See also News.
WWALS Press Releases
Petition to EPA: protect from radioactive phosphogypsum stacks,
“WWALS opposes expansion of the decades-old moonscape of a phosphate mine in Hamilton County, and another proposed in Union and Bradford Counties,” said John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper. “These mines not only suck up massive amounts of water that reduce spring and river flows, they feed ever-growing phosphogypsum stacks with radioactive waste.”
For Immediate Release, February 8, 2021….
Rescheduled: Mayor’s Paddle, Troupville to Spook Bridge, Withlacoochee River 2021-02-27
Valdosta, Georgia, February 5, 2021 — “Out of an abundance of caution, all the organizers agree on rescheduling the Mayor’s Paddle because of thunderstorms predicted for this Saturday, February 6, 2021,” said WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman.
“We don’t want to risk inexperienced paddlers in this kind of weather,” said expedition leader Bobby McKenzie, who made the decision to postpone. He added, “The new date is Saturday, February 27, 2021.“
“We want to send a positive message about paddling, and the weather this weekend does not work for that, so we’re going for three weeks from now. I am still excited to partner with WWALS to hold the Mayors Paddle,”said Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson. “In the past year we have made huge improvements to our sewer system infrastructure, showing our commitment to preventing any issues that may impact our Withlacoochee River. I invite everyone to come out and join us for a day of fellowship on the river!”
“WWALS is happy to welcome everyone to this one of our many paddles. We have at least one daytime river paddle a month, in Florida or Georgia, plus an evening Full Moon paddle at Banks Lake, near Lakeland, GA. We’ll be testing temperatures with an infrared thermometer as people arrive,” said WWALS E.D. Gretchen Quarterman. “If you’re ill in any way, please stay home.”
Troupville Boat Ramp, WWTP Outfall, midpoint, Spook Bridge
Photos: Gretchen Quarterman for WWALS 2020-01-18
Resounding applause for M-CORES toll road boondoggle repeal bill 2021-02-03,
Elimination of the proposed boondoggle is just what the state needs
TALLAHASSEE, February 3, 2021 — The announcement today of a bill filed in the Senate (SB1030) and soon to be filed in the House, to repeal the bill that created M-CORES, the program that would construct 330 miles of unneeded and fiscally dangerous toll roads through rural Florida, was welcomed by No Roads to Ruin Coalition partners from across the state. After 93% of public comments were opposed to M-CORES, the failure by FDOT and outside analysts to identify any need at all for these roads, and the brutally obvious fiscal reasons to stop the M-CORES process in its tracks, repealing the bill and devoting the billions of dollars it would have devoured instead to critical state needs is exactly what Floridians need.
“Need should have been established before wasting millions of dollars on M-CORES workshops, but that was not possible, because there is no need,” said John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER, WWALS Watershed Coalition. “US 19 from Crystal River to Thomasville, Georgia has nowhere near enough traffic to justify the Suncoast Connector toll road, before even getting into the damage it would cause the Suwannee River, springs, farms, and forests. Cancel M-CORES and spend some of the money directly on pandemic relief, rural broadband, solar panels and batteries, and hurricane shelters,”
Newton Cook, President of United Waterfowlers of Florida said,…
Start earlier for shuttle: Second Annual Mayor’s Paddle, Withlacoochee River 2021-02-06
Valdosta, Georgia, February 1, 2021 — Shuttling is difficult during a pandemic, but we’ve found a way. Come as early as 8 AM, Saturday, February 6, 2021, to Troupville Boat Ramp, drop off your boats, and drive to Spook Bridge. Two 15-seat vans provided by the Boys & Girls Club will shuttle you back to Troupville. “We’re happy to do this,” said Bill Holt, VP of Operations, Boys & Girls Club of Valdosta. “Just remember to wear your mask and sit with social distancing.”
Valdosta Mayor Scott James said, “I am excited to partner with WWALS to hold the Mayors Paddle on February 6. In the past year we have made huge improvements to our sewer system infrastructure, showing our commitment to preventing any issues that may impact our Withlacoochee River. I invite everyone to come out and join us for a day of fellowship on the river!”
“WWALS is happy to welcome everyone to this one of our many paddles. We have at least one daytime river paddle a month, in Florida or Georgia, plus an evening Full Moon paddle at Banks Lake, near Lakeland, GA. We’ll be testing temperatures with an infrared thermometer as people arrive,” said WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman. “If you’re ill in any way, please stay home.”
WWALS President Tom H. Johnson Jr. said, “This stretch of river extends from the most populous city in the Suwannee River Basin past some suburbs and many rural woods. It is important for all the upstream city and county wastewater treatment plants to keep a grip on their sewage, because many people depend on the Withlacoochee River for swimming, fishing, and boating, plus water wells nearby may be affected by anything that goes into the river. It’s a joy that publicly- elected officials are involved in this activity, and that the Mayor is helping organize it.”
“All elected officials present, both from Florida and Georgia, will have three minutes each to speak, both at the put-in and at the midway point,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Don’t worry: only a few of them will. But you can paddle up to them and ask questions. Just remember to stay six feet apart. Wear a mask if you get any closer to anybody not in your party, either on land or water.”
Take a look at the signs by the boat ramp for the WWALS Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail. They show the whole trail and what you can expect to see near Troupville Boat Ramp.
The paddle starts…
Suwannee Riverkeeper asks GA Gov. Kemp to stop strip mine near Okefenokee Swamp,
Hahira, GA, December 1, 2020 — The letter lays out evidence to support this request: “Georgia is all that stands between a titanium strip mine within a few miles of the Okefenokee Swamp, proposed by coal miners from Alabama. Please direct the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to thoroughly examine the five state permit applications from Twin Pines Minerals, LLC (TPM). The evidence indicates DNR should reject those applications. At the least, an environmental review equivalent to an Environmental Impact Statement should be conducted.”
Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman said, “We’re asking everyone else to ask Georgia to stop this strip mine too near the Okefenokee Swamp, so it was time to send a letter to Governor Brian Kemp.”
The letter begins:
“Dear Governor Kemp and staff,
“Thank you again for being the first governor to visit Hahira since Jimmy Carter; it was good to speak with you there. Last year you sent a staff delegate to the Georgia Water Coalition (GWC) meeting. For the second year running, the Okefenokee Swamp is on GWC’s Dirty Dozen worst threats to Georgia waters, because of a threatened mine.
“The 60,000 people who wrote to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers against that mine are still opposed, despite the Corps abdicating its oversight.
“As the largest blackwater swamp east of the Mississippi, the Okefenokee is a state, national, and international treasure, supporting 750 jobs and bringing more than $60 million of income through entrances at the Okefenokee NWR near Folkston, Okefenokee Swamp Park near Waycross, and Stephen C. Foster State Park near Fargo, plus hunting on private land nearby. Any change in water level or quality would affect the whole Swamp, the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers, which flow from it, and the underlying Floridan Aquifer, from which all of south Georgia and north Florida drinks.”
The letter reminds the governor that he signed a law to stop railroad ties from being burned at a biomass plant promoted by the current president of the company that wants to strip mine. It notes that same company is still under a Florida Consent Order, and spilled wastewater during Hurricane Irma.
The letter asks where is Twin Pines’ plan to prevent spills during hurricanes, including of slimes (tiny particles of clay and titanium dioxide that can foul the gills of fish) and mercury that came by air from coal power plants? Where is its plan to keep wastewater from getting into the Floridan Aquifer or from lowering the Aquifer and Swamp levels?
At least one elected official is already involved, and all should be, especially during this runoff election season:
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, responding to an inquiry by Senator Perdue, noted that after the initial demonstration site, mining would move closer to the Swamp, ending up within 400 feet of the Swamp and half a mile from the Refuge.”
As so often, this environmental issue is also a private property rights issue:
“Private property rights are also at risk. TPM on its Corps and Georgia mining applications claimed as part of its project land owned by TIAA, the Fortune 100 financial services company. TPM only retracted that claim after TIAA complained. TPM then said it was negotiating with TIAA, which TIAA denies. Apparently penalties for false application could be up to a $10,000 fine or five years in prison.”
The bottom line is:
“Ingle and TPM have experimented more than enough already with our air and waters. They should not be permitted to do so again, especially not next to the Okefenokee Swamp.”
Everyone should be concerned about the Okefenokee Swamp, which is a local, state, national, and international treasure.
