Category Archives: EPA

Restore pre-2015 Waters of the U.S. –Waterkeeper Alliance to U.S. EPA 2021-09-03

Suwannee Riverkeeper signed on to this Waterkeeper Alliance request for EPA to protect both surface and groundwater.

It includes a mention of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) abdication of oversight over the proposed titanium strip mine far too near the Okefenokee Swamp.

[Restore WOTUS, mine too near Okefenokee Swamp, groundwater recharge]
Restore WOTUS, mine too near Okefenokee Swamp, groundwater recharge

That USACE decision was based on the EPA and USACE 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule (“NWPR”) redefining jurisdictional “Waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”) under the Clean Water Act (“CWA”). On August 30, a U.S. District Court vacated the NWPR. On September 3, Waterkeeper Alliance these lengthy comments on EPA’s WOTUS rulemaking.

Also on September 3, EPA announced that EPA and USACE have halted implementation of NWPR and will be applying the pre-2015 WOTUS definition, which was one of Waterkeeper letter’s requests.

Meanwhile, you can ask the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) to reject the five permit applications from Twin Pines Minerals for that strip mine, or at least to thoroughly study with independent review potential effects of that mine on the Okefenokee Swamp, the Suwannee River, and the Floridan Aquifer.
https://wwals.net/?p=55092

[Great Blue Heron flying, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07]
Great Blue Heron flying, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07

Update 2021-09-11: This is what the Waterkeeper Alliance letter says about the Okefenokee Swamp and the threatening strip mine:

Additionally, Alabama-based mining company Twin Pines has proposed a heavy mineral sand strip mine between the St. Mary’s River and Okefenokee Swamp, one of the largest and most celebrated wetlands in the country, and home to both a National Wildlife Refuge and a National Wilderness Area.140 The proposed mine would be 50-feet deep on average and would destroy hundreds of acres of wetlands and streams that are critical to the St. Marys River and Okefenokee’s diverse ecosystems, threatening the hydrology of the swamp. Recently, the Corps determined that nearly 400 acres of previously jurisdictional wetlands near the Refuge are now unprotected by the Clean Water Act, allowing the mining company to begin mining without any involvement by the agency.141 For reasons that are unclear, the Corps did not discuss the streams at the site, which appear to be, but not are not being treated as, jurisdictional waters under the CWA.142 This decision has important implications for the initial part of the mine as well as the longer-term expansion of the mine to more than 8,000 acres near the Refuge.

140 St. Marys Riverkeeper and Suwannee Riverkeeper work to protect waters that are impacted by this decision.

141 Corps Approved Jurisdictional Determination, ORM Number: SAS-2018-00554 (Oct. 14, 2020) (Attachment 11).

142 National Wetlands Inventory Map of the Twin Pines Mine Site Area, available at: https://www fws.gov/wetlands/data/Mapper html (Attachment 12).

[Multiple Streams and Wetlands, including Wetlands Intersecting Streams]
Multiple Streams and Wetlands, including Wetlands Intersecting Streams
PDF

The entire Waterkeeper comment letter is on the WWALS website, along with its exhibits: Continue reading

Earth Day Rivers Alive Cleanup: Joree Millpond, Withlacoochee River 2021-04-17

Pick from a pair of floating Georgia Rivers Alive cleanups for Earth Day, and bring your boat!

Gretchen Quarterman will lead a floating cleanup on Joree Millpond in Valdosta, Georgia, starting at 913 Millpond Road (PDF flyer for Joree Millpond). You can return whenever you want to, but we expect this boating cleanup to last about two hours. If you have a jon boat and are willing to take a volunteer onto the pond to remove litter, please contact either Gretchen Quarterman (229-834-1945) or Austin Fiveash (229-563-6262). You can also participate in your kayak or canoe. Volunteers will remove litter from along the edge of the pond and from near the spillway. The City of Valdosta is providing a large trash receptacle at the site, thanks to Valdosta Stormwater Manager Angela Bray.

