WCTV on mining proposed near Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge 2019-08-21

“Because of the coal plants in Georgia, there’s mercury deposition on the surface of the ground for years. If they go stir all that up, that could run in to the swamp,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman. “Why should we risk the Okefenokee, its boating, its fishing, its birding.”

Quoted by a reporter based in Valdosta, GA for WCTV in Tallahassee, FL, Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 21 August 2019, Heavy mining facility proposed near Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge,

[Sign]
Photo: John S. Quarterman, Okefenokee NWR Entrance Sign, 2019-07-18

…Last week the Charlton County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution of support for the project. County officials said the reason is because Charlton County does not have many industry opportunities of its own, and many residents leave to surrounding counties for work. officials said the 150 jobs created from the project could be beneficial to the county.

The Okefenokee Swamp is the headwater for the Suwannee River, which is why community members across the region are fighting the proposal, saying it could have consequences in both states.

In the proposal, the ‘heavy mineral sand mining facility’ would require a loss of about 65 acres of wetland, and a temporary impact of about 522 acres of wetlands. It would sit on about 12,00 acres on six tracts of land.

Plans say it will be worked on in phases, each phase on about 25 to 40 acres per month.

Concerns about the project span across the state of Georgia. Those opposed said the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Okefenokee Swamp and connecting Suwannee River are major economic and tourism driver for the both the state of Georgia and Florida, and this project could put that at risk.

“Because of the coal plants in Georgia, there’s mercury deposition on the surface of the ground for years. If they go stir all that up, that could run in to the swamp,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman. “Why should we risk the Okefenokee, its boating, its fishing, its birding.”

While the Charlton County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution of support, county officials said they do not have jurisdiction over the zoning or permitting. All permits for the project will ultimately be up to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

There is a public comment period open for the project through September 12.

We reached out to Twin Pines Minerals LLC, but have yet to hear back.

How to Comment

The comment deadline was May 28, 2020, according to SAS-2018-00554 Twin Pines Minerals, Published April 13, 2020, Expiration date: 5/28/2020.

“The Savannah District will hold a virtual Public Meeting for the Twin Pines project on May 13, 2020 from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM EDT. The meeting will consist of a formal presentation followed by a question and answer session. The meeting will be recorded and published to the Savannah District public website. To allow time for the public to submit questions and RSVP to the public meeting, as well as comment on any information presented at the meeting, additional public comments will be accepted and the original public notice will remain open until May 28, 2020, 15 days after the virtual public meeting.”

However, you can write to your elected officials. And the Corps apparently actually continues to read comments after the deadline, right up until they make a decision. While you are at home because of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), you have a great opportunity to write a comment, and to You can also post your comments on social media, as op-eds, etc.

You can ask the Corps and other elected and appointed officials to deny the application, or to require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to consider wider areas the mine may affect, especially the entire Okefenokee Swamp, the Suwannee and St Marys Rivers, and the rest of Trail Ridge in Georgia. You can ask for the EIS to include other mines relevant to this one, especially the four Chemours titanium strip mines in north Florida for which TPM, along with Chemours, is under a Florida Consent Order for a range of violations. You may want to ask for inclusion of the existing phosphate mine in Hamilton County, Florida, next to the Suwannee River, as well as the one proposed in Union and Bradford Counties, Florida, next to the New and Santa Fe Rivers, tributaries of the Suwannee. All those mines affect the Floridan Aquifer, which is the main source of water for drinking, agriculture, and industry for everyone in south Georgia and north Florida.

To comment, or to request a public hearing, you can write to
Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District,
Attention: Ms. Holly Ross, 1104 North Westover Boulevard, Suite 9, Albany, Georgia, 31707,
or by email to CESAS-SpecialProjects@usace.army.mil or holly.a.ross@usace.army.mil.
In your comments please refer to:
Applicant: Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, Application Number: SAS-2018-00554.