“The Okefenokee Swamp is of special concern to Suwannee Riverkeeper, since almost all of the Okefenokee Wilderness Area Canoe Trails that people paddle to fish and to see birds, alligators, bears, and cypress trees, are in the Suwannee River Basin. We just camped at Floyd’s Island a few weeks ago. Those animals and plants and the Swamp and the Suwannee and the Aquifer cannot speak for themselves, so we write to you for them, as well as in support of the economy of Georgia (and Florida).”
“I urge you and the state of Georgia to thoroughly examine the permit applications from Twin Pines Minerals, LLC. I believe the state will find the evidence supports rejecting those permits.”
The rest of the letter is here, including a link to a PDF version, links to the evidence, and how everyone, no matter where they live, can ask Georgia to stop this strip mine.
Help Georgia stop titanium mine threatening Okefenokee Swamp –Dirty Dozen 2020, Georgia Water Coalition 2020-11-17,
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.
Contact: This Okefenokee item was submitted by Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman (229-242-0102, email@example.com) and Georgia River Network Executive Director Rena Ann Peck, (404-395-6250, firstname.lastname@example.org).
They also recently….
Troupville to Spook Bridge, Mayor’s Paddle, Withlacoochee River 2021-02-06
Hahira, Georgia, November 12, 2020 — Join the Mayor of Valdosta and a hundred of his closest friends for a leisurely paddle on the Withlacoochee River. Mayor Scott James says, “Over a year removed from a terrible spill into our area waterways, and right at a year of massive improvements to our infrastructure since our last ‘Mayors Paddle,’ I am again looking forward to fellowship on the river February 6.”
All elected officials present will have three minutes to speak. And you can paddle up to them and ask questions.
WWALS President Tom H. Johnson Jr. said, “This stretch of river extends from the most populous city in the Suwannee River Basin past some suburbs and many rural woods. It is important for all the upstream city and county wastewater treatment plants to keep a grip on their sewage, because many people depend on the Withlacoochee River for swimming, fishing, and boating, plus water wells nearby may be affected by anything that goes into the river. It’s a joy that publicly elected officials are involved in this activity, and that the Mayor is helping organize it.”
It was fun last year, so let’s do it again! There is plenty of room to stay six feet apart, at Troupville Boat Ramp, the lunch stop, and at Spook Bridge, and of course on the water. We are still working out how the shuttle will work.
Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman said, “Thanks again to The Langdale Company for riverside access at the mid-way lunch stop, and at the Spook Bridge takeout.”
Attractions include Valdosta’s famous Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) Outfall, which has not spilled since December 2019. Yes, we know some people in the Valdosta city government consider that not a spill, since the raw sewage never actually got into the WWTP. We hope Valdosta’s new catch basin prevents that. Most of the route is downstream from GA 133, where Valdosta has frequently gotten high E. coli results from nobody yet knows what source. The entire route is upstream of Okapilco Creek, which sometimes carries cattle manure runoff after big rains. We will once again test the water quality from the river.
When: Gather 9 AM, launch 10 AM, end 4 PM, Saturday, February 6, 2021
Put In: Troupville Boat Ramp, 19664 Valdosta Hwy, Valdosta, GA 31602: on GA 133 off I-75 exit 18. in Lowndes County.
Take Out: Spook Bridge, west from Valdosta on US 84, left onto Ousley Road, right onto Old Quitman Highway, stop at the gate.
Thanks to The Langdale Company for access through their private property to Spook Bridge for this outing and for water quality testing.
Winners: WWALS Boomerang 2020-10-24,
Hahira, Georgia, October 29, 2020 — Everybody had a good time on a fine sunny day with the water just right. We had a few more paddlers than last year, and more vendors and sponsors, so WWALS Boomerang 2020 was a rousing success!
“The winner drove up from Tallahassee: Jackson Buttery, who finished the six-mile round trip in one hour sixteen minutes and 42 seconds. He got the $100 cash First Prize.” said Bobby McKenzie, the WWALS Boomerang mastermind….
This Saturday, with more sponsors and higher water: WWALS Boomerang paddle race into Florida and back to Georgia 2020-10-24
Hahira, GA, September 4, 2020 — The water’s up, and we’ve added sponsors at State Line Boat Ramp on the Withlacoochee River 9 AM this Saturday, October 24, 2020. For the WWALS Boomerang paddle race you can choose 1, 2, or 3 miles downstream into Florida, and then back up. There will be food, drink, prizes, and an online silent auction.
WWALS Boomerang 2020-10-24
Hahira, GA, September 4, 2020 — For the third year, people will paddle down the Withlacoochee River from Georgia three miles into Florida, and back upstream, in the WWALS Boomerang! Canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards are welcome to register starting at 9 AM, Saturday, October 24, 2020, with the race to begin at 11 AM. There will be prizes, and food, and drink. “There will be plenty of water, no deadfalls, and probably some shoals to make it more interesting,” said Boomerang mastermind and WWALS Outings Chair Bobby McKenzie.
WWALS Honored at Georgia DNR Confluence Conference as Volunteers of the Year 2020-07-29
Hahira, GA, August 31, 2020 — WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman zoomed into the annual Georgia Adopt-A-Stream Confluence conference on Saturday, August 29, 2020, so WWALS could receive the statewide Volunteer of the Year award while we were finishing the Twomile Branch Cleanup.
The award is for “Individual has gone beyond the call of duty to improve water quality and meet AAS goals.” We emphasized it was not just one volunteer, but many, in our one-minute award acceptance video. We also thanked Georgia Power again for a grant. We didn’t have time to mention we’re getting testing kits to WWALS testers in Florida, upcoming WWALS water quality testing training, and branching out to the Santa Fe River, but all that is in this post.
Winners: Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2020-08-22
Winners*: Brian Barker via zoom*, accepting for him, Scott Perkins*, Laura D’Alisera, Kathy Lou Gilman*, John S. Quarterman, Sweet William Billy Ennis*, Ronni Dillon (not present)
Georgia Beer Co., top-tier sponsor, Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2020-08-13,
Hahira, GA, August 17, 2020 — New WWALS President Tom H. Johnson Jr. came to Valdosta and picked up a thousand dollar check from Georgia Beer Company founders Chris Jones and Jack Martin, as top-tier sponsor of the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest.
“Everything depends on clean water, especially beer,” said Chris Jones, originally from Madison, Florida, where he used to report on Valdosta sewage coming down the Withlacoochee River (that situation is getting better now).
“We appreciate Georgia Beer Company’s increased support. In addition to the check, we look forward to having merchandise in the silent auction,” said WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman.
“We met in college, and we’ve been brewing ever since,” said Jack Martin. “We use Valdosta city water; we just remove the chlorination.”
“They really have their act together, especially hearing about their entrepeneurship in starting Georgia Beer Company,” said WWALS President Tom H. Johnson, Jr. “And we thank Georgia Beer Company for helping us stage the acts for the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest!”
“Come on down to the Turner Center Art Park Saturday and enjoy some live music,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Local stars Dirty Bird and the Flu are our headliners. Each of the three judges will sing a song. And then the five finalists will play for you and the judges. A $300 First Prize will be awarded, and other prizes, as well!”
For much more, follow this link: https://wwals.net/pictures/2020-08-22–songwriting/
Five Finalists Chosen for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest,
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (see also PDF)
Five Finalists Chosen for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest
Hahira, Georgia, August 7, 2020 — The organizing committee has reviewed the songs received, and chosen five finalists, for the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest:
- Brian Barker, from Live Oak, FL, with a Folk Rock song, “The River.”
- Ronni Dillon, from Waycross, GA, with a Folk-Alternative song, “Okefenokee Memory.”
- Sweet William Billy Ennis, from Palatka, FL, with a Folk song, “Choctaw Spirits of the Suwannee.”
- Kathy Lou Gilman, from Kingsland, GA, with an American Music Revival song, “The River Song (My love, my Suwannee).”
- Scott Perkins, from Smyrna, GA, with a Southern Boogie song, “Hoochie-Coochie for the Withlacoochee.”
Our headliner, Dirty Bird and the Flu, will play first, and then each of the three judges will play a song. The finalists will play, and the judges will select winners of the $300 First Prize, the $50 prize for best song from within the Suwannee River Basin, the $50 prize for best song from outside, and plaques for each musical genre.
