Category Archives: Agriculture

Good Little, Withlacoochee Rivers, bad Alapaha River 2021-10-14

Update 2021-10-22: All clean: Withlacoochee, Little, Alapaha Rivers 2021-10-21.

Something we’ve never seen: the only too-high result is on the Alapaha River for Thursday. We’ve never seen a reading at Lakeland Boat Ramp that high.

The Little and Withlacoochee Rivers tested good for Thursday, which is what we expected since there has been no rain for days.

So in the reverse of what we often say, avoid the Alapaha River and swim, fish, and paddle on the Little and Withlacoochee Rivers this weekend, according to the best data we have.

Still looking good for the WWALS Boomerang paddle race from Georgia into Florida and back, coming up in one week at State Line Boat Ramp.

[Chart + Little + Alapaha River, Withlacoochee River, Swim Guide]
Chart + Little + Alapaha River, Withlacoochee River, Swim Guide

You can also see in the charts that Valdosta’s upstream results for last Friday showed extremely high Fecal coliform for US 41 (upstream from Valdosta), GA 133, and US 84, and way-too-high E. coli for GA 133. That somewhat helps explain why our plates for that Thursday (October 7th) for Knights Ferry Boat Ramp showed high background Fecal coliform colonies.

No, we don’t know what it is. There have been no sewage spills reported this past week in the Suwannee River Basin in Georgia. Most likely it is some sort of manure runoff, this time coming from far upstream on the Withlacoochee River. Continue reading

Withlacoochee, Alapaha, Suwannee Rivers in GA-EPD Triennial Review Update 2021-09-13

We appear to be the poster child for Recreational redesignation of waterbodies by GA-EPD.

[Prioritization of Nominated Waterbodies]
Prioritization of Nominated Waterbodies; blue marks prioritized waterbodies.

That’s a slide from today’s update meeting.

Not all our blue prioritized waterbodies were redesignated: not Banks Lake nor Grand Bay. But the Withlacoochee and Alapaha segments were redesignated. We may have gotten more river miles redesignated than anywhere else in Georgia.

[Stretches redesignated Recreational]
Stretches redesignated Recreational on the GA-EPD map.

As you can see, GA-EPD stuck to considering swimming as most important for what they call primary recreation, which is what they require for Recreational redesignation. Thanks to all of you who sent in swimming pictures and locations. You can keep sending those in, especially for the Suwannee River. Thanks to those cities and counties and Chambers of Commerce that sent in letters of support. Continue reading

More Recreational redesignation of waterbodies still possible –GA-EPD 2021-09-01

In addition to the Alapaha and Withlacoochee River segments GA-EPD has accepted to be redesignated Recreational, according to today’s update letter several others still could be considered with certain additional information, and still more can be nominated. This would be for the next Triennial Review of Water Quality Standards, which starts next year, 2022.

Read the whole thing here: PDF.

Excerpts related to the Suwannee River Basin are below. I’ve added a few comments in [square brackets].

The following waterbody segments are being proposed for designated use change to recreation for the 2019 Triennial Review. EPD has received complete nomination packages for each of these waterbody segments, including thorough documentation of year-round primary contact recreation throughout the length of the segment, current and planned investment data, and letters of support from community and stakeholders. A map of these waterbody segments can be found at
https://arcg.is/1i0ezv

[Stretches redesignated Recreational]
Stretches redesignated Recreational on the GA-EPD map.

  • Alapaha River – Cherry Creek to Stateline
  • Alapaha River – Willacoochee River to Dampier Branch
    [Those two Alapaha River stretches omit Sheboggy Boat Ramp downstream from Alapaha, and Lakeland Boat Ramp, Pafford’s Landing, and Rowetown Church Landing downstream from Lakeland.]
  • Withlacoochee River – Tiger Creek to State Line

[Plus Reed Bingham State Park Lake on the Little River was already Recreational, even though it does not appear on the above GA-EPD map. The rest of the Little River we can resubmit.]

