Category Archives: Agriculture

Letter: WWALS to FDEP and SRWMD: acquisitions, invitations, withdrawals, water quality testing 2020-11-10

Sent yesterday afternoon after the morning SRWMD board meeting.


November 10, 2020

To: Noah Valenstein
Secretary, FDEP
Noah.Valenstein@floridadep.gov

Hugh Thomas
Executive Director, SRWMD
Hugh.Thomas@srwmd.org

Sen. Keith Perry
Perry.Keith@flsenate.gov

Cc: Scott R. Koons
E.D., Rivers Task Force
koons@ncfrpc.org

Re: land acquisitions, event invitations, water withdrawals, and water quality testing

Dear Secretary Valenstein, Director Thomas, and Sen. Perry,

This morning I spoke via gotowebinar in the SRWMD Board Meeting. This letter expands on what I said.

[WWALS letter to FDEP and SRWMD]
WWALS letter to FDEP and SRWMD
PDF

I offered compliments, a suggestion, and a recommendation on the FDEP press release of yesterday: Continue reading

Bad Knights Ferry water quality, Withlacoochee River 2020-10-30

Before last weekend all the water quality results from Valdosta for Wednesday and Madison Health for Thursday seemed good. But then it rained late Thursday. I tested Friday, and while US 41, just below Sugar Creek, and US 84 were good on the Withlacoochee River, Knights Ferry Boat Ramp was not good at all.

That contamination must have washed downstream. It may have already passed State Line by Monday, and it may never show up in Valdosta or Madison Health results. We shall see what their results for this week say.

But it was there at Knights Ferry Boat Ramp Friday. This is a good illustration of why even more frequent testing is needed.

Oh, and vote for clean water.

[US 41, NSRR, US 84, KF]
US 41, NSRR, US 84, KF

At Knights Ferry, I counted 39 + 38 + 39 = 116 * 100 / 3 = 3,866 cfu/100 mL E. coli. I went with Gretchen’s slightly lower counts of 40 + 25 + 39 = 104 * 100 / 3 = 3,466, because there was some doubt whether some E. coli colonies were separate or not. Sara Jay got an even lower 2,633. Whichever, it’s clear they’re all well above the 1,000 Georgia Adopt-A-Stream alert limit. So we’re using the 2,633 3,466 middle number, which is plenty bad. Continue reading

FDOT says it will look for toll road financial need after reports: you can vote! 2020-10-21

FDOT actually answered my complaint that there is no demonstrated need for the M-CORES toll roads, saying FDOT would be sure to do financial due diligence. After the “Final” Task Force reports go to the legislature.

Meanwhile, FDOT has spent how many millions of taxpayer dollars on the un-needed boondoggle? Despite NRTR demonstrating that 93% of comments FDOT received opposed the toll roads?

Nevermind their “deadlines,” you can still send comments to FDOT, and they will go into the public record, retrievable through open records requests.

And don’t forget to vote for people who will stop this toll roads boondoggle and instead do good things for natural Florida and its people. Votes are comments the state of Florida cannot ignore.

[Graph 93-percent-AGAINST 10 14 20-0001]
Graph 93-percent-AGAINST 10 14 20-0001
PDF

I didn’t get to comment on the Suncoast Corridor Task Force meeting, because they didn’t see my sign-up to comment using their procedures. I asked them about that, and got them to acknowledge I had signed up to comment in the Northern Turnpike Connector Task Force meeting the next day.

Here is what I sent FDOT immediately after speaking on October 21, 2020: Continue reading

Videos: Vote on wood pellet farm –Adel City Council 2020-09-21

The Adel, Georgia, City Council passed the two ordinances for the wood pellet plant with no discussion, yet with some votes against, and protestors outside and inside, on September 21, 2020. There are still things you can do to stop this polluting project that would export our trees from throughout the Suwannee River Basin and beyond, to Europe to burn, producing yet more CO2.

[Protesters outside and in, and the Adel City Council split vote for the wood pellet plant]
Protesters outside and in, and the Adel City Council split vote for the wood pellet plant

Below are links to each LAKE video of those agenda items, with a few notes.

See also Vicki Weeks, Dogwood Alliance, 16 October 2020, Industrial Logging and the Wood Pellet Industry Hurt Us All.

