Tag Archives: WATERKEEPER Alliance

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

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

Chemours: new Florida mine, what about next to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia? 2021-04-23

On the same day the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) filed a notice of intent to issue a permit for a new titanium mine on Trail Ridge in Bradford County, Florida, the Sierra Club posted an action alert for people to ask what does Chemours intend to do about the Twin Pines Minerals mining application within three miles of the Okefenokee Swamp in Charlton County, Georgia?

You can use the Sierra Club Action to ask Chemours to disavow any interest in that Twin Pines Minerals mine or site.
https://act.sierraclub.org/actions/Georgia?actionId=AR0326624

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp welcomed yet another Chemours mine to Georgia just last fall, yet the day before these two events he refused to state an opinion on the proposed mine next to the Okefenokee Swamp. You can ask him to speak up against it, by using the Waterkeeper Alliance Action Alert, which will send a message to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) and Georgia elected officials asking them to reject the permit applications for that site.
https://wwals.net/?p=55092

[Map of mines on Trail Ridge, Twin Pines Minerals, Chemours]
Map of mines on Trail Ridge, Twin Pines Minerals, Chemours

The Twin Pines Minerals proposed mine site is in the middle right of this map, barely southeast of the Swamp, south of Chemours Mission Mine North and Mission Mine South in Georgia, and north of a string of Chemours mines in north Florida, with the new Chemours Trail Ridge South Mine indicated at the bottom end of that row.

Why would Chemours not be interested in a mine in the middle of Trail Ridge, where Twin Pines Minerals has said the mining is the most convenient? 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

You can sign on to ask new U.S. administration for clean water

Suwannee Riverkeeper is one of the many signatories on this Waterkeeper Alliance first 100 days plan:


With the Biden administration set to assume power next month, we’re strategizing what the next four years will mean for our movement to protect clean water and a healthy environment. We cannot celebrate until every environmental protection is restored and strengthened.

As the new administration prepares its plans for the next four years, it’s essential that key clean water and climate priorities are addressed at the outset. The first 100 days of Biden’s presidency will set the stage for the administration’s environmental policies — they must get things right from the start.

Our Climate Our Future

The last four years have posed immeasurable challenges to environmental protection — devastating more than 100 environmental safeguards and undoing decades of progress in the fight for clean water and a sustainable planet.

We have a plan to right those wrongs and chart a new course — one that puts clean water and a healthy environment front and center. And, as always, we’ll need your help to execute it.

Sign your name today to support our proposal for the Biden administration to immediately prioritize our waterways, communities, and planet in its first 100 days.

Our asks for the Biden administration’s first 100 days are:

  • Protect Public Lands and Waters from Fossil Fuel Extraction: Ban new fossil fuel leasing and permitting on publicly owned federal lands;
  • Prioritize Environmental Justice: Immediately prioritize reversing the grave systemic damage done to environmental justice policy and enforcement in the United States over the past four years and charting a new just and equitable course for the 21st century;
  • Issue a New Executive Order to Restore the Clean Water Act: Expedite the process for repairing the broken definition of “waters of the United States,” repealing the Trump Dirty Waters Rule and replacing it with science-based protections for our waterways, and reinstating state and tribal authority and public participation rights under section 401 of the Clean Water Act;
  • Restore the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): Repeal Trump’s NEPA rollback and strengthen public participation in projects impacting the environment; and
  • Rescind Trump’s Most Damaging Environmental Executive Orders: Revoke executive orders that directed all federal agencies to roll back our environmental protections in favor of the outgoing administration’s pro-polluter agenda.

These are the issues that will guide our advocacy efforts as the new administration assumes leadership — the same issues that the Waterkeeper movement has been advocating for for years. It’s now on all of us to ensure they become priorities of the new administration.

Show your support today by signing on to our proposal for the Biden administration’s first 100 days. We need each and every one of you to join in the fight for drinkable, fishable, swimmable water.


Follow this link to sign on:
http://action.waterkeeper.org/landing-pages/tell-biden-its-time-to-put-clean-water-and-a-healthy-environment-front-and-center

You may also want to ask for repeal of this EO, which promotes mining at the expense of everything else, including environment and property rights:

Executive Order 13817 of December 20, 2017 (A Federal Strategy To Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals)

That EO is being used as an excuse by the Alabama company that wants to mine titanium far too near the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia, which also affects Florida directly. Continue reading

Thanks for helping defeat GA HB 545 Right to Harm bill

After an amendment in the Georgia Senate that made it not quite as bad, HB 545 stalled in the House, and time ran out in the Georgia legislature.

So thank you, all who helped defeat this bad bill that would have made it easier for North Carolina-style industrial hog farms to move into Georgia.

That includes voters in Georgia, and anybody from Florida who helped. As we all know, contamination getting into rivers in the Suwannee River Basin in Georgia often runs downstream into Florida.

Tomahawk Creek Breach
Waterkeeper Alliance, 20 September 2018, Waterkeepers Identify Multiple CAFO and Coal Ash Spills Following Hurricane Florence

Jessica Szilagyl, AllOnGeorgia, 1 July 2020, Ga Legislature Fails to Give Final Passage to Ag Nuisance/‘Right to Farm’ Bill,

A lobbyist-backed initiative endorsed by the Georgia Farm Bureau that placed rural Georgians in a duel of private property rights against farm protections failed to cross the finish line before the Georgia General Assembly adjourned for the year.

House Bill 545, donned the ‘Right to Farm’ bill, was revised a number of times before the final day of the 2019-2020 legislative session, but lawmakers could not negotiate the measure to a point of consensus in order to change the law.

There’s more detail in the story.

