Tag Archives: Law

No Build: FDOT toll road heading north towards the Suwannee Basin 2022-01-13

Floridians, please go to the Florida Department of Transportation’s Northern Turnpike Extension web page and tell FDOT we don’t need any more toll roads. Here’s where you can say No Build:
https://floridasturnpike.com/turnpike-projects/featured-projects/northern-turnpike-extension/

Doesn’t matter that No Build isn’t listed as an option. Tell them anyway.

[Routes with No Build sign]
Routes with No Build sign

Please also ask your state legislative delegation to stop this boondogle.

This new push for an unnecessary toll road is ignoring previous county and city resolutions against it. So ask them to pass another one, or a new one if they didn’t before. Here’s a draft resulution by the No Roads to Ruin coalition (Suwannee Riverkeeper is a member of NRTR).

Dunnellon already passed a resolution on Monday, December 21, 2021. Continue reading

Supreme Court ruling on underground water could affect proposed titanium strip mine too near the Okefenokee Swamp

Here’s yet another reason you can cite when you ask the Georgia Enviromental Protection Division (GA-EPD) to stop the mining proposal by Twin Pines Minerals (TPM) to strip mine near the Okefenokee Swamp, above the Floridan Aquifer.

David Pendered, Saporta Report, January 3, 2022 5:13 pm, Okefenokee Swamp mining proposal could be affected by Supreme Court ruling,

The proposal to mine sand near the Okefenokee Swamp could be affected by a groundbreaking ruling on water rights issued by the U.S. Supreme Court.

[Figure 8. Drawdown 2930 days]
Figure 8. Drawdown 2930 days

For the first time, justices have determined the same laws that apply to water flowing above ground apply to water in multi-state underground aquifers.

“This court has never before held that an interstate aquifer is subject to equitable apportionment,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a unanimous opinion issued Nov. 22, 2021. This doctrine “aims to produce a fair allocation of a shared water resource between two or more States,” according to the ruling.

The ruling sets a legal foundation to manage future disputes over the usage of interstate groundwater. This issue is expected to arise more frequently as drought and climate change poise to alter the United States’ traditional water supplies and challenge agreements among governments to share water.

This ruling could be brought into play at the proposed mine near the Okefenokee, in part because of the amount of water to be extracted for mining operations from the four-state Floridan Aquifer. For that to happen, a party that has standing to file a lawsuit would have to do so on behalf of one or more of the four states that are above the Floridan Aquifer — Florida, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. Two of these states have previously litigated Georgia’s use of water from the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers. The Supreme Court ruled against Florida’s claim in April.

Continue reading

Withdrawn but will return: subdivision in aquifer recharge zone near Little River, Lowndes County, GA @ LCC 2021-12-14

Update 2022-01-09: Cancelled: Lowndes County Commission Meetings 2022-01-10, so expect expect the contentious Miller Bridge Road subdivision that was withdrawn last time to be back with larger lot sizes at the January 24 and 25 Commission meetings.

The subdivision WWALS E.D. Gretchen Quarterman spoke against at the November Planning Commission meeting was withdrawn before the December Lowndes County Commission meeting.

[Lowndes County Commission, Rezoning withdrawn temporarily, Aquifer recharge zone]
Lowndes County Commission, Rezoning withdrawn temporarily, Aquifer recharge zone

But the withdrawal letter said they would be back with a new plan by January 5th. The subject property near the Little River is still in an aquifer recharge zone, and far outside any appropriate Character Area in the Comprehensive Plan. Continue reading

Northern Turnpike Extension Kick-Off meetings 2021-12-07

SB 100 didn’t stop one of the M-CORES projects: a toll road up US 19 across the Suwannee River to Jefferson County connecting to Thomasville, Georgia.

Starting tonight are three meetings about the current incarnation, which aims to run from FL 19 at Wildwood through the horse country of Marion County past Dunnellon into Levy County past Chiefland, stopping (for now) just short of the Suwannee River. That’s already a sizeable swath of the springs heartland of Florida.

But don’t expect it to stop there: SB 100 authorized it to go “to a logical and appropriate terminus as determined by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)”

So please attend online or by telephone or in person. Otherwise, they’ll say nobody objected.

[Map and Meetings]
Map and Meetings

Tuesday Dec 7, 2021, 5:30-7:30 pm, FDOT Public Kickoff Meeting Continue reading

We do not need endanger the aquifer recharge zone with a subdivision. –Gretchen Quarterman for WWALS @ GLPC 2021-11-29

Update 2022-01-02: Withdrawn but will return: subdivision in aquifer recharge zone near Little River, Lowndes County, GA @ LCC 2021-12-14

When the Greater Lowndes Planning Commission (GLPC) held a Public Hearing Monday for a rezoning for a subdivision in an aquifer recharge zone, WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman spoke against it. Three hundred other people opposed the rezoning. The Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend denying it.

But GLPC does not decide: the Lowndes County Commission will do that on December 14, 2021. And the County Commissioners can, if they choose, change the lot size or approve the rezoning as proposed.

This is what to watch for on that upcoming agenda: REZ-2021-28 Windy Hill S/D, 7532 Miller Bridge Rd., 0010 022, 34 ac., Community well & septic, EA to R1.

[Gretchen, speakers, aquifer recharge zone]
Gretchen, speakers, aquifer recharge zone

Here is the LAKE video of Gretchen speaking, at 19:56. Continue reading

Petition to Initiate a Rulemaking for Small-Scale Inland LNG Export Facilities –WWALS to FERC 2021-11-19

Suwannee Riverkeeper asks FERC to oversee inland Liquid Natural Gas export facilities

Hahira, Georgia, November 26, 2021 (PDF)  —  After years of trying to get FERC to pay attention to an economic, health, and safety issue, Suwannee Riverkeeper for WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. has asked FERC to make a rule requiring inland LNG export facilities at least to ask FERC whether it has oversight.