Incomplete nomination packages were received for the following waterbodies. EPD will continue to solicit information from the nominators to complete these packages. If EPD receives complete nomination packages, EPD will review the complete packages and consider changing the designated use of these waterbodies to recreation as part of the 2022 Triennial Review:

Missing Documentation of year-round primary contact recreation:

Continue reading

Parts of Alapaha, Withlacoochee Rivers to be Recreational –GA-EPD 2021-08-11

Update 2021-09-01: More Recreational redesignation of waterbodies still possible –GA-EPD 2021-09-01.

GA-EPD picked a subset of the river stretches they previously said they would consider for Recreational designation: in the Georgia Triennial Review of Water Quality Standards: parts of the Alapaha River, and a smaller part of the Withlacoochee River.

There’s an online Update Meeting next month.

[Header, Suwannee River Basin]
Header, Suwannee River Basin

So that’s the Alapaha River from the Willacoochee River to Dampier Branch, and from Cherry Creek to the state line. I guess you can still paddle from Willacoochee Landing @ GA 135 to Berrien Beach Boat Ramp @ GA 168 without getting into any non-Recreational stretches. But Lakeland Boat Ramp and Pafford’s and Burnt Church Landings are right out. But you can paddle from Hotchkiss Road Landing to Naylor Boat Ramp, Mayday Landing, Statenville Boat Ramp, and on to Florida.

Redesignated Recreational is the Withlacoochee River from Tiger Creek (at Spook Bridge, just below US 84) to the state line. So Knights Creek, Nankin, and State Line Boat Ramps can all be Recreational, even though they’re all downstream of Okapilco Creek and all those cattle in Brooks County, but Langdale Park Boat Ramp and Troupville Boat Ramp are not designated Recreational, despite the Valdosta Mayor’s letter of support.

However, the big win is that anything at all got redesignated. In previous cycles, GA-EPD declined to consider such a thing. And we can reapply next time.

Completely missing from this list are: Continue reading

Four miles an hour, Nankin to Sullivan, Withlacoochee River 2021-08-07

Update 2021-08-16: Two Withlacoochee River 360-degree transits by WWALS on Earthviews 2021-08-16.

Rain poured during the shuttle from Nankin Boat Ramp to Sullivan Launch, but the weather relented as we started to paddle, just as expedition leader and weatherman Bobby McKenzie predicted.

22 people paddled in 21 boats, entering Florida three times, past McIntyre Spring, Arnold Springs, the Valdosta Railway Trestle, and Horn Bridge. Only a few took out at State Line Boat Ramp, because they were musicians and they had a gig that same evening.

Almost all continued past PCA and Jumping Gully Creek to Sullivan Launch for a total of 14.22 miles in barely four hours. Subtract half an hour for the lunch stop at State Line Boat Ramp, and that’s 3.5 hours, for 4 miles per hour.

[Valdosta Railway Trestle in the middle]
Valdosta Railway Trestle in the middle

WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman left her boat in the truck until the last minute, because she did not want to paddle in the rain. WWALS President Tom H. Johnson Jr. and Mary Carolyn Pindar drove four hours for this outing, so they were going to paddle anyway, as was I. Continue reading

Florida Gov. DeSantis Urged to Declare State of Emergency Due to Red Tide 2021-07-19

“The Suwannee River Basin has been lucky in avoiding red tide so far, but we don’t want it anywhere,” said John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper. “Beyond this emergency, let’s stop the excess fertilizers and phosphate mine waste that are causing this problem.”

Several other Florida Waterkeepers signed the letter, as did Waterkeepers Florida, representing all the Waterkeepers of Florida.

[Red tide warning, beach closure sign in St. Petersburg, Fla.: Jaclyn Lopez, Center for Biological Diversity.]
Red tide warning, beach closure sign in St. Petersburg, Fla.: Jaclyn Lopez, Center for Biological Diversity.