“We are pleased to get all this far-flung interest by songwriters,” said WWALS Songwriting Contest Committee Chair Tom H. Johnson, Jr., who was also recently elected president of WWALS.
“The judges are equally far-flung,” said Committee member Laura D’Alisera, who won the contest its first year. “Emmy Law is from Nashville, Tennessee, Cindy Bear is from Jacksonville, Florida, and J.J. Rolle is from Valdosta, Georgia.”
“We invite everyone local and far to come listen,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “We will also be livestreaming to online ticket holders.”
Tickets to listen are on sale now, $10 online, or $12 at the door (children under 12 free).
For VIP tables in front of the stage, contact email@example.com.
Scott James, of 92.1 FM Radio, will be the M.C. at the Contest Finals. They will be from 7-10 PM on Saturday, August 22, 2020, at the Turner Center Art Park, 605 North Patterson Street, Valdosta, Georgia 31601, just north of the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts. Rico’s Tacos will provide food, and the Pour House will provide drinks. There will be a silent auction and kayak raffle tickets will be available.
Our top-tier sponsor, Georgia Beer Company, will say a few words, as will our host, the Turner Arts Center, and several WWALS people will speak about programs, projects, stewardship, and advocacy. Each elected official present will get three minutes to speak on any subject; just remember it’s a festival.
Due to the virus pandemic situation and executive orders by the Georgia Governor, we will be …
Water quality testing grant from Georgia Power 2020-06-27,
Georgia Power grants funds to WWALS for Water Quality Testing
Hahira, GA, July 27, 2020 — Aiding our attempts to clean up the Withlacoochee River, Georgia Power Foundation has provided a substantial grant to WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (“WWALS”). WWALS will buy more water quality testing kits and supplies with the funds, as well as other expenses related to our volunteer water quality testing program.
“Please accept our most sincere thanks for your recognition and support of WWALS Watershed Coalition and our work for clean, fishable, swimmable, boatable water,” said WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman. “We look forward to a productive water quality testing program this year.”
“We’re honored to get to help,” said Joe Brownlee, Georgia Power Southwest Region Director. “One of our goals is to make sure the people of Georgia know about our great natural resources. And also that they’re safe. And y’all help do that by making awareness around water testing. And you build strong relationships I know now, coordinating with the City of Valdosta, making sure they publish their test results. Everything seems to be working and getting better. We’re on a sharp upward curve of getting better with what we do with water and getting to enjoy it. And my little girl, I’m working for her future, and Georgia Power is. Thank y’all, thank you to the volunteer testers, and the Riverkeeper.”
Photo: WWALS, of Georgia Power Southwest District Director Joe Brownlee, Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman, and WWALS Testing Committee Chair Suzy Hall, at Troupville Boat Ramp on the Withlacoochee River, near Valdosta, Georgia.
“The response of the Georgia Power grant and Mr. Brownlee’s comments are quite touching (to me) due to the recognition of how difficult it is for a volunteer organization to do biological water testing over a huge area. The grant enables regular testing that can pinpoint multi-source pollution, which requires a varied response. It’s quite gratifying that both individuals and large companies realize this is a complex situation,” said WWALS President Tom H. Johnson, Jr.
“We have several testers already trained, waiting for testing kits. Thanks to Georgia Power, we can buy them kits and get them started testing!” said WWALS Testing Committee Chair Suzy Hall. “Plus we can buy enough kits to train new testers with physical distancing even during the virus pandemic.”
“We like to think WWALS water quality testing has already done some good, helping warn people when the waterways are contaminated, helping find contamination sources, and encouraging several governmental organizations in Georgia and Florida to test more,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “With these funds from Georgia Power we can do much more. Also thanks to Valdosta Mayor Scott James for introducing us to Joe Brownlee.”
“The more testing, the more we can also check to see whether fixes such as fencing cattle away from waterways are actually working to improve the situation,” said WWALS Science Committee Chair Dr. Tom Potter. “Interested governmental, educational, or agricultural organizations please contact us about that.”
More than 30 groups organize to save Okefenokee Swamp 2020-07-14,
See also Suwannee Riverkeeper’s call last month for people to contact the Georgia governor and other elected officials.
Headliner: Dirty Bird and the Flu; song deadline today, for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest
Hahira, Georgia, July 14, 2020 — Our headliner is Dirty Bird and the Flu, “Funky-blues-soul-fusion born straight out of the South Georgia swamps and a charismatic front-man who catches comparisons of all the famous soul singers, Dirty Bird and the Flu is not your typical fare! Come see us live – no two shows are ever the same!”
- Deadline Extended for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest
Judges selected, so send in your song: Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest,
Hahira, GA, June 23, 2020 — From Nashville, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Florida, and Valdosta, Georgia, the WWALS Songwriting Contest Committee has selected judges for the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest.
“We have two returning judges and a judge from a younger generation,” said Contest Committee Chair Tom H. Johnson, Jr. “Submissions are due by July 8. We’d like songs from every age group and every genre.”
The new judge this year is…
Outside in the Art Park, Scott James as M.C.: Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest,
Hahira, GA, June 16, 2020 — The new Turner Center Art Park, across from the Turner Center for the Arts in Valdosta, GA, has plenty of room for physical distance while listening to the finalists play in the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, 7-9 PM, Saturday, August 22, 2020, at 605 North Patterson Street, Valdosta, Georgia, 31601. (See also PDF.)
“I’m honored to be the Master of Ceremonies for this celebration of our rivers, creeks, swamps, and springs,” said radio personality Scott James, of Talk 92.1, WDDQ, out of Valdosta, GA.
“Songwriters, don’t forget to send in your song by Wednesday, July 8, 2020!” said Laura D’Alisera, our 2018 overall winner and 2019 headliner, and now two years on the organizing committee.
“Tickets are on sale now, $10 in advance, $12 at the door, and we’re working on livestreaming for ticket holders who do not want to go to in-person events,” said Songwriting Contest Committee Chair Tom H. Johnson, Jr.
2020-05-07: Unprecedented Army Corps virtual Public Meeting about strip mine application near Okefenokee Swamp 2020-05-13,
May 7, 2020, Hahira, Georgia — In an apparently unprecedented move, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is holding a “virtual Public Meeting” about a mining application. Suwannee Riverkeeper calls on everyone who can to join this online Public Meeting, for at least a few minutes between 2 and 5 PM on Wednesday, May 13, 2020. This will help show there is substantial controversy about the proposed titanium mine on the doorstep of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. That could cause the Corps to at least require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), or maybe even to deny the permit.
“The Corps needs to know people consider the beauty of the Okefenokee Swamp, and the birding, boating, fishing, and hunting nearby that it provides, to be too important to risk with a strip mine far too close to the Swamp,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Everyone down to the Gulf of Mexico should be concerned about this strip mine at the headwaters of the the Suwannee River, and east on the St. Marys River to the Atlantic. Way west at Valdosta, Georgia, exits from I-75 say Okefenokee Swamp this way, so the economic benefits of the Swamp are widespread. People visit the Swamp and the Suwannee from all over the world, and the public outcry needs to be just as widespread.”
To attend the virtual Public Meeting, first you must RSVP by emailing:
Subject: “RSVP for 13 MAY Public Meeting TPM”
Make sure that you include your full name, email address, and contact phone number with area code.
Before the meeting, you will receive the meeting link and security code. Just click the link and follow the prompts.
The meeting will use the WebEx platform, so…
Three weeks to comment on GA-EPD Valdosta wastewater Consent Order
(see also PDF)
Hahira, GA, May 4, 2020 — May 27th is the deadline to comment on the Enforcement Order the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) finally issued on Valdosta for sewage spills. For decades, Valdosta has spilled wastewater into the Withlacoochee River. People downstream, even on the Suwannee River all the way to the Gulf, worry about fishing, swimming, or even boating and some even say their wells are contaminated by fecal bacteria from these spills. Many had hoped that Valdosta’s big spills were over in 2016 with the new Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant uphill out of the flood plain, plus a Force Main with two Pump Stations. Valdosta says it has spent about $80 million on water system improvements. Yet the spills continued. The Order also reveals a massive fish kill.
“The December 2019 spill was the biggest yet, with no rain, and nothing actually broke. It was a massive failure of supervision,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Citizens and elected and appointed officials in Georgia and a dozen counties in Florida demanded something be done.”
