See also Press Releases.
News Stories about WWALS
- 2020-08-01: Staff reports, Albany Herald, 1 August 2020, Georgia Power grant will allow for more water quality testing of state rivers (see WWALS press release)
- 2020-07-29: Pat Mueller, WCTV, 29 July 2020, WWALS Watershed Coalition to use grant money for more water testing (see WWALS press release)
Amber Spradley, WCTV, 13 July 2020,
Withlacoochee River contaminated in parts of South Georgia and North Florida (
WWALS blog post),
“Right now, the results are not good,” Suwannee [Riverkeeper] John [S.] Quarterman said.
For counts of E. coli, Quarterman says anything less than 410 is okay, but zero is always ideal.
On Saturday, his team discovered numbers as high as 5,233 just west of Clyattville at the Knights Ferry Boat Ramp in Lowndes County.
“Every time this happens, they immediately point and say it’s Valdosta,” Quarterman said. “Well, this time it’s almost certainly not Valdosta.”
The high data was collected just below the city from Knights Ferry Boat Ramp to Madison Blue Spring in Florida.
“You know it’s something that we’re continuing to keep an eye on, but as far as the numbers around the city of Valdosta, those have all stayed relatively low,” the City of Valdosta’s PIO Ashlyn Johnson said.
City crews test the river three times a week for 40 river miles down to the Georgia-Florida line….
John S. Quarterman, Gainesville Sun, 1 July 2020,
Watered-down bill won’t fix water quality issues,
Gov. Ron DeSantis just signed into law SB 712, the so-called “Clean Waterways Act,” which falls far short of that mark.
This bill has been praised by its supporters as one of the most environmentally progressive pieces of legislation in over a decade. Yet after the cuts and rollbacks to our environmental regulations by the last state administration, that isn’t saying much. The bill pays lip service to most of Florida’s major sources of pollution, but lacks the specificity and enforceability to actually solve any of the problems.
The bill directs the establishment of a “real-time water quality monitoring program” but allocates no funds for it. It says nothing about detecting contamination in rivers (whether from out-of-state or local sources) and following its travel downstream, and nothing about alerting the public in a timely manner.
The bill allows agricultural violators of Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) to self-monitor their own water quality. Assessments are required only every five years, and then only for undefined “reasonable progress” with no realistic methods to reach 20-year goals.
Proponents of the bill claim that it implements recommendations of the Blue Green Algae Task Force, but even those common sense, albeit vague, recommendations will not be achieved through the implementation of SB 712. For example, the Task Force recommended that projected changes in demographics, land use and hydrology should be incorporated into the BMAP process.
With 1,000 people moving to Florida every day, over the 20-year life of a BMAP millions of people and their new homes will have added strain to our already-stressed natural resources. A BMAP that does not anticipate these changes and incorporate a plan to deal with them is destined to fail. Unfortunately, SB 712 ignores the common-sense recommendations and doubles down on the ineffective BMAP system that has resulted in the water quality crisis that we are in today.
Furthermore, the bill fails to meaningfully address one of the largest sources of nutrient pollution in our state: agriculture. The Task Force recommended….
Jen Lomberk, Orlando Sentinel, 1 July 2020,
Clean Waterways Act won&lrquo;t fix water quality | Commentary,
…If that weren’t bad enough, a late-stage amendment added a provision that would preempt local governments from passing Rights of Nature regulations, a growing international movement that recognizes species and ecosystems as entities with rights of their own that could be protected in a court of law.
Despite months of advocacy and proposed amendments by Waterkeepers Florida, Sierra Club, and Florida Springs Council, SB 712, in its final form, falls far short of the measures needed to halt and reverse the decline of our state’s waterways. We no longer have the luxury of taking incremental steps to try to address our water quality issues. We need strong, enforceable, science-based regulations that protect our waters now. SB 712 does not do that.
Jen Lomberk is the Matanzas Riverkeeper and the Vice-Chair of Waterkeepers Florida — the collective of the 13 independent Waterkeeper organizations working in Florida to protect and restore our water resources.
