Tag Archives: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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

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

Sen. Ossoff tries new Valdosta public transit; answers questions about Okefenokee Swamp –Valdosta Daily Times 2021-05-09

Georgia U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff’s positive answer to Suwannee Riverkeeper’s question about the Okefenokee Swamp was covered by the local newspaper of record.

[VDT, Ossoff, Warnock]
VDT, Ossoff, Warnock

You can use the Waterkeeper Alliance Action Alert to send a message to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) asking it to reject the permit applications for that site; such messages will be forwarded to Georgia elected officials, including U.S. Senators Ossoff and Warnock.
https://wwals.net/?p=55092

Bryce Ethridge, Valdosta Daily Times, 6 May 2021, Ossoff: Millions for S.Ga. schools,

During Ossoff’s visit, Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman asked about the proposed heavy mineral sands mine near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

This refuge is the largest east of the Mississippi and carries a hefty amount of wildlife biodiversity. The mine could potentially impact the refuge’s native species, basin hydrology and overall integrity.

Continue reading

Senator Jon Ossoff: Okefenokee is a sacred natural resource 2021-05-06

Update 2021-05-09: Coverage in the local newspaper of record, Sen. Ossoff tries new Valdosta public transit; answers questions about Okefenokee Swamp –Valdosta Daily Times 2021-05-09.

“The Okefenokee is a sacred natural resource. It is a wildlife refuge that must be protected,” said U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff, responding to a question by Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, today, in Valdosta, Georgia.

You can use the Waterkeeper Alliance Action Alert, to send a message to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) asking it to reject the permit applications for that site; such messages will be forwarded to Georgia elected officials, including U.S. Senators Ossoff and Warnock.
https://wwals.net/?p=55092

[Valdosta on demand, City Hall, Senator Jon Ossoff on Okefenokee, Valdosta Mayor, Council, Staff, Sen. Ossoff]
Valdosta on demand, City Hall, Senator Jon Ossoff on Okefenokee, Valdosta Mayor, Council, Staff, Sen. Ossoff

Here is the WWALS video: 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

Help Suwannee Riverkeeper Save Okefenokee Swamp

To send your comments to Georgia officials, follow this link:
https://waterkeeper.org/news/help-suwannee-riverkeeper-save-okefenokee-swamp/

[Great Blue Heron flying, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07]
Great Blue Heron flying, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07

Julia Widmann, Waterkeeper Alliance, March 18, 2021, Help Suwannee Riverkeeper Save Okefenokee Swamp,

Today, you can take action to help Suwannee Riverkeeper protect Okefenokee Swamp and the surrounding community in Southern Georgia and northern Florida from the risk of dangerous mining pollution.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is home to the beloved blackwater Okefenokee Swamp, a Wetland of International Importance and a proposed World Heritage Site. Okefenokee Swamp is an ecologically diverse wetland, loved by boaters, fishers, and birders, as well as alligators and blue herons, and hunters on nearby property. It’s an important tourist attraction for members of the public all across the country and provides great economic benefits to the local area. Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman has helped lead the way in protecting this special place.

In 2019, Twin Pines Minerals LLC, an Alabama-based company, first proposed a titanium mine beside the swamp. Twin Pines’ proposed mine poses dangerous risks Continue reading

FDEP assumes Clean Water Act permitting from U.S. EPA 2020-12-17

Despite opposition by Waterkeepers Florida and many other people and organizations, last Friday U.S. EPA gave a big present to Florida developers, by approving FDEP’s assumption of Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The EPA announcement says “The action formally transfers permitting authority under CWA Section 404 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to the State of Florida for a broad range of water resources within the State.” It neglects to mention that almost all of the Suwannee River Basin got left out, including the middle and upper Suwannee River, and the Withlacoochee, Alapaha, Santa Fe, Ichetucknee, and New Rivers, as well as the Withlacoochee South River basin.

