Category Archives: Politics

Victory on Georgia Constitutional Amendment 1, and more voting for clean water

Voters in every county in Georgia approved Amendment 1, to dedicate state fees and taxes to their stated purposes. The statewide victory was 81.6%.

There is more work to do, to get the legislature to use this new law to stop taxes from being diverted to the general fund, so for example counties and cities can get more grants for tire amnesties. But now the mechanism is available.

That wasn’t the only good referendum news, and there is more voting for clean water to do.

[Victory: 82%]
Victory: 82%
Special thanks to the Suwannee River Basin cities of Adel, Hahira, and Valdosta, Atkinson, Lanier, and Lowndes Counties, for passing resolutions in support.
See also previous blog post.

The other good clean water news is that Amendment 2 passed with 74.5% Yes, also passing in every county. That’s HR 1023: people may petition for declaratory relief from certain acts of this state or certain local governments or officers or employees.

Dave Williams, Capitol Beat News Service, 4 November 2020, Georgia voters pass three ballot questions by wide margins,

The sovereign immunity amendment stems from a 2014 Georgia Supreme Court decision that essentially granted the state blanket immunity from citizen lawsuits in a case brought by the Center for a Sustainable Coast. The group had filed suit alleging the state Department of Natural Resources was illegally allowing alterations to private property in fragile coastal wetland areas protected by state law.

So that’s two victories for clean water by the people of the state of Georgia.

As everyone probably knows, there are Georgia runoff elections on January 5, 2021, with the usual early voting and absentee ballots. Both Georgia U.S. Senate seats are in the runoff.

A Public Service Commission runoff that was scheduled earlier will also be on January 5, 2021. WWALS has long advocated for GA-PSC to make responsible decisions on power plants and pipelines that affect all our waters, from water levels to coal ash to mercury.

Once again, we urge you to vote for clean water.

As an IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, WWALS cannot Continue reading

Help Georgia stop titanium mine threatening Okefenokee Swamp –Dirty Dozen 2020, Georgia Water Coalition 2020-11-17

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Hahira, Georgia, November 17, 2020 — Once again, the Okefenokee Swamp features in the Georgia Water Coalition Dirty Dozen, “the worst offenses to Georgia’s water.” The Swamp and the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers and the Floridan Aquifer are still threatened by a strip mine, but this time only Georgia can stop it, with your help.

[Great Blue Heron, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, TPM mine site]
Great Blue Heron, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, TPM mine site

Contact: This Okefenokee item was submitted by Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman (229-242-0102, contact@suwanneeriverkeeper.org) and Georgia River Network Executive Director Rena Ann Peck, (404-395-6250, rena@garivers.org).

They also recently observed the mine site that threatens our ecosystems and drinking water for private profit. [TPM mine site with ONWR on left]
Photo: John S. Quarterman, TPM mine site with ONWR on left

They met again that same weekend on the Suwannee River in the Okefenokee Swamp with forty paddlers, experiencing the fragile natural beauty that makes the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge a great economic benefit to both Georgia and Florida.

[Great Blue Heron flying, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07]
Photo: John S. Quarterman, Great Blue Heron flying, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07

The entire text of the Okefenokee Dirty Dozen item is below. Also below is how you can help.

This year’s Dirty Dozen report includes the following: Continue reading

Okefenokee discussion in Moniac and mine site drive by 2020-11-06

A small group of people who value the Okefenokee Swamp and the rivers it feeds, the St. Marys River down to the Atlantic and Cumberland Island, and the Suwannee River of song and legend through Fargo and north Florida to the Gulf; this group met in Moniac, Georgia, on November 6, 2020, at Lacy’s Kountry Store. Most of us then visited the proposed mine site, which has quite a bit of equipment on it already.

If you want to help oppose this strip mine far too close to the Swamp, now that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has abdicated oversight, you can ask the Georgia government to reject these permits.

