Protect

Priority Issues

Georgia River Network supports the priority issues of the Georgia Water Coalition as well as other important issues facing rivers. Georgia River Network is focused on:

Protect the Okefenokee Swamp!

 

Photo by Tom Wilson

 

The future of Okefenokee Swamp is at risk. Act Now!

Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, an Alabama mining company, is seeking permission to to operate a heavy mineral sand mine in Charlton County adjacent to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Twin Pines’ mine is dangerously close to the refuge and could permanently alter the ancient geologic features that create the swamp and provide important wildlife habitat.

The Mine and Its Impacts

Twin Pines Minerals has requested permits to begin mining in January of 2020 for heavy sands that contain titanium along Trail Ridge, the ancient geologic formation that forms a boundary of the swamp. This project will affect over 500 acres of wetlands in a 12,000-acre site. The company proposes to excavate deep soils (up to 50 feet below the surface) that could significantly impact the flow of water in and around the swamp. The mining will result in the loss of 65 acres of wetlands and 4,658 linear feet of stream. Additionally, the operation will temporarily impact 522 acres of wetlands and 2,454 linear feet of stream. Alterations to groundwater flow or impacts to the swamp could impact the Suwannee and St. Mary’s rivers. In addition, the mining could impact imperiled species, including gopher tortoises, a candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.  Gopher tortoises are considered a “keystone” species on which other animals depend. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has written that “Should impacts occur, they may not be able to be reversed, repaired, or mitigated for.”

The Okefenokee Swamp

Photo by Tom Wilson

Covering 440,000 acres or 630 square miles, the Okefenokee is the largest blackwater swamp in North America and one of the world’s largest intact freshwater ecosystems. The swamp was designated a National Wildlife Refuge in 1937 and is the largest NWR east of the Mississippi. Since 1937 the protection has ensured the swamp remains largely unspoiled. “One of the coolest things about the Okefenokee is that it’s basically an intact ecosystem,” said Refuge Manager Michael Lusk, noting that the Everglades, while larger, had been ditched and drained. And while there once was logging in some parts of the Okefenokee, the swamp has been protected for more than 80 years. “What we have now is a large intact, functioning ecosystem and that is so rare, especially in the eastern U.S.”

 

Water Trails and Recreation

Photo by Tom Wilson

Today, 600,000 people visit each year to discover its amazing landscapes—including peat beds, island prairies, and cypress forests—and wildlife like American alligators, sandhill cranes, indigo snakes andgopher tortoises.  National Geographic named the Swamp one of the 100 most beautiful places on the planet. In 2015, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia was also identified as one of the top 10 canoe trips in the world by Green Global Travel.

The refuge is part of the National Water Trail System, one of only 21 designated trails in the U.S., in part because it requires an act of Congress.  The Okefenokee and the Suwannee River both have water trails that are part of Georgia River Network’s Water Trail System. The St. Mary’s trail is under development. To learn more about Georgia Water Trails, click here.

The swamp was formed 6500 years ago. The mining operation will last 8 years. As former Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbit once said “titanium is a common mineral while the Okefenokee is a very uncommon swamp.”

Please join Georgia River Network in protecting the swamp. Here’s what you can do to help: 

Attend a public hearing and make your voice heard!

Twin Pines will host two public meetings next month. This is a great opportunity to meet their representatives, express your concerns, and get more information.

Folkston Public Meeting: Tuesday, August 13, 2019 – 5:30 to 8:30 pm
Folkston Auditorium, 68 Kingsland Dr., Folkston, GA 31537

St. George Public Meeting: Wednesday, August 14, 2019 – 5:30 to 8:30 pm
Fire Station Number 2, 13063 Florida Ave., St. George, GA 31562.

Submit public comments before September 12th.

Twin Pines has applied for a permit to alter wetlands from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As part of the agency process, the Corps is accepting public comments until September 12, 2019. Anyone wishing to comment on this application for a Department of the Army permit should submit comments in writing to the Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, Attention: Ms. Holly Ross, 1104 North Westover Boulevard, Suite 9, Albany, Georgia, 31707, or by email to holly.a.ross@usace.army.mil

Email the Corps using the sample letter below. Don’t forget to sign your name and personalize your letter. Send us a copy so we can share your letters with our state and local leaders.