This Enforcement Order includes the most popular request, a fine, plus many requirements for management and technology.
“Well, I’m glad they are doing the enforcement order, requiring them to get the fixes in place,” said Deanna Mericle of Hamilton County, Florida, who was among the WWALS members who met with the City of Valdosta back in 2015 about these same sewage issues. She added, “I’m not sure what the $122,000 will be used for, but the fine seems small. I just want the problem fixed for good if possible.”
The Order addresses much (but not all) of what Suwannee Riverkeeper asked GA-EPD to do: https://wwals.net/?p=50979 For example, it requires the City to test water quality all the way down to the state line. One thing it does not include is any requirements for reimbursing downstream well and river testing expenses.
“It’s good to see that the EPD is FINALLY taking this issue seriously!” said Suzy Hall, WWALS Testing Committee Chair. “I can’t help but feel WWALS’ diligence in testing has been a big part of this action, and must continue regardless of any order for the City to conduct testing.”
The entire 93-page Order is on the WWALS website, here:
“This Order has been a long time coming. It includes an outline of a sad history of mistakes and neglect. I hope the Order will finally get the City’s attention,” said Dr. Tom Potter, WWALS Science Committee Chair and taxpayer of the City of Valdosta.
Send your comments by Wednesday, May 27, 2020, to:
Mr. Lewis Hays
Manager, Watershed Compliance
Environmental Protection Division
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SE, Suite 1152 East
Atlanta, GA 30334
On Earth Day, FERC approved Sabal Trail Albany, GA, and Dunnellon, FL, compressor stations 2020-04-22,
FERC on Earth Day rubberstamped Sabal Trail pipeline compressor stations in Georgia virus hotspot and Florida location that already leaked
Hahira, Georgia, April 23, 2020 — “What better way to say they don’t care, than to do this on Earth Day?” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) broke out its rubberstamp during a virus pandemic, ignoring its own process, as well as all the comments and our motion against, to approve turning on two compressor stations, including one in Albany, Georgia, which is the Georgia city worst-affected by the virus, and another at a site near Dunnellon, Florida, which already leaked multiple times even before construction started.”
Methane from fracking is not more important to push through a Sabal Trail pipeline than the health of local people or even Sabal Trail’s own workers.
Photo: WCJB, of Sabal Trail Dunnellon Compressor Station after leak, 2017-08-11.
Quarterman added, “With the price of oil negative and “natural” gas down 40%, it’s time to ask investors if they want to go down with the fossil fuel ship of fools and time to ask politicians if they want this to be their legacy.”…
Song submissions open April First (no fooling!): Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest,
Song submissions open April First (no fooling!): Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest
Hahira, Georgia, March 30, 2020 — Bigger and with a new venue, the Turner Center for the Arts, the Third Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest seeks songs. Submissions open Wednesday, April 1, 2020, yes, no fooling!
“Georgia Beer Co. is back as our top-tier sponsor, which helps us get these new songs about our rivers, swamps, springs, and sinks,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman.
Finalists will play at the Contest, 6-9 PM, Saturday, August 22, 2020, judges will judge, at the Turner Center for the Arts, 527 N Patterson St, Valdosta, Georgia, 31601. There will be food and a cash bar, as you watch and listen, and you can browse the artworks at the Turner Center. There will also be a kayak raffle and a silent auction, as well as a range of buttons, stickers, hats, notecards, signs, shirts, and posters for sale: this is a fundraiser for WWALS Watershed Coalition.
Photo: Sara and Scotti Jay for WWALS, of Kyle Chamberlain and David Rodock playing Alapaha Laphogs
at the 2019 Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest.
“I heard so many good things about last year’s Contest when I was in Newfoundland, that….”
- 2020-03-19: Earth Day Cleanup Postponed due to pandemic: WWALS, Georgia Power, Valdosta, and Brooks County, GA, Madison County, FL.
Supporters of the Okefenokee Swamp ready to stop new strip mine application by Twin Pines Minerals,
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.
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….
WWALS, Georgia Power, and Valdosta: Knights Ferry Cleanup, optional Nankin Paddle, Withlacoochee River 2020-04-18,
Earth Day Cleanup at Knights Ferry, Withlacoochee River: WWALS, Georgia Power, and Valdosta, April 18, 2020
Hahira, Georgia, March 4, 2020 — Celebrate the fiftieth Earth Day by helping clean up Knights Ferry Boat Ramp, Saturday morning, April 18, 2020. Afterwards, those who want to can paddle with us down the Withlacoochee River to Nankin Boat Ramp, cleaning up on the water and when we get to Nankin . This event is the first ever sponsored by WWALS, Georgia Power, the City of Valdosta, and Brooks County, Georgia.
Photo: John S. Quarterman for WWALS, Knights Ferry Boat Ramp, During Paddle Georgia 2019-06-16.
Gear Swap at Banks Lake: find a new boat, maybe try it out, or get rid of an old one 2020-03-07,
Lakeland, Georgia, February 26, 2020 — Here’s something new: a fun-filled day of promoting paddle activities and trying various boat designs, at Banks Lake on the first Saturday of March. This new event by WWALS Watershed Coalition (WWALS) should help paddlers find a new boat or get rid of an old one. If the owner permits, you can try out a boat right there on Banks Lake. This should help get everyone ready to kick off a new paddling season in the great Suwannee River Basin.
WWALS Outings Chair Bobby McKenzie, who thought up this Gear Swap, says, “Many thanks to….
2020-02-18: Eighth Annual BIG Little River Paddle Race 2020-04-25
Race or paddle, fun for the whole family: the Eighth Annual BIG Little River Paddle Race
Adel, Georgia, February 18, 2020 — You could win in any of a dozen categories. But you are not required to race: it’s a nice spring paddle anyway! On Saturday, April 25, 2020, in Reed Bingham State Park, between Adel and Moultrie, Georgia, it’s the eighth annual BIG Little River Paddle Race. There will be lunch, a kayak raffle, and a silent auction afterwards. You can just paddle along this scenic stretch of tea-colored river on the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail among cypress, turtles, birds, and yes, alligators. (Don’t pet them and they won’t bother you.) This three-mile race also has fierce competitors, with last year’s winner finishing in barely more than half an hour.
BLRPR mastermind Bret Wagenhorst, an eye doctor in Tifton, GA, and a charter board member of WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS), said, “You can win in any of a dozen categories: one- or two-person canoe or kayak, male or female or mixed, as well as oldest, youngest, and from farthest away.”
Dianne Walters, president of Friends of Reed Bingham State Park (FORB), said, “This is a great community event, with volunteers from all around helping paddlers from everywhere.”
Wagenhorst added, “Last year, the first woman across the finish in a solo kayak was Nikki York, of Adel, GA. And for the first time, a canoe finished first to win the $100 cash prize. It was a two-person canoe of gentlemen from Gray, GA:….
- 2020-01-13: Press release: Water quality permitting, paddle with Mayor of Valdosta this Saturday 2020-01-18 .
Pictures: WWALS Light Parade at Banks Lake 2019-12-21,
Lakeland, Georgia, December 24, 2019 — Five boats participated in the first-ever WWALS Light Parade on Banks Lake, with 30 to 40 viewers on the fishing pier, at the winter solstice, Saturday, December 21, 2019.
“We had lots of spectators and enjoyed the evening with our S’Mores and hot chocolate!” said Shelby Miller, whose idea this WWALS Light Parade was.
The winners were:
1st place: Bobby McKenzie
2nd place: Eli Harrell
3rd place: Allison Ray
E. coli at Little River Confluence, Spook Bridge, and Knights Ferry, Withlacoochee River 2019-12-21,
Hahira, GA, Monday, December 23, 2019 — At Knights Ferry Boat Ramp Saturday Suzy Hall tested 4,966.67 cfu/100 mL E. coli, far higher than anything previously recorded there, and almost five times the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream alert level. There were still no warning signs, not at Knights Ferry, and not at State Line Boat Ramp, where Suzy Hall got 100 cfu/100 ml, when all our previous readings were zero (0).
“It appears that Valdosta’s record-largest wastewater has caused a public health emergency in the Withlacoochee River and Valdosta is not even warning people about it at river access locations,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Florida is being proactive; what is Valdosta doing? How about Lowndes Health? Lowndes County (didn’t cause this problem, but needs to help deal with it). GA-EPD? EPA? Statehouse and Congressional delegations? This report will go to all of them today.”
