Tag Archives: Politics

River gauges, Comprehensive Plan, Planning Commission: Three Lowndes County Meetings 2021-10-25

In Lowndes County, Georgia, three meetings today and tomorrow affect water, including the Little and Withlacoochee Rivers, upstream from Florida:

That’s right: two of the meetings are at the same time today, and two of the meetings have no agendas posted. What we know so far is below. For detailed updates of these Lowndes County meetings, follow Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE):
http://www.l-a-k-e.org

If there are especially interesting water developments, I will also post here for WWALS.

[Character Area Map, River Gauges]
Character Area Map, River Gauges

Comprehensive Plan Update

5:30 PM Tuesday 2021-10-26: No agenda posted for Public Hearing to Review and Transmit the 2021 Comprehensive Plan Update by Lowndes County Commission

Address: 327 N. Ashley Street, 2nd Floor Commission Chamber, Valdosta, GA 31601

This is the meeting that could have the most effect on water. No agenda is posted, and no updates to the Lowndes County Character Area map since the one shown here, which was prepared for a September 28th meeting.

We’ll find out at 5:30 PM this Tuesday whether the Character Area Map for Lowndes County will change. Two sources tell me that it won’t for this update of the Lowndes County Comprehensive Plan, except for some tinkery fixes not in the northwest part of the county.

But many of us thought 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

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

A lot of titanium, but only one Okefenokee Swamp –U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock 2021-08-28

“We have a lot of titanium, but we only have one Okefenokee Swamp,” said U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock, very early Saturday morning in Valdosta, Georgia.

[U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, Gretchen Quarterman]
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, Gretchen Quarterman

That’s WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman with the Senator.

You can ask the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to reject the five permit applications they got from the miners, or at least to thoroughly examine them, with independent third-party review.
https://wwals.net/?p=55092

The Senator left with contact information for the Charlton County Commission. If you know any of them, you could talk to them, too.

Later that same morning, Continue reading

Notice of SRWMD appeal of Nestle decision, purchase one tract, conservation easement another, Suwannee River, SRWMD Board 2021-04-13

The SRWMD board will decide next Tuesday on a land acquisition and a conservation easement amendment on two different parcels on the Suwannee River.

Plus SRWMD legal counsel was prodded by citizen petitions into filing a notice of appeal of SRWMD’s own Nestlé decision to approve that permit, and the Board now has to agree or do something else.

You can attend in person if you get there early enough to get one of the limited seats, or remotely via the usual GoToWebinar https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1866408207680852239 and dialin 1-888-585-9008, Conference Room Number: 704-019-452 #. If you want to speak, don’t forget to fill out the public comment form: www.MySuwanneeRiver.com/Comments The board packet is on the WWALS website.

[SRWMD appeals its own Nestle order, acquisition, easement, steps]
SRWMD appeals its own Nestle order, acquisition, easement, steps

Agenda Item No. 14 – Lasky Tract Acquisition, Gilchrist County starts on page 29.

Agenda Item No. 15 – Warner-Harrell Conservation Easement starts on page 35. It’s all so somebody can build at their own expense some steps down to a sinkhole.

In more evidence the attorneys really run SRWMD, legal counsel George T. Reeves filed a notice of appeal of the SRWMD Board’s own decision in the Nestle case, and did it after the last SRWMD Board meeting. This only happened because persons un-named by counsel petitioned the SRWMD board at that last meeting that &ldqou;since Seven Springs did not own or control the Facility, the Renewal Permit should not have been issued.” That is the same reason the SRWMD issued its decision “under protest”. Since the SRWMD Board did not go ahead and file its own notice of appeal, the petitioners plan to appeal to the Division of Administrative Hearings. So SRWMD counsel filed a notice of appeal on behalf of SRWMD so SRWMD could be a party. The Board can agree with that at this meeting, or do what exactly instead is not clear.

On pages 14 and 15 of the board packet: Continue reading

GA-EPD permit process for Twin Pines strip mine too near Okefenokee Swamp 2021-02-08

This fact sheet from a month ago says the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) will hold “a public meeting” and “Comments will also be accepted at TwinPines.Comment@dnr.ga.gov. It’s not clear what they will do with comments if you go ahead and send them to that address. Since any such correspondence would be public record, retrievable via open records request, it would be odd if GA-EPD did not consider those comments in their permit review process.