“Tampa Bay hasn’t been this sick since the 1970s when Clean Water Act regulations brought about the bay’s recovery,” said Justin Bloom, Suncoast Waterkeeper board member. “It is with a groundswell of public support that we call on our governor for leadership to protect and restore our bays and waterways.”

“Our right to clean water has been jeopardized and now is the time for action to protect Tampa Bay,” said Megan Eakins, Tampa Bay Waterkeeper board chair. “Our area needs the full support of our governor to take the actions necessary to mitigate this disaster and ensure this does not happen again.”

“Failure to remove dead and decaying marine life will exacerbate the intensity and duration of the red tide event,” said Andre Mele, executive director of Peace+Myakka Waterkeeper. “Dead marine life releases nutrients into the water column, which feeds the red tide organism and adds to the bloom, in a classic positive feedback loop.”

Plus the international Waterkeeper Alliance.

“Nearly 50 years ago, amid the era of burning rivers and rampant environmental degradation, the Clean Water Act was enacted, and yet almost five decades later, too many decision-makers continue to ignore the lessons history has taught us,” said Patience Burke, Waterkeeper Alliance organizer for the Gulf and South Atlantic regions. “We are bearing witness to an ecological catastrophe and will face judgment over the next 50 years about how we do, or do, not respond.”

Gov. DeSantis Urged to Declare State of Emergency Due to Red Tide

Hundreds of Tons of Dead Marine Animals Have Been Collected From Tampa Bay, Including Six Manatees

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— More than two dozen local businesses and conservation groups today asked Gov. Ron DeSantis to declare a state of emergency due to the ongoing red tide and fish kills in and around Tampa Bay. The St. Petersburg city council and mayor also have requested that the governor declare a state of emergency to help coordinate and fund desperately needed cleanup efforts and mitigate the worsening red tide.

The red tide appeared in Tampa Bay shortly after Florida regulators, in March, authorized the discharge of up to 480 million gallons of wastewater from the Piney Point phosphogypsum stack into Tampa Bay.

The Piney Point gypstack is a mountain of toxic waste topped by an impoundment of hundreds of millions of gallons of process wastewater, stormwater and tons of dredged spoil from Port Manatee. So-called “nutrient pollution” like ammonia, nitrogen and phosphorous from that discharge can significantly worsen red tides.

The hundreds of tons of dead marine life discovered in recent weeks has included manatees and goliath groupers, which can weigh hundreds of pounds, as well as puffer fish, eel, horseshoe crabs, sheepshead, mullet, snook, red drum, tarpon, sharks, grouper, catfish and numerous other species of fish.

“Red tide’s carnage is horrific and infuriating,” said Continue reading

FDEP BMAPs update webinar 2021-07-14

I plan to attend, and I suggest others do, as well.

Here’s a monitoring gap: if Valdosta, Georgia, can test water quality three times a week on forty river miles to the GA-FL line, the great state of Florida can do the rest all the way to the Gulf.

And here’s a modeling gap: where’s the comparison of simply limiting water withdrawal permits compared to that SRWMD proposed double pipeline from the Suwannee River to Ichetucknee Headspring?

[Invitation]
Invitation

The cover letter says you can avoid Microsoft Teams by calling in:

Or call in (audio only): 1-469-305-1028

Phone Conference ID: 882 637 651#

Here’s the agenda.

Outstanding Florida Springs
Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) Update
Via Webinar
July 14, 2021
1:00 p.m.
Microsoft Teams link: Click here to join the meeting

  • Welcome / Introductions
  • Updates / Next Steps
  • Onsite Sewage Program Updates
  • Senate Bill 712 / Clean Waterways Act Updates
  • Monitoring Gaps
  • Funding Updates
  • DEP Activities and Updates

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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

Cattle and hogs: Withlacoochee River water quality status 2021-06-27

Update 2021-06-28: Filthy GA-FL Line, Withlacoochee River 2021-06-26.

