Tag Archives: GA DNR

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

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

Walkers Crossing closed, Full Corn Moon Paddle, Banks Lake 2020-09-02

You may want to allow more time if you’re driving to Banks Lake this evening from Hahira (I-75 exit 29) or Valdosta for the Full Corn Moon Paddle, since Walker’s Crossing is closed, and that’s on the usual route. Walker’s Crossing is where east-west GA 122 meets north-south GA 125 (Bemiss Road).

[Walkers Crossing, GA 122 @ GA 125 (Bemiss Road) w. of Banks Lake]
Walkers Crossing, GA 122 @ GA 125 (Bemiss Road) w. of Banks Lake
In the WWALS map of all public landings in the Suwannee River Basin.

Remember, try to be at Banks Lake by 7:15 PM to have time to sign in and get ready to launch. Follow the link for more outing details:
https://wwals.net/?p=53303.

It looks like you can go around from Barretts on New Bethel Road. Or just follow the Detour signs. Georgia DOT – Southwest, facebook, August 31 at 9:52 PM

Lowndes Co (close to Lanier Co): the railroad crossing on SR 122 just east of SR 125 is scheduled to close tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 1, and is expected to reopen Thursday, Sept. 3. This is required for repairs to the crossing. Detour routes will be US 129, SR 122 Connector and SR 125. Watch for detour signs.

Thanks to Mike Kondrot for the heads-up.

If you’re coming up I-75 from Florida, you’ll probably also notice this: Continue reading

Pictures: Troupville River Camp site –Gretchen Quarterman 2020-08-27

Yesterday the Detail Group convened at Troupville Boat Ramp to see the site of the proposed Troupville River Park.

[Photo: Gretchen Quarterman, of Chad McLeod (Lowndes County), George Page (VLPRA), Mac McCall (Architect), Jason Scarpate (ASA Engineering), John S. Quarterman (Suwannee Riverkeeper), Tom H. Johnson Jr. (WWALS President), Tom Baird (Archaeologist) at Troupville Boat Ramp]
Photo: Gretchen Quarterman, of Chad McLeod (Lowndes County), George Page (VLPRA), Mac McCall (Architect), Jason Scarpate (ASA Engineering), John S. Quarterman (Suwannee Riverkeeper), Tom H. Johnson Jr. (WWALS President), Tom Baird (Archaeologist) at Troupville Boat Ramp

A larger Steering Group is meeting weekly to update and resubmit last year’s application for a grant to the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Program (GOSP) for a Troupville River Camp. This year we have strong buy in from Lowndes County, the City of Valdosta, three local Authorities (Parks & Rec., Tourism, and Development), the Chamber of Commerce, McCall Architects, ASA Engineering, Valdosta Disc Golf, and others. Suwannee River Water Management District has already been participating. The local Georgia statehouse delegation was on last week’s call, as was the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GA-DNR). Key to all of this is 74 acres for sale by Helen Tapp of Land Between the Rivers (LBTR), below Troupville Boat Ramp down to the Little River Confluence, to be combined with the existing 49-acre VLPRA park, to create a 123-acre Troupville River Park. If you or your organization are interested in helping with this nature preserve and multi-use park, please let us know.

[Concept Plan by ASA Engineering (rotated and trimmed)]
Concept Plan by ASA Engineering (rotated and trimmed)

Yesterday we looked to see where hiking, biking, and horse trails might go, to see fishing spots along the Little River, to look at the Little River Confluence, where a Viewscape Pavilion can go.

[Withlacoochee River comes in from left, continues ahead]
Withlacoochee River comes in from left, continues ahead

We considered stairs or ramp for boaters to take out of the Withlacoochee River, to look at invasive plants and native palmettos, big oaks, and pines upstream, along with deadfalls and switchbacks. Then we went inland to see where to put bathrooms, dining pavillion, and sleeping platforms for Troupville River Camp.

[Chad McLeod (Lowndes County), Mark Gaither (Disc Golf), John S. Quarterman (Suwannee Riverkeeper), Tom Baird (Archaeologist), Jason Scarpate (ASA Engineering, Mac McCall (Architect), Tom H. Johnson Jr. (WWALS President), George Page (VLPRA)]
Chad McLeod (Lowndes County), Mark Gaither (Disc Golf), John S. Quarterman (Suwannee Riverkeeper), Tom Baird (Archaeologist), Jason Scarpate (ASA Engineering, Mac McCall (Architect), Tom H. Johnson Jr. (WWALS President), George Page (VLPRA)

We walked up the big discovery by ASA Engineering last November of old Broad Street, the main north-south street and highway of historic Troupville, the Lowndes County seat until 1860, before Valdosta.

To see where the Championship Disc Golf Course could go, we walked down the Power line right of way and the Old Valdosta sewer line near the Withlacoochee River, below the Georgia 133 bridge over the Withlacoochee River.

Later, I went back and established that the apparent East-west road does indeed go through from the Little River to the Crossroads with Broad Street. I didn’t have much luck finding a road through east to the Withlacoochee River, but I did find a Nice hunting spot on the river, more than one Gopher hole, and got pictures of more of the old Valdosta sewer line easement where a Disc Golf fairway can go.

