Category Archives: Law

Valdosta sewage on Madison County Commission agenda 2024-04-24

It’s the last item, under NEW BUSINESS:

  1. Discussion Regarding Valdosta Sewage Spill and Compliance with Consent Order — Commissioner Waldrep.

That’s at the Madison County Commission Regular Meeting, Wednesday, April 24, 2024, at 6:00 PM in the Courthouse Annex, 229 SW Pinckney St., Room 107, Madison, Florida.

[Valdosta sewage at Madison County Commission, Commissioner Donnie Waldrep 2024-04-24]
Valdosta sewage at Madison County Commission, Commissioner Donnie Waldrep 2024-04-24

According to Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson just now, “Wastewater, Engineering and City Manager meeting is 9:15 Tuesday morning to discuss increased capacity options.”

I asked if the public is invited. He answered, “No, I will report results to you….”

Valdosta is working hard on upgrading its dilapidated sewer system infrastructure, using local taxes and a Georgia state loan. They’ve spent more than $100 million dollars already.

Valdosta was pretty timely in telling the public about its nine other recent sewage spills.

But Continue reading

Permit application deficiencies; water modeling, monitoring, and management, mercury, spills, slimes, Florida –WWALS to GA-EPD, TPM TiO2 mining 2024-04-09

Here are the WWALS comments sent to GA-EPD yesterday against the proposed titanium dioxide mine too near the Okefenokee Swamp.

Thanks to all who also sent comments to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) during the 60-day comment period.

[Application deficiencies in TPM TiO2 mining permits: Modeling, mercury, spills, slimes, Florida --WWALS to GA-EPD 2024-04-09]
Application deficiencies in TPM TiO2 mining permits: Modeling, mercury, spills, slimes, Florida –WWALS to GA-EPD 2024-04-09

Next, we wait for GA-EPD to read all the comments. Supposedly they have to reply to all questions in those comments.

Most likely then GA-EPD will issue the actual permits. Then lawsuits start flying.

If I am not mistaken, you can still send comments to TwinPines.Comment@dnr.ga.gov. They won’t be considered part of the 60-day comment period, but they will go into the public record, retrievable via an open records request, and usable in lawsuits.

The WWALS Comment

See also PDF. Continue reading

Help oppose bad Georgia bills HB 1146 rich man’s water system, HB 1172 river trespass, and SB 132 fake Okefenokee moratorium 2024-03-25

Update 2024-03-27: Last days to oppose GA HB 1146, the rich private water system bill 2024-03-27.

Help stop the Georgia legislature from passing bad bills in a rush before it ends Wednesday.

[Help oppose bad Georgia bills HB 1146 rich man's water system, HB 1172 river trespass, and SB 132 fake Okefenokee moratorium]
Help oppose bad Georgia bills HB 1146 rich man’s water system, HB 1172 river trespass, and SB 132 fake Okefenokee moratorium

The former fake dragline mining moratorium that failed got pasted onto another bill, SB 132. Although you cannot even see the current text on the Georgia legislature web page, this slapped-in bill still has too many restrictions on appeals and would do nothing to stop the currently proposed mine or any other mine using different mining methods.

Here’s how to contact your Georgia Senate member:
https://wwals.net/about/elected-officials/georgia-senate/

Here’s how to contact your Georgia House member:
https://wwals.net/about/elected-officials/georgia-house/

Floridians, please ask your Georgia friends and relatives to do this.

HB 1172 says people can boat or fish on “navigable” rivers, but doesn’t say they can step ashore, even if they capsize. The previous poorly-fashioned bill to define navigable did not pass, so HB 1172 would also leave the possibility of streams long used for boating and fishing getting closed off by private property owners according to Georgia’s antiquated 1863 definition of navigable. Also, removing any mention of the public trust doctrine is not a good idea. Continue reading

Okefenokee webinar, resolutions, bills, Suwannee River paddle

This Thursday, join us online at noon by zoom for Okefenokee Swamp over proposed strip mine —Emily Floore, WWALS Webinar 2024-03-21.
https://wwals.net/?p=64219

This Saturday at 9AM, join us to see what we’re protecting, immediately downstream of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (ONWR), Suwannee River Wilderness Paddle, Griffis Fish Camp to Fargo 2024-03-23.
https://wwals.net/?p=64423

[Okefenokee webinar, resolutions, bills, Suwannee River paddle]
Okefenokee webinar, resolutions, bills, Suwannee River paddle

Meanwhile, things are heating up against the proposal by Twin Pines Minerals, LLC (TPM) to strip mine for titanium dioxide (TiO2) within three miles of the ONWR.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) issued Continue reading

Atkinson County, GA, resolution for the Okefenokee Swamp against the strip mine 2024-03-14

Thanks to the Atkinson County Commissioners for passing this resolution unanimously Thursday evening. We will get a signed copy soon.