Bobby McKenzie will lead a paddle cleanup from Sugar Creek behind the Salty Snapper off of Gornto Road, down the Withlacoochee River, and a short hop up the Little River to Troupville Boat Ramp. That’s less than 4 river miles, and even with stops for trash collection should take less than three hours. We will leave the bagged trash at that destination, where Lowndes County Public Works will pick it up Monday.

When: Gather 9 AM, launch 9:30 AM, end 12:30 PM, Saturday, April 17, 2021

Millpond put in: 913 Millpond Road, Valdosta, GA, Take Country Club Drive to Mill Pond Road. Turn right and 913 is last house on left before right-only exit onto Jerry Jones Road.
Drop your boat at the water, then park near the street.
Millpond GPS: 30.867375, -83.309558

River paddle put in: The Salty Snapper parking lot, 1405 Gornto Road, Valdosta, GA.
Go to the back of the parking lot to drop off your boat at Sugar Creek.
Sugar Creek GPS: 30.861785, -83.318793

River Paddle Take Out: Troupville Boat Ramp, 9664 Valdosta Hwy, Valdosta, GA 31602. Go west on St. Augustine Road across I-75 (exit 18) and cross the Withlacoochee River. At the light for Val Tech Road, turn left, which takes you down to the boat ramp.
Troupville Boat Ramp GPS: 30.851842, -83.346536.

Safety: All volunteers must sign a WWALS liability release, which makes WWALS insurance cover them, and must wear a life jacket at all times while in boats.

Bring: the usual personal flotation device, boat, paddles, snaks, drinking water, warm clothes, and first aid kit. Also trash pickers and trash bags, and good boots.

Free: This outing is free to everyone, because it is a cleanup.

We recommend you support the work of WWALS by becoming a WWALS member today!
https://wwals.net/donations/#join

Event: facebook, meetup

[Joree Millpond, trash, Withlacoochee River]
Joree Millpond, trash, Withlacoochee River
Photos: Russell Allen McBride.

Continue reading

Help Suwannee Riverkeeper Save Okefenokee Swamp

To send your comments to Georgia officials, follow this link:
https://waterkeeper.org/news/help-suwannee-riverkeeper-save-okefenokee-swamp/

[Great Blue Heron flying, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07]
Great Blue Heron flying, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07

Julia Widmann, Waterkeeper Alliance, March 18, 2021, Help Suwannee Riverkeeper Save Okefenokee Swamp,

Today, you can take action to help Suwannee Riverkeeper protect Okefenokee Swamp and the surrounding community in Southern Georgia and northern Florida from the risk of dangerous mining pollution.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is home to the beloved blackwater Okefenokee Swamp, a Wetland of International Importance and a proposed World Heritage Site. Okefenokee Swamp is an ecologically diverse wetland, loved by boaters, fishers, and birders, as well as alligators and blue herons, and hunters on nearby property. It’s an important tourist attraction for members of the public all across the country and provides great economic benefits to the local area. Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman has helped lead the way in protecting this special place.

In 2019, Twin Pines Minerals LLC, an Alabama-based company, first proposed a titanium mine beside the swamp. Twin Pines’ proposed mine poses dangerous risks Continue reading

Petition to EPA: protect from radioactive phosphogypsum stacks

Many groups in many states yesterday petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to improve federal oversight of radioactive waste and wastewater from phosphogypsum stacks.

“WWALS opposes expansion of the decades-old moonscape of a phosphate mine in Hamilton County, and another proposed in Union and Bradford Counties,” said John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper. “These mines not only suck up massive amounts of water that reduce spring and river flows, they feed ever-growing phosphogypsum stacks with radioactive waste.”

PCS Phosphate Mine, 2016-10-22, WWALS Southwings flight
PCS Phosphate Mine 2016-10-22, Southwings flight for WWALS, pictures by Jim Tatum, https://wwals.net/?p=32043


For Immediate Release, February 8, 2021 Continue reading

You can sign on to ask new U.S. administration for clean water

Suwannee Riverkeeper is one of the many signatories on this Waterkeeper Alliance first 100 days plan:


With the Biden administration set to assume power next month, we’re strategizing what the next four years will mean for our movement to protect clean water and a healthy environment. We cannot celebrate until every environmental protection is restored and strengthened.

