Category Archives: River

Water level reschedule: Mayor’s paddle, Withlacoochee River 2021-03-27

Valdosta, Georgia, February 25, 2021 — “We’re rescheduling four weeks later, for 8AM, Saturday, March 27, 2021,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Right now, where we usually park the boats at the end of the paddle is under water. The Withlacoochee River is spread out in the flood plain, increasing possibility of people getting tipped over by overhanging branches. So a month later makes a lot more sense for attracting novice paddlers.”

[Spook Bridge this week and last year]
Spook Bridge this week and last year
Spook Bridge almost 20 feet different.
Photos: John S. Quarterman 2021-02-23 at 107.5′ NAVD88 or above sea level (24′ above the riverbed),
Gretchen Quarterman 2020-01-18 at 88′ NAVD88 (4.5′).

“With the Withlacoochee River still hovering around flood stage, myself and WWALS, in consultation with Lowndes County Emergency Management Director Ashley Tye, have decided to postpone the Mayor’s Paddle ’till Saturday, March 27, at 8AM. We again ask everyone with a love for our area blueways to mark that date and join us for a great day of fellowship on the river!”

“As always, I will give a good safety briefing, ” said expedition leader Bobby McKenzie. “Wear your PFD and stick with the group. But conditions should be much better for novice paddlers in a few weeks.”

“Better safe than sorry!” said WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman. “This Saturday you can still come to our Banks Lake Full Moon Paddle, to see the sun set and the moon rise, and maybe see bats fly out. Gather at 5:45 PM at Banks Lake Boat Ramp, 307 Georgia 122, Lakeland, GA 31635, in Lanier County. We do those every full moon, plus at least one daytime river paddle a month, in Florida or Georgia. At all outings during this pandemic, we’ll be testing temperatures with an infrared thermometer as people arrive. If you’re ill in any way, please stay home.”

When: Gather 8 AM, launch 10 AM, end 4 PM, Saturday, March 27, 2021

Put In: Troupville Boat Ramp, 19664 Valdosta Hwy, Valdosta, GA 31602: on GA 133 off I-75 exit 18, in Lowndes County.

GPS: 30.851842, -83.346536

Directions: Head west from Valdosta on GA 133 (St. Augustine Road), cross I-75 and the Withlacoochee River, and at the light for Val Tech Road turn left into the park around Troupville Boat Ramp.

Come as early as 8 AM 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.”

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 and to a midway lunch stop for this outing, and for water quality testing.

“Speaking of river access, some of you are aware that it’s a long walk up from the Withlacoochee River below Spook Bridge to Old Quitman Highway. Not to worry: when we do this paddle, WWALS will have a 16-foot trailer to haul boats and a golf cart for people who don’t want to walk the quarter mile up to the road. At the midpoint, we will also have a truck and trailer waiting to haul out the (few, we hope) people who want to get out there. Thanks again to The Langdale Company for access to both places,” said WWALS member Steve Miller, who is supplying the golf cart.

“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.” added Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “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 at the site of historic Troupville, the Lowndes County seat before Valdosta. The entrance road is the old north-south Broad Street of Troupville, which continues into the woods. That greatly simplifies planning for the future Troupville River Park. Paddling a few thousand feet, we come to the Little River Confluence with the WIthlacoochee, with its view of rivers in three directions. The Confluence is in the private Land Between the Rivers (LBTR), which you can help become part of Troupville River Park. Just upstream on the Withlacoochee is the future site of a paddle boat take-out for Troupville River Camp, with screened-in sleeping platforms and bathrooms with hot and cold running water and air conditioning. Paddle on down the Withlacoochee River and see the turtles, birds, fish, and cypress and pine trees.

The clean water outfall from Valdosta’s Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) makes an impressive waterfall. Valdosta now tests three times a week on forty river miles from US 41 to the state line, which is one big way we know the river is clean from E. coli most of the time, along with twice-weekly downstream testing by Madison Health in Florida, and tests by WWALS, plus occasional bacterial tests and DNA marker and chemical tracer data from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. WWALS will also test the water quality from the river the Thursday before the paddle. See https://wwals.net/issues/testing/

We will pass several creeks, and the notorious Sabal Trail methane pipeline. If the river stays up somewhat, we will float right over County Line Shoals, just upstream from US 84. Just below US 84 is a railroad bridge, and around the last bend is Spook Bridge, so famous it has its own movie. We take out on the left bank just below the bridge.

