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