And Dogwood Alliance’s petition to call on Georgia leaders to protect our forests.
https://www.dogwoodalliance.org/actions/stop-the-destruction-of-georgia-forests/

You can also ask GA-EPD to reject the air permit application. Probably more on that later.

For background, see: Continue reading

Sign up for final toll road Task Force meetings 2020-10-19

Please register today to comment with in the last M-CORES Task Force meetings Tuesday (Suncoast Corridor) and Wednesday (Northern Turnpike Corridor). You must register online by 5PM the day before each meeting.
https://floridamcores.com/calendar-of-events/

Previous public comments overwhelmingly oppose these toll roads, but we need still more comments.

[Pie-chart 93-percent-AGAINST 10 14 20-0001]
Pie-chart 93-percent-AGAINST 10 14 20-0001
PDF

Please tell the Task Forces to reject their Final Report, because it established no need, yet left it possible for FDOT to continue preparing to build these toll roads. Ask the Task Force to outright reject the Report and instead to report No Build.

After the Florida Governor cut $1 billion from the budget is no time to be wasting tax dollars on toll roads for which their own Task Forces can find no need. In addition to all the damage these toll roads would do to our rivers, springs, and swamps, without need, these Florida toll roads would be broke from the start, just like Texas SH 130.

Yes, this is yet another deadline after the report comment deadline. But please do also comment to the Task Force.

Suwannee Riverkeeper for WWALS is a signatory of the Join Comment Letter by members of No Roads to Ruin (NRTR), and Suwannee Riverkeeper voted in the unanimous Waterkeepers Florida approval to sign that letter.

NRTR has released a Press Release with analysis showing 93% of public comments so far oppose the toll roads, with only 4% for and 3% unclear. That puts numbers on the massive public opposition that was visible even in the Suncoast Connector Task Force report “summary of the most common comments/themes received from the public”.

[Graph 93-percent-AGAINST 10 14 20-0001]
Graph 93-percent-AGAINST 10 14 20-0001
PDF

Rural Florida needs fast Internet service, but no new roads are needed to do that. For hurricanes, better shelters and rural solar and batteries for power afterwards would cost much less and be much more effective than these toll roads.

Please add your comment to the Task Force saying No Build! Continue reading

Last day to comment against M-CORES, and NRTR publishes analysis of comments 2020-10-14

Florida has a billion-dollar budget shortfall, yet the toll road task forces are still reporting go-aheads while finding no need for their destructive projects. Today is the last comment day to tell the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) what you think about that. Plus today you can listen to the No Roads to Ruin Coalition spell out the overwhelming public opposition to this toll roads boondoggle.

How to comment to FDOT about M-CORES:

  1. FDOT.Listens@dot.state.fl.us
  2. or use this comment form:
    https://floridamcores.com/#contact-us

Just like SH 130 in Texas, these Florida toll roads would be broke from the start, while sucking up funds that should go to pandemic relief and to conserving Florida’s natural environment, including regular, frequent, closely-spaced water quality testing on all of Florida’s rivers. Florida should be doing those things, not risking the Suwannee and Santa Fe Rivers, their springs, agriculture, forests, swamps, and the Floridan Aquifer for unnecessary toll roads.

[Florida Suncoast Conector and Texas SH 130: broke from the start]
Florida Suncoast Conector and Texas SH 130: broke from the start

Also today, the No Roads To Ruin (NRTR) coalition, of which Suwannee Riverkeeper is a charter member, will release an analysis of public comments.

After 15 months of public meetings and collecting public comment in multiple formats for the three M-CORES task forces, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has yet to provide, to the task force members or the public, a complete record and accounting of public comment submissions.

To rectify this situation, the No Roads to Ruin Coalition has gathered, categorized, and will share and summarize those public comments, along with the obvious probable reasons for FDOT’s lack of transparency.

WHAT: No Roads to Ruin Coalition Zoom press conference and Facebook Live event

WHEN: October 14, 2020 at 10:30 to 11:00 a.m.

