Tag Archives: Economy

Roads next to Mud Swamp, which drains to Alapahoochee, Alapaha Rivers @ LCC 2021-08-24

The Lowndes County Commission started the process of taking over two flooded private roads, they adopted a fire department millage rate for all real and personal property in the unincorporated parts of the county, and they discussed how that millage was to aid population growth in the unincorporated areas, apparently including building closer to and perhaps in wetlands that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had recently decided were not Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS). All these actions at their August 24, 2021, Regular Session, at least taken together, would seem to support sprawl.

[Mud Swamp Road and Swamp Edge Drive adopted by Lowndes County, GA]
Mud Swamp Road and Swamp Edge Drive adopted by Lowndes County, GA, in the lower left corner of this map, between two arms of Mud Swamp Creek, in the WWALS map of all public landings in the Suwannee River Basin.

Better would be to build only close in to existing services, instead of sprawling farther out, where no taxes will ever pay enough for sending school buses, Sheriff, and Fire. See this report the County commissioned: The Local Government Fiscal Impacts of Land Use in Lowndes County: Revenue and Expenditure Streams by Land Use Category, Jeffrey H. Dorfman, Ph.D., Dorfman Consulting, December 2007. As Dr. Dorfman summarized in a different presentation,

Local governments must ensure balanced growth, as
sprawling residential growth is a certain ticket to fiscal ruin*
* Or at least big tax increases.

Continue reading

Four U.S. Senators ask U.S. FWS to assist GA-EPD against mine too near the Okefenokee Swamp 2021-04-28

“Georgia’s senators want the federal government to get involved in the state’s review of a mine proposed at the doorstep of the East Coast’s largest wildlife refuge.”, James Marshall, E&E News, 30 April 2021, Senators worry about mine project near Okefenokee.

And you can still use the Waterkeeper Alliance action alert to Help Suwannee Riverkeeper Save Okefenokee Swamp by sending a message to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division asking them to reject Twin Pines Minerals’ five permit applications, or at least to go through a full process to review them:
https://wwals.net/?p=55092

[Letter, Mine site, Senators, Signatures]
Letter, Mine site, Senators, Signatures

Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock also got Senators Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island and Tom Carper from Delaware to co-sign their letter of Wednesday to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s good they’re doing what many of us asked all the candidates to do in the Georgia Senate race last year.

Mary Landers, Savannahnow, 29 April 2021, U.S. Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff urge scrutiny of Okefenokee mining proposal.

The economy was on Warnock’s mind last week when he released a statement about the mining near the Okefenokee.

“I am a fierce champion for strengthening rural economies, and finding ways to ensure rural Georgians don’t just survive, but thrive,” he wrote. “At the same time, the Okefenokee is integral to the local ecology and economy, and we owe it to our planet and the communities that depend on the swamp to ensure its health and integrity for future generations. As a voice for Georgians in the Senate, I look forward to working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and engaging their expertise in these on-going conversations to make sure we protect this cherished Georgia landmark as we work to bring more good-paying jobs to our rural communities.”

Well, that’s good to hear. I look forward to the local Chambers and all the organizations concerned about the Swamp finding some businesses for Charlton County and other rural south Georgia and north Florida counties.

The Letter (PDF)

Continue reading

Fossil fuel forever bills in Georgia and Florida legislatures

Do these bills sound just as bad? You can help stop them, including in a committee meeting this morning.

A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Title 46 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to public utilities and public transportation, so as to prohibit governmental entities from adopting any policy that prohibits the connection or reconnection of any utility service based upon the type or source of energy or fuel; to provide for related matters; to provide for an effective date; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes. —GA SB 102

Mirrored across the GA-FL line:

Preemption on Restriction of Utility Services; Prohibiting municipalities, counties, special districts, or other political subdivisions from enacting or enforcing provisions or taking actions that restrict or prohibit the types or fuel sources of energy production which may be used, delivered, converted, or supplied to customers by specified entities; providing for preemption; providing for retroactive application, etc. —FL SB 1128

The words have been stirred, but the bills are essentially the same. Except the Florida bill goes for full unconstitutional ex post facto law with “providing for retroactive application”.

This stuff stinks of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange, the private shadow government in which industry representatives and state legislators vote together on model bills that the state reps take back and try to pass. If they succeed, they become ALEC alumnae. ALEC or not, they’re bad bills that should not pass.

GA SB 102 has already been voted out of committee in the Georgia Senate, and its equivalent already passed the Georgia House.

FL SB 1128 is scheduled this morning at 9AM, March 16, 2021, for its second committee, Community Affairs, 03/16/21, 9:00 am, 37 Senate Building.

In the same committee meeting this morning is another of these:

State Preemption of Transportation Energy Infrastructure Regulations; Preempting the regulation of transportation energy infrastructure to the state; prohibiting a local government from taking specified actions relating to the regulation of transportation energy infrastructure, etc. —SB 856: State Preemption of Transportation Energy Infrastructure Regulations

Photo: Gretchen Quarterman, Sabal Trail pipeline drilling at night 2016-12-02
Photo: Gretchen Quarterman, Sabal Trail pipeline drill site near Withlacoochee River in Georgia 2016-12-02.

The Florida bills seems to have inadvertently missed listing Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), possibly because their authors thought “petroleum products” covered that (it doesn’t). Not to worry: “but is not limited to.”

Also, this is not just about directly passing an ordinance against fossil fuels, which most local governments already knew wouldn’t work. SB 856 would create Florida Statutes Section 377.707, with (1)(b):

Amending its comprehensive plan, Continue reading

The regulatory trap at SRWMD: 30 speakers, yet unanimous Nestle permit 2021-02-23

A textbook case: “We present our three-minute, passionate oration about the risk to community health, but in the end, nothing we say must be taken into account by the state in issuing the permit.&rdqup; Common Sense: Community Rights Organizing, by CELDF; thanks to Karma Norjin Lhamo for the reminder.

[Mermaid, Suwannee Riverkeeper, OSFR, Regulatory Fallacy, Charles Keith, Attorneys, Motion to Permit, unanimous SRWMD Board]
Mermaid, Suwannee Riverkeeper, OSFR, Regulatory Fallacy, Charles Keith, Attorneys, Motion to Permit, unanimous SRWMD Board

About 30 speakers gave impassioned orations for denial, after which the Suwannee River Water Management District Board unanimously approved the Nestlé permit as fast as the roll could be called.

[SRWMD Board: Larry Thompson, Lower Suwannee Basin; Charles Keith, At Large; Virginia H. Johns, Chair, At Large; Virginia Sanchez, At Large; Charles Schwab, Coastal Rivers Basin; Harry Smith, At Large; Larry Sessions, Upper Suwannee Basin]
SRWMD Board: Larry Thompson, Lower Suwannee Basin; Charles Keith, At Large; Virginia H. Johns, Chair, At Large; Virginia Sanchez, At Large; Charles Schwab, Coastal Rivers Basin; Harry Smith, At Large; Larry Sessions, Upper Suwannee Basin. Notice nobody on the SRWMD Board representing the Santa Fe River Basin. Water taxation without representation.

As one prominent local activist said afterwards, “Two years out of my life I’ll never get back! I don’t know if I’ll ever come back here.”

Sure, voting in a governor who would appoint better WMD board members would help, and into the legislature, too. New legislators would help pass what is really needed: a Bill of Rights for Nature.

That is a way out of the Regulatory Fallacy Box. 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

Update 2020-11-18: Landslide Yes on Georgia Amendment 1 to dedicate trust funds!

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