You can email your comment letter to holly.a.ross@usace.army.mil or mail to: Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, Attention: Ms. Holly Ross, 1104 North Westover Boulevard, Suite 9, Albany, Georgia, 31707 
* Refer to the applicant’s name (Twin Pines Minerals) and application number (SAS-2018-00554).

Sample Letter

Comment on Twin Pines – application #SAS-2018-00554

Dear Ms. Ross,

I am writing to express my concern for the application submitted by Twin Pines Minerals (SAS-2018-00554). I value the Okefenokee Swamp and do not want to see it degraded or permanently altered in any way.

Twin Pines’ proposal to mine for minerals deep into Trail Ridge adjacent to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge will likely have lasting and irreversible impacts. The company offers NO assurances that their mining operations, including the alteration of 500+ acres of wetlands, will protect the swamp from permanent damage or that they will protect the interest of the people who depend on that environment for recreation and economic opportunities.

I respectfully request that the US Army Corps of Engineers deny Twin Pines permission to implement their proposed mining plan. Because of the significant impacts the proposal will cause, your agency should:

• Require that an Environmental Impacts Statement be completed to investigate impacts to the Okefenokee Refuge, impacts to the surrounding environment and community, and any alternative actions that best support the interest of the public.
• Host public hearings to allow citizens the opportunity to share concerns and ask questions directly to the agency and the company.

Okefenokee Swamp is a rare and treasured public resource. The health of that system should not be put at risk by Twin Pines’ current proposal.

I also request that you share these comments with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division as part of the 401 Water Quality Certification process.

Thank you for your time and consideration of these comments.

Sincerely,

NAME
ADDRESS
CITY, STATE ZIP
PHONE #

Read the Letter to the Editor by Rena Peck Stricker in the Savannah Morning News.

 

Help Upgrade Water Quality Standards on Water Trails - Triennial Review
Georgia River Network believes all water trails should have water quality standards that protect their RECREATIONAL USE!

Help us work toward this goal by taking part in the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s (EPD) Triennial Review Process. Please complete GRN’s recreation survey, collect documentation, and submit a comment letter to EPD.

Facebook_Triennial Review 2 (1)Help Ensure Water Quality Standards Protect the Rivers Where You Recreate
Georgia River Network helps people experience the beauty of our state’s rivers and become involved in river protection. If you have fallen in love with a river and want to help increase protections for the rivers where you swim, paddle and recreate, we need your help now with making sure these rivers have appropriate water quality standards.

The Triennial Review
The water quality standards for our rivers are determined in part by how that river is used  – “the Designated Use.” Each Designated Use has its own set of standards in order of least protective to most protective including “Coastal Fishing,” “Fishing,” “Recreation,” and “Drinking Water Supplies.” “Recreation” is above “Fishing,” because a person comes into contact more with the water (in the rationale of how the standards are currently written. We know fisherman come into contact with the water). Not all waterways have a specific Designated Use listed, and in that case they are designated as fishing, the lowest designation. The Federal Clean Water Act requires the state to review water quality standards at least once every three years and revise these designations as needed. This is called the Triennial Review. The state accepts comments from the public to be considered in this process.

Opportunity to Upgrade Water Quality On Rivers Where You Recreate
Many of you paddle and swim in rivers that the state has designated as “Fishing.” This means there is an opportunity to upgrade the water quality standards on that section of your river to “Recreation.” This involves submitting evidence/documentation of such use as well as other information requested by the state in order for consideration.

Georgia River Network’s Water Trails Network
Georgia River Network would like to advocate that all water trails in the state receive recreation designation. In 2017, the state passed a resolution in support for water trails. Georgia River Network supports and networks the water trails throughout the state in our Georgia Water Trails Network. A water trail is a segment of river that has a put in and take out and meet many other criteria to help the public access and paddle the river safely. Georgia has 18 designated trails (that meet Georgia River Networks criteria) and 18 under development. Many of these trails that are already being paddled are designated as “Fishing.” GRN has a map that matches the Designated Use with the water trails to make it easy for you to find out the designation.