Photo: Suzy Hall, of her Petrifilms of water samples taken from the Withlacoochee River at Knights Ferry & State Line Boat Ramps.
Method: count blue dots with bubbles (E. coli colonies) on each plate.
Add the counts, divide by three, and multiply by 100, to get colony forming units (cfu) per 100 mililiter of water.
E. coli counts (cfu/100ml) that exceed 235 cfu/100 ml are considered “high” and should be closely monitored, but when counts exceed the 1000 cfu/100 ml threshold, they warrant special action.A count of 235 cfu/100 ml correlates to 8 incidents of 1000 people getting sick, but a count of 1000 cfu/100 ml correlates to about 14 incidents of 1000 people getting sick.
That’s not linear, so it’s not clear how many people getting sick would correlate to 4,966.67/100, but more than 14, and any is too many.
“Thanks to all who have already donated, we are ordering more Petrifilm today,” said WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman “Looks like we’re going to need it. Nobody else appears to be testing at the Little River Confluence, or at Spook Bridge, Knights Ferry, Nankin, or State Line Boat Ramp.”
The only Valdosta warning sign on any river remains the one at Troupville Boat Ramp on the Little River, upstream of the Little River Confluence with the Withlacoochee River.
Photo: Scotti Jay, of Valdosta Caution sign at Troupville Boat Ramp, 2019-12-21.
Someone has decorated that signpost with flowers, like the crosses you see at highway wreck sites….
Suwannee Riverkeeper asks Georgia EPD to require Valdosta to do better about its record sewage spill,
Hahira, Georgia, December 19, 2019 — Compelled by the severity of Valdosta’s record raw sewage spill and the expenses and stigma incurred nearby and downstream, Suwannee Riverkeeper for WWALS Watershed Coalition has sent a letter requesting ten enforcment actions to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD). WWALS member Deanna Mericle of Hamilton County, Florida, summed it up: “As a person living downstream on the Withlacoochee River in Florida, I feel shat upon by Valdosta over and over. I cannot drink the water from my well. I worry about the health of the river itself and the animals that live in it and drink from it. We in Florida were patient while Valdosta was improving their wastewater plant, which apparently was not adequate since we still have spills when it rains heavily. But this time it was not a rain event. It was gross negligence. I am out of patience. I believe it is time for legal action.”
The Suwannee Riverkeeper letter notes GA-EPD already has a legal action against Valdosta, a Consent Order. WWALS asks GA-EPD to use its enforcement power to require notification, water quality testing, education, and plans and procedures not only for preventing such spills but also for tracking them as they travel down our creeks and rivers and for remediation of effects on wells and reputation.
“Valdosta says it does what GA-EPD tells it to do, so we’re asking GA-EPD to tell them,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Today we’re forwarding the letter to the U.S. EPA, the affected parties, and of course to Valdosta,”
Back in March 2015, WWALS helped organize a meeting with the City of Valdosta and interested parties, including Deanna and Chris Mericle. https://wwals.net/?p=7061
At that time, four and a half years ago, we thought that lawsuits against Valdosta would merely take away from funds needed to fix the problems. Yet tens of millions of dollars later with two new Wastewater Treatment Plants and a Force Main system, one of that system’s Pump Stations failed when there was not even any rain, causing Valdosta’s record-largest raw sewage spill. We have had to think again, and at this time it appears that it will take something more than meetings and mild reprimands to get Valdosta to fix its chronic sewage problems.
Here is the letter in PDF.
Thanks to organizations for the Okefenokee Swamp, against the Titanium Mine,
Valdosta, GA, Thanksgiving Day, 2019 — Thanks to the more than two dozen organizations, local, regional, statewide in Florida and Georgia, national, and international, that oppose the titanium mine that would be far too close to the Okefenokee Swamp. The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (ONWR) provides boating, birding, fishing, and hunting nearby to the tune of more than $60 million a year and more than 700 jobs, making it the NWR of most economic benefit to each of Georgia and Florida. The Okefenokee Swamp is a unique ecological treasure, and is the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers. The burden of proof is on the miners, and they have not met it.
Organizations For Okefenokee Swamp, Against Titanium Mine
Add your organization here: https://forms.gle/Dyqc77EBsjXBsz93A
You can still file a comment with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. If the Corps actually issues a permit, which they may in the next few weeks, anything filed can be used in any ensuing lawsuit.
Exactly how many organizations oppose that strip mine is hard to say, since….
Winners: WWALS Boomerang paddle race 2019-10-26
Hahira, Georgia, October 30, 2019 — Twice the paddlers this year participated in the Second Annual WWALS Boomerang Paddle Race into Florida and back to Georgia. That’s two dozen paddlers and about fifty people last Saturday at State Line Boat Ramp on the Withlacoochee River.
“Paddlers from 3 to 69 years old included five parent-child tandems, and three solo children. All were led by overall winner and first male paddler Russell McBride, of Quitman, Brooks County, Georgia, in a solo kayak, and first female paddler Jennifer James of Waldo, Alachua County, Florida, on a stand up paddle board,” reported Boomerang mastermind Bobby McKenzie.
Winning in categories were….
- 2019-10-22: WWALS Boomerang paddle race, sponsors, silent auction, on Talk 92.1 FM Radio
- 2019-10-15: Still $20 until midnight tonight: WWALS Boomerang 2019-10-15
- 2019-10-11: Winner Tumbler for WWALS Boomerang and last call for early bird tickets 2019-10-26
- 2019-09-16: Free boat rental at WWALS Boomerang, from Georgia to Florida and Back Again 2019-10-26
Who wants to boat, fish, bird, or hunt next to a strip mine?
Valdosta, Georgia, September 12, 2019 — Defending the headwaters of the Suwannee River in the national and world treasure, the Okefenokee Swamp, Suwannee Riverkeeper today sent 22 pages of questions to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Georgia Department of Environmental Protection asking, Who wants to boat, fish, bird, or hunt next to a strip mine?
Specifically, Suwannee Riverkeeper asks the Corps and GA-EPD to deny the permit.
If they won’t do that, Suwannee Riverkeeper asks them to require several documents, the key one of which is an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), to accept comments until at least ninety days after those documents are all available to the public, and to hold public hearings in Georgia and Florida.
One criterion for doing an EIS is controversy. Which seems to be happening, with at least 27 main news stories thus far, some of which have been picked up by AP and carried dozens of places all over the country, in addition to at least 10 op-eds and 3 editorials. All this is on radio, TV, and in newspapers from Valdosta to Atlanta to Savannah to St. Mary’s, Georgia, to Jacksonville, Florida. Plus Associated Press pickups as far as San Francisco and Chicago.
We hear that the Corps has already received more than 10,000 comments, and more are pouring in today.
For details, see https://wwals.net/?p=50140
Also, Floridians may want to know that The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge brings the most economic benefit to Florida of any NWR in Florida:
Winners: Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest
Valdosta, Georgia, August 25, 2019 — Everybody had a good time before plaques were awarded for Best in each Genre, from Folk to Funk, at the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, before two finalists won the money prizes, at the Salty Snapper in Valdosta, Saturday afternoon.
Jay Jourden of Ponte Vedra, Florida, swept the awards, winning Best Newgrass Bluegrass, and $50 for Best Song from Outside the Suwannee River Basin, and the $300 First Prize, all for “Save Our Suwannee.” Jay promised to submit a new song next year, before he played it again for the very happy audience.
“Yes, Jay submitted the same song last year,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “But this time he stopped in the middle, said he forgot some verses, and rattled off names of a whole bunch of rivers, all in perfect time. Naming rivers was one of the criteria, and it’s a great song: Save Our Suwannee!”
Dick Grillo of Live Oak, Florida, won both Best Folk/Country, and $50 for Best Song from Inside the Suwannee River Basin, for “Dear ‘Ol Suwannee,” and his cheering section demonstrated it was the loudest….
Finalists selected for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2019-08-24
These are the seven Finalists who will play live at the Second Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, 1-5 PM, Saturday, August 24, 2019, for you and the Judges to hear, so the Judges can select the winners, at The Salty Snapper in Valdosta, GA.
“We got another awesome line up. Glad I’m not a judge,” said Sara Squires Jones, one of the Committee that selected the Finalists.