Brief version: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The existing law was not broken, and now the bad fake fix has been defeated.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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

Tens of thousands commented against a strip mine near the Okefenokee Swamp

Hahira, Georgia, May 30, 2020 — From every U.S. state and beyond, tens of thousands comments poured in to the Army Corps against a permit application for a titanium strip mine far too near the unique blackwater gem of the Okefenokee Swamp. The comment period ended Thursday. You and your elected officials can still ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do the right thing and deny this permit, or at least require an Environmental Impact Statement.

[44,000 commenters against strip mine on a map]
44,000 commenters against strip mine on a map

“With its unique ecosystem and incomparable beauty,” says Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, “the Okefenokee Swamp is a national and international treasure, and the source of the St. Marys and Suwannee Rivers. With its opportunities for boating, birding, fishing, photography, adventure, and hunting nearby attracting 600,000 visitors a year and supporting more than 700 jobs, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) provides more economic benefit to each of Georgia and Florida than any other refuge.”

The groups supporting the Swamp and opposing the mine include twenty Waterkeepers from three states, and umbrella organizations Waterkeepers Florida and Waterkeeper Alliance.

Contact: John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper, contact@suwanneeriverkeeper.org, 229-242-0102.

See below for a longer press release from Georgia River Network about the several dozen organizations loosely associated to protect the Okefenokee Swamp from anything that might harm it, such as this strip mine for private profit for paint.


Tens of Thousands Voice Opposition Over Mine Proposed to be Located Next to the Okefenokee Swamp

Continue reading

Last day to comment to the Corps against strip mine near Okefenokee Swamp 2020-05-28

Today is the last public comment day to ask the Corps to stop a strip mine so close to the Okefenokee Swamp you can see both from a few hundred feet up.

[Distant 2019-11-23]
Drone aerials of titanium mine site near Okefenokee Swamp 2019-11-23.

As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told Georgia Sen. Purdue last November,

“The initial project location is the farthest that mining activity would be from the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) boundary and the Okefenokee Swamp. Any additional mining that occurs within the 12,000-acre permit area would be closer to the refuge. The northwest boundary of the permit area is within a half mile from the refuge boundary and 400 feet from the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp.”

FWS also spelled out the bottom line: “It is the responsibility of the permit applicant to demonstrate what the extent of impacts of the project will be to surrounding natural resources.”

And the applicant still has not done that, not even in its second application.

A few miners profiting by selling titanium dioxide for paint is nowhere near sufficient reason to risk the unique treasure that is the Okefenokee Swamp, which is also the headwaters of both the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers.

Please comment to the Corps

Today you can still ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop this strip mine:
To: CESAS-SpecialProjects@usace.army.mil
Re: Applicant: Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, Application Number: SAS-2018-00554

Be sure to ask the Corps to deny the permit, or at least to require an Environmental Impact Statement.

Or use the convenient comment form in this Action Alert by Waterkeeper Alliance:
https://waterkeeper.org/news/take-action-protect-okefenokee-swamp-from-a-titanium-mine/

Or this convenient comment form by Georgia River Network:
https://www.congressweb.com/GEAN/225

For far more information about this bad strip-mining proposal, see:
https://wwals.net/issues/titanium-mining/

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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

More testing needed to track river pollution –Suwannee Riverkeeper in Gainesville Sun 2020-03-16

Gainesville Sun, 12:01 AM, Monday, March 16, 2020, John S. Quarterman: More testing needed to track river pollution (see also PDF),

Fecal bacterial contamination from Georgia probably reached the Gulf of Mexico about March 3, 2020, according to the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD).

[Tifton to the Gulf]
Tifton to the Gulf
In the WWALS map of all public landings in the Suwannee River Basin.

The good news: we know about that, because of much more water quality monitoring being done since I wrote a column about the issue last year for The Sun.

This recent testing was provoked by a spill of 7.5 million gallons of raw sewage into Sugar Creek near Valdosta, Ga., in December. With no rain, the sewage sat there for a week, and then moved down the Withlacoochee River in about three weekly globs, at least once reaching the Suwannee.

This Valentine’s Day, Valdosta exceeded our request, testing not one but Continue reading

Supporters of the Okefenokee Swamp ready to stop new strip mine application by Twin Pines Minerals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Hahira, Georgia, March 16, 2020 — The coalition of supporters of the Okefenokee Swamp against anything that would harm it stands ready to stop the new strip mine application, same as the old one.

Twin Pines Minerals (TPM) of Birmingham, Alabama, in its new application claims its proposed titanium strip mine less than three miles from the Okefenokee Swamp would be on a “reduced mining area,” which is actually 86% of what they proposed last time. They say they want to do a “demonstration” mine.

[Figure 1: Location of the Proposed Saunders Demonstration Mine]
Figure 1: Location of the Proposed Saunders Demonstration Mine
PDF

Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman says, “Let their foot in the door and it will be even harder to get rid of them later. TPM is under a Florida Consent Order along with Chemours for violations at four mines due south in north Florida. Chemours now wants a fifth Florida titanium mine on Trail Ridge. Why would we think TPM would stop with just a nibble of Trail Ridge in Georgia? Our Okefenokee Swamp with its fishing, boating, birding, and hunting nearby, is much more important than any mine, especially since it is the headwaters of the Suwannee River and the St Marys River.”

Despite TPM’s assurances, the miners have not proven their mining would not affect the groundwater, the underlying Floridan Aquifer, surface streams, or the Okefenokee Swamp.

Their application form proposes to mine 1041.7 acres, the same size tract as in their application of last year that they retracted in early January of this year. But their actual application says “TPM now wishes to conduct a demonstration mining project for a reduced mining area of approximately 898 acres.”

86% of the original acreage is not much reduced. And how is that just a demonstration?

No doubt you will hear more about that and other problems with the miners’ application from the coalition supporting the Swamp and opposing anything that would harm it. That coalition includes a wide range of organizations, Continue reading