Bring: the usual personal flotation device, boat, paddles, food, drinking water, warm clothes, and first aid kit. Also trash pickers and trash bags: every WWALS outing is also a cleanup.

Free: This outing is free to WWALS members, and $10 (ten dollars) for non-members. You can pay the $10 at the outing, or online:
https://wwals.net/donations/#outings

We recommend you support the work of WWALS by becoming a WWALS member today!
https://wwals.net/donations/#join

Event: facebook, meetup Continue reading

Spook Bridge in minor flood, Withlacoochee River 2021-02-23

The Withlacoochee River is a tad high for novice paddlers.

[Takeout flooded, eddies upstream, boat parking flooded, muddy entrance road]
Takeout flooded, eddies upstream, boat parking flooded, muddy entrance road

Yesterday the Withlacoochee River was at 107.5′ NAVD 1988 (feet above sea level), or 24′ old-style above the riverbed. Minor flood stage starts at 104′, and Action stage at 99′. With no more rain predicted this week, currently it’s expected to be down about 100.5′ by Saturday noon. Continue reading

The regulatory trap at SRWMD: 30 speakers, yet unanimous Nestle permit 2021-02-23

A textbook case: “We present our three-minute, passionate oration about the risk to community health, but in the end, nothing we say must be taken into account by the state in issuing the permit.&rdqup; Common Sense: Community Rights Organizing, by CELDF; thanks to Karma Norjin Lhamo for the reminder.

[Mermaid, Suwannee Riverkeeper, OSFR, Regulatory Fallacy, Charles Keith, Attorneys, Motion to Permit, unanimous SRWMD Board]
Mermaid, Suwannee Riverkeeper, OSFR, Regulatory Fallacy, Charles Keith, Attorneys, Motion to Permit, unanimous SRWMD Board

About 30 speakers gave impassioned orations for denial, after which the Suwannee River Water Management District Board unanimously approved the Nestlé permit as fast as the roll could be called.

[SRWMD Board: Larry Thompson, Lower Suwannee Basin; Charles Keith, At Large; Virginia H. Johns, Chair, At Large; Virginia Sanchez, At Large; Charles Schwab, Coastal Rivers Basin; Harry Smith, At Large; Larry Sessions, Upper Suwannee Basin]
SRWMD Board: Larry Thompson, Lower Suwannee Basin; Charles Keith, At Large; Virginia H. Johns, Chair, At Large; Virginia Sanchez, At Large; Charles Schwab, Coastal Rivers Basin; Harry Smith, At Large; Larry Sessions, Upper Suwannee Basin. Notice nobody on the SRWMD Board representing the Santa Fe River Basin. Water taxation without representation.

As one prominent local activist said afterwards, “Two years out of my life I’ll never get back! I don’t know if I’ll ever come back here.”

Sure, voting in a governor who would appoint better WMD board members would help, and into the legislature, too. New legislators would help pass what is really needed: a Bill of Rights for Nature.

That is a way out of the Regulatory Fallacy Box. Continue reading

Pictures: Allen Ramp to SRSP with shoals and springs –Gretchen Quarterman 2019-06-01

Two photographers, three cameras, one outing: Allen Ramp to Suwannee River State Park, past Double Window Spring, Morgan Spring Run, Powerline Spring, Corbett Spring, Withlacoochee River, Suwannee River, and Suwanacoochee Spring, plus that chair on the old road bridge buttress, and let’s not forget Battery Shoals, Wipe-Out Shoals, Deer Shoals, Deer Shoals, and Melvin Shoals, where 1/3 of our paddlers (starting with me) fell in. Thanks, Shirley Kokidko for leading us from Allen Ramp to Suwannee River State Park, June 1, 2019.

[Left: Allen Ramp, Corbett Spring; Right: Melvin Shoals, Suwanacoochee Spring]
Left: Allen Ramp, Corbett Spring; Right: Melvin Shoals, Suwanacoochee Spring

We started at Allen Ramp. All pictures are by Gretchen Quarterman, except where marked jsq, when I took them. Click on any small picture for a bigger one. All the pictures are also on the WWALS website. Continue reading

Clean downstream Friday Withlacoochee River 2021-02-19

Good news downstream on the Withlacoochee River!