[Atkinson County Commission and Resolution for the Okefenokee Swamp against the Twin Pines Minerals Strip Mine]
Atkinson County Commission and Resolution for the Okefenokee Swamp against the Twin Pines Minerals Strip Mine

Shirley Kokidko, who lives in Pearson, the county seat, said a few words. I gave the shortest speech ever, “We could speak for half an hour. But if the Okefenokee Swamp isn’t worth protecting, what is?”

As they voted, they said things such as, “this would affect our fishing.”

A Commissioner sought me out in the parking lot afterwards to remark, “This is our heritage, our way of life.”

After Berrien County, plus the city of Nashville, this is the second county on the Alapaha River to pass such a resolution.

It is the fifth sixth such resolution in Georgia state Senate District 8, after Valdosta, Ware County and Waycross, Clinch, and Echols Counties. Maybe Senator Russ Goodman will be interested in that.

Berrien County and the city of Nashville are in Continue reading

Petition: Right to Clean Water, Florida, for 2026 ballot 2024-03-08

Hot off the Florida state authentication process!

Florida registered voters, please sign and circulate the petition for a state constitutional amendment for a right to clean and healthy waters (RTCW).

You can get it here, or from
https://www.floridarighttocleanwater.org/

Or from WWALS and Suwannee Riverkeeper at any festival or outing, such as Valdosta Azalea Festival today. Yes, that festival is in Georgia, but many people from Florida attend.

[Four Florida rivers (Withlacoochee, Ichetucknee, Santa Fe, Suwannee), RTCW Petition and Full Text 2024-03-08]
Four Florida rivers (Withlacoochee, Ichetucknee, Santa Fe, Suwannee), RTCW Petition and Full Text 2024-03-08

With around a million signatures, RTCW will get on the ballot for 2026. The legislature and the governor do not have to approve it. The people do, and when it gets on the ballot and an overwhelming majority vote for it, it will immediately become law. Law that can be used to tilt the playing field that is currently way over towards developers and polluters. Law like has been used successfully in Pennsylvania and Montana to deal with water pollution, fracking, and climate change.

This RTCW petition is fundamentally different from the 2014 Amendment 1, Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative. That ended up in Article X, along with many other well-meaning and good-sounding provisions in that and other Articles.

RTCW goes in Article I along with other basic rights such as religious freedom and freedom of speech. Not law like all the other well-meaning and good-sounding provisions in other articles of the constition.

Sure, the legislature can still try to pass laws to circumvent RTCW and state agencies can try not to implement it. But that will be harder with a fundamental right in Article I.

The RTCW amendment is long because it has been written by attorneys to avoid complications such as Continue reading

A 19th-century navigable definition does not work for 21st-century river economies

We never had bales of cotton boated down the Withlacoochee River, because there are too many shoals.

[19th-century navigable definition; 21st-century river economy]
19th-century navigable definition; 21st-century river economy

But we do get fishing both from the shore and in paddle and power boats up and down our rivers, and for other recreation, There are massive investments by nearby cities and counties and other organizations in cleaning up the rivers for those purposes.

The state of Georgia needs to revise its 19th-century definition of navigability and passage to match the 21st-century present.

The antique 19th-century definition

The Georgia 1863 definition says a navigable stream “is capable of transporting boats loaded with freight in the regular course of trade either for the whole or a part of the year.” See Georgia Navigability Report, 3rd Edition and O.C.G.A. 44-8-5 (2010)

Some people once tried boating down to the Suwannee to establish commerce. They sold the remains of the boat and returned to the former Lowndes County seat of Troupville, at the Little River Confluence with the Withlacoochee River. Atlanta Constitution, January 29, 1889, Continue reading

Huge win for Waterkeepers: Court stops FDEP assumption of water permitting, and countersuit 2024-02-15

In a rare huge win for conservationists, on February 15, 2024, St. Johns Riverkeeper, Miami Waterkeeper, and co-plaintiffs won their case to stop the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) from assuming wetlands permitting.