Amanda M. Usher, Valdosta Daily Times (also Moultrie Observer), 27 June 2020,
Watching over the Waters: WWALS sponsors paddles, songwriting contest
WWALS sponsors paddles, songwriting contest (WWALS blog post,
Photo: Gretchen Quarterman, Paddle Georgia from Spook Bridge, between Quitman and Valdosta, GA, Withlacoochee River, June 15, 2019.
“We’re not just a paddling organization,” Quarterman said. “… We do paddles, but we’re also an advocacy organization. We want to do conservation of stewardship.”
Quarterman is about awareness. He strives to bring attention to the rivers’ existence and informing people they can make use of the recreational rivers by boating or fishing.
“Getting people out there on the rivers to see what it is they are trying to conserve and protect is really important because until you see it for yourself, you’re not really appreciating the beauty of these rivers,” he said.
- 2020-06-16: Valdosta Today, 16 June 2020, Suwannee Riverkeeper hosts annual songwriting contest, See WWALS press release.
2020-05-22: Valdosta Daily Times, May 22, 2020,
QUARTERMAN: Strip mine would endanger swamp,
see WWALS blog post,
Signs at Exits 18 and 16 from I-75 say “Okefenokee Swamp, Stephen C. Foster State Park, 62 miles,” in hopes travellers will stay in Valdosta first.
The Swamp is the headwaters of the Suwannee River, a favorite paddling, birding, and fishing location of many people from here. The smoke from the 2017 West Mims Okefenokee fire reached Valdosta. Charlton County thanked Lowndes County for sending assistance.
Unfortunately, in the aftermath of that fire, some miners from Alabama bought up land…
- 2020-05-07: The Patch, reposting the Georgia Recorder article.
2020-05-05: Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder,
State calls for Valdosta to pay six-figure fine for spilling sewage in river,
See WWALS blog post and
WWALS blog post.
Sara Jones with the Suwannee Riverkeeper prepares to test the water at the Withlacoochee River following a December sewage spill. A Georgia Environmental Protection Division consent order calls for the city of Valdosta to pay a $122,000 fine for sewage spills and permit violations. Scotti Jones
2020-04-07: Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder, April 7, 2020,
Time running short for public to comment on Okefenokee mining plan,
Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman isn’t buying into Twin Pines assurances about the Charlton County mine leaving the groundwater, surface streams and swamp in the same shape as before mining starts.
“Why would we think (Twin Pines) would stop with just a nibble of Trail Ridge in Georgia?” he said. “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.”
2020-03-31: Nedra Rhone, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 31, 2020,
New mining application near Okefenokee proposes ‘demonstration’ project,
Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman said a growing coalition of environmental organizations still wants the Corps to require an environmental impact statement from Twin Pines that would include impacts to Trail Ridge, Okefenokee Swamp and the St. Marys and Suwannee rivers.
- 2020-03-30: Valdosta Today, 30 March 2020, Suwanee Song Writer Competition Open April 1st, See WWALS press release.
- 2020-03-20: Valdosta Today, 20 March 2020, WWALS Earth Day Cleanup Postponed, See WWALS press release.
Gordon Jackson, Brunswick News, March 18, 2020,
Twin Pines submits new permit application,
Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman said Twin Pines is already under a Florida consent order, along with Chemours, for violations at four mines just south of the Georgia state line. The Suwannee River’s headwaters are in the Okefenokee.
- 2020-03-16: Gainesville Sun, March 16, 2020, John S. Quarterman: More testing needed to track river pollution, See WWALS blog post.
Amber Spradley, WCTV, 26 February 2020,
Madison community fed up with contaminated water (WWALS blog post),
Still from video of Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman testing the Withlacoochee at Troupville Boat Ramp, taken by Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 15 January 2020, Withlacoochee River tested ahead of Mayor’s Paddle.
We applaud U.S. Rep. Al Lawson for taking a stand to protect the future of the Okefenokee Swamp.