Madison Health reported good downstream numbers for Thursday, February 18, 2021, despite more than an inch of rain at every gauge we follow. WWALS testers confirmed that for Friday, with good results from Nankin Boat Ramp to below Allen Ramp. It looks like rainwater from upstream is finally diluting and washing down the contamination downstream rain put into the river.

[Good downstream, shoals now underwater, Swim Guide red and green]
Good downstream, shoals now underwater, Swim Guide red and green

We also see no obvious signs of contamination from the last Sunday and Monday Tifton sewage spills, which is not unexpected since they were so far upstream. We don’t know what effect the one upstream of the Little River might have had on Reed Bingham State Park, because we have no volunteers to test that stretch.

The weather is looking good for the Mayor’s Paddle from Troupville Boat Ramp to Spook Bridge on Saturday, February 27, 2021. It didn’t rain yesterday, and the only rain predicted for the next week is for Monday. So risks of contamination are low. However, the rivers are very high, still expected to be ten feet higher than we’ve ever paddled that stretch before. That’s not necessarily a problem for paddling, because it’s a long wide stretch with no real risks of getting lost in the floodplain, no deadfalls, and few overhanging branches. However, we will have to check to see if we can even get in by land at Spook Bridge and the midpoint, not to mention at Troupville Boat Ramp. The US 84 gauge prediction is 107 feet NAVD 88 for Thursday, which is about 27 feet higher than when we rescheduled Thursday three weeks ago. We will go look and let you all know. Continue reading

Help SRWMD reject Nestle permit 2021-02-23

You can help the Suwannee River Water Management District Board uphold the public interest and reject Nestlé’s water withdrawal permit application.

[Agenda, Board, No Permit]
Agenda, Board, No Permit

Even SRWMD’s legal counsel only recommends approving the Seven Springs permit “under protest.” The DOAH judge’s Order is actually only a RECOMMENDATION, and the District filed eighteen pages of exceptions to that Order. The judge disallowed most of those exceptions, but SRWMD is still holding open the possibility of appeal with that “under protest”.

The Judge’s Order dances around the basic question: is putting water in plastic bottles after taking it from the Floridan Aquifer next to a depleted river and springs, all for profit of a Swiss company, in the public interest? Florida law and the judge attempt to narrow what can be considered down what can be considered for the public interest to what is in Florida rules or a handbook, even though none of those adequately address the real issues. The plain fact is that a contract to sell water does not determine any public interst in cleaning up plastic bottles from our springs and rivers, nor does it determine any public interest in lower springs and rivers, with bad effects on wildlife, public use of those waters, and eventually on drinking water.

The SRWMD board can deny this permit because it is not in the public interest. You can help them do so.

It almost looks like the SRWMD counsel is asking people to come protest, since he repeatedly mentions that Our Santa Fe River (OSFR) filed legal motions and both Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson and Michael Roth spoke in the legal hearing. Disclosure: WWALS has provided some financial support for OSFR’s legal actions in this matter.

If you’re going to attend this Special Meeting in person, get there early to get a spot. To attend online, be sure to sign up for both the webinar and cal in for audio. If you want to comment, you must also sign up for that separately. Don’t wait for the second day: if that happens at all, there will be no public comment.

So come early on the first day, in person or online, Tuesday, February 23, 2021.

The entire SRWMD Special Meeting Board packet is on the WWALS website: https://www.wwals.net/pictures/2021-02-23–srwmd-nestle-special-meeting-packet/

Here is the agenda, with how to attend online: Continue reading

WWALS water trail signs on WALB TV about river levels 2021-02-18

Update 2021-02-21: Water levels discussed in Clean downstream Friday Withlacoochee River 2021-02-19.

Hat tip to Suzy Hall for spotting the WWALS water trail signs at Troupville Boat Ramp on TV yesterday.

[Left: Troupville Boat Ramp; Right: YMCA, Statenville Boat Ramp]
Left: Troupville Boat Ramp; Right: YMCA, Statenville Boat Ramp

Yes, that’s the WWALS Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail (WLRWT) sign at Troupville Boat Ramp. Jennifer Morejon, WALB TV, February 18, 2021, Heavy rain causing river level concerns for South Georgia.