For the requested state permit regarding Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, you can send a comment or request for public hearing to
Stephen Wiedl, Wetlands Unit, stephen.wiedl@dnr.ga.gov
Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division, Water Protection Branch, 7 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Atlanta, Georgia 30334.

For the Georgia Coastal Management Program certification, you can send a comment to
Federal Consistency Coordinator, Ecological Services Section, Coastal Resources Division,
Georgia Department of Natural Resources, One Conservation Way, Brunswick, Georgia 31523-9600
Telephone 912-264-7218.

The public announcement says: “The applicant may also require assent from the State of Georgia, which may be in the form of a license, easement, lease, permit, or other appropriate instrument.”

You can write to your Georgia state representative or senator or governor or lieutenant governor and ask them to refuse any such instrument.
To find your legislator you can type in your ZIP code here: http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/

You can also write to your U.S. Representative or Senator and ask them to urge the Corps to reject this mine or at least require an EIS, like Rep. Al Lawson (FL-05) already did.

You can also write to the Georgia DNR board, asking them to refuse any such instrument.
Georgia Board of Natural Resources
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, SE, Suite 1252, Atlanta, GA 30334

You can write to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking them to ask the state of Florida to comment.

To: Mary S. Walker, Regional Administrator, walker.mary@epa.gov
Jeaneanne Gettle, Director, Water Division, gettle.jeaneanne@epa.gov
Blake Ashbee, Chief of Staff, ashbee.blake@epa.gov,
Carol Kemker, Director, Enforcement & Compliance Assurance Division, kemker.carol@epa.gov
Region 4, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Cc: Gregory J. Strong, Director, Northeast Division, Greg.Strong@dep.state.fl.us
Noah Valenstein, Director, Noah.Valenstein@dep.state.fl.us
Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP)
 
Col. Daniel Hibner, Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,Savannah District
Attention: Ms. Holly Ross, holly.a.ross@usace.army.mil,
CESAS-SpecialProjects@usace.army.mil
1104 North Westover Boulevard, Suite 9, Albany, Georgia 31707
 
Stephen Wiedl, Wetlands Unit, stephen.wiedl@dnr.ga.gov
Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division,
Water Protection Branch, 7 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Atlanta, GA 30334

Re: Applicant: Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, Application Number: SAS-2018-00554

Dear Administrator Walker and Director Gettle,

Here is the pithy request sent by Waterkeepers Florida:

We request EPA to determine, according to 33 CFR § 325.2(b), whether the mining activities of the applicant may affect the quality of the waters of the state of Florida and to notify the state of Florida, the district engineer, and the applicant that Florida therefore “has 60 days from receipt of EPA's notice to determine if the proposed discharge will affect the quality of its waters so as to violate any water quality requirement in such state, to notify EPA and the district engineer in writing of its objection to permit issuance, and to request a public hearing.”

To submit a letter to the editor of the Charlton County Herald, you can email editor@charltonherald.com.
Or write to your local newspaper.
You can also contact radio, TV, and of course post on social media.

Connections

South Georgia is connected along the Florida line from Lowndes County to the Okefenokee in numerous ways, including Georgia Statehouse District 174 runs from Lowndes to Charlton Counties. Rep. John Corbett is on a Southwings plane over the Okefenokee right now as I type, at my invitation. Yes, there are people from Florida on today’s flights, too.

U.S. Congressional House District 1 also runs from Moody AFB in Lowndes County to the Atlantic. Maybe for the next flights I’ll invite everybody running for GA-01. Ditto FL-05, which runs along the Florida side of the GA-FL line from Tallahassee to Jacksonville.

Tallahassee, the capital of Florida, should care, because the Okefenokee NWR provides the most “amount of money to its local economy of all national wildlife refuges in Florida”, even though most of it is not even in Florida. Not to mention the Okefenokee is the headwaters of the Suwannee River, of the Florida state song.

Much more about this mining proposal is here:
wwals.net/pictures/2019-07-12–tpm-usace/

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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