Suwannee paddle for Visit Suwannee County + FL 6 & State Line 2020-10-16

The movie extras took a side trip up Sugar Creek on a 1.5 mile paddle down the Suwannee River from Suwannee Springs, after the old 93rd Drive bridge, pursued by the Suwannee County Sheriff, to the Suwannee Canoe Outpost at the Music Park.

[Sheriff, Suwannee Riverkeeper banner, Gretchen]
Sheriff, Suwannee Riverkeeper banner, Gretchen, departing Suwannee Springs beach

Thanks to Charissa Setzer of Visit Suwannee County, Florida for the invitation for paddlers to be videoed for a tourism advertisement.

Thanks to Bret Miller of NWXpeditions and Mylinda Greene for the mini-distanced-shuttle. Thanks to Dawn and Lisa of Madison Outpost Adventures for joining us, along with Steven E. Scott of Luxury Lawns, Gretchen Quarterman, and John S. Quarterman.

NWX and MOA along with VSU CORE are outfitter sponsors of the WWALS Boomerang paddle race from Georgia into Florida and back, coming up next Saturday, October 24, 2020, at State Line Boat Ramp on the Withlacoochee River.

[Third Annual WWALS Boomerang]
Third Annual WWALS Boomerang

Thanks to Steve of Suwannee Canoe Outpost for the take-out hospitality.

Also thanks to the Sheriff’s deputy for helping carry my boat up at Suwannee Canoe Outpost.

See also facebook pictures by

All us paddlers are now officially models, since we each signed a model release.

Suwannee Springs

Click on any small picture to see a larger one. Continue reading

Agenda: WWALS Quarterly Board Meeting 2020-10-18

Here is the agenda for today’s 2PM WWALS Quarterly Board Meeting. The public is invited. We will be meeting online by zoom, so you don’t even have to go anywhere.

When: 2PM, Sunday, October 18, 2020

Where: Online: see below for the zoom parameters and the agenda.

Event: facebook

Much of the work of WWALS is done by committees of members, and many of them have some good results to report. If you’d like to join a committee, please fill out the application.

[Agenda]
Agenda pages (follow the link to read the agenda)

The board itself does most of its business online via email, but it’s good to have these gatherings once a quarter.

The current board members, officers, and staff are listed on the Board web page.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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

Agenda

See also PDF. Continue reading

Very clean Withlacoochee River 2020-10-15

Water quality results from WWALS and Madison Health for Thursday and from Valdosta for Wednesday concur: happy boating, swimming, and fishing on the Withlacoochee River this weekend!

While all such results are merely advisory, because conditions can change very quickly, also there has been very little rain to wash anything into the river, and no reported sewage spills.

[KF, Nankin, State Line, Results, Swim Guide, plate]
KF, Nankin, State Line, Results, Swim Guide, plate

WWALS testers Michael and Jacob Bachrach got 33 cfu/100 mL E. coli at Knights Ferry Boat Ramp for Thursday, October 15, 2020, and zero for Nankin and State Line Boat Ramps. Continue reading

Ashburn spilled sewage three times in September 2020-09-27

Update 2020-10-17: Very clean Withlacoochee River 2020-10-15.

Ashburn, Georgia, spilled 210,000 gallons of raw sewage spread over three times in September and the public only got notified Wednesday, four weeks after the first spill. There’s not enough water quality testing data downstream from those spills to know what effects they may have had for example on Reed Bingham State Park.

[Charts and Map: Ashburn spills to GA-FL line]
Charts and Map: Ashburn spills to GA-FL line

Ashburn spilled once into Hat Creek, which runs into the Alapaha River, and twice from its MLK Lift Station into a tributary of Ashburn Branch, which runs into the Little River. We don’t have any data downstream on the Alapaha for that time period, so we don’t know anything about downstream effects. We do have quite a bit of downstream data for the other two spills, but so far downstream and with so many other things going on that it’s hard to tell if there were any effects showing up in that data.

About the only thing we know for sure is it would be great for Ashburn to get a grip on its chronic sewage spill problem, starting by at least reporting spills in a timely manner. That and it would be great if the state of Georgia or the federal government would resume testing on the Little and Alapaha Rivers as they apparently used to do up until about 1998, so we would know, for example, did this spill affect Reed Bingham State Park.

These are the spills, as reported in the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) Sewage Spills Report. WWALS commends GA-EPD for those online reports. GA-EPD can’t publish spills until it receives reports from the spilling organizaiton. Maybe Ashburn could be a bit more timely in reporting. 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!