[EPA announcement over WKFL opposition, our rivers left out]
EPA announcement over WKFL opposition, our rivers left out

FDEP got around to releasing a Draft Retained Waters Screening Tool a few weeks ago, after the public comment period. It seems to confirm what we already deciphered from FDEP’s assumption documents: only part of the Lower Suwannee River and Estuary, ditto the lower Withlacoochee South River, end up being covered by either USACE or FDEP. The vast majority of the Suwannee River Basin fell through the cracks. Of course, we and WKFL and many others will not stop working for fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters. About time for a Bill of Rights for Nature, too. 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

Trailmarker Tree Trails 2020-11-04

Second of a series of posts from Dr. Ken Sulak, USGS, retired. He is aware that Indian Trailmarker Trees are still speculative. Maybe with enough examples we can all determine whether they are what they seem to be. Please send pictures and locations of any trailmarker trees you may have seen, especially along old trails that crossed the Alapaha, Withlacoochee, Little, Suwannee, or Santa Fe Rivers, such as Old Coffee Road or various versions of El Camino Real.

[Old Trails]
Old Trails

Thanks for your reply. The trailmarker tree thing is an offshoot of my research on historic settler fords, ferries and bridges. Certainly early settlers traded with Seminoles and followed their trails. This Motte map is one of the few I have encountered that shows trails from GA coming into FL. There has also been more published on the ‘Alachua Trail’ figured in the next map. But that is of less interest to me because folks using that trail were primarily headed to the St. Johns River area—a distinct migration thing from the GA and SC folks headed for ‘Middle Florida’ where the best farm land and ample water was available.

I have been trying to confine my studies and field explorations to that area—but have inevitably gotten involved with what was happening in S GA. I have made several foot and solo kayak trips to the GA/FL border, and up into GA a bit now.

Many coming south from GA crossed into Spanish FL at Warners (Beauforts, Hornes) Ferry over the Withlacoochee, then headed south to Deadman’s Bay (Steinhatchee) to boil down salt water to make several barrels full of salt to take back to GA in wagons. This is one of the several ‘Old Salt Trails’ that later immigrant settlers used. All six of the so-far discovered trailmarker trees fall right on one of the dotted trails in this map

[1838 Motte Seminole War trail map]
Motte’s 1838 Seminole War map showing trails with dotted lines.

Warners Ferry or Horn’s Ferry was near where the current Horn Bridge is over the Withlacoochee River just upstream of State Line Boat Ramp and the GA-FL line.

I asked Ken a few questions, including: Continue reading

Waterkeepers Florida Against FDEP Assumption of Army Corps CWA 404 permitting 2020-11-02

Waterkeepers Florida, representing all fourteen Waterkeepers of Florida, wrote to U.S. EPA and FDEP yesterday objecting to FDEP’s plan to take over water permitting from the Army Corps of Engineers. FDEP hasn’t even kept up with the responsibilities it has, and is in no way prepared to take on a much heavier load. Suwannee Riverkeeper voted for this letter, which was also signed by many other organizations, including OSFR and Paddle Florida.

Please vote today for people who will support clean water.

[Opposition and Addendum Letters]
Opposition and Addendum Letters

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP)’s list of waterways it plans to assume (see FDEP’s Appendix A) omits numerous navigable waterways previously listed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Checking all the Florida rivers that empty into the Gulf of Mexico, I found that most of them were included by FDEP, except not the Suwannee River or its tributaries (many creeks, Lake Santa Fe, and the Santa Fe, New, Ichetucknee, Alapaha, Alapahoochee, and Withlacoochee (north) Rivers), not the Withlacoochee (south) River nor its tributaries such as the Rainbow River, and not the Ochlockonee River nor its tributaries, such as Lake Talquin. I added 30 Suwannee River Basin waterways and 24 others to the Waterkeepers Florida list of missing waterways, which is the main subject of the Addendum letter (see PDF). The Addendum also contains copies of several letters previously sent to FDEP: an opposition letter similar to the one to EPA, a request for Public Hearings, and a request that online rulemaking hearings be discontinued until the pandemic allows holding them in person.

Opposition Letter

Here is a transcription of the letter to EPA. See also the PDF.

Don’t forget to vote for clean water. Continue reading

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

Update 2020-11-30: WWALS asks GA Gov. Kemp to stop strip mine near Okefenokee Swamp 2020-11-30.

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