It was an honor to arrange a flight for his staff to see this firsthand. Congratulations to Suwannee Riverkeeper and all of our partners who work tirelessly to protect this fragile and beautiful ecosystem for future generations!
No byline, Valdosta Today, February 26, 2020 (see WWALS PR):
LAKELAND, Ga. — The [WWALS] Watershed Coalition will host a boating Gear Swap event March 7, 2020. Boat and paddling enthusiasts will gather to trade, buy, and sell their materials with others. Since this event will occur on Banks Lake, attendees are welcome to test out their new equipment at any time throughout the event.
- 2020-02-22: Monty Stephens, Lake City Reporter, February 22-23, 2020, Paddling for Great Cause — Clean Water in Our Rivers (WWALS blog post, and see WWALS PR)
- 2020-01-29: Valdosta Today, 29 January 2020, Tests Reveal More Positive Results for E. Coli,
LOWNDES CO., Ga. – Since the December 2019 City of Valdosta raw sewage spill of 7.5 million gallons into the Withlacoochee River, local WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc., testers have been reporting frequent positive results of E. coli.
On January 26, 2020, WWALS’ certified water tester Suzy Hall tested Knights Ferry Boat Ramp. Her PetriFilms (pictured below) revealed a 500 count for E. coli, and a much higher, more dangerous count at the State Line Boat Ramp (GA 31) of 1233.
“I’m saddened. I feel like these numbers are conservative because I only counted the obvious larger purples, whereas some of the typical small ‘reds’ could be purple,” said Hall of the test results. “I honestly cannot rule that out. The sheer numbers of bacteria is horrid though.”…
- 2020-01-22: News coverage, Mayor’s Paddle, and Task Force meeting Thursday in Lake City
- 2020-01-20: Desiree Carver, Valdosta Daily Times, top of the front page, January 20, 2020, Gently Down the Stream: Mayor’s Paddle tours Withlacoochee:
Mayor’s Paddle tours Withlacoochee,
[New Valdosta Mayor Scott James] Matheson said in his new role as mayor, he hopes to help and plans to tackle such improvements as manhole rehabilitation, adding extra signs, performing more testing and electronic meters.
- 2020-01-20: Emma Wheeler, WCTV video, January 20, 2020, First annual Mayor’s Paddle brings dozens on the river,
The event was organized as a response to ongoing sewage spills, and near constant concerns from communities downstream in North Florida.
- 2020-01-20: Robin Postell, Valdosta Today, January 20, 2020, “Mayor’s Paddle” Beautiful, but Stigma Remains,
Also present was Madison County Commissioner Rick Davis, who put in with the group at 10 a.m. Not only is Davis concerned about the health of his community in Madison County, he’s concerned about that stigma and how that will [a]ffect eco-tourism. At a recent public City of Valdosta meeting he said, “How do we go about repairing the reputation of our river? Where do we go from here?”
Davis’ presence and participation in the paddle demonstrated his ongoing willingness to not merely confront, but collaborate with the City of Valdosta to help solve the problem going forward.
“The river is beautiful and we just want to keep it that way,” Davis said at the midway point of the paddle. “I see a lot that City of Valdosta is doing and let’s just hope that they keep continuing to do it.”
- 2020-01-18: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, January 18, 2020, First annual Mayor’s Paddle brings dozens on the river,
Among the group was several members of the Brooks County Fire Department, taking any opportunity to get in some training in a fun way.
“Kayaking down the river we’ll exercise our arms, stuff like that, help control our breathing,” said Firefighter Ryan Owens. “We all kind of connect and have fun inside the fire department, but when we come outside it’s all another experience.”
- 2020-01-17: Robin Postell, Valdosta Today, January 17, 2020, “Mayor’s Paddle” Officially on for Saturday
- 2020-01-15: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 15 January 2020, Withlacoochee River tested ahead of Mayor’s Paddle.
