they had a lot of money riding on their venture. A week later, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) issued a Consent Order on TPM, saying back in 2018 the miners had drilled soil samples without a professional geologist or engineer supervising, as required by state law, and they also failed to provide a letter of credit or a performance bond. TPM “voluntarily” agreed to pay a tiny fine of $20,000. For more details, see Russ Bynum, AP, 24 January 2024, Company seeking to mine near Okefenokee will pay $20,000 to settle environmental violation claims.

This is not the first time TPM has been under a Consent Order. Continue reading

Okefenokee Swamp over proposed strip mine –Emily Floore, WWALS Webinar 2024-03-21

Emily Floore, St. Marys Riverkeeper, will give the third WWALS Webinar, about the Okefenokee Swamp, which is the headwaters of the St. Marys and Suwannee Rivers: why we protect it and the proposed strip mine that threatens it, as well as a recent Conservation Fund study.

This webinar will be by zoom, noon-1 PM, Thursday, March 21, 2024.

[Okefenokee Swamp over proposed strip mine --Emily Floore, WWALS Webinar]
Okefenokee Swamp over proposed strip mine –Emily Floore, WWALS Webinar

“WWALS and Suwannee Riverkeeper continue our work to protect the Okefenokee Swamp, 85% of which is in the Suwannee River Basin. We conduct outings for direct exposure, we have gotten city council and county commission resolutions passed, and we talk to Georgia state legislators, while expanding the issue into Florida. But the mine site is in the St. Marys River watershed. So I am very pleased that, since she’s been St. Marys Riverkeeper, Emily Floore has taken a strong position and action to support the Swamp and to oppose the mine,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman.

Register in advance with zoom for this meeting:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcrdOmtqzkpGt3UGEP7SDw6JJaAVAPt9d30 Continue reading

Boat Motor Tryouts, Troupville Boat Ramp, Little River 2024-02-18

Successful boat trials at Action Stage on the Little River!

Five of us went down to Troupville Boat Ramp, just west of Valdosta, Georgia, to test out some new boat motors.

[9.9hp outboard and 86lb thrust trolling motor (thanks, Wild Green Future) and jon boat (thanks, Flint Riverkeeper) and Bass Fisher (WWALS)]
9.9hp outboard and 86lb thrust trolling motor (thanks, Wild Green Future) and jon boat (thanks, Flint Riverkeeper) and Bass Fisher (WWALS)

Here’s a WWALS video playlist:
https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLKwQ5xfKf-QznYIX_GRvlK7Rc4P_Ms5DG&si=ll_y4evyoJbmxSgu


Successful boat trials at Action Stage on the Little River!
Videos by John S. Quarterman and Russell Allen McBride for WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS).

Thanks to Laura D’Alisera for transfering the new WWALS 9.9hp Mercury fourstroke 20-inch shaft electric start outboard motor ten miles from West Marine in Jacksonville Beach to a shipping location, where Phil Hubbard received it Saturday. Thanks to Wild Green Future (WGF) for the generous grant that bought it.

Sunday evening, Russell Allen McBride, Shawn O’Connor, Bobby McKenzie, and I unboxed it, connected it to its fuel supply, and tried it out. Thanks to Flint Riverkeeper for the jon boat.

With that outboard, the jon boat will indeed go upriver easily under these conditions. It took only ten minutes to haul Russell in his kayak up the third of a mile from the Little River Confluence to Troupville Boat Ramp.

Also due to WGF, we received an 85lb-thrust Goplus 8 Speed, 36 inch shaft, trolling motor, two Power Queen LiFePO4 12.8V 100Ah, lithium-iron-phosphate batteries, and a Power Queen 14.6V 10A LiFePO4 Battery Charger. Those we put on the WWALS bass fisher chainsawing boat, plus the old WWALS 40lb-thrust mounted on the front. Shawn and I demonstrated that the new motor alone will push that boat upstream in these conditions, and both motors will troll it upstream at a walking pace. Which is all we need to get back to the ramp from the Confluence during chainsaw cleanups.

You’ve already seen the chainsaw WGF paid for from a week ago, Sugar Creek to Troupville Chainsaw Cleanup, Withlacoochee River 2024-02-11.

We are awaiting a couple more items via the WGF grant. Stay tuned.