WWALS Boomerang: Paddle and a Pint, from Georgia to Florida and Back Again,
Valdosta, GA, August 8, 2019 — Join us for a fun filled day of paddle racing and leisurely paddling on the idyllic blackwater Withlacoochee River. Plenty of water, no deadfalls, plus shoals! We will paddle from State Line Ramp in Georgia, with staggered starts for turnarounds in Florida at 1, 2, and 3 miles, then back to where we started. Tickets are $20 until October 15th, then $30.
“Sign up to race and get a beer for participating!” said Boomerang mastermind Bobby McKenzie. “Thanks to Georgia Beer Company!”
Vendors vested in conservation or stewardship of our waters already signed up include VSU CORE, Boy Scouts, and TNT Hot Dogs. Nonprofit vendors are free, and $20 fee for for-profit vendors.
“This is good ecotourism for Lowndes and Brooks Counties, Georgia, and Hamilton and Madison Counties, Florida,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Maybe we can get a little friendly state-line rivalry going on!”
McKenzie added, “Also another fun opportunity to wear your Halloween Costumes!”
Sponsors get their name and logo on a banner, in announcements, and in flyers, with various other perks at different levels of sponsorship.
Everything about WWALS Boomerang 2019 is here:
Deadline Extended for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest,
Hahira, Georgia, July 15, 2019 — “Last year I got in through the extension,” said last year’s winner Laura D’Alisera, because someone “emailed the songwriting community and l had my song 95% in place.” So the Contest Committee has voted to extend the deadline a week, to this Friday, July 19, 2019! “Come on songwriters, send in your song by Friday,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “We already have enough songs for the contest, but we want yours, too! Everyone else, you can get some tickets and come and listen!”
Headliners Selected for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest
Hahira, Georgia, July 8, 2019 — Before the judges pick the winners at the Second Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, Joe Smothers of Valdosta will lead off, followed by last year’s winner, Laura D’Alisera of Jacksonville, FL. Radio personality Chris Beckham of Tifton, GA, will M.C. Submit your song by Friday, or just get some tickets and come and listen!
Joe Smothers and Laura D’Alisera
Judges Selected for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest
Hahira, Georgia, July 1, 2019 — Three judges are ready to pick the winners at the Second Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest: two from Georgia and one from Florida. Tony Buzella, J.J. Rolle, and Tim Teasley will mark finalists on originality of lyrics and music, musical consistency, showing the integrity and value of the waters, historical value, performance, and more. Radio personality Chris Beckham of Tifton will M.C.
Make Georgia Power buy more solar again, Suwannee Riverkeeper asks Georgia PSC,
Hahira, GA, June 10, 2019 –On the eve of the final hearings for Georgia Power’s Integrated Resource Plan, Suwannee Riverkeeper asked the Georgia Public Service Commission to do what it did in 2013: make Georgia Power buy more solar power. Far more, this time: 12 gigawatts (GW) instead of 1 GW. “One GW by 2024 would merely catch Georgia up to where snowy Massachusetts is today,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “We need to catch up for lost time, since Georgia Power has done little the past two years, while the rest of the country has been doubling solar deployment every two years.”
Suwannee Riverkeeper also asked the PSC to implement the record fine of more than $2 million that PSC staff had recommended on Atlanta Gas Light (AGL) for the explosion in Homerville, Georgia, last fall, that blew up the cofeeshop Coffee Corner and sent three women to the hospital with third-degree burns. PSC staff apparently did not buy any of AGL’s excuses about the gas that came from an AGL pipeline.
AGL and Georgia Power are owned by Southern Company.
Drawing from eight years of Southern Company stockholder meetings and other evidence, these are Suwannee Riverkeepers recommendations to the Georgia PSC today, addressed to Commissioner Jason Shaw, whose district encompasses the Suwannee River Basin in Georgia:
- Implement staff’s recommended fines and other actions related to the Homerville explosion of natural gas from an Atlanta Gas Light (AGL) pipeline. See PSC Docket 42166.
- Once again require Georgia Power to buy more solar power than it requested in its IRP, to a significant number such as 12 gigawatts by 2024. See PSC Docket 42310 for this and the following suggestions.
- Require Georgia Power to pay for most, if not all, of the cost of disposal of coal ash, in properly lined and otherwise protected landfills, on property owned by Georgia Power, not by shipping it to local landfills.
- Ask the parties responsible for airborne mercury into our rivers to provide compensation for the negative impacts that mercury emissions have on recreational fishing.
- Stop any more money and renewable energy opportunity costs from being wasted on the years-late and far-over-budget Plant Vogtle nuclear power project.
- Promote wind by demanding Georgia Power get on with it.
“The PSC has the power and the responsibility to steer the utilities to renewable solar, wind, and storage energy on a smart grid now, for reliable, dependable, sustainable power for Georgia. I look forward to seeing that happen. I urge you and the other Commissioners to make that happen.”
Winners, BIG Little River Paddle Race 2019-04-27,
Tifton, Georgia, May 1, 2019 — “This was the first year a canoe finished first to win the $100 cash prize,” said Bret Wagenhorst, main organizer of the BIG Little River Paddle Race, last Saturday, April 27, at Reed Bingham State Park. “It was a two-person canoe of gentlemen from Gray, GA: Wayne Hale and Terry Donahue.”
Tandem male canoe, green (BW)
Photo: Bret Wagenhorst, of Wayne Hale and Terry Donahue winning the BIG Little River Paddle Race. They won in the male tandem canoe category last year, and they won overall this year.
Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman said, “Thanks to the paddle race sponsors, Dr. Bret Wagenhorst, Georgia Beer Company, and Cook Medical Center.”
Dr. Wagenhorst added, “Thanks to all the paddlers from across Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, as far away as Mexico, who came out on a glorious south GA spring day to help raise money for the WWALS Watershed Coalition and the Friends of Reed Bingham State Park group by paddling a scenic and winding stretch of the Little River. Lots of fun in the sun for friends and families.”
First woman across the finish in a solo kayak was….
Tomorrow! BIG Little River Paddle Race 2019-04-27,
Valdosta, Georgia, April 26, 2019 — We’ll get a nice cool spring morning start Saturday, as paddlers from Georgia and Florida race (or saunter) down the tea-colored Little River through Reed Bingham State Park, in a friends and family fun event.
“Thanks to Georgia Beer Company for being a sponsor of this seventh annual BIG Little River Paddle Race!” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman.
Dianne Walters, president of Friends of Reed Bingham State Park (FORB), said, “This is a great community event, with volunteers from all around helping paddlers from everywhere.”
BLRPR mastermind, Tifton eye doctor Bret Wagenhorst, said, “Some come to try for the $100 cash prize for first boat to cross the finish in around 35-40 minutes. Others come to do a leisurely 1-2 hr paddle with friends or family and take in the incredible subtropical scenery. Some do it to support the Friends of Reed Bingham group and the WWALS Watershed Coalition.”
Many others win in categories: male or female kayak or canoe, and two-person male or female or mixed.
WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman said, “Come bid in the silent auction, and you can get kayak raffle tickets. Lunch is included.“
WWALS lead water quality tester Sara Jay said, “Dedicated water quality testers will attend training afterwards.”
“BLRPR is on the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail, which WWALS is wrapping up by planting signs at landings,” said WWALS Trails Committee Chair Dan Phillips.
BLRPR tickets are $30 online, wwals.net/pictures/2019-04-27–blrpr/, along with a printable flyer.
Or you can get tickets at the event registration….
Georgia Beer Company Sponsors Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest,
Georgia Beer Company Sponsors Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest
Hahira, Georgia, April 22, 2019 — The first brewery in the Suwannee River Basin is the top-level sponsor of the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest. When the finalists compete for the judges and music lovers at The Salty Snapper on August 24, 2019, at the top of the sponsor banner will be Georgia Beer Company. This maker of brews, such as Cypress Knee – Single Hop Mosaic, understands clean water is essential to every beer. So Georgia Beer Company, as the Aria level sponsor, supports Suwannee Riverkeeper for fishable, swimmable, drinkable water.
Left to right: Bartender, Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman receiving sponsor merchandise and check from Jack “J. Ryce Martin” and Chris Jones, founders of Georgia Beer Co.
“When I was a reporter in Madison, Florida, I wrote about Valdosta sewage frequently,” said Georgia Beer Co. co-founder Chris Jones. “Unfortunately, that is still a story. We support Suwannee Riverkeeper to help stop that problem, and to clean up other things getting into our rivers.”