- 2020-01-15: Staff reports (see WWALS PR), Albany Herald, January 15, 2020, Suwannee Riverkeeper to host ‘Mayor’s Paddle’ for top Valdosta officials
- 2020-01-14: Valdosta Today, 14 January 2020, Water Testing Continues Ahead of ‘Mayor’s Paddle’,
VALDOSTA, Ga. – The Withlacoochee River still looks clean for the Mayor’s Paddle from Troupville Boat Ramp to Spook Bridge this Saturday, an event hosted by WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc., as a means of reducing the negative stigma attached to the latest sewage spill.
One of the concerns voiced by citizens at the recent public meetings was why there was not signage at various water entry points to warn the public of contamination. Lowndes County has put up signs in the last week.
The Suwanee River Water Management District (SRWMD) actually tested upstream from there last…
- 2020-01-13: Valdosta Today, 13 January 2020, Mayor Matheson Asks Public, Officials to Paddle Saturday,
Presiding alongside Valdosta City Manager Mark Barber at a public meeting last week for citizens to speak out and ask questions about the estimated 7.5 million gallon spill that took place in early December 2019, he opened the meeting saying he had “one vice,” and that was kayaks. He’s considered a “green” Mayor.
When WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc.’s John S. Quarterman talked to him about the spill after it first happened, Mayor Matheson did not shrink away from what was to become the first, and perhaps his ultimate legacy, of his mayoral tenure. Matheson asked Quarterman to schedule a paddle, call it the “Mayor’s Paddle,” and the two projected that it would be held Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020.
If the water tests by then reveal a decontaminated river, that is….
- 2020-01-12: Stew Lilker, Columbia County Observer, January 12, 2020, Valdosta’s 7.5 Million Gallon Raw Sewage Spill: For 7 days, like an unseen oil spill
- 2020-01-11: Stew Lilker, Columbia County Observer, January 11, 2020, 7.5 Mil Gal of Raw Sewage Headed Into N. FL From Valdosta – FL Sen. Bill Montford Wants Answers
- 2020-01-10: Robin Postell, Valdosta Today, January 10, 2020: Citizens Air Concerns Over Record Sewage Spill
- 2020-01-10: WCJB, January 10, 2020, State warns about possible sewage contamination in Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers
- 2020-01-10: Jim Turner, News Service of Florida in Tallahassee Democrat, January 10, 2020,
Debate over toll road projects continues to flare,
Members of the “No Roads to Ruin” coalition, which includes Florida Conservation Voters, Friends of the Everglades, Bear Warriors United, the League of Women Voters of Florida, Our Santa Fe River, Earthjustice and Suwannee Riverkeeper, contend the roads are being driven by business-related special interests and that the money would be better spent on alternative forms of transportation. If traffic warrants the work, they argue the state should focus first on expanding existing roads.
- 2020-01-09: Kristian Thomas, WTXL, January 9, 2020, Valdosta leaders taking full responsibility after massive sewage spill
- 2020-01-09: Chris Herbert, Valdosta Daily Times, January 9, 2020, Spill angers residents: People voice sewage concerns at meeting: People voice sewage concern at meeting
- 2020-01-09: Suwannee Democrat, January 9, 2020 DOH advises Withlacoochee, Suwannee contaminated by sewage spill
2020-01-08: Jim Turner, News Service of Florida in Orlando Sentinel, January 8, 2020,
Florida toll road fight is just beginning in Tallahassee,
Members of the “No Roads to Ruin” coalition, which includes Florida Conservation Voters, Friends of the Everglades, Bear Warriors United, the League of Women Voters of Florida, Our Santa Fe River, Earthjustice and Suwannee Riverkeeper, contend the roads are being driven by business-related special interests and that the money would be better spent on alternative forms of transportation.
- 2020-01-08: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, January 8, 2020, River Task Force addressed Valdosta sewage spills
- 2020-01-08: Nathan Dean, WTXL, January 8, 2020, Community pushes for solutions after massive sewage spill in Withlacoochee River
- 2020-01-05: Robin Postell, Valdosta Today, January 5, 2020, Public Meetings to Discuss Valdosta Sewage Spill Jan. 8
Environmental group welcomes winter solstice with light parade,
LAKELAND — 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 Dec. 21.