[GA-EPD Fact Sheet, TPM Mine, and Okefenokee NWR]
GA-EPD Fact Sheet, TPM Mine, and Okefenokee NWR

Checking with GA-EPD this morning, the public hearing is not expected to be scheduled for several months yet, because they’re still waiting for documents that the miners did not previously supply. Plus they are communicating with the Army Corps about documents the Corps received before abdicating responsibility. Apparently the GA-EPD Land Division is taking the lead, perhaps because this is a mining project, near the Okefenokee Swamp, which is the headwaters of the Suwannee River.

It’s good GA-EPD is being thorough, although this last paragraph casts some doubt on that: “ Any additional mining operations not included in the demonstration area will be considered new and unique and will require a new set of permits and a full permitting process.”

[Map: Twin Pines Minerals land and Okefenokee NWR]
Map: Twin Pines Minerals land and Okefenokee NWR
in the WWALS map of the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail and the Okefenokee NWR Canoe Trails.

Sure and if that happens the miners will claim they have sunk costs and they’ll sue if they don’t get further permits. So expansion should be considered along with the original permit applications. And it’s much better to nip this whole thing in the bud.

Here are four of the five permit applications to GA-EPD from Twin Pines Minerals, LLC:
https://wwals.net/2020/11/05/twin-pines-minerals-permit-applications-to-ga-epd/

Since GA-EPD has confirmed they did actually receive an Air Quality permit application, I guess it’s time for me to request that one again.

GA-EPD has a Twin Pines Minerals, LLC web page, whic currently has a link to this one one-page PDF fact sheet.

[Twin Pines Minerals LLC Permitting Fact Sheet]
Twin Pines Minerals LLC Permitting Fact Sheet
PDF


GEORGIA
DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES   
Environmental Protection Division

Twin Pines Minerals, LLC
Permitting Fact Sheet
 

Twin Pines Minerals, LLC has submitted environmental permit applications to the Environmental Protection Division (Division) proposing a demonstration project for mining heavy minerals sands near St. George, Charlton County, Georgia. The northern boundary of the site is located approximately 2.9 miles southeast from the nearest boundary of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

How many permit applications have been submitted?

Twin Pines Minerals, LLC has applied for environmental permits from all branches of the Environmental Protection Division (Division). These permits are the same as those that may be required for any surface mine: NPDES Industrial Stormwater, NPDES Industrial Wastewater, Groundwater Withdrawal, Air Quality, and Surface Mining Permit. The Division is early in the process of conducting a thorough review of each of the applications received.

How will the Division ensure the Okefenokee is being protected?

The Surface Mining Land Use Plan (MLUP) will require an addendum detailing the environmental provisions for protection of the environment and resources of the State. Once this environmental provision addendum is received, the Division will conduct an initial review and ensure it is complete and adequate, with a focus on how the project’s proximity to the National Wildlife Refuge may impact the area’s groundwater hydrology.

Will public be able to provide comments?

Yes. After the Division has reviewed the MLUP and the environmental provisions addendum, a public meeting will be held to receive comments on these documents and to provide an update on the permitting process. Comments will also be accepted at TwinPines.Comment@dnr.ga.gov. We will then consider all public comments and request the applicant make any necessary changes to address those comments. Please note, the Division may be unable to respond individually to each comment received. However, we will post a collective response to comments on our website after the official comment period closes.

Once the MLUP and the environmental provisions addendum are finalized, the Division will proceed with the draft permit process, including a public notice and comment period on the Surface Mining permit as well as any additional public comment periods required for the other permits. These permits are for the proposed 740-acre demonstration mining area.

Will the mine be able to expand after it is permitted?

Any additional mining operations not included in the demonstration area will be considered new and unique and will require a new set of permits and a full permitting process.

February 8, 2021


 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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

Florida needs water quality testing and sign posting

Florida needs to test our rivers all the way to the Gulf, several times every week, instead of depending on Madison County and the city of Valdosta and WWALS.

Jim Tatum caught me and Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson collaborating, probably about getting FDEP to do the DNA marker and chemical tracer tests that have been instrumental in showing most of the recent Withlacoochee River contamination has come from ruminants, of which the most numerous are cattle.

Photo: Jim Tatum, Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman and OSFR Founder Merillee Malwitz-Jipson
Photo: Jim Tatum

Calusa Riverkeeper John Cassani knows I bring up the need for statewide Florida testing at almost every weekly Waterkeepers Florida meeting, after he mentions testing where he is.