Water levels and rainfall are indeed a concern, especially as they affect water quality. See for example this week’s Tifton Sewage Spills 2021-02-16. Continue reading

Tifton Sewage Spills 2021-02-16

Update 2021-02-21: Nothing obvious related to the Tifton spills in downstream testing; see Clean downstream Friday Withlacoochee River 2021-02-19.

The City of Tifton spilled three places, for a total of 35,500 gallons of raw sewage, Sunday and Tuesday, February 14 and 16, 2021. Why? “Wet weather.” It’s true that an inch of rain fell on Tifton Saturday, an inch and a half Sunday, and almost another inch Tuesday.

Any spill is too many. However, these were all so far upstream that probably will not show up in any of the downstream water quality testing currently going on. It would be good to get some testing on the Little River between Tifton and Reed Bingham State Park to see if Tifton Spills reach that park.

[Spills, Locations]
Spills, Locations

One spill location was repeated: Agrirama Lake, which drains into the Little River. Tifton previously spilled there in 2015, 2016, and 2018. See Continue reading

Not looking good, Withlacoochee River 2021-02-16

Update 2021-02-21: Clean downstream Friday Withlacoochee River 2021-02-19.

As usual, heavy rains washed contamination into the Withlacoochee River, first detected by Madison Health Tuesday at State Line and FL 6, although oddly Sullivan Launch @ CR 150 was within the one-time sample limit for E. coli.

[Chart, Gauges, Swim Guide map]
Chart, Gauges, Swim Guide map

The good news: with so much rain, the contamination will probably be diluted and washed downstream rapidly.

The bad news: more rain likely coming. And there’s more cattle manure that can wash down Okapilco Creek into the Withlacoochee River. Plus with the Withlacoochee River rising in Valdosta, and more rain falling on Valdosta and Quitman, will we see manhole sewage spills?

We hope to have WWALS results for today ready by tomorrow (Friday), and most likely FDEP will publish Madison Health results, as well. Possibly even Valdosta will publish their Wednesday results by Friday.

We also have a surprising spot check in Drexel Park, and Valdosta’s last week results, which fit with the Madison Health and WWALS results. Continue reading

Adams Tract River Camping, Suwannee River, Hardenbergh Boat Ramp, 2021-03-06

Join us for pre-spring on the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail in Florida! We will paddle 8 miles on the Suwannee River the first day, and 10 miles on the second day, after camping at Adams Tract River Camp. There are many springs along the way.

We will check temperatures with an infrared thermometer, and everyone will be expected to keep their distance from people not in their party, and to wear masks when closer than six feet. Self shuttle if you can (have a close friend or relative shuttle you), or join the team shuttle from the takeout back to the put-in; see below.

River Camp platforms are available on first-come first-serve basis so, plan for primitive camping.

When:
Gather 9:30 AM, launch 11 AM, end overnight, Saturday, March 6, 2021
Gather 8 AM, launch 9 AM, end 2 PM, Sunday, March 7, 2021

Put In: Hardenbergh Boat Ramp. From Mayo, travel east on US 27 to NE CR 361; turn left; travel north to NE CR 354; cross over to NE Pecan Avenue; turn right on NE River Road and follow to the boat ramp, in Lafayette County.

GPS: 30.0903, -83.111903

Take Out: Ivey Memorial Park Ramp, in Branford on the south side of US 27 at the Bridge in Ivey Memorial Park, in Suwannee County.

Bring: primitive camping gear, the usual personal flotation device, boat, paddles, food, drinking water, warm clothes, and first aid kit. Also trash pickers and trash bags: every WWALS outing is also a cleanup.

Free: This outing is free to WWALS members, and $10 (ten dollars) for non-members. You can pay the $10 at the outing, or online:
https://wwals.net//donations/#outings

We recommend you support the work of WWALS by becoming a WWALS member today!
https://wwals.net/donations/#join

Event: facebook, meetup

[Adams Tract River Camp, map, Suwannee River Wilderness Trail]
Adams Tract River Camp, map, Suwannee River Wilderness Trail

Continue reading