As the new administration prepares its plans for the next four years, it’s essential that key clean water and climate priorities are addressed at the outset. The first 100 days of Biden’s presidency will set the stage for the administration’s environmental policies — they must get things right from the start.

Our Climate Our Future

The last four years have posed immeasurable challenges to environmental protection — devastating more than 100 environmental safeguards and undoing decades of progress in the fight for clean water and a sustainable planet.

We have a plan to right those wrongs and chart a new course — one that puts clean water and a healthy environment front and center. And, as always, we’ll need your help to execute it.

Sign your name today to support our proposal for the Biden administration to immediately prioritize our waterways, communities, and planet in its first 100 days.

Our asks for the Biden administration’s first 100 days are:

  • Protect Public Lands and Waters from Fossil Fuel Extraction: Ban new fossil fuel leasing and permitting on publicly owned federal lands;
  • Prioritize Environmental Justice: Immediately prioritize reversing the grave systemic damage done to environmental justice policy and enforcement in the United States over the past four years and charting a new just and equitable course for the 21st century;
  • Issue a New Executive Order to Restore the Clean Water Act: Expedite the process for repairing the broken definition of “waters of the United States,” repealing the Trump Dirty Waters Rule and replacing it with science-based protections for our waterways, and reinstating state and tribal authority and public participation rights under section 401 of the Clean Water Act;
  • Restore the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): Repeal Trump’s NEPA rollback and strengthen public participation in projects impacting the environment; and
  • Rescind Trump’s Most Damaging Environmental Executive Orders: Revoke executive orders that directed all federal agencies to roll back our environmental protections in favor of the outgoing administration’s pro-polluter agenda.

These are the issues that will guide our advocacy efforts as the new administration assumes leadership — the same issues that the Waterkeeper movement has been advocating for for years. It’s now on all of us to ensure they become priorities of the new administration.

Show your support today by signing on to our proposal for the Biden administration’s first 100 days. We need each and every one of you to join in the fight for drinkable, fishable, swimmable water.


Follow this link to sign on:
http://action.waterkeeper.org/landing-pages/tell-biden-its-time-to-put-clean-water-and-a-healthy-environment-front-and-center

You may also want to ask for repeal of this EO, which promotes mining at the expense of everything else, including environment and property rights:

Executive Order 13817 of December 20, 2017 (A Federal Strategy To Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals)

That EO is being used as an excuse by the Alabama company that wants to mine titanium far too near the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia, which also affects Florida directly. Continue reading

FDEP assumes Clean Water Act permitting from U.S. EPA 2020-12-17

Despite opposition by Waterkeepers Florida and many other people and organizations, last Friday U.S. EPA gave a big present to Florida developers, by approving FDEP’s assumption of Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The EPA announcement says “The action formally transfers permitting authority under CWA Section 404 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to the State of Florida for a broad range of water resources within the State.” It neglects to mention that almost all of the Suwannee River Basin got left out, including the middle and upper Suwannee River, and the Withlacoochee, Alapaha, Santa Fe, Ichetucknee, and New Rivers, as well as the Withlacoochee South River basin.

[EPA announcement over WKFL opposition, our rivers left out]
EPA announcement over WKFL opposition, our rivers left out

FDEP got around to releasing a Draft Retained Waters Screening Tool a few weeks ago, after the public comment period. It seems to confirm what we already deciphered from FDEP’s assumption documents: only part of the Lower Suwannee River and Estuary, ditto the lower Withlacoochee South River, end up being covered by either USACE or FDEP. The vast majority of the Suwannee River Basin fell through the cracks. Of course, we and WKFL and many others will not stop working for fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters. About time for a Bill of Rights for Nature, too. 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

Waterkeepers Florida Against FDEP Assumption of Army Corps CWA 404 permitting 2020-11-02

Waterkeepers Florida, representing all fourteen Waterkeepers of Florida, wrote to U.S. EPA and FDEP yesterday objecting to FDEP’s plan to take over water permitting from the Army Corps of Engineers. FDEP hasn’t even kept up with the responsibilities it has, and is in no way prepared to take on a much heavier load. Suwannee Riverkeeper voted for this letter, which was also signed by many other organizations, including OSFR and Paddle Florida.

