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)

United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

April 28, 2021

Martha Williams
Principal Deputy Director
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1849 C Street NW,
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Principal Deputy Director Williams,

We write to you regarding the proposed heavy mineral sands mine near Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia and the ongoing permit review process. Due to the potential impact nearby mining activity could have on native species, basin hydrology, and the overall integrity of the refuge, we ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to provide the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) with added resources and support in reviewing all relevant permit applications. These decisions deserve careful environmental review and robust public participation because of the tremendous ecological and cultural value of the Okefenokee Refuge.

The Okefenokee Refuge is a crown jewel of the National Wildlife Refuge System. As the largest refuge east of the Mississippi, the ecosystem is unparalleled in beauty and wildlife biodiversity, including several federally listed species like the wood stork, eastern indigo snake, and redcockaded woodpecker. It is among the nation’s most visited refuges, providing an economic foundation for surrounding communities by attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists annually.

We understand the original environmental review process was significantly encumbered due to a change in the interpretation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ jurisdiction. By removing jurisdiction from this Federal agency, months of detailed review, interagency coordination, and public commenting were disrupted. It also undermined public transparency into the permitting decision. This late jurisdictional change places an onerous burden on the State of Georgia and threatens to bypass a typically robust review and stakeholder engagement process.

Considering your agency’s long history of supporting Okefenokee Refuge, its scientific expertise in measuring ecological and hydrologic effects, and existing analyses about this mining proposal, we urge FWS to proactively support and engage with EPD in its review of this project and the cumulative impacts of long-term mining near the refuge. We ask FWS to specifically analyze whether the applicant is able to prove that operations will not harm the refuge.

We appreciate your consideration of this request and respectfully ask that you provide periodic updates about the review process over the next several months.

Sincerely,

Reverend Raphael Warnock
United States Senator

Jon Ossoff
United States Senator

Tom Carper
United States Senator

Sheldon Whitehouse
United States Senator

CC: Richard Dunn
Georgia Environmental Protection Division
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SE
Suite 1456, East Tower
Atlanta, GA 30334

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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