[Mine site, discussion]
Mine site, discussion

Georgia River Network Executive Director Rena Ann Peck had just written Continue reading

Videos: vote for clean water 2020-11-03

From four locations on the Withlacoochee River, Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman and WWALS Science Committee Chair Dr. Tom Potter urge you to go vote today for clean water.

[US 41, NSRR, US 84, Knights Ferry, Withlacoochee River]
US 41, NSRR, US 84, Knights Ferry, Withlacoochee River

At US 41 (North Valdosta Road), at the Norfolk Southern Railroad bridge just downstream from the notorious Sugar Creek, at US 84, downstream from GA 133 where Valdosta often sees high E. coli, and at Knights Ferry Boat Ramp, downstream of Okapilco Creek with all those Brooks County dairy cows, we sampled for bacteria and DNA Friday.

Vote for people who will fully fund the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) so they can do some river sampling themselves, and watch over not only Valdosta, but also Quitman, Adel, Tifton, Rochelle, and Ashburn, all of which have spilled sewage into the Suwannee River Basin this year. Maybe then FDEP will be able to do its job, instead of trying to take more tasks from the Army Corps.

Vote for people who will protect the Okefenokee Swamp from strip mining and other threats.

Pick your most important water issue: https://wwals.net/blog/issues/. They could all use elected officials who will support clean water.

We’ve never met anyone who wants to drink dirty water. So please vote for clean water! Continue reading

Water quality sampling and vote for clean water 2020-10-30

Please vote for clean water!

Vote for clean water

Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman and WWALS Science Committee Chair Dr. Tom Potter took a moment from water quality sampling at Knights Ferry Boat Ramp on the Withlacoochee River to make these videos to ask everyone to vote for clean water.

Vote for people who will fully fund the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division so they can do some river sampling themselves, and watch over not only Valdosta, but also Quitman, Adel, Tifton, Rochelle, and Ashburn, all of which have spilled sewage into the Suwannee River Basin this year.

Vote for people who will protect the Okefenokee Swamp from strip mining and other threats.

We could also mention Nestlé, phosphate mines, coal ash, and many other issues.

We’ve never met anyone who wants to drink dirty water. So please vote for clean water! Continue reading

FDOT says it will look for toll road financial need after reports: you can vote! 2020-10-21

FDOT actually answered my complaint that there is no demonstrated need for the M-CORES toll roads, saying FDOT would be sure to do financial due diligence. After the “Final” Task Force reports go to the legislature.

Meanwhile, FDOT has spent how many millions of taxpayer dollars on the un-needed boondoggle? Despite NRTR demonstrating that 93% of comments FDOT received opposed the toll roads?

Nevermind their “deadlines,” you can still send comments to FDOT, and they will go into the public record, retrievable through open records requests.

And don’t forget to vote for people who will stop this toll roads boondoggle and instead do good things for natural Florida and its people. Votes are comments the state of Florida cannot ignore.

[Graph 93-percent-AGAINST 10 14 20-0001]
Graph 93-percent-AGAINST 10 14 20-0001
PDF

I didn’t get to comment on the Suncoast Corridor Task Force meeting, because they didn’t see my sign-up to comment using their procedures. I asked them about that, and got them to acknowledge I had signed up to comment in the Northern Turnpike Connector Task Force meeting the next day.

Here is what I sent FDOT immediately after speaking on October 21, 2020: Continue reading

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

Monday morning I heard from a mining source that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will soon announce that, due to federal rollback of the Waters of the U.S., the Corps no longer considers the streams next to the proposed mining site to be under Corps jurisdiction, even though they are far too near the Okefenokee Swamp.

Alligator
Photo: Gretchen Quarterman, alligator in the Okefenokee Swamp

Twin Pines Minerals (TPM) lost no time announcing the next day that they intended to plow ahead. Molly Samuel, WABE, 20 October 2020, Proposed Mine Near Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp Gets A Major Hurdle Removed.

But TPM admits they still need five Georgia permits. So let’s try to stop those.