[Florida panther, Waterkeepers Florida]
Florida panther, Waterkeepers Florida

FDEP assumption was always a bad idea. “The toxic algae blooms that now plague Florida are a direct result of the state’s decades-long failure to protect our waterways from wildlife-choking pollution,” Jason Totoiu, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “Now the state wants to make it even easier to dredge and fill wetlands that help filter these pollutants.”

Here’s the original lawsuit.

Jim Saunders, WUSF & News Service of Florida, February 19, 2024, A judge sides with environmentalists in wetlands permitting shift,

In a win for environmental groups, a U.S. district judge Thursday ruled that federal officials did not follow required steps in 2020 before shifting permitting authority to Florida for projects that affect wetlands.

Washington, D.C.-based Judge Randolph Moss, in a 97-page decision, found that actions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency violated the Endangered Species Act. Moss vacated the approval of the shift to the state.

Continue reading

Navigability in HB 1397 in GA House Natural Resources & Environment Quality Subcommittee 2024-02-26

Update 2024-03-08: A 19th-century navigable definition does not work for 21st-century river economies 2024-02-29.

I watched it so you don’t have to, Monday’s meeting of the Georgia Natural Resources & Environment Environmental Quality Subcommittee.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnl5fJP5ptM&t=1425s

The subcommittee is meeting again at 1PM today, February 28, 2024, with HB 1397 as the only thing on the agenda, and Rep. John Corbett again chairing.
https://www.house.ga.gov/Documents/Agendas/Natural%20Resources/January%2024,%202011%2027.pdf

See also the input I sent the legislators yesterday, Navigable stream additions to GA HB 1397 2024-02-27.

This is not a transcript. Except where I use quotation marks, it is a paraphrase of what I found to be the important points of the Monday subcommittee meeting.

[Rep. James Burchett, Navigability in HB 1397 in GA House Natural Resources & Environment Quality Subcommittee 2024-02-26]
Rep. James Burchett, Navigability in HB 1397 in GA House Natural Resources & Environment Quality Subcommittee 2024-02-26

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. James Burchett (District 176, Waycross) said he was concerned about people boating on oxbows and creeks onto private property, so the bill definitely did not include tributaries as navigable. He worries that currently the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GA-DNR) is in a difficult position of having to decide matters of law.

Burchett said that he constructed the list Continue reading

Navigable stream additions to GA HB 1397 2024-02-27

Update 2024-02-28: Navigability in HB 1397 in GA House Natural Resources & Environment Quality Subcommittee 2024-02-26.

Sent this morning.

[Navigable stream additions to GA HB 1397 --WWALS 2024-02-27]
Navigable stream additions to GA HB 1397 –WWALS 2024-02-27

February 27, 2024

To: Cc:

Rep. James Burchett (176), james.burchett@house.ga.gov

Rep. John Lahood (175), john.lahood@house.ga.gov,

Rep. Dexter Sharper (177), dexter.sharper@house.ga.gov,

Rep. John Corbett (174), john.corbett@house.ga.gov ,

Rep. Chas Cannon (172), chas.cannon@house.ga.gov,

Rep. Penny Houston (170), penny.houston@house.ga.gov,

Rep. Darlene Taylor (173), darlene.taylor@house.ga.gov,

Rep. Clay Pirkle (169), clay.pirkle@house.ga.gov,

Rep. Leesa Hagan (156), leesa.hagan@house.ga.gov,

Rep. Bill Yearta (152), bill.yearta@house.ga.gov,

Rep. Noel Williams (148), noel.williams@house.ga.gov,

Rep. Patty Bentley (150), patty.bentley@house.ga.gov

Re: Navigable stream additions to HB 1397

Rep. Burchett,

You are invited to the Mayor and Chairman’s Paddle on the Withlacoochee River just west of Valdosta, this Saturday, March 2, 2024. Continue reading