This is more preparation for the Mayor and Chairman’s Paddle, Saturday, March 2, 2024, starting at Langdale Park. One hopes that the water level will be well below Sunday’s 148′ NAVD 1988 level, or we may have to reschedule for later.

And also preparation for more chainsaw cleanups on other stretches of this and other rivers.

Next: 9AM Sunday, February 25, 2024, we will take the jon boat from Troupville Boat Ramp down around the Confluence and up the Withlacoochee River to Langdale Park, chainsawing any remaining paddle obstacles along the way. That one will be a bit hard to participate in by paddling.

The day before that, Saturday, February 24, please join us for in the morning for Knights Ferry to Nankin on the Withlacoochee River and in the evening for Banks Lake Full Snow Moon Paddle.

There are more pictures below. Continue reading

Pictures: Sugar Creek to Troupville Chainsaw Cleanup, Withlacoochee River 2024-02-11

Three of us cleared boating passage between the Sugar Creek WaterGoat on the Withlacoochee River behind the Valdosta YMCA and Wood Valley, around the future Troupville Nature Park and River Camp, past the Little River Confluence, then upstream on the Little River to Troupville Boat Ramp.

Thanks to Phil Hubbard for leading, and his Stihl chainsaw and electric chainsaw, to Shawn O’Connor for using his polesaw.

[Sawing Hurricane and other deadfalls, Sugar Creek, Withlacoochee River, Troupville Boat Ramp 2024-02-11]
Sawing Hurricane and other deadfalls, Sugar Creek, Withlacoochee River, Troupville Boat Ramp 2024-02-11

I brought the new Husqvarna 460 Rancher 24-inch chainsaw, paid for through a generous grant by Wild Green Future.

That grant also paid for some other things you will see in the near future. Today at Troupville Boat Ramp, at 4:30 PM, we will be trying out some of those things.

The big deadfall between GA 133 and I-75 was underwater, but there were plenty more to work on.

This is all in preparation for the Mayor and Chairman’s Paddle, Saturday, March 2, 2024, starting at Langdale Park.

There are more pictures below.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can help with clean, swimmable, fishable, drinkable, water in the 10,000-square-mile Suwannee River Basin in Florida and Georgia by becoming a WWALS member today!
https://wwals.net/donations

Continue reading

Pictures: Chainsaw Cleanup, Withlacoochee River, Langdale Park to Sugar Creek –Phil Royce 2024-02-03

Thanks to Shawn O’Connor for leading this chainsaw cleanup, Saturday a week ago, from Langdale Park to Sugar Creek on the Withlacoochee River.

This is in preparation for the Mayor and Chairman’s Paddle, March 2, 2024.
https://wwals.net/?p=64095

Phil Royce drove an hour from Live Oak, Florida, and Gary Koch drove two hours from Ocala, Florida, saying it was better to stop trash upstream. In addition to regulars Russell Allen McBride and Bobby McKenzie, Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson came to see us off; he’s second from left in the banner picture. More on that in a later post.

These pictures are by Phil Royce. Phil had to leave early, so his portage pictures are before we came along and sawed a river passage.

[Banners, bass fisher, chain saws, Withlacoochee River, Langdale Park to Sugar Creek 2024-02-03]
Banners, bass fisher, chain saws, Withlacoochee River, Langdale Park to Sugar Creek 2024-02-03

For more WWALS outings and events as they are posted, see Continue reading

Pictures: Waterkeepers Florida, Santa Fe River and springs 2024-02-08

We saw many springs, divers, entrances to two big sinkholes (Little and Big Awesome Sucks), many turtles, some alligators, a wood stork, a cattle egret, a hawk, a great blue heron, and some buzzards, as well as many gar and other fish, more cypress knees than you can count, and one very old cypress tree, just below some less than scary shoals.

Perhaps most importantly, nobody was in a hurry to get anywhere. Everybody paddles leisurely, took in the sights, and socialized.

At one of our Friday morning Waterkeepers Florida (WKFL) zoom calls, Jen Lomberk, the WKFL chair, asked Suwannee Riverkeeper to organize an outing while we would all be in Gainesville for an annual conference. The nearest Suwannee River Basin River is the Santa Fe, so I called on Doug Jipson of outfitter Rum 138 to shuttle us, and Merillee Malwitz-Jipson of Our Santa Fe River (OSFR) to guide us. See also the pictures Merrillee sent.