WHO: Jon Bleyer, Progress Florida Online Communications Specialist, Ryan Smart, Florida Springs Council Executive Director, and volunteer “comment counters” from across the state

WHERE: Facebook Live: www.facebook.com/noroadstoruin

Suwannee Riverkeeper has signed on to an NRTR letter against M-CORES, as has Waterkeepers Florida on behalf of all 14 Waterkeepers of Florida.

For why, you need go no farther than The Suncoast Corridor Task Force’s own Study Area Overview:

[SCC MCORES-Draft-Task-Force-Report-Sections-9.28.20-0009]
SCC MCORES-Draft-Task-Force-Report-Sections-9.28.20-0009
PDF

The predominately rural counties located within the Suncoast Corridor study area contain natural resources, landscapes, and public lands that have been highly attractive to residents and year-round visitors for decades. This area has many unique features and natural resources including rivers, springs, wetlands, aquifer recharge areas, coastal areas, conservation areas, state parks, and agricultural lands. Some notable resources include the Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve, the Flint Rock and Aucilla Wildlife Management Areas, the Suwannee and Santa Fe Rivers, Blue Springs, Fanning Springs, Crystal River, and the Goethe State Forest. The study area also contains numerous large acreage conservation easements. These areas support significant fish, wildlife, and plant populations including threatened and endangered species such as the West Indian manatee, the Florida scrub-jay, and the gopher tortoise. The study area also includes an abundance of prime farmlands and agricultural properties that serve both economic and environmental functions in addition to Spring Protection and Recharge Areas, prospective Florida Forever Lands on the current priority lists for acquisition, and Florida Ecological Greenways Network critical linkages.

Why would we want to risk all that for an unnecessary toll road?

Even the Suncoast Connector Task Force’s own report admits that the public comments were overwhelmingly against that toll road:

A summary of the most common comments/themes received from the public are included below.

  • Concern for impacts to wildlife habitat (946 comments)
  • Concern for impacts to property and rural quality of life (783 comments)
  • Support to expand, improve, and maintain existing roads (421 comments)
  • Need to improve and protect water resources and the aquifer (421 comments)
  • Concern over project cost (367 comments)
  • Need for protection and enhancement of conservation lands (356 comments)
  • Support the need for jobs, economic development and business enhancements; but concern over potential negative economic impacts (269 comments)
  • Concern over the cost of tolls (256 comments)
  • Concern for impacts to wetlands (169 comments)
  • Concern for increased water, ground, and air pollution (147 comments)
  • Need for hurricane evacuation (144 comments)
  • Concern over location/project alignment or route (137 comments)
  • Support for multi-modal/mass transit (144 comments)
  • Need for broadband (117 comments)

As many of us have pointed out, you don’t need a toll road to distribute broadband to rural areas.

Local solar panels with battery backup and more hurricane shelters make a lot more sense and would be far less expensive than a toll road encouraging mass evacuation.

Also remember the Northern Turnpike Connector toll road boondoggle overlaps the Suwannee River Basin in Levy County.

Please comment today!

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!

Cleanups, Testing, WWALS Boomerang on Steve Nichols radio show 2020-10-06

Steve Nichols and Suwannee Riverkeeper will ask again: does anybody want to drink dirty water? That’s 8:30 AM tomorrow, October 6, 2020, on 105.9 FM WVGA. In addition to water quality testing, we’ll also discuss the big cleanup coming up this Saturday on three rivers and many creeks, and the Third Annual WWALS Boomerang paddle race from Georgia into Florida and back. Plus some other outings.

[Water Quality Testing]
Water Quality Testing 2020-08-18

WVGA FM says:

The top rated morning talk show in south Georgia, Steve Nichols offers both sides of every story from Berrien County to the Beltway, and everywhere in between.

You can listen at 105.9 FM, on the WVGA Live apps, through ValdostaToday.com (link on front page), on Alexa devices, or you can stream in-studio video at the official Morning Drive Facebook page.

When: 8:30 AM, Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Where: 105.9 FM WVGA (see above for how to listen)

Event: facebook

Thanks to Steve Nichols for helping promote the Third Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, which went very well.

