Tag Archives: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Georgia Okefenokee protection bill HB 1289 filed on Okefenokee Swamp Day 2022-02-08

On newly-proclaimed Okefenokee Swamp Day, a bipartisan bill to ban mining on Trail Ridge by the Okefenokee Swamp appeared in the Georgia legislature: HB 1289.

[Bill, Proclamation, Trail Ridge]
Bill, Proclamation, Trail Ridge

What You Can Do

You can ask Georgia Governor Kemp to get the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) to deny the permit request from Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, for a titanium dioxide strip mine within three miles of the Okefenokee Swamp, which is the headwaters of the St. Marys and Suwannee Rivers. Or ask your city or county government to pass a resolution supporting the Swamp and opposing the mine, as half a dozen have already done.

Or write directly to GA-EPD: TwinPines.Comment@dnr.ga.gov

Or use this convenient Georgia Water Coalition action alert form to ask your statehouse delegation to pass HB 1289 and to ask GA-EPD to deny the permits.

Why

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Groundwater considered important: WWALS to EPA 2022-02-07

WWALS sent EPA some comments on groundwater, which is very important here above the Floridan Aquifer in south Georgia and north Florida.

WWALS also signed on to comments by Waterkeeper Alliance and SELC, but SELC wrote almost nothing about groundwater, and there was more to say than was in the WKA comments. Those other comments are on the WWALS website.

The WWALS comments should appear on regulations.gov, Docket number EPA-HQ-OW-2021-0602, with Comment Tracking Number kzd-8bdc-p6xf, after EPA finishes reviewing it. Here they are in PDF and inline below.

[Dead River Sink, Alapaha River Rise, WWALS Letter to EPA]
Dead River Sink, Alapaha River Rise, WWALS Letter to EPA

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More water questions from GA-EPD about TPM strip mine too near Okefenokee Swamp 2021-12-07

Since September, GA-EPD has twice more asked the miners for more information on their permit applications to strip mine for titanium dioxide too near the Okefenokee Swamp. We have more questions beyond those. You can ask GA-EPD questions, and to deny the mining permit applications.

On October 20, 2021, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) asked more questions about water: retention, disposal, reclamation. The miners’ answer on November 19th apparently was not satisfactory, because on December 7, 2021, GA-EPD asked more water questions.

[TPM Ponds and Another GA-EPD Letter]
TPM Ponds and Another GA-EPD Letter

I’ve got another: how can Twin Pines Minerals (TPM) with a straight face promise “zero discharge of wastewater” and in the next paragraph say “Overflow from the process water primary overflow pond may occur due to heavy rain events.” That’s exactly what happened after Hurricane Irma at three north Florida Chemours mine sites where TPM was processing tailings, resulting in TPM still being under a Florida Consent Order. What if wastewater overflows into the Okefenokee Swamp during a hurricane or other “heavy rain event”? What stops wastewater even in TPM’s proposed retention ponds from seeping down into the Floridan Aquifer, from which we all drink?

And another: TPM still shows piezometers for water monitoring on property it does not own, with a disclaimer that it has no access to. So how will TPM monitor that area, which is downhill towards the Okefenokee Swamp, which is the headwaters of the St. Marys and Suwannee Rivers?

You can ask GA-EPD for a moratorium on mining permits, or to deny the permits, or at the very least to examine them very thoroughly and produce the equivalent of the Environmental Impact Statement that the Army Corps should have been working on.
https://wwals.net/?p=55092

You can also use Protect Georgia form to end a message to your Georgia statehouse delegation.

Floridians, this mine site is upstream from Florida, and you can also use these forms.

All of this GA-EPD correspondence with the miners and the permit applications is Continue reading

Valdosta council opposes swamp mine plan –VDT 2021-11-17

The Valdosta resolution could influence the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), especially through elected state and national officials. So it doesn’t matter that the head of the LLC from Alabama that wants to strip mine next to the Okefenokee says that resolution won’t affect his decisions.

You can help influence by talking to your elected officials or by writing to GA-EPD: https://wwals.net/?p=55092

Terry Richards, Valdosta Daily Times, November 17, 2021, Valdosta council opposes swamp mine plan,

[Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson; Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman; Map: Okefenokee Swamp, Valdosta, mine site]
Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson; Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman; Map: Okefenokee Swamp, Valdosta, mine site

VALDOSTA — An Alabama-based mining concern said a resolution by Valdosta’s city council won’t stop them from starting a controversial South Georgia mining project.

“The Valdosta City Council’s resolution has no impact on our plans whatsoever,” said Steve Ingle, president of Twin Pines Minerals, in a statement.

