Category Archives: Economy

Victory on Georgia Constitutional Amendment 1, and more voting for clean water

Voters in every county in Georgia approved Amendment 1, to dedicate state fees and taxes to their stated purposes. The statewide victory was 81.6%.

There is more work to do, to get the legislature to use this new law to stop taxes from being diverted to the general fund, so for example counties and cities can get more grants for tire amnesties. But now the mechanism is available.

That wasn’t the only good referendum news, and there is more voting for clean water to do.

[Victory: 82%]
Victory: 82%
Special thanks to the Suwannee River Basin cities of Adel, Hahira, and Valdosta, Atkinson, Lanier, and Lowndes Counties, for passing resolutions in support.
See also previous blog post.

The other good clean water news is that Amendment 2 passed with 74.5% Yes, also passing in every county. That’s HR 1023: people may petition for declaratory relief from certain acts of this state or certain local governments or officers or employees.

Dave Williams, Capitol Beat News Service, 4 November 2020, Georgia voters pass three ballot questions by wide margins,

The sovereign immunity amendment stems from a 2014 Georgia Supreme Court decision that essentially granted the state blanket immunity from citizen lawsuits in a case brought by the Center for a Sustainable Coast. The group had filed suit alleging the state Department of Natural Resources was illegally allowing alterations to private property in fragile coastal wetland areas protected by state law.

So that’s two victories for clean water by the people of the state of Georgia.

More voting for clean water to do

As everyone probably knows, there are Georgia runoff elections on January 5, 2021, with the usual early voting and absentee ballots. Both Georgia U.S. Senate seats are in the runoff.

A Public Service Commission runoff that was scheduled earlier will also be on January 5, 2021. WWALS has long advocated for GA-PSC to make responsible decisions on power plants and pipelines that affect all our waters, from water levels to coal ash to mercury.

Once again, we urge you to vote for clean water.

As an IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, WWALS cannot Continue reading

Help Georgia stop titanium mine threatening Okefenokee Swamp –Dirty Dozen 2020, Georgia Water Coalition 2020-11-17

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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 observed the mine site that threatens our ecosystems and drinking water for private profit. [TPM mine site with ONWR on left]
Photo: John S. Quarterman, TPM mine site with ONWR on left

They met again that same weekend on the Suwannee River in the Okefenokee Swamp with forty paddlers, experiencing the fragile natural beauty that makes the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge a great economic benefit to both Georgia and Florida.

[Great Blue Heron flying, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07]
Photo: John S. Quarterman, Great Blue Heron flying, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07

The entire text of the Okefenokee Dirty Dozen item is below. Also below is how you can help.

This year’s Dirty Dozen report includes the following: 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!

The real trash problem: the companies that make it

People shouldn’t litter, but individuals are not the real litter problem. The companies that make all those throwaway items are the problem. There are fixes, which we can implement. One fix Georgians can vote on right now: vote Yes on Amendment 1 please!

There was no lack of trash on the Alapaha River in September, at Berrien Beach Boat Ramp in Berrien County and at Berrien Beach in Lanier County. We found the usual cigarette butts, shotgun shells, and yes, a few used diapers.

Plus tires. To help stop tires being dumped by rivers, please vote Yes on Georgia Constitutional Amendment 1 to stop fee diversions.

We found fewer shotgun shells and tires but more of everything else at Twomile Branch in Valdosta, Sugar Creek, and the Withlacoochee River in August.

Come to the big cleanup this Saturday on the Little, Withlacoochee, and Alapaha Rivers in Lowndes County and on Sugar Creek, Onemile Branch, and Twomile Branch in Valdosta October 10, 2020!

We expect as usual the most numerous items will be plastic and glass bottles and cans.

[Bottles]
Bottles

Sure people shouldn’t litter, but Anheuser-Busch and other beer makers, as well as Nestlé, Coca Cola, and Walmart, should stop making and selling disposable bottles and cans.

Fifty years ago those things had deposits on them, and people would collect them for the cash. In economic downturns such as right now, that could be useful to a lot of people, and a lot more cleanups would happen. Sure, there was still trash back then, but not as much.