On Saturday, October 10, 2020, in conjunction with Lowndes County, WWALS will be doing a three-location cleanup at Troupville Boat Ramp on the Little River, on Sugar Creek down to the Withlacoochee River, and at Naylor Boat Ramp on the Alapaha River, plus Valdosta is organizing several creek cleanups.
https://wwals.net/?p=53557

[Flyer: Cleanup on three rivers, many creeks]
Flyer: Cleanup on three rivers, many creeks

On Saturday, October 24, 2020, there’s the Third Annual WWALS Boomerang paddle race from Georgia into Florida and back.

Tickets to the WWALS Boomerang are $20 online through Ocotber 15, then $30 at the event.
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wwals-boomerang-paddle-race-2020-tickets-118844038719?aff=efbeventtix

For much more, follow this link: wwals.net/pictures/2020-10-24–boomerang/ Continue reading

Bad lower Suwannee, good Withlacoochee and Alapaha 2020-09-14

Update 2020-09-18: OK Withlacoochee River Quality, sewage spill Suwannee, FL, Suwannee River 2020-09-17

Sunday, Suzy Hall tested for WWALS at Sullivan Launch @ CR 15 on the Withlacoochee River, and got good results.

This despite a report of cows in a creek near the river just upstream in Hamilton County, Florida: that’s right, Florida, not Georgia.

Loretta Tennant’s WWALS results for the lower Suwannee were not so pretty.

And while Valdosta’s results for late last week corroborate those of WWALS and Madison Health, for Wedensday, September 2, Valdosta got bad results at State Line Boat Ramp.

[Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers]
Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers

Lower Suwannee River

Monday, September 14, 2020, Loretta Tennant tested again for WWALS at Continue reading

Songwriting Contest on Steve Nichols radio show 2020-08-18

Here is video of Steve Nichols and Suwannee Riverkeeper talking about the Songwriting Contest on the radio, last Tuesday morning at 8:30 AM, 105.9 FM WVGA.

Tickets to listen are available, $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 send email to song@suwanneeriverkeeper.org.

[Radio, History, Waterworks, Georgia Beer Co.]
Radio, History, Waterworks, Georgia Beer Co.

The Contest Finals are this Saturday (tomorrow), 7-9 PM, August 22, 2020, at the Turner Center Art Park, 605 North Patterson Street, Valdosta, Georgia 31601.

Scott James of 92.1 FM will be the M.C. The headliner, Dirty Bird and the Flu, will play. Then each of the three judges will play. The finalists will play for the judges and you the audience. Somebody will win the $300 First Prize, and the other prizes.

[First Prize, Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest]
First Prize, Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest

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.

Bring your own chairs and tables if you can. We will have some, but if you can bring your own, that will be great. There’s plenty of room to have tables spaced apart. We will be requiring masks when you go up to the WWALS information tables or close to others not in your group.

Food will be by Rico’s Tacos’ food truck. Drinks will be provided by the Pour House.

For much more, follow this link: https://wwals.net/pictures/2020-08-22–songwriting/

Steve Nichols and I also talked about Why care about the waters?, WWALS Cleanups and Outings, Water Quality Testing, Masks at the Contest, and Georgia Beer Company, Top Tier Sponsor.

Why care about the waters?

Video at 3:33. Steve Nichols asked why I was so involved in this water stuff.

A century ago, my grandfather Continue reading

Songwriting Contest on Scott James Radio 2020-08-18

The first of three radio interviews yesterday about the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest was at 7:30 AM on the Scott James show, 92.1 FM.

Songwriting on the radio

Scott James will be the M.C. of the Contest, which is this Saturday, 7-9 PM, August 22, 2020, at the Turner Center Art Park, 605 North Patterson Street, Valdosta, Georgia 31601.

Tickets to listen are available, $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 send email to song@suwanneeriverkeeper.org.

I’m pretty sure M.C. Scott James promised to keep the weather fine this Saturday evening. We will have a couple of tents for the M.C. and the judges.

After Scott James and I talked about that, I asked, “Please bring your own chairs and tables. We will have some, but if you can bring your own, that’s great.”

There’s more below about the Songwriting Contest, about Masks and Distance, and about Georgia Beer Company, Top Tier Sponsor.

We also talked about Current Situation of Water Quality Testing, Suwannee River Basin 2020-08-02, WWALS Summary of FDEP chemical and biological tracers, Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers 2020-08-05, and Troupville River Park, Outings: bike and paddle, full moons, and cleanups. Continue reading