Jim Tatum, Our Santa Fe River, Guest opinion: Floridians have the right to know if our waters are safe, Continue reading

Capitol Conservation Day 2021-03-03

No need to trek to Atlanta this year to show Georgia state legislators that many people and organizations throughout the state care about water. Capitol Conservation Day is online, this Wednesday, March 3, 2021.

When: 12-1:30 PM, Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Where: Online: register here
https://nwf-org.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAodumqpzgsHtNgHr3nLG6rX7m4gw_7fY_f

Event: facebook
Don’t forget to register, then you can click Going on the facebook event to encourage others.

What: Experts from the Georgia Water Coalition will brief you on important legislative issues. Then you will put your new skills and information to work! Following the event, meet with your local legislators virtually to advocate in support of important legislation.

[2019 and 2020]
2019 and 2020

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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

Tonight Columbia BOCC can stop Niagara from bottling water 2020-01-07

Tonight at 5:30 PM the Columbia BOCC will vote on a water bottling operation by Niagara Bottling that has already been rejected by the Columbia County, Florida, Economic Advisory Board. The Board of County Commissioners makes the actual decision.

Especially if you live in Columbia County, please attend or send them email or call them. We don’t need more plastic bottles to clean up and we don’t need more drawdown of the aquifer and rivers. See the letter below by Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson for much more on what and why.

Besides, the demands Niagara makes sound like private prison company demands to have a certain number of prisoners or else penalties. For example:

Phase 1 water obligations of 650,000 gallons per day by Lake City to provide water is only relieved after Columbia County receives a non-appealable water use permit authorization sufficient to meet company’s water requirements at build out of 2,860,00 gallons per day of potable water and Columbia County has all water infrastructure completed and can independently serve the company.

The purpose of a county government is not to serve a private company from somewhere else.

See also background news stories by Stew Lilker, Columbia County Observer:

The word “potential” is important: just because a company promises jobs doesn’t mean they would actually appear. And if water bottling companies and phosphate mines and agriculture keep draining the aquifer, what jobs will be left?

Letter by Merrilee Malwitz-Jipson to Columbia BOCC


November 6, 2021

Good Evening Gentlemen,

I am a resident of Columbia County. I identify with and volunteer for a citizen based organization named Our Santa Fe River which opposes bottled water businesses in our region in order to protect our freshwater springs, rivers and public water supplies found in wells and municipality service systems.

Tomorrow night, Columbia County (FL) Board of County Commission meeting will be discussing and possibly voting on the Belle Project (Niagara water bottling plant proposal).

Thursday, January 7, 2021 at 5:30 P.M.
School Board Administrative Complex
372 West Duval Street

Regular scheduled meeting Agenda: Continue reading

Okefenokee news in the Georgia runoff elections 2020-12-29

The mine and the Swamp and the Georgia U.S. Senate runoffs are in the news, in the Albany Herald, the Saporta Report, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, plus my op-ed last week in the Valdosta Daily Times.

You can also contact the governor, the runoff candidates, and other elected officials:
https://wwals.net/?p=54109#howtocomment

For why, see the Georgia Water Coalition Dirty Dozen.

[Mine, Swamp, River, Bird]
Mine, Swamp, River, Bird

So far, the only statement we’ve seen from any Georgia runoff candidate is in the AJC article:

Jenni Sweat, a spokeswoman for Perdue, said the office received regular updates on the Twin Pines project as they do with many other Corps projects. “This presents an economic development opportunity in rural Southeast Georgia that local officials support, and our office has monitored its status through the federal and state regulatory process,” said Sweat in a statement.

Let’s also hear from the other U.S. Senate candidates, Jon Ossoff, Kelly Loeffler, and Raphael Warnock. And let’s hear from candidates for Public Service Commission, Daniel Blackman, and Lauren Bubba McDonald. If nothing else, the miners will probably want more electric power for their mine site, so that makes it a PSC issue, too.

Albany Herald

Staff reports, Albany Herald, 29 December 2020, Environmental groups ask governor to stop mine near Okefenokee,

HAHIRA — Environmental groups, including the Suwannee Riverkeeper and the WWALS Watershed Coalition, have sent a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp asking him to stop the proposed titanium strip mine from being allowed within a few miles of the Okefenokee Swamp in south Georgia and north Florida.

The letter, which lays out evidence to support the groups’ request, states: Continue reading