As we’ve been saying for a long time, please write to state and federal regulators, to the Georgia governor and the Georgia DNR board, and to state and federal elected officials. See below for how.

Also, there’s an election going on. As an IRS 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit, WWALS can’t tell you what candidate or party to vote for. But we can ask you to vote for the environment.

If the Okefenokee Swamp, which is the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers, is not protected, what is? If you live in south Georgia or north Florida, your drinking water probably comes from the Floridan Aquifer or groundwater above it, all of which can be adversely affected by strip mining or other pollution.

Please vote for the environment.

Georgians, don’t forget to vote for Amendment 1 while you’re voting.

Russ Bynum, Associated Press, 21 October 2020, Trump environmental rollback spurs mining near Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp.

The Army Corps reassessed certain wetlands at Twin Pines’ request after Trump’s new clean-water rules took effect in June. The agency confirmed Tuesday that, under the rules change, the tract would no longer require a federal permit.

“This property now has Continue reading

Last day to comment against M-CORES, and NRTR publishes analysis of comments 2020-10-14

Florida has a billion-dollar budget shortfall, yet the toll road task forces are still reporting go-aheads while finding no need for their destructive projects. Today is the last comment day to tell the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) what you think about that. Plus today you can listen to the No Roads to Ruin Coalition spell out the overwhelming public opposition to this toll roads boondoggle.

How to comment to FDOT about M-CORES:

  1. FDOT.Listens@dot.state.fl.us
  2. or use this comment form:
    https://floridamcores.com/#contact-us

Just like SH 130 in Texas, these Florida toll roads would be broke from the start, while sucking up funds that should go to pandemic relief and to conserving Florida’s natural environment, including regular, frequent, closely-spaced water quality testing on all of Florida’s rivers. Florida should be doing those things, not risking the Suwannee and Santa Fe Rivers, their springs, agriculture, forests, swamps, and the Floridan Aquifer for unnecessary toll roads.

[Florida Suncoast Conector and Texas SH 130: broke from the start]
Florida Suncoast Conector and Texas SH 130: broke from the start

Also today, the No Roads To Ruin (NRTR) coalition, of which Suwannee Riverkeeper is a charter member, will release an analysis of public comments.

After 15 months of public meetings and collecting public comment in multiple formats for the three M-CORES task forces, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has yet to provide, to the task force members or the public, a complete record and accounting of public comment submissions.

To rectify this situation, the No Roads to Ruin Coalition has gathered, categorized, and will share and summarize those public comments, along with the obvious probable reasons for FDOT’s lack of transparency.

WHAT: No Roads to Ruin Coalition Zoom press conference and Facebook Live event

WHEN: October 14, 2020 at 10:30 to 11:00 a.m.

WHO: Jon Bleyer, Progress Florida Online Communications Specialist, Ryan Smart, Florida Springs Council Executive Director, and volunteer “comment counters” from across the state

WHERE: Facebook Live: www.facebook.com/noroadstoruin

Suwannee Riverkeeper has signed on to an NRTR letter against M-CORES, as has Waterkeepers Florida on behalf of all 14 Waterkeepers of Florida.

For why, you need go no farther than The Suncoast Corridor Task Force’s own Study Area Overview:

[SCC MCORES-Draft-Task-Force-Report-Sections-9.28.20-0009]
SCC MCORES-Draft-Task-Force-Report-Sections-9.28.20-0009
PDF

The predominately rural counties located within the Suncoast Corridor study area contain natural resources, landscapes, and public lands that have been highly attractive to residents and year-round visitors for decades. This area has many unique features and natural resources including rivers, springs, wetlands, aquifer recharge areas, coastal areas, conservation areas, state parks, and agricultural lands. Some notable resources include the Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve, the Flint Rock and Aucilla Wildlife Management Areas, the Suwannee and Santa Fe Rivers, Blue Springs, Fanning Springs, Crystal River, and the Goethe State Forest. The study area also contains numerous large acreage conservation easements. These areas support significant fish, wildlife, and plant populations including threatened and endangered species such as the West Indian manatee, the Florida scrub-jay, and the gopher tortoise. The study area also includes an abundance of prime farmlands and agricultural properties that serve both economic and environmental functions in addition to Spring Protection and Recharge Areas, prospective Florida Forever Lands on the current priority lists for acquisition, and Florida Ecological Greenways Network critical linkages.