Video: WWALS Boomerang on Scott James Radio 2020-10-13

It was amusing and useful to talk with Scott James on his radio show this morning, about the WWALS Boomerang paddle race from Georgia into Florida and back (tickets still $20 through Thursday, then $30), about cleanups and please vote Yes on Georgia Amendment 1 to stop state fee trust fund diversions, about the Halloween Blue Hunter’s Moon paddle on Banks Lake (wear your costume), and about water quality testing and Eco-Tourism.


[WWALS Boomerang]
WWALS Boomerang

Here are links to videos of each topic, reorganized a bit, plus some explanations. Continue reading

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

WWALS Boomerang and Mayor’s Paddle –Suwannee Riverkeeper on Scott James radio 2020-10-13

Tuesday morning at 8AM, Suwannee Riverkeeper will be on Scott James Talk 92.1 FM radio, about the WWALS Boomerang paddle race from Georgia into Florida and back again.

We’ll also talk about the Halloween Full Hunter’s Moon Paddle, the Floyd’s Island Okefenokee Swamp paddle in early November, the Solstice Light Parade on Banks Lake on December 19, the Mayor’s Paddle on the Withlacoochee River in February, the recent successful cleanup, and of course water quality testing.

Oh, yes: please vote Yes on Georgia constitutional Amendment 1, to dedicate state fees and taxes to their state purpose, so for example tire fees actually get used for tire amnesties, so we don’t have to drag as many tires out of our creeks and rivers.

Since the real trash problem is the companies that make it, you can help stop Nestlé from sucking up still more water from the Floridan Aquifer, depleting our rivers, springs, and wells, to make more plastic bottles that we would have to clean up out of our springs, creeks, and rivers.

[WWALS Boomerang --Suwanee Riverkeeper on Scott James Radio]
WWALS Boomerang –Suwanee Riverkeeper on Scott James Radio

The radio interview

When: 8 AM, Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Where: Talk 92.1 FM radio, Scott James drivetime show
http://talk921.com/

Listen: Over the air, or through the radio show’s own website, or through any of several online listening services.

Event: facebook

WWALS Boomerang paddle race

On Saturday, October 24, 2020, there’s the Third Annual WWALS Boomerang paddle race from Georgia into Florida and back.

Tickets to the WWALS Boomerang are $20 online through Ocotber 15, then $30 at the event.
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wwals-boomerang-paddle-race-2020-tickets-118844038719?aff=efbeventtix

For much more, follow this link: wwals.net/pictures/2020-10-24–boomerang/ Continue reading

Green to go, Little and Withlacoochee Rivers 2020-10-08

Happy boating, swimming, and fishing this weekend!

[Green Swim Guide and test results]
Green Swim Guide and test results

The opposite of last week’s advisory, this week all testers show quite clean results up and down the Withlacoochee River, and at Cook County Boat Ramp on the Little River, too. Continue reading

WWALS Solstice Light Parade 2020-12-19

Deck your canoe, kayak, jon boat and the like with lights and we’ll do a short excursion out on the lake and bring it back in for fanfare and judging for this end of the year fundraising event. We will have monetary prizes for 1, 2, and 3rd places. We have a 3:00 PM start time to help with onsite boat decorations.

Marking the winter solstice and the ending of 2020 with a decorated evening lighted boat parade and contest with hot chocolate and cookies. Second annual of the first event of its kind in this area.

Please go all out with lights for your boat (glow sticks work well, or head lamp, flashlight, etc.) so other boaters can see you in the dark, and it’s a light parade! It will be very dark after sunset, with no moon, so everyone will see your lighted boats parading.

[Light Parade 2020]
Light Parade 2020
PDF

Prizes! $100 First Prize, $50 Second Prize, $50 Third Prize.

Tickets are $10 for each person entering (yes, even for WWALS members; it’s a fundraiser).
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wwals-solstice-light-parade-tickets-124630460061
We recommend you support the work of WWALS by becoming a WWALS member today!
http://wwals.net/donations/#join

When: Gather 3:00 PM, launch 5:15 PM, end 7:00 PM,
Saturday, December 19, 2020

Put In: Banks Lake Boat Ramp, Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuge, 307 Georgia 122, Lakeland, GA 31635

GPS 31.034824, -83.096725

ARWT: Banks Lake is part of the WWALS Alapaha River Water Trail (ARWT).

Take Out: Banks Lake Boat Ramp

Bring: Continue reading