“I’m thrilled for this support of our water quality testing program by Georgia Beer Company,” said WWALS lead tester Sara Jay. “We can buy more testing materials and….
- 2019-04-16: The limpkin likes the BIG Little River Paddle Race
Tifton, Georgia, April 16, 2019 — Bret Wagenhorst calls this limpkin, “One of the many local spectators along the upcoming BIG Little River PADDLE RACE on Saturday, April 27 at Reed Bingham State Park. Come experience the beauty of a south GA blackwater river. Come have fun with family and friends. Come see if you can paddle fast enough to win the $100 to the first boat across the finish line. Come help support our region’s state park and the WWALS Watershed Coalition.”
The event is entirely within Reed Bingham State Park, between Adel and Moultrie, Georgia, on the Little River in Cook and Colquitt Counties.
Dianne Walters, president of Friends of Reed Bingham State Park (FORB), said….
Submissions open for Second Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2019-04-01
Hahira, Georgia, April 1, 2019 — No fooling but fun: today songwriters can start submitting new songs about the Suwannee, Withlacoochee, Alapaha, or Little Rivers, or other lakes, swamps, springs, or sinks in the Suwannee River Basin. New this year is a separate winner category for finalists younger than eighteen, in the Second Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest. Well-known radio personality Chris Beckham will be the Master of Ceremonies inside in air conditioning Saturday afternoon, August 24, 2019, at The Salty Snapper in Valdosta, Georgia. Three judges will select winners as finalists play. Snacks are included, plus a silent auction and kayak raffle. Come have some family musical fun supporting your local nonprofit WWALS Watershed Coalition and Suwannee Riverkeeper.
Photo: Bret Wagenhorst, of Emmett Carlisle playing at the 2018 Contest
Last year’s winner, Laura D’Alisera has driven from Jacksonville for every contest organizing committee meeting this year, and will sing this year while the judges are judging. She says, “To encourage working songwriters, this year we will pay mileage for finalists to the venue in the biggest city in the Suwannee River Basin, from 50 up to 125 miles. Yes, and mileage for judges, too.”
Tickets are $10 online.
Or $12 at the door.
Or $150 per eight-seat VIP table right in front of the stage.
Everything about the contest is online here:
The song submission deadline is Friday, July 12, 2019. The entry form is online, for your song lyrics and information about the song and to introduce you if you become a finalist. You can send your song as an electronic file or on a USB stick.
The Contest Committee will choose….
One month before BIG Little River Paddle Race,
Hahira, Georgia, March 27, 2019 — It’s one month until the Seventh Annual BIG Little River Paddle Race (BLRPR) in Reed Bingham State Park, between Adel and Moultrie, Georgia. You can just paddle along this scenic stretch of tea-colored river on the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail among cypress, turtles, birds, and yes, alligators. (Don’t pet them and they won’t bother you.) This three-mile race also has fierce competitors, with last year’s winner finishing in barely more than half an hour. Plus lunch, a silent auction, and a kayak raffle, at this family fun sporting event in support of two local nonprofits.
Photo: Bret Wagenhorst, of paddlers in BLRPR 2018
BLRPR mastermind Bret Wagenhorst, an eye doctor in Tifton, GA, and a charter board member of WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS), said, “You can win in any of a dozen categories: one- or two-person canoe or kayak, male or female or mixed, as well as oldest, youngest, and from farthest away.”
Second Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2019-08-24,
Hahira, Georgia, February 27, 2019 — WWALS is pleased to announce the M.C. for the Second Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest will be well-known radio host Chris Beckham. Once again, the Contest will be at The Salty Snapper on Gornto Road in Valdosta, Georgia. This year it will be 1-5PM, Saturday, August 24, 2019. Submissions will open in April, for selection of half a dozen finalists by the Contest Committee, and judging of the finalists by three judges at the Contest.
Emmett Carlisle performing at the 2018 Contest.
“August is an excellent month for this Contest, because we have inside air conditioning, and there are no competing outdoor music events in August,” said Laura D’Alisera, last year’s winner, and this year a member of the Contest Committee.
“The Salty Snapper is great for music: cozy but lots of space. Thanks to manager Justin Stephens for his enthusiastic support,” said Scotti Jay, Chair of the WWALS Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest Committee.
“Everybody had a fine time last year, and we have six more songs about the Suwannee River, or its tributaries the Withlacoochee, Little, and Alapaha. Move over Stephen C. Foster!” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman.
Submissions can be songs about…
Paddle Georgia, Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers, into Florida 2019-06-15-21
Hahira, GA, February 13, 2019 — From next to the largest Suwannee River Basin city, Valdosta, to between some of the smallest, Mayo and Luraville, Paddle Georgia brings 300 people this summer to venture for the first time across the state line from Georgia to Florida, on the Little, Withlacoochee, and Suwannee Rivers, June 15 through 21, 2019.
“Five years ago I suggested our Withlacoochee River to Joe Cook for Paddle Georgia, and he went one better, adding the Suwannee River, past two of the few second-magnitude springs in Georgia, McIntyre and Arnold, and two of the famous first-magnitude Florida Springs: Madison Blue and Lafayette,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Plus Spook Bridge and the orphaned railroad trestle near Madison, with many shoals and rapids at the GA-FL line! Special thanks to The Langdale Company for permission to take out just below Spook Bridge. Personally, I like that this paddle starts at my birthplace in Valdosta, Georgia and ends at my grandmother’s birthplace at the ferry site for Luraville, Florida.”
This event is organized by Paddle Georgia, with catered dinners and buses to and from the rivers. WWALS is assisting, for example by organizing the Spook Bridge takeout, and by pointing out many sites that non-locals might miss, ranging from springs, and Withlacoochee River agates, and the halberd-leaf rosemallow, whose blooms last only one day, to perpetual bothers such as Valdosta’s Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Sabal Trail fracked methane pipeline, and Duke Energy’s Suwannee Power Plant.
See also this map depicting the seven days of Paddle Georgia 2019:
About WWALS: Founded in June 2012, WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS) advocates for conservation and stewardship of the Withlacoochee, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Little, and Suwannee River watersheds in south Georgia and north Florida through education, awareness, environmental monitoring, and citizen activities. John S. Quarterman is the Suwannee Riverkeeper®, which is a staff position and a project of WWALS as the Member of Waterkeeper® Alliance for the Suwannee River Basin.
For prices and registration see the Paddle Georgia web page,
For local context about our rivers:
John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper
WWALS Watershed Coalition
PO Box 88, Hahira, GA 31632
Deadline extended for WWALS Boomerang early-bird tickets, through 2018-10-13
Hahira, GA, October 8, 2018 — By popular demand at the Hahira Honeybee Festival, WWALS has extended the deadline for early-bird $20 tickets through Saturday, October 13, for the WWALS Boomerang paddle race, coming up Saturday, November 3, 2018. This new event goes downstream and back again on the Withlacoochee River and the west edge of Valdosta, the largest city in the Suwannee River Basin, only a few miles from Valdosta State University. Someone from the Atlantic coast of Florida won our spring BIG Little River Paddle Race this spring, and kayaks or canoes from everywhere are welcome at the Boomerang as well. If you don’t have a boat, two outfitters so far have signed up to supply those. There will be food and drink and music at this WWALS fall paddling festival.
WWALS Boomerang organizer Bobby McKenzie and family with fellow WWALS board member Dan Phillips in the parade at the Hahira Honeybee Festival.
Boomerang paddlers will race from Langdale Park Boat Ramp, just off of North Valdosta Road (US 41), down the Withlacoochee River to Sugar Creek Landing, and back upstream. If you don’t want to race, you can just paddle, and if you don’t want to paddle upstream, you can take out onto Gornto Road. Bobby’s four-year-old son finished our other paddle race, so paddlers of all ages are welcome.
For all the details and to get tickets, follow this link: wwals.net/?p=45693
All settled with Sabal Trail without jury 2018-09-13
Valdosta, GA, September 13, 2018 — This morning two landowners from Moultrie, Colquitt County, Georgia, and the Bell brothers of a subject property in Mitchell County, Georgia, all settled with Sabal Trail Transmission about payment for easements for a 36-inch natural gas pipeline through their land.
Defendant Jeb Bell said afterwards,
I am extremely unhappy, but such is life.