Why would we want to risk all that for an unnecessary toll road?

Even the Suncoast Connector Task Force’s own report admits that the public comments were overwhelmingly against that toll road:

A summary of the most common comments/themes received from the public are included below.

  • Concern for impacts to wildlife habitat (946 comments)
  • Concern for impacts to property and rural quality of life (783 comments)
  • Support to expand, improve, and maintain existing roads (421 comments)
  • Need to improve and protect water resources and the aquifer (421 comments)
  • Concern over project cost (367 comments)
  • Need for protection and enhancement of conservation lands (356 comments)
  • Support the need for jobs, economic development and business enhancements; but concern over potential negative economic impacts (269 comments)
  • Concern over the cost of tolls (256 comments)
  • Concern for impacts to wetlands (169 comments)
  • Concern for increased water, ground, and air pollution (147 comments)
  • Need for hurricane evacuation (144 comments)
  • Concern over location/project alignment or route (137 comments)
  • Support for multi-modal/mass transit (144 comments)
  • Need for broadband (117 comments)

As many of us have pointed out, you don’t need a toll road to distribute broadband to rural areas.

Local solar panels with battery backup and more hurricane shelters make a lot more sense and would be far less expensive than a toll road encouraging mass evacuation.

Also remember the Northern Turnpike Connector toll road boondoggle overlaps the Suwannee River Basin in Levy County.

Please comment today!

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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

Who’s the Chair and the Board? Land purchase and toll roads @ SRWMD 2020-10-13

On tomorrow morning’s 9AM Board Consent Agenda is acquisition of ten acres on the Withlacoochee River in Hamilton County near Georgia. The toll roads (M-CORES) are on the Workshop agenda for after the board meeting, along with Water Quality Review, Poe Springs, and Rum Island Park. There’s nothing about Nestlé, but that doesn’t have to stop you talking about it in Public Comments.

News reports say seven of nine positions have been filled, but their own Current Governing Board Members web page only shows five for the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) Board. That page says Virginia H. Johns is still the Chair, but last month she handed the gavel to Richard Schwab, even though he is still listead as the Vice Chair.

[Board, Drufner Tract]
Board, Drufner Tract

You can attend tomorrow morning’s meeting from anyway. If you want to speak, you must sign up on the public comment form as well as for the webinar and the voice call-in number.

The Meeting will be conducted via GoTo Webinar for Presentations Only

GoTo Webinar Link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6241426543382591502

Separate Call-In Number for Audio

Toll Free 1-888-585-9008 – Conference Room Number: 704-019-452 #

Public Comment Form Link: www.MySuwanneeRiver.com/Comments

Who’s the Chair? Who’s the Board?

Interesting note in the minutes from the 3PM September 8, 2020, meeting: Continue reading

Video: Cleanups, WWALS Boomerang, and wood pellet plant on Steve Nichols radio show 2020-10-06

On his radio show Tuesday morning, Steve Nichols asked me about the wood pellet plant proposed in Adel, Georgia.

We also talked about how you can vote yes on Georgia Constitutional Amendment 1 to fix fee diversions, bottle and can deposits, and how you can help stop Nestle from sucking up more of our aquifer water and making more plastic bottles we have to clean up.

This was in addition to the big cleanup this Saturday, the WWALS Boomerang paddle race from Georgia into Florida and back on October 24th, and the Halloween Full Hunter’s Moon paddle on Banks Lake. Here is video of what we said and links to more information.

Continue reading