People still do in Hawaii and nine other states: California, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Vermont, plus Guam. They don’t have nearly as big of a litter problem.

But Georgia or Florida do not have such container deposits. Maybe we should change that.

No, recycling will not solve this problem. There’s no market for plastic to recycle, and recycling has been pushed by big oil for years as an excuse to make more plastic throw-away containers. Laura Sullivan, NPR, 11 September 2020, How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled.

You’ve probably seen the famous ‘Crying Indian’ ad from 1971: Continue reading

Please vote Yes on Georgia Constitutional Amendment 1: dedicate fees to their stated purpose

Update 2020-10-07: On Steve Nichols radio show, with video.

Don’t you think taxes and fees charged by a state should go to the purposes the state said they would? Well, in Georgia, many such funds have been mostly diverted to the general fund, and then who knows where. You can vote in this election to stop that: vote Yes on Amendment 1.

[Six cities and counties for Amendment 1]
Six cities and counties for Amendment 1: Adel, Hahira, and Valdosta, Atkinson, Lanier, and Lowndes Counties.

For example, the state of Georgia charges a fee on every tire sold, with funds supposed to go to cleaning up old tires and other waste management. Yet more than $50 million of those funds have been diverted to other purposes. It’s not just tires. Other examples of diverted funds include ones for indigent defense and judicial programs, peace officer training, and teen driver training.

There is no organized opposition to Amendment 1. Pretty much the only opposition stated during passage of the authorizing bill was about being able to use funds during an emergency. The bill explicitly allows that. The bill passed the Georgia Senate unanimously and the House with only one vote against.

Organized support for Amendment 1 includes six cities and counties in the Suwannee River Basin: the cities of Hahira, Valdosta, Adel, and Atkinson, Lanier, and Lowndes Counties, each of which passed a resolution in January 2019 in support of the bill that authorized putting Amendment 1 on the ballot for 2020. Also, the Valdosta Daily Times supported it in an editorial. WWALS supports Amendment 1, as do, so far as we know, all the Riverkeepers of Georgia.

Amendment 1 on the ballot

This is how Amendment 1 appears on the ballot:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize the General Assembly to dedicate revenues derived from fees or taxes to the public purpose for which such fees or taxes were intended?

( ) YES

( ) NO

Please vote YES.

Addition to Georgia law

Below is the text that Amendment 1, when approved, will add to subparagraph (r)(1) to paragraph VI in section 9 of Article III of the Georgia state constitution: Continue reading

DEIS Virtual Public Hearing for Moody AFB Airspace modifications 2020-10-29

Monday we got a paper letter about a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for a DEIS for a Moody Air Force Base Comprehensive Airspace Initiative. There was a Public Scoping Period that ended in January; I don’t recall WWALS being invited to that.

[Georgia and Florida airspace and floors]
Georgia and Florida airspace and floors

However, public comments will be accepted through November 24, 2020; see below for how. Plus there is a Virtual Public Hearing on October 29.

The gist of the DEIS seems to be “optimizing the airspace would result in the redistribution of aircraft operations from existing low-altitude Special Use Airspace to new low-altitude MOAs.” In addition to adding some areas, Moody AFB also wants a 1,000-foot floor and 4,000-foot ceiling.

They already have a floor of 100 feet southeast of Moody to the state line and 500 feet northeast, including over Banks Lake. For years they have flown over my house barely 100 feet up.

I’m not complaining. As everyone knows, Moody AFB is by far the largest employer in the Suwannee River Basin. Yet there are some things we would like to know. Continue reading

Ordinances: Wood pellet plant, Adel, GA 2020-09-21

Thanks to Adel City Clerk Rhonda Rowe, here are the annexation and rezoning ordinances read on September 8. The second reading is this Monday, September 21, 2020, at 5:30 PM, at Adel City Hall. Presumably the Adel City Council will vote after the Public Hearing.

[Ordinances and Application maps]
Ordinances and Application maps

The ordinances refer to exhibits which are in the application she also sent, from the Adel Adel Industrial Development Authority (AIDA), for this annexation and rezoning. We had actually already seen those in the staff report to the Planning Commission.

See the previous post for context. And see you there Monday evening. Continue reading