We Need Your Help NOW
While this is a 3 year process, getting involved earlier rather than later gives you more of an opportunity to help your river through the process. The state examines a variety of information such as whether recreation is occurring year round, water intakes and discharges, boat ramps, money invested in trails, support from communities etc.  They also seek input from stakeholders affected by changes.

How Can You Help?
We are reaching out to water trails, groups and interested citizens to take part in this process.

What do you need to do?

  1. Water Trails and Designated Use MapLook up your river or water trail on Georgia River Network’s map that overlays water trails and designated uses and see if it has “Recreation” designation. If it does not, and should, time to get to work. You can also view information on each water trail in our EPD Designated Uses on GA Water Trails Spreadsheet that lists each section and its designation.
  2. Collect information providing evidence of recreational use as well as other documentation requested and write a comment letter. Add this information into the appropriate Water Trail Folder. Riverkeepers have created a toolkit with graphics that you can use to help collect stories and data on your river segment, and a sample letter is available upon request.
  3. Provide Support for Georgia River Network’s EPD Comment letter on behalf of all water trails by completing this SUPER QUICK and EASY WATER TRAILS RECREATION SURVEY. We ask that all water trail representatives participate so they are represented.
  4. Communicate with Georgia River Network on your effort so that we can assist you with your comment letter and make sure that your information is also in the hands of Riverkeeper groups in your basin.
  5. Submit your Comment Letter 

EPD Public Notice and How to Comment
A public hearing was held to give the public an opportunity to comment on and provide items to be considered in this year’s Triennial Review and to serve as an official marker of the beginning of the 2019 Triennial Review process. Written comments may be emailed to EPD. Comments@dnr.state.ga.us or sent via regular mail addressed to: Elizabeth Booth, Manager, Watershed Planning and Monitoring Program, 2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Suite 1152, Atlanta, Georgia 30334.  If you choose to e-mail your comments, please include the words “Water Quality Standards 2019 Triennial Review” in the subject line to help ensure that your comments will be forwarded to the correct staff.

Click here for a sample letter.

Need Help?
Get in touch and ask us your questions. Let us know that you are participating. Email us at info@garivers.org or call 706-549-4508.  If you have specific questions about water trails, contact Gwyneth Moody at gwyneth@garivers.org

THANK YOU!!!!

 

 

Keep Coal Ash Out of Our Waters - Act Now

Coal ash is the waste left over from burning coal.  It contains toxic metals and cancer-causing chemicals. Learn more about how to help keep toxic coal ash from polluting our water.

Action Alert: We must stop coal waste from poisoning our water and our families. Take action now at http://www.protectgeorgia.org/grn.html

 

 

Trust Fund Honesty

The Georgia Constitution, as currently written, does not allow legislators to “dedicate” fees collected by the state to their intended use—whether to clean up environmental waste sites, fund teen driver programs or support training for peace officers. The fees collected are placed in the state general fund for allocation by state legislators as they deem fit, even though the bill creating the fee may say differently. GWC wants to see programs like the Solid Waste and Hazardous Waste Trust Funds receive the fees due so that EPD can clean up tire dumps, leaky landfills and contaminated properties. In 2018, HR 158 failed to pass out of the Senate before the end of the legislative session. Learn  more at http://www.protectgeorgia.org/grn.html

Stream Buffers to Protect Rivers

The Georgia Water Coalition is continuing its intensive efforts to re-establish buffer protections on all state waters, after this vital water quality protection was limited by a 2015 Georgia Supreme Court decision. The Coalition is working with legislators on a simple, logical fix to ensure these vital protections continue to apply to our lakes, rivers and streams. Learn more at http://www.protectgeorgia.org/grn.html

 

Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Amendment

The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act (HB 332) and companion legislation calling for voter approval in a referendum this fall (HR 238) were both overwhelmingly passed by the State Legislature.The measures dedicates a portion of the existing state sales and use tax to the conservation of the state’s lands, waters and wildlife. HB 332 will now go to the desk of Governor Nathan Deal to be signed into law. HR 238 was on the ballot and approved by voters in November. Learn more at https://www.georgiaoutdoorstewardship.org/ 

Georgia River Network

126 South Milledge Avenue, Suite E3, Athens, Georgia 30605 | (706) 549-4508 (phone) | (706) 549-7791 (fax) | info@garivers.org