Many of these pictures are by Continue reading

Winners: Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2020-08-22

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Winners and excellent music from the judges and headliner, too, Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest

Hahira, GA, August 24, 2020 — Everyone went away happy. The finalists got prizes, and the audience was impressed with the song each judge played, and with the headliner. The audience was impressed that one contestant, who couldn’t come due to the virus pandemic, was projected on the bandstand via zoom anyway.

[Winners*: Brian Barker* via zoom, accepting for, Scott Perkins*, Laura D'Alisera, Kathy Lou Gilman*, John S. Quarterman, Billy Ennis*, Ronni Dillon (not present)]
Winners*: Brian Barker via zoom*, accepting for him, Scott Perkins*, Laura D’Alisera, Kathy Lou Gilman*, John S. Quarterman, Sweet William Billy Ennis*, Ronni Dillon (not present)

The winners are: Continue reading

Send your comment on GA-EPD Valdosta wastewater Consent Order –Albany Herald

In the Albany Herald, May 9, 2020, Deadline set to comment on Valdosta EPD Enforcement Order,

The Enforcement Order includes a fine, plus many requirements for management and technology.

“Well, I’m glad they are doing the enforcement order, requiring them to get the fixes in place,” said Deanna Mericle of Hamilton County, Fla., who was among the WWALS members who met with the city of Valdosta back in 2015 about these same sewage issues. “I’m not sure what the $122,000 will be used for, but the fine seems small. I just want the problem fixed for good if possible.”

The rest of the article is from the WWALS press release.

Send your comments by Wednesday, May 27, 2020, to:
   Mr. Lewis Hays
   Manager, Watershed Compliance
   Environmental Protection Division
   2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SE, Suite 1152 East
   Atlanta, GA 30334
   Lewis.Hays@dnr.ga.gov
   404-463-4953

This is not the kind of black water we want:

[Photo 4: Confluence of Sugar Creek and Withlacoochee River.]
Photo 4: Confluence of Sugar Creek and Withlacoochee River. By Tim Bonvechio.

The entire 93-page Order is on the WWALS website, here:
https://wwals.net/pictures/2020-04-13–ga-epd-vld-enforcement-order

“This Order has been a long time coming. It includes an outline of a sad history of mistakes and neglect. I hope the Order Continue reading

Three weeks to comment on GA-EPD Valdosta wastewater Consent Order

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (see also PDF)

Three weeks to comment on GA-EPD Valdosta wastewater Consent Order

Hahira, GA, May 4, 2020 — May 27th is the deadline to comment on the Enforcement Order the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) finally issued on Valdosta for sewage spills. For decades, Valdosta has spilled wastewater into the Withlacoochee River. People downstream, even on the Suwannee River all the way to the Gulf, worry about fishing, swimming, or even boating and some even say their wells are contaminated by fecal bacteria from these spills. Many had hoped that Valdosta’s big spills were over in 2016 with the new Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant uphill out of the flood plain, plus a Force Main with two Pump Stations. Valdosta says it has spent about $80 million on water system improvements. Yet the spills continued. The Order also reveals a massive fish kill.

[Photo 2: Dead largemouth bass in Sugar Creek below Bay Tree Road.]
Photo 2: Dead largemouth bass in Sugar Creek below Bay Tree Road.

“The December 2019 spill was the biggest yet, with no rain, and nothing actually broke. It was a massive failure of supervision,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Citizens and elected and appointed officials in Georgia and a dozen counties in Florida demanded something be done.”

This Enforcement Order includes the most popular request, a fine, plus many requirements for management and technology.

“Well, I’m glad they are doing the enforcement order, requiring them to get the fixes in place,” said Deanna Mericle of Hamilton County, Florida, who was among the WWALS members who met with the City of Valdosta back in 2015 about these same sewage issues. She added, “I’m not sure what the $122,000 will be used for, but the fine seems small. I just want the problem fixed for good if possible.”

The Order addresses much (but not all) of what Suwannee Riverkeeper asked GA-EPD to do: https://wwals.net/?p=50979 For example, it requires the City to test water quality all the way down to the state line. One thing it does not include is any requirements for reimbursing downstream well and river testing expenses.

“It’s good to see that the EPD is FINALLY taking this issue seriously!” said Suzy Hall, WWALS Testing Committee Chair. “I can’t help but feel WWALS’ diligence in testing has been a big part of this action, and must continue regardless of any order for the City to conduct testing.”

The entire 93-page Order is on the WWALS website, here:
https://wwals.net/pictures/2020-04-13–ga-epd-vld-enforcement-order

“This Order has been a long time coming. It includes an outline of a sad history of mistakes and neglect. I hope the Order will finally get the City’s attention,” said Dr. Tom Potter, WWALS Science Committee Chair and taxpayer of the City of Valdosta.