Most Withlacoochee River contamination comes from cattle manure runoff, according to extensive testing. Yet there is the myth that every problem with the Withlacoochee River comes from Valdosta sewage. Actually, Valdosta has not had a spill that got into the river in more than a year and a half.

Other cities do have sewage spills (especially Quitman), which do cause problems. But when the rivers have E. coli after big rains, it usually comes from cattle manure runoff.

Most of the time our rivers are clean, and here’s how we know that.

[Map: Quitman, Valdosta, Okapilco Creek, Knights Ferry Boat Ramp, Withlacoochee-River]
Map: Quitman, Valdosta, Okapilco Creek, Knights Ferry Boat Ramp, Withlacoochee-River in the WWALS map of all public landings in the Suwannee River Basin.

These questions from a year ago still reflect many we get to this day: Continue reading

Filthy at Knights Ferry, Withlacoochee River 2021-06-24

Update 2021-06-27: Cattle and hogs: Withlacoochee River water quality status 2021-06-27.

Going by WWALS water quality testing results for Thursday, it’s best to stay off the Withlacoochee River, and maybe the Alapaha River, for a few more days.

[Bad Knights Ferry and Willacoochee Landing]
Bad Knights Ferry and Willacoochee Landing

Very unusual: too-high E. coli on the Alapaha River, at Willacoochee Landing on GA 135 in Atkinson County, Georgia. Thanks to WWALS tester Valerie Folsom. There was a lot of rain upstream in the previous few days, which make me wonder about the city of Alapaha’s wastewater treatment plant.

Unfortunately expected: way-high E. coli on the Withlacoochee River, at Knights Ferry Boat Ramp, downstream of Okapilco Creek, with many thousand cattle in Brooks County, Georgia. Thanks to WWALS tester Michael Bachrach. Don’t be surprised if Quitman had a spill and gets around to reporting it about a week later.

Somewhat puzzling: downstream on the Withlacoochee results range from acceptable to clean as a whistle at Cleary Bluff, between Allen Ramp and the Suwannee River. Thaks to WWALS tester Gus Cleary. Even with the river high and fast after the recent rains, it takes a little while for the contamination to wash downstream. Three inches of rain fell in Brooks County Thursday, so don’t be surprised if things get dirty downstream.

We have no new data upstream of Knights Ferry, because we had a technical glitch with upstream WWALS tests.

Meanwhile, Valdosta has posted nothing newer than for Monday. They did catch up to last week with the downstream data, which corroborated what we already knew from WWALS tests.

The Tuesday too-high Madison Health result for the state line still has not appeared on the FDEP website. Continue reading

Bill Gates, farms, rivers, springs

The NBC News story has legs.

Rebecca Heilweil, Vox, 11 June 2021, The controversy over Bill Gates becoming the largest private farmland owner in the US: People are drawing connections between Gates’s vast farmlands and climate change advocacy.

One Georgia farmer and environmental advocate, John Quarterman, told NBC that while he expected that Gates would encourage more sustainable practices after buying farmland nearby, his acquisition of that land didn’t change much. And the National Farmers Union has suggested that the growing number of non-farmer owners like Gates buying up farmland — and renting it out — could lead to practices that hurt the environment: Short-term farmers who rent land are less likely to take long-term conservation steps, the organization argues, and non-farmer owners don’t have the experience to “understand the importance of protecting natural resources.”

[Photo: Chris Mericle, Dust storm in Hamilton County, Florida, March, 2014, Suwannee Riverkeeper by NBC News, June, 2021]
Photo: Chris Mericle, Dust storm in Hamilton County, Florida, March, 2014, Suwannee Riverkeeper by NBC News, June, 2021

The Vox story includes the Leading Harvest greenwashing of Gates’ tinkering around the edges, but goes harder on this:

But whatever Gates might wish, many observers can’t quite separate the two things. For them, Bill Gates the environmentalist is also Bill Gates the commercial farmland owner, and they think the two roles are connected even if Gates doesn’t consider them to be.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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