Valdosta City Council voted Nov. 11 to oppose Twin Pines’ plans to start a mining project near the Okefenokee Swamp, about 75 miles from Valdosta. The vote was Continue reading

Valdosta passes resolution opposing strip mine near Okefenokee Swamp 2021-11-11

Yesterday the most populous city in the Suwannee River Basin passed a resolution opposing the proposed Twin Pines Minerals (TPM) strip mine or any others within ten miles of the Okefenokee Swamp. The resolution further asks the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reverse its abdication of oversight, asks GA-EPD for a moratorium on all mining permits until effects are settled of the recent court overruling of 2020 Clean Water Act changes, as well as to reject the TPM permits, or at least to review those applications as thoroughly as the Army Corps would, and asks the Georgia legislature to prevent such strip mines near the Swamp or any blackwater rivers in the Suwannee River Basin.

You can also ask the state to stop this mine: https://wwals.net/?p=55092

[Mayor and Riverkeeper]
Mayor and Riverkeeper

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Video: Titanium strip mine too near Okefenokee Swamp; Suwannee Riverkeeper on Scott James Radio 2021-10-18

That titanium strip mine too near the Okefenokee Swamp is still in permitting, as Scott James and I discussed on his radio show Monday morning; here’s video. You can help stop that mine.

There’s serious doubt about the legitimacy of the decision last October by the Army Corps of Engineers to abdicate responsibility, since a District Court revoked last year’s EPA decision that the Corps used to decide. Meanwhile, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) has five permit applications from those Alabama coal miners, Twin Pines Minerals LLC. For details, see Mining moratorium: NWPR WOTUS and Army Corps on Okefenokee mine site –WWALS to EPD 2021-09-27.

[Strip mine discussion and location]
Strip mine discussion and location

You can ask GA-EPD for a moratorium on all mining, until the effects of that District Court decision get sorted out, or to deny the permits for that mine, or at the very least to examine the permits very thoroughly and produce the equivalent of the Environmental Impact Statement that the Corps should be working on.
https://wwals.net/?p=55092

And don’t forget the WWALS Boomerang paddle race tomorrow morning, Saturday, October 23, 2021, from Georgia into Florida and back!
https://wwals.net/pictures/2021-10-23–boomerang/

Here’s WWALS video of that radio discussion: Continue reading

Mining moratorium: NWPR WOTUS and Army Corps on Okefenokee mine site –WWALS to EPD 2021-09-27

The Army Corps’ excuse to abdicate oversight over the strip mine site near the Okefenokee Swamp was overturned in a court case this August, so the Corps should take that back up.

Meanwhile, WWALS asked GA-EPD to impose a moratorium on all mining permit applications until the ramifications of that court case are sorted out, which could take months or years.

You can ask GA-EPD for that moratorium, or to deny the permits, or at the very least to examine them very thoroughly and produce the equivalent of the Environmental Impact Statement that the Corps should be working on.
https://wwals.net/?p=55092

[Moratorium, please, GA-EPD, since District Court vacated Army Corps' excuse]
Moratorium, please, GA-EPD, since District Court vacated Army Corps’ excuse

The Letter: WWALS to GA-EPD

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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

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.

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Why Withlacoochee River floodplain deannexation from Valdosta? @ GLPC 2021-07-26 2021-07-26

Update 2021-08-02: Withlacoochee River floodplain deannexation at Valdosta City Council 2021-08-05.

Valdosta should not deannex 310 acres of Withlacoochee River floodplain around Cherry Creek. No good reason for deannexation has been given by the applicant, and there are substantial reasons to be concerned about potential uses of that land if deannexed. Instead, Valdosta and Lowndes County should purchase the entire 530.24 acre property down to the Withlacoochee River to add to a trails system up and down the Withlacoochee River. The advisory Greater Lowndes Planning Commission (GLPC) at its meeting this Monday should recommend against annexation, and then the Valdosta Mayor and Council should deny.

I am sending a letter to that effect today to Valdosta City Planner Matt Martin, and I recommend you do, as well: mlmartin@valdostacity.com

[Public land and Uvalde Land Trust Deannexation request, Withlacoochee River]
Public land and Uvalde Land Trust Deannexation request, Withlacoochee River

That deannexation is on the GLPC agenda for this Monday, July 26, 2021. The only land access to the property is through the City of Valdosta, and since that whole area of the river has extensive flood plain and little road access, Lowndes County cannot provide public utilities, fire/police protection, or emergency medical response across the river to the subject property, as the City Planner points out in the agenda sheet. The landowner’s stated purpose would be better served by the property remaining inside the city limits: “to use for wildlife management, and rec. use as it is in a mitgation bank & has no development use.” The City Planner even recommends annexing the rest of the subject property into the city, down to the river. Continue reading