“We had lots of spectators and enjoyed the evening with our S’Mores and hot chocolate,” said Shelby Miller, who came up with the idea of the WWALS Light Parade.
The winners were:
- First place: Bobby McKenzie
- Second place: Eli Harrell
- Third place: Allison Ray
Robin Postell, Valdosta Today, December 27, 2019 (see WWALS PR),
Brooks Residents Receive Health Advisory,
Photo: Scotti Jay, of Valdosta Caution sign at Troupville Boat Ramp, 2019-12-21.
Editor’s Note: This is part one of an ongoing series covering this recent crisis and health advisories
HAHIRA, Ga. — At Knights Ferry Boat Ramp Saturday Suzy Hall tested 4,966.67/100 cfu 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.”
The Georgia Adopt-A-Stream Bacterial Monitoring manual says:….
staff reports (see WWALS Press Release), Albany Herald, December 24, 2019, (KPVI, Pocatello, Idaho, December 25, 2019), Environmental group says waterways contaminated after Valdosta wastewater leak,
HAHIRA — At Knights Ferry Boat Ramp near, WWALS Watershed worker Suzy Hall tested 4,966.67/100 cfu 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 Hall got 100 cfu/100 ml, where all previous readings had been zero.
“It appears that Valdosta’s record-largest wastewater leak has caused a public health emergency in the Withlacoochee River, and Valdosta is not even warning people about it at river access locations,” Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman said in a news release. “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). Georgia EPD? EPA? State House and Congressional delegations? This report will go to all of them today.”
The Georgia Adopt-A-Stream Bacterial Monitoring manual says: “E. coli counts (cfu/100ml) that exceed 235 cfu/100 ml are considered ‘high’ and should be closely monitored, but when counts exceed the 1,000 cfu/100 ml threshold, they warrant special action. A count of 235 cfu/100 ml correlates to 8 incidents of 1,000 people getting sick, but a count of 1,000 cfu/100 ml correlates to about 14 incidents of 1,000 people getting sick.”
Officials with the WWALS Watershed group say 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,” WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman said. “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.
The public can help WWALS test water quality by donating to its WWALS water quality testing program. Each bacterial test costs $6 for Petrifilms alone. WWALS officials say they are spending about $40 a day on Petrifilms in the wake of the Valdosta spill.
2019-12-24: staff reports (see WWALS Press release), Albany Herald, December 24, 2019,
Watershed coalition demands action following Valdosta sewage spills,
HAHIRA — 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 10 enforcement actions to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
WWALS member Deanna Mericle of Hamilton County, Fla., summed up the content of the letter.
“As a person living downstream on the Withlacoochee River in Florida, I feel (expletive deleted) upon by Valdosta over and over,” Mericle said.
“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,” Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman said…..
staff reports (see WWALS PR), December 10, 2019,
Groups speak out against proposed titanium mine,
VALDOSTA — More than two dozen organizations — local, regional, statewide in Florida and Georgia, national, and international — have expressed opposition to the titanium mine that would be far too close to the Okefenokee Swamp. The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge 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 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.
Interested individuals 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 some, such as Waterkeepers Florida, represent others all over a state, and Waterkeeper Alliance has more than 350 member organizations worldwide. The Georgia Water Coalition put the Okefenokee Swamp on its 2019 Dirty Dozen worst threats to Georgia’s waters because of this proposed mine, and GWC has more than 250 partner organizations. Southwings volunteer pilots have flown several times over the mine site, around the Okefenokee Swamp, and down to where Twin Pines Minerals is already under a Florida Consent Order along with Chemours for violations at four titanium strip mines in north Florida. Citizens Against Phosphate Mines obtained that Florida Consent Order.