Please vote today for people who will support clean water.

[Opposition and Addendum Letters]
Opposition and Addendum Letters

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP)’s list of waterways it plans to assume (see FDEP’s Appendix A) omits numerous navigable waterways previously listed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Checking all the Florida rivers that empty into the Gulf of Mexico, I found that most of them were included by FDEP, except not the Suwannee River or its tributaries (many creeks, Lake Santa Fe, and the Santa Fe, New, Ichetucknee, Alapaha, Alapahoochee, and Withlacoochee (north) Rivers), not the Withlacoochee (south) River nor its tributaries such as the Rainbow River, and not the Ochlockonee River nor its tributaries, such as Lake Talquin. I added 30 Suwannee River Basin waterways and 24 others to the Waterkeepers Florida list of missing waterways, which is the main subject of the Addendum letter (see PDF). The Addendum also contains copies of several letters previously sent to FDEP: an opposition letter similar to the one to EPA, a request for Public Hearings, and a request that online rulemaking hearings be discontinued until the pandemic allows holding them in person.

Opposition Letter

Here is a transcription of the letter to EPA. See also the PDF.

Don’t forget to vote for clean water. Continue reading

Tens of thousands commented against a strip mine near the Okefenokee Swamp

Hahira, Georgia, May 30, 2020 — From every U.S. state and beyond, tens of thousands comments poured in to the Army Corps against a permit application for a titanium strip mine far too near the unique blackwater gem of the Okefenokee Swamp. The comment period ended Thursday. You and your elected officials can still ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do the right thing and deny this permit, or at least require an Environmental Impact Statement.

[44,000 commenters against strip mine on a map]
44,000 commenters against strip mine on a map

“With its unique ecosystem and incomparable beauty,” says Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, “the Okefenokee Swamp is a national and international treasure, and the source of the St. Marys and Suwannee Rivers. With its opportunities for boating, birding, fishing, photography, adventure, and hunting nearby attracting 600,000 visitors a year and supporting more than 700 jobs, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) provides more economic benefit to each of Georgia and Florida than any other refuge.”

The groups supporting the Swamp and opposing the mine include twenty Waterkeepers from three states, and umbrella organizations Waterkeepers Florida and Waterkeeper Alliance.

Contact: John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper, contact@suwanneeriverkeeper.org, 229-242-0102.

See below for a longer press release from Georgia River Network about the several dozen organizations loosely associated to protect the Okefenokee Swamp from anything that might harm it, such as this strip mine for private profit for paint.


Tens of Thousands Voice Opposition Over Mine Proposed to be Located Next to the Okefenokee Swamp

Continue reading

Waterkeepers Florida to Army Corps and EPA against strip mine near Okefenokee Swamp 2020-04-10

On Friday, Waterkeepers Florida, a regional entity composed of all 13 Waterkeeper organizations working in the State of Florida to protect and restore our water resources across over 45,000 square miles of watershed, which is home to over 15 million Floridians, wrote to both the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. EPA asking for more third-party comment on the application by Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, to strip mine for titanium near the Okefenokee Swamp, which is the headwaters of the St. Marys and Suwannee Rivers.

[WKFL logos]
WKFL logos

Today’s the comment deadline, and today you can also write such letters about Application Number SAS-2018-00554-SP-HAR. Here’s how:
https://wwals.net/issues/titanium-mining/#howtocomment

Waterkeepers Florida (WKFL) to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

See also Continue reading