Send your comments by Wednesday, May 27, 2020, to:
   Mr. Lewis Hays
   Manager, Watershed Compliance
   Environmental Protection Division
   2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SE, Suite 1152 East
   Atlanta, GA 30334
   Lewis.Hays@dnr.ga.gov
   404-463-4953

About WWALS: Founded in June 2012, WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS) advocates for conservation and stewardship of the Withlacoochee, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Little, Santa Fe, and Suwannee River watersheds in south Georgia and north Florida through education, awareness, environmental monitoring, and citizen activities. John S. Quarterman is the Suwannee Riverkeeper®, which is a staff position and a project of WWALS as the member of Waterkeeper® Alliance for the Suwannee River Basin.

Contact: John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper contact@suwanneeriverkeeper.org
WWALS Watershed Coalition
850-290-2350, 229-242-0102
PO Box 88, Hahira, GA 31632

===

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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

GA-EPD Enforcement Order for Valdosta wastewater with fine 2020-04-13

Update 2020-05-04: Press Release, Three weeks to comment on GA-EPD Valdosta wastewater Consent Order.

Much of what many people requested is in this Enforcement Order EPD-WP-8904 of the Public Notice of April 27, 2020.

[Photo 1: Site where sewage flowed out of manhole into Sugar Creek.]
Photo 1: Site where sewage flowed out of manhole into Sugar Creek.

Perhaps the most popular request, a fine, is included. As a Project In-Lieu of Penalty (PIP) stream testing is required, three times a week, down to the state line. Plus: “The Respondent shall post all the results of biological monitoring required after major spills to its website and to the Georgia EPD Adopt-A-Stream website within one business day of receipt of the results.”

All 250 sewer line creek crossings must be inspected by drone crews.

Valdosta must notify many Florida agencies, plus in Georgia Lowndes Health and Brooks EMA.

Other things are missing. WWALS is not on that notification list, for example.

[Photo 2: Dead largemouth bass in Sugar Creek below Bay Tree Road.]
Photo 2: Dead largemouth bass in Sugar Creek below Bay Tree Road.

And the Order reveals some Valdosta violations the public never knew about, such as a massive fish kill in December 2019. The cost of that calculated by GA-DNR Wildlife Division seems inadequate, since it doesn’t take into account people being unwilling to fish on the Withlacoochee River, for example.

If you think there should be more or changed requirements, the Public Comment period ends May 27, 2020.

Send comments to: Continue reading

Florida and Georgia Boat Ramps Status 2020-04-09

Yes, you can boat, fish, and swim on rivers and lakes during the stay-home period, in both Florida and Georgia, as long as you keep your distance. Don’t gather in large groups unless you want your favorite river or lake access to get closed, not to mention unless you want to get or transmit the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, for which there is no vaccine. Stay six feet apart, no large groups (usually no more than 10), and on the water stay at least 10 feet apart or 50 feet apart in Florida.

Below is a snapshot of conditions today. Check on your local park or ramp or launch before going for current conditions.

Also check on bacterial conditions, especially since last night’s rain.

Florida

Here’s a handy map that shows status of Florida boat ramps and launches. Red means closed. Blue means open.

[Florida]
Florida

Tony Acevedo, SaltStrong, 31 March 2020, This Map Shows Which Boat Ramps Are Closed & Which Are Open, Continue reading

Troupville River Camp not on GOSP approved projects: try again this year 2020-01-22

There is a list approved by Georgia DNR for grants from the Georgia Outdoor Stewardshp Program (GOSP), but Troupville River Camp is not on it:

[GOSP Proposal of Approved Conservation Projects]
Georgia Reporter: GOSP Proposal of Approved Conservation Projects; see also PDF.

The GOSP web page says pre-applicants will be notified February 3, 2020, but the GOSP board apparently made their choices more than two weeks ago. Like everybody else, they’re making it up as they go this first year of GOSP.

Jill Nolin, Georgia Recorder, 22 January 2020, Georgia park projects axed as tax on outdoor gear comes up short, Continue reading

U.S. EPA still says mine would have substantial and unacceptable impact –Suwannee Riverkeeper 2019-12-31

In the Charlton County Herald, December 31, 2019:


Dear Editor,

The burden of proof is still on the miners to show their mine would not damage the Swamp or the Rivers, and they have not met that burden.

U.S. EPA still finds that “the proposed project will have a substantial and unacceptable impact on aquatic resources of national importance.”

[Distant 2019-11-23]
Anonymous drone aerial of heavy equipment on the mining site 2019-11-23.
River Styx is in the background, Okefenokee Swamp is on the horizon.
St. Marys River flows out top left horizon. Suwannee River flows out far side of Swamp.

That’s about “the permit application submitted by Twin Pines Minerals, LLC” for a titanium strip mine. “The proposed 2,414-acre mine area lies in proximity to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), and the potential secondary effects of the mine on the NWR have not been demonstrated by the permit applicant.”

This is the second letter EPA has sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers saying the mining application is deficient. We obtained a copy through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The entire letter is here: https://wwals.net/?p=50931.

You, too, can still comment to the USACE, and all comments they receive before the Corps announces a decision can be used in any potential lawsuits. The addresses are: Continue reading