Suwannee Riverkeeper, St. Marys Earthkeepers, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), Georgia River Network, Georgia Conservancy, Environment Georgia, One Hundred Miles, Glynn Environmental Coalition, Wayne Morgan Artistry, St. Marys Riverkeeper, Satilla Riverkeeper, Flint Riverkeeper, Savannah Riverkeeper, Ogeechee Riverkeeper, Waterkeepers Florida, Our Santa Fe River, Dogwood Alliance, Georgia Women and those who stand with us, Friends of Georgia State Parks, National Parks Conservation Association, National Wildlife Refuge Association, The Nature Conservancey, The Wilderness Society, Wilderness Watch, Waterkeeper Alliance, Georgia Water Coalition, Citizens Against Phosphate Mines, and Southwings have all been invaluable.
Plus both U.S. EPA and Georgia EPD filed comments saying the miners’ application was missing much key information. GA-EPD even explicitly cited Suwannee Riverkeeper’s comments. Even the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates the Okefenokee NWR, filed comments about the ecological and economic value of the Swamp and the application’s lack of information.
For much more information, see: wwals.net/issues/titanium-mining/.
2020-12-05: James Call, Tallahassee Democrat, December 5, 2019,
Roads to ruin or prosperity? Environmentalists want to block Florida toll-road projects,
“It will be a problem. We will have more trees cleared and there will be more runoff with things getting into the springs and river,” said John Quarterman, the Suwannee Riverkeeper, of the road that would travel through Taylor County at the Big Bend and into Jefferson County.
- 2019-12-02: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 2 December 2019, Valdosta City Council to consider supporting Troupeville[sic] River Camp,
“It’ll encourage people to use the rivers more, people who actually care about the rivers who will help to take care of them,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman. “It’s a wild area, right next to the biggest city in the Suwannee River Basin. We don’t have an ocean here, we don’t have mountains, but we do have rivers. This is right at the confluence of the two rivers, right next to the biggest city.”
- 2019-09-19: Mary Landers, Savannahnow, 19 September 2019, Agencies: Application for mining near Okefenokee incomplete,
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division made their written comments in response to a Clean Water Act permit application the company filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Savannah….
In its comment, the Georgia EPD concurred with EPA, saying that the documentation for this project has “not yet been prepared, completed and distributed.” The permit application cites a series of hydrogeologic reports that are not yet completed.
“Understanding that groundwater hydrologic effects associated with the Twin Pines project have been a central concern expressed by federal resource/regulatory agencies, NGOs (e.g. the Suwannee Riverkeeper and Georgia River Network), and the public at large, we respectfully submit that the (Clean Water Act) permit application as submitted thus far is not complete since it lacks full information and findings regarding hydrogeologic factors on site and post-project effects to hydrogeology/groundwater,” states the EPD’s Sept. 12 comment from its wetlands manager. It concludes it is “inappropriate and premature” to close the comment window.
- 2019-09-13: Nedra Rhone, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 13 September 2019, Mining proposal near Okefenokee draws more than 20K comments from public (WWALS blog post),
The Suwannee Riverkeeper, on Thursday, sent 22 pages of questions to the Corps and the Georgia Department of Environmental Protection asking the agency to deny the permit. The Riverkeeper joined the SELC and other organizations and individuals in asking the Corps to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement, the highest level of analysis available when a proposed federal action may significantly affect the quality of the human environment.
- 2019-08-23: Julia Widmann, Waterkeeper Alliance, Suwannee Riverkeeper Fights to Protect Okefenokee Swamp from Titanium Strip Mine
Three times last week, Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman helped gather locals and organizations across Georgia, north Florida, and beyond to voice concerns about a proposed strip mine alongside the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Southern Georgia, home to the Okefenokee Swamp.
Twin Pines Minerals, LLC (TPM), an Alabama-based mining company, applied for permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Georgia Department of Environmental Protection to mine for titanium near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, which is the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers in Southern Georgia. The Suwannee flows south through Florida to the Gulf of Mexico, and the St. Marys becomes the border between Georgia and Florida on its way to the Atlantic.