Because the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) half a decade ago disclaimed oversight of export facilities for explosive compressed Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) unless ships loaded right there for overseas shipping, such facilities are lacking FERC’s environmental, construction, and safety oversight, causing risk of “ loss of life and significant environmental and economic consequences,” according to FERC’s own strategic plan. Residents of densely populated neighborhoods where inland LNG export plants are being sited, constructed, and operated are in harm’s way. FERC has relegated the responsibility to citizens to police potential threats to public health, safety and welfare posed by these high-risk LNG operations. There are no official Dockets that provide the public an opportunity to participate in any approval process.

[LNG export facilities; WWALS Rulemaking petition to FERC]
LNG export facilities; WWALS Rulemaking petition to FERC

Even a competing inland LNG company complained of economic issues: “During its pendency, the Commission has determined that certain LNG projects are outside its jurisdiction, permitting those projects to compete free from the FERC regulatory burdens that FGS and other FERC-regulated projects bear in what has become an active, urgent and highly competitive small-scale LNG market."

WWALS views the FERC regulatory burdens as public goods of construction, environmental, and safety review, but the point remains that competition has been warped by FERC’s inland LNG export decisions.

“We filed this Petition under the same Federal law as three cases back in 2013-2015 when FERC abdicated oversight of inland LNG export operations,” said WWALS member Cecile Scofield, who opposed an ill-conceived huge 8 billion cubic feet (Bcf) per year LNG import terminal in Massachusetts in early 2000 .   She also noted that, “A Rulemaking is needed to determine FERC jurisdiction before a developer spends millions of dollars constructing an inland export facility only to have it shut down by FERC after it begins operation.”

“Last March, Continue reading

A trash source success: parking lot on St. Augustine Road, Valdosta

Valdosta, GA, October 7, 2021 — Other businesses can do what Stafford did, and our creeks and rivers will be a lot cleaner! That will make Valdosta, Lowndes County, and every place downstream, more attractive to new and existing businesses, and healthier for people who live here.

After many times cleaning up trash from Sugar Creek near the Withlacoochee River, WWALS member Bobby McKenzie went upstream in Valdosta, found some sources, and one of the big ones listened. Other businesses can follow this example: put trash cans in parking lots, empty them, and keep them swept.

[Parking lot, Hightower Creek]
Parking lot, Hightower Creek

Bobby tells the story:

We identified hundreds of pounds of trash being thrown into the tree line just feet from Hightower Creek. The parking lot owner is Valdosta Mall Corners c/o Stafford Development Company (Stafford). Continue reading

More questions about strip mine near Okefenokee Swamp –GA-EPD to miners 2021-09-10

GA-EPD last Friday sent another request for clarifications to the miners about their proposed strip mine far too near the Okefenokee Swamp.

Meanwhile, you can ask 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

[Rivers, Swamp and mine site, GA-EPD cover letter]
Rivers, Swamp and mine site, GA-EPD cover letter

Most of the new questions are about how bentonite clay will be used. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) has actually been asking about that since December 5, 2019.

A question GA-EPD did not ask is what if the clay gets into waterways with fish? Bentonite in small particles can get into the gills of fish and suffocate them, and bentonite can also deplete oxygen: see Identification of Oxygen-Depleting Components in MX-80 Bentonite, Torbjörn Carlsson and Arto Muurine, Cambridge University Press, 01 February 2011.

GA-EPD also asked about water draining into the Floridan Aquifer or into rivers, or water moving in the other direction.

Exhibit I Modeling the GW Flow System Comments James L. Kennedy Ph.D., P.G.

Continue reading

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

Denied: Deannexation of Cherry Creek Mitigation Bank @ VCC 2021-08-19

WWALS E.D. Gretchen Quarterman heard it on Valdosta’s facebook livestream. The result was surprising only in that it was unanimous.

Bryce Ethridge, Valdosta Daily Times, Aug 24, 2021, City denies de-annexation request, approves park projects,

VALDOSTA — After tabling it at the last meeting, Valdosta City Council denied the de-annexation of 310 acres from the city.

This was a request made by the Uvalde Land Company for the city’s portion of the Cherry Creek Wetlands Mitigation Bank property located between the Withlacoochee River and Cherry Creek residential neighborhoods.

The company wanted the change for “wildlife management and recreational use” for a hunting ground.

The request, even before being brought up in the council meeting, was opposed by nearby residents, some of whom were concerned about being in the path of stray bullets because of their homes’ proximity to the area.

Mayor Pro-Tem Tim Carroll said the applicants can seek permits to hunt on the land while it remains within the city.

“None of the reasons given warrant the de-annexation of the property, especially when you consider there are a host of homeowners that have homes above this property,” he said. “They are citizens of Valdosta and they deserve to have their voices heard by their representatives.”

Carroll motioned to deny the request, followed by a unanimous vote in favor of the action.

[Aerial of proposed de-annexation]
Aerial of proposed de-annexation in 2021-08-05 Regular Session, Valdosta City Council

The picture is from the preceding City Council meeting, when they held the Public Hearing, before tabling at the landowner’s request.

Tim Carroll is visible behind the small monitor at the speaker’s podium. The de-annexation would have been from his City Council district, so, as is usual in such cases, the other Council members followed his lead, although some of them also had other reasons to deny.

See also: Continue reading