[Waterkeepers Florida, Santa Fe River, Rum Island to FL 47 2024-02-08]
Waterkeepers Florida, Santa Fe River, Rum Island to FL 47 2024-02-08

Waterkeepers Florida consists of all 15 Waterkeepers of Florida,
https://www.waterkeepersflorida.org

Waterkeeper is the generic name that includes Riverkeepers, all licensed by Waterkeeper Alliance. Suwannee Riverkeeper and St. Marys Riverkeeper are Waterkeepers of both Florida and Georgia.

Eleven WKFL members showed up (some with more than one representative), which is about the usual percentage for the annual gathering. Some of them had never seen a blue spring before. We went to Gilchrist Blue Spring, Devil’s Eye Spring, Ginnie Spring, and numerous more, between Rum Island and FL 47 Ramp in Gilchrist County Santa Fe River Park.

Actually, we were going to put in at Rum Island County Park, but it was mysteriously closed that morning. So we put in at Merrilee’s private river access.

When we got to Rum Island, the work at the park was obvious: the incredibly ostentatious orange barrier at the swimming area.

Here are some video snippets:
https://youtu.be/8lzYtVt60ZU?si=Z6Ec8LaVkmM7XmlG Continue reading

Clean rivers and creek 2024-02-14

We got good results for Wednesday for the Alapaha, Santa Fe, and Suwannee Rivers, and Franks Creek.

Valdosta’s recent upstream Withlacoochee River results through Wednesday are good.

Rain is predicted for this weekend, through Saturday. But if there is not much rain, paddling Sunday should be OK. If you like high water, since the Little and Withlacoochee Rivers are up from previous upstream rains. The Santa Fe River is coming back down. The Suwannee was never especially high.

WWALS has two outings coming up on Saturday, February 24, 2024: the morning paddle from Knights Ferry to Nankin on the Withlacoochee River, and the evening Full Snow Moon paddle on Banks Lake.

And of course don’t forget that Saturday, March 2, is the Mayor and Chairman’s Paddle from Langdale Park to Troupville on the Withlacoochee River. That one is free, thanks to a generous grant from Georgia Power.

[Chart, Clean Franks Creek and Withlacoochee, Alapaha, Santa Fe, and Suwannee Rivers 2024-02-14, Map]
Chart, Clean Franks Creek and Withlacoochee, Alapaha, Santa Fe, and Suwannee Rivers 2024-02-14, Map

No sewage spills were reported in the Suwannee River Basin in Florida in the past week.

But one was reported in Georgia. Ashburn had a spill of 3,000 gallons of raw sewage into Ashburn Branch, which flows into the Little River. Continue reading

Banks Lake Full Snow Moon Paddle, 2024-02-24

Join us for a leisurely Sunset and Full Moon Paddle on our watery living room, Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuge, just west of Lakeland, Georgia.

When: Gather 5:30 PM, launch 6 PM, moonrise 6:45 PM, sunset 6:27 PM, end 7:40 PM, Saturday, February 24, 2024

Put In: Banks Lake Boat Ramp, 307 Georgia 122, Lakeland, GA 31635, in Lanier County, on the Alapaha River Water Trail (ARWT).

GPS: 31.034824, -83.096725

[FB: Banks Lake and painting --Julie Bowland, February 5, 2023]
FB: Banks Lake and painting –Julie Bowland, February 5, 2023

Continue reading

Video: Paddles through Time: Historical and Archaeological Sites of the Withlacoochee River of South Georgia and North Florida –Tom Baird, WWALS Webinar 2024-02-15

Tom Baird, archaeologist of Tallahassee, Florida, gave the second WWALS Webinar, this one about the history and archaeology of the Withlacoochee River in Georgia and Florida.

“Tom talked about arrowpoints, fish weirs, spears, atlatls, mounds, missions, wood mills, and ghost towns, as well as current threats to the Withlacoochee River and archaeological opportunities,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman.

[Paddles Through Time by Tom Baird]
Paddles Through Time by Tom Baird

Tom Baird is an education consultant who has previously worked as a high school teacher, community college instructor (oceanography and microbiology), director of a science and environmental center, supervisor of science (K-12) in Pasco Co., FL, Director of Science (PreK-12) in Pinellas Co. FL, Principal of a math/science/technology magnet high school in Pinellas Co., FL, and director of a National Science Foundation program.

Tom was introduced by WWALS President Sara Jay Jones, who received a copy of Tom’s book during the webinar. Continue reading