John was quoted in the first news story about the mine, by Emily Jones of Georgia Public Broadcasting on July 15, “The most obvious thing that we really need is a real environmental impact statement. All we have so far is, ‘this is what the applicant said.’”
John S. Quarterman, before 2019-08-13 TPM meeting. L-r: Mark Lyons of Citizens Against Phosphate Mining, Alice Keyes of One Hundred Miles, Hilda Gilchrist of Our Santa Fe River (OSFR), Jim Tatum of OSFR and WWALS, Rena Peck Stricker of Georgia River Network, Mike Roth and Kristin Rubin of OSFR and WWALS, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper, Merillee Malwitz-Jipson of OSFR and WWALS.
- 2019-08-23: Scott James, Scott James Radio, 23 August 2019, Songwriting Contest on Scott James radio show 2019-08-23
- 2019-08-21: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 21 August 2019, Heavy mining facility proposed near Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge,
“Because of the coal plants in Georgia, there’s mercury deposition on the surface of the ground for years. If they go stir all that up, that could run in to the swamp,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman. “Why should we risk the Okefenokee, its boating, its fishing, its birding.”
- 2019-08-15: Emily Jones, GPB, 15 August 2019, Charlton County Backs Proposed Mining Near Okefenokee,
In a letter sent before the county commission meeting, Suwan[n]ee Riverkeeper John Quarterman called the commission’s vote “premature.”
“While I understand that everyone wants jobs, I respectfully submit that far too many things are still unknown,” Quarterman wrote.
Public comments at the meeting, following the vote, echoed that sentiment.
- 2019-08-13: John S. Quarterman, Charlton County Herald, 13 August 2019, Swamp more important than miners under Consent Order in Florida
- 2019-08-11: Albany Herald, 11 August, 2019, Watershed coalition to host ‘Boomerang’ paddle event (WWALS blog post)
- 2019-07-15: Emily Jones, Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB Radio News), 15 July 2019, Mining Proposed Near Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
(WWALS blog post: GPB on mining proposal near Okefenokee NWR 2019-07-15),
But Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman said the actual impact could be greater.
“The most obvious thing that we really need is a real environmental impact statement,” Quarterman said. “All we have so far is, ‘this is what the applicant said.’”
Quarterman was concerned about runoff from the mining, wildlife habitats, and the effects on waterflow underground.
- 2019-07-21: Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, Valdosta Daily Times, page 4A, July 24, 2019, and online July 21: QUARTERMAN: Swamp, Suwannee more valuable than titanium (WWALS blog post updated for more recent developments: QUARTERMAN: Swamp, Suwannee more valuable than titanium in VDT 2019-07-23)
“Gateway to the Okefenokee” says the sign as you exit I-75 southbound into Valdosta.
Twin Pines Minerals promises jobs, taxes, and low impact. Yet just across the state line in Florida, miners made all those same promises, and nobody can name any local people employed.
The miners have told multiple organizations they want to ship the ore to Starke, Florida, for processing. That’s in Bradford County, between the New River and the Santa Fe River, which flows into the Suwannee River.
During Hurricane Irma, the only pollution spills in the Suwannee River Basin in Florida (other than truck wrecks) were three from Chemours mines on Trail Ridge in Baker and Bradford Counties.
Do we want to risk that on Trail Ridge in Charlton County, Georgia, where downhill is either the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge or the St. Mary’s River? That river is a favorite local recreational resort. The Refuge, directly and indirectly, supports hundreds of jobs.
We need a real Environmental Impact Statement before we let miners risk the Suwannee River headwaters in the Okefenokee Swamp, or its tributaries the New or Santa Fe Rivers.
- 2019-07-02: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 2 July 2019, Moody jet hits bird, drops 3 dummy bombs over N. Florida (WWALS blog post; see also Fox News, people.com, and numerous other venues),
What else is in it? What are the pyrotechnics? What kind of environmental damage could it cause? We don’t really know. We’d like to know.
I certainly wouldn’t tell anybody to stay off the river, but it doesn’t encourage people to get on the river, so it’s a problem from that point of view.
