Tag Archives: Clean Water Act

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

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

U.S. Army Corps abdicates at Okefenokee Swamp, but titanium miners still need Georgia permits 2020-10-19

Update 2020-11-30: WWALS asks GA Gov. Kemp to stop strip mine near Okefenokee Swamp 2020-11-30.

Monday morning I heard from a mining source that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will soon announce that, due to federal rollback of the Waters of the U.S., the Corps no longer considers the streams next to the proposed mining site to be under Corps jurisdiction, even though they are far too near the Okefenokee Swamp.

Alligator
Photo: Gretchen Quarterman, alligator in the Okefenokee Swamp

Twin Pines Minerals (TPM) lost no time announcing the next day that they intended to plow ahead. Molly Samuel, WABE, 20 October 2020, Proposed Mine Near Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp Gets A Major Hurdle Removed.

But TPM admits they still need five Georgia permits. So let’s try to stop those.

As we’ve been saying for a long time, please write to state and federal regulators, to the Georgia governor and the Georgia DNR board, and to state and federal elected officials. See below for how.

Also, there’s an election going on. As an IRS 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit, WWALS can’t tell you what candidate or party to vote for. But we can ask you to vote for the environment.

If the Okefenokee Swamp, which is the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers, is not protected, what is? If you live in south Georgia or north Florida, your drinking water probably comes from the Floridan Aquifer or groundwater above it, all of which can be adversely affected by strip mining or other pollution.

Please vote for the environment.

Georgians, don’t forget to vote for Amendment 1 while you’re voting.

Russ Bynum, Associated Press, 21 October 2020, Trump environmental rollback spurs mining near Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp.

The Army Corps reassessed certain wetlands at Twin Pines’ request after Trump’s new clean-water rules took effect in June. The agency confirmed Tuesday that, under the rules change, the tract would no longer require a federal permit.

“This property now has Continue reading

Last day to comment to the Corps against strip mine near Okefenokee Swamp 2020-05-28

Today is the last public comment day to ask the Corps to stop a strip mine so close to the Okefenokee Swamp you can see both from a few hundred feet up.

[Distant 2019-11-23]
Drone aerials of titanium mine site near Okefenokee Swamp 2019-11-23.

As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told Georgia Sen. Purdue last November,

“The initial project location is the farthest that mining activity would be from the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) boundary and the Okefenokee Swamp. Any additional mining that occurs within the 12,000-acre permit area would be closer to the refuge. The northwest boundary of the permit area is within a half mile from the refuge boundary and 400 feet from the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp.”

FWS also spelled out the bottom line: “It is the responsibility of the permit applicant to demonstrate what the extent of impacts of the project will be to surrounding natural resources.”

And the applicant still has not done that, not even in its second application.

A few miners profiting by selling titanium dioxide for paint is nowhere near sufficient reason to risk the unique treasure that is the Okefenokee Swamp, which is also the headwaters of both the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers.

Please comment to the Corps

Today you can still ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop this strip mine:
To: CESAS-SpecialProjects@usace.army.mil
Re: Applicant: Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, Application Number: SAS-2018-00554

Be sure to ask the Corps to deny the permit, or at least to require an Environmental Impact Statement.

Or use the convenient comment form in this Action Alert by Waterkeeper Alliance:
https://waterkeeper.org/news/take-action-protect-okefenokee-swamp-from-a-titanium-mine/

Or this convenient comment form by Georgia River Network:
https://www.congressweb.com/GEAN/225

For far more information about this bad strip-mining proposal, see:
https://wwals.net/issues/titanium-mining/

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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

Any additional mining would be closer to the refuge. –FWS to Sen. Perdue 2019-11-21

“The initial project location is the farthest that mining activity would be from the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) boundary and the Okefenokee Swamp. Any additional mining that occurs within the 12,000-acre permit area would be closer to the refuge. The northwest boundary of the permit area is within a half mile from the refuge boundary and 400 feet from the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp,” wrote the Fish and Wildlife Service to Senator David Purdue.

You can still comment to the Army Corps demanding an Environmental Impact Statement.

Minnie Lake, Shirley Kokidko, Gretchen Quarterman, 11:42:54,, Minnie Lake
Photo: John S. Quarterman, Okefenokee Swamp, 2017-12-10

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) wrote that in response to an inquiry by Senator David Perdue of Georgia. Sen. Perdue also asked if FWS actually had jurisdiction over the proposed mining area, and FWS replied saying that it did have several kinds of oversight.

But FWS spelled out the bottom line: “It is the responsibility of the permit applicant to demonstrate what the extent of impacts of the project will be to surrounding natural resources.”

And the applicant still has not done that, not even in its second application.

No longer discussing the northern reaches of its landholdings much doesn’t mean Continue reading

Stream monitoring with only annual reporting privatized by Lowndes County Commission 2020-04-28

With only one dissenting vote, last night the Lowndes County Commission approved more than $45,000 for a sole-source contract for stream monitoring, with only annual reporting required. Since the contractor is private, it doesn’t have to answer open records requests. How does this help warn people when the rivers are clean or not?

There had never been any bids, even though the requirement for this monitoring from GA-EPD apparently came in back in June 2018. The Commissioners did not have the monitoring plan in front of them, nor the GA-EPD requirement, as near as I can tell.

[BUDGET IMPACT: $45,120.00]
BUDGET IMPACT: $45,120.00

Apparently somebody read a list of streams to the Commissioners, along with the monitoring required for each. But that list was not in the posted agenda.

[Suwannee Basin impaired waters, map]
Suwannee Basin impaired waters, map by GECAP.

We can guess it was maybe the “Not Supporting” or “Assessment Pending” streams in Lowndes County from the GA-EPD Listing of Waterbodies, Clean Water Act Section 303(d), for which see below. But we don’t know.

And what about the contamination often coming down Okapilco Creek into GAR031102030902 Withlacoochee River: Okapilco Creek to Stateline? No Commissioner thought to ask that. How will this contractor work with WWALS? Perhaps an indication came when I spoke with the County Engineer Mike Fletcher Monday morning: “I don’t know what WWALS is doing,” he said.

Did Lowndes County consult with any of the various organizations that are doing stream monitoring already, such as the cities of Valdosta or Quitman, Madison Health, FDEP, SRWMD, or SGRC? If so, they didn’t mention it in last night’s meeting.

It is not even clear that this was a public meeting. At 2:38 PM, less than three hours before Continue reading

Reject or EIS: Twin Pines Minerals mine near Okefenokee –U.S. Rep. Al Lawson 2020-02-13

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson Jr, Twitter, 2PM, 14 February 2020, @RepAlLawsonJr,

I sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers to express my concerns about Twin Pines Minerals, LLC’s plan to mine for titanium near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. These actions could have detrimental effects on the area’s biodiversity and natural resources.

[U.S. Rep. Al Lawson to USACE]
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson to USACE


AL LAWSON
5TH DISTRICT, FLORIDA
ASSISTANT MAJORITY WHIP
COMMITTEE ON
FINANCIAL SERVICES
COMMITTEE ON
AGRICULTURE

Congress of the United States
 
House of Representatives
 
Washington, DC 20515-0905

February 13, 2020

Col. Daniel Hibner
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Savannah District
100 W. Oglethorpe Avenue
Savannah, Georgia 31401

Dear Hearing Officer:

I am writing to express my concerns about Twin Pines Minerals, LLC’s application for a clean water (CWA) permit to mine for titanium near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Osceola National Forest, and Osceola Wildlife Management Area. I urge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to carefully consider the significant environmental, social, and economic costs that could occur if the permit is granted. It is crucial that the Corps require an environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Furthermore, the Corps should reject the permit application if it appears the mine will harm the environment.

Trail Ridge and Okefenokee NWR

If approved, the project would destroy portions of Trail Ridge, which acts as Continue reading