We fought as good as we could for as long as we could.
The defendants’ attorney Jonathan P. Waters had no comment on the confidential settlement of these cases.
These cases were originally filed by Sabal Trail Transmission against Georgia landowners in March 2016, invoking federal eminent domain supplied to Sabal Trail by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on February 2, 2016. The pipeline has since been built through the defendants’ land with no agreement and no payment.
Judge Clay D. Land, Chief U.S. District Judge, Middle District of Georgia, told the jury afterwards that they had been working hard back there even if they didn’t know it. (The jury had been sequestered while the parties were negotiating.) The judge told the jury that the knowledge they were waiting to take the cases out of the hands of the parties helped them to settle.
Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman said,
Maybe Sabal Trail was tired of losing jury trials.
From what the judge said and from what I saw on the previous days of these trials, I would guess that Sabal Trail was scared this jury might be even more generous than the previous two juries, which each awarded five times as much as Sabal Trail offered, on March 20, 2018, in Ocala, Florida and on June 27, 2018, in Valdosta, Georgia.
I asked Sabal Trail’s attorneys Brooke Voelzke and Matthew J. Calvert if they had any comment, but they did not.
All these jury trials were only….
Winners of the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2018
In a good time with good food and good music, at the Salty Snapper in Valdosta, Saturday afternoon, June 23, 2018, three judges from Georgia and Florida deliberated a long time after six songwriters from Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida sang, and selected winners of the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2018.
The WWALS Songwriting Contest Committee met many times to plan for the first annual contest. The purpose of the contest was to raise awareness of the WWALS watershed and its accomplishments. Will Eason of the Salty Snapper welcomed us, WWALS Ambassador Dave Hetzel spoke about the origins of WWALS, Board member Bret Wagenhorst spoke about Outings, Committee Chair Eileen Box spoke about the Committee, and WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman was the M.C.
Winners and Judges (Sharon Yeago), left to right: Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, WWALS E.D. and contest M.C. Gretchen Quarterman, ? (JJ), ? (JJ), Jay Jourden (JJ), Judge J.J. Rolle, Emmett Carlisle, Laura D’Alisera, Mike Tappan, Judge Cindy Bear, Dave Pharr, ? Tom Shed (JJ), Don Austin (JJ), Hollin Gammage, and the small child is next year’s contestant (JJ marks members of Jay Jourden’s band).
The finalists, who played in random order, selected by drawing straws, with sound by Will Eason and other help by Scotti Jay, were:
Sabal Trail loses jury trial in Valdosta, GA 2018-06-26,
The jury deliberated a bit less than an hour, delivering a verdict just before 7PM tonight: $103,385 for easement and $4,531.50 for timber. The figures offered by Sabal Trail were $19,979 for easement and $4,117 for timber. Assuming these numbers transcribed from various speakers are correct, the jury awarded five times what Sabal Trail offered for the pipeline easement and somewhat more than their offer for timber.
“When Sabal Trail goes to jury trial, it loses,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman.
Here are the winners, waiting in the hall before the jury came back:
This jury verdict from the U.S. Court, Middle District of Georgia, is very similar to….
Hollin Gammage from Tennessee, among 7 finalists for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, Valdosta, GA,
Valdosta, GA, June 14, 2018 — Three judges from Florida and Georgia will choose from seven finalists from three states to award prizes in the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, Saturday, June 23, in Valdosta, Georgia.
Sending in a song from the farthest away, Tennessee, and with the most laconic self-description, is Hollin Gammage:
Performing songwriter from southeast north America will travel.
She wrote a bit more on ReverbNation:….
Each finalist has a good chance to win the first prize of $300. Or the $50 prize for a finalist from within the Basin, or the $50 prize for a finalist from outside, plus there will be a prize for one finalist in each musical genre or style.
We’ll post about four more contestants in upcoming days. We’re not giving out their song titles, lyrics, or music: for those come to the contest and hear them live!
Where: The Salty Snapper, 1405 Gornto Rd, Valdosta, GA 31602
When: 1-5PM, Saturday, June 23, 2018
Tickets: $10 each online, or $12 at the door
For more details: see Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, 2018-06-23…..
WWALS prepares to sue FERC for shirking LNG Export oversight
Washington, D.C., June 13, 2018 — WWALS Watershed Coalition (WWALS) prepares to sue the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for shirking its legally-required oversight of inland liquid natural gas (LNG) terminals. “LNG trucks barrel down I-75 right by my old high school in Lowndes County, Georgia,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, after meeting with WWALS’ attorneys in Washington, D.C. “Those trucks from LNG terminals in Alabama and Georgia pass a technical college, a conference center, motels, homes, and businesses, going to I-10 for Jacksonville, Florida, where that LNG goes at least as far on ships as Puerto Rico.”
Since the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2015 abdicated its jurisdictional duties under the Natural Gas Act to regulate the siting, construction, operation and maintenance of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) small-scale inland export facilities, instead these facilities operate with basically no Federal oversight.
“I am greatly concerned that an LNG commercial project of this magnitude is not only planned, but that apparently has slipped through the cracks of local and federal regulators,” said WWALS member Harriet Heywood of Citrus County, Florida.
At the ends of the Sabal Trail pipeline chain in Florida, trucks go out from half a dozen LNG export operations authorized by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Fossil Energy (FE). If any of those trucks wrecks, federal standard everyone should be evacuated half a mile downwind, including high schools and hospitals. Very few local emergency responders know this and fewer have appropriate emergency plans.
Vulnerability of LNG by Rail, by Martin County Fire Rescue, December 15, 2015.
“The unintended consequences of FERC’s abdication of Congressional jurisdictional authority are mind-boggling,” said WWALS member Cecile Scofield of Palm City, Martin County, Florida, “They include….”
New location: Valdosta, GA for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest,
Hahira, GA, May 21, 2018 — The Contest has moved to The Salty Snapper on the Withlacoochee River in Valdosta, Georgia, in the biggest city in the Suwannee River Basin! The contest date is the same: Saturday, June 23, 2018. You can still send in a song through Friday, June 1, 2018, about the Withlacoochee, Little, Alapaha, Suwannee, or other rivers, springs, swamps, etc. in the Basin. The first prize gets $300, plus a $50 for a finalist from within the Basin, a $50 prize for a finalist from outside, and prizes to one finalist in each musical genre or style.
“Thanks to Will Eason, General Manager of The Salty Snapper, for finding the perfect afternoon time slot for a songwriting contest on the Withlacoochee River in the population center of the Suwannee River Basin,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman.
Deadline to send in songs: Friday, June 1, 2018
How to send in a song: Here is the entry form
Top Three Winners, BIG Little River Paddle Race 2018-04-28
Hahira, GA, April 29, 2018 — With the first-ever winner from Florida and a new record time, the next two categories one each from Tift and Lowndes Counties, Georgia, and a record number paddlers from 4 to 67 years old, the BIG Little River Paddle Race at Reed Bingham State Park Saturday was a fun time and a successful fundraiser for Friends of Reed Bingham State Park (FORB) and WWALS Watershed Coalition (WWALS).
Lloyd Reeves drove three hours from Crescent City, Florida, with a very fast kayak, to become the first-ever Florida winner, and he proved himself a winner in another way with the prize.
In addition to the First Prize trophy, winner Reeves got a hundred dollar bill from race organizer Bret Wagenhorst of WWALS. and a matching hundred dollar bill from Dianne Walters of FORB. Reeves then donated both Benjamins back to the contest. Now that’s a winner!
WWALS clean sweep at site of old Troupville, GA
Hahira, GA, April 23, 2018 — Fifty children and adults helped WWALS clean up the site of old Troupville Saturday, with permission and thanks from the landowner where that former Lowndes County seat goes down to the Little River Confluence with the Withlacoochee River, just west of Valdosta.
Cleanup leader WWALS member Bobby McKenzie said:
We met at the signs for safety/execution briefing. I was able to talk about the signs and water trail to 50 folks and when I asked who knew about the Little and Withlacoochee Rivers and being able to kayak them, only 2 folks were aware. Now 50 more folks are aware…and half were kids…but some of the best kind of kids…Boy and Girl Scouts!
Photo: Bobby McKenzie for WWALS 2018-04-21, at Troupville Boat Ramp, by the WWALS signs for the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail (WLRWT) that Phil Hubbard p