- 2019-06-21: Ri’Shawn Bassette, WALB, 21 June 2019, Valdosta sees manhole sewage overflow (WWALS blog post),
Riverkeeper John Quarterman said that a member of his staff was near the area when they noticed the spill and the smell.
Quarterman shared that this serves as a reminder as to why it’s important to keep waste out of our water systems.
“Because if they don’t, this kind of thing can happen. Nobody wants sewage running across the ma[i]n drag and maybe getting into the nearby street holes [storm drains]. [we hope] It didn’t with that one,” said Quarterman.
- 2019-06-13: Valdosta Daily Times, June 13, 2019, Quarterman to canoe Paddle Georgia.
- 2019-04-25: Valdosta Daily Times, Georgia Beer sponsors songwriting contest,
VALDOSTA — 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 Aug. 24, at the top of the sponsor banner will be Georgia Beer Company, organizers said.
The maker of brews, such as Cypress Knee – Single Hop Mosaic, understands clean water is essential to every beer, organizers said. 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, Fla., I wrote about Valdosta sewage frequently,” said Chris Jones, a Georgia Beer Company co-founder. “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.”
See the WWALS PR of 2019-04-22 for the rest.
- 2019-05-07: River journey registration available.
- 2019-04-22: Valdosta Today, 2nd Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest,
Do you care about keeping our local water and rivers clean?
The Second Annual Suwanee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest is a project created by WWALS Watershed Coalition. It will be held Saturday, August 24, 2019 from 1-5 p.m. at the Salty Snapper located at 1405 Gornto Road, Valdosta to help you do both.
You must be present to win.
You do not have to sing, but you do have to be onstage with your song’s performance, rattling tambourine – or whatever! All finalists must arrive by 11 a.m. for sound check.
The Contest Committee will choose half a dozen finalists according to criteria such as that they’re really about some of our waters in the Suwannee River Basin. Finalists will be announced Saturday, August 10, 2019.
Radio personality Chris Beckham will be the Master of Ceremonies, as musicians play, the finalists perform, three judges deliberate, we all talk about outings and advocacy, and, finally, the winners will be announced. Then the winners play some more.
New this year: there will be one or more youth winners under 18-years-old.
The first prize is $300. Prizes of $50 each will go to one winner from within the Suwannee River Basin, and one from without. There will be one winner per musical genre.
There will be a silent auction, a kayak raffle, and a cash bar, and the snacks are included. At 4 PM you can order from the Salty Snapper menu as well, if you like.
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. Every musical genre is welcome, and anything from spoken word or a capella to bands may play. You can send your song as an electronic file or on a USB stick or CD.
“Music and the arts lead the band of advocacy and awareness,” said contest committee Chair Scotti Jay. “And a beer with the music sure can help.”
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:
Sponsoring the contest is a great opportunity for businesses and individuals to get their name in publicity about the Contest, from radio and TV and newspaper interviews and public interest spots, to a banner to hang at your place of business, to a banner at the event and a mention in the program. Help support clean water advocacy and get more people to see your business.
Local Georgia Beer Company is one of the lead sponsors for the event.
“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 do more tests!”
“My grandfather used to run the Valdosta waterworks in the historic building that now houses Georgia Beer Company,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “It’s great that Chris and Jack know clean water is just as important now as it was back then.”
Founded in June 2012, WWALS has board members from multiple counties in south Georgia and north Florida, and members from all over the Suwannee River Basin and from farther away. Since December 2016, 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.
- 2019-04-04 (WWALS blog post): Emma Wheeler, WCTV Eyewitness News, State: Gas company failures led up to Homerville explosion,
The Public Service Commission is proposing a civil penalty of $2.3 million against Atlanta Gas Light for the violations.
Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman lives near the start of the pipeline. He said he was horrified by the report, and fears that this could happen anywhere along its path.
“Oh yeah, pipeline leaks. I call them in, they come and fix them and then it leaks again,” Quarterman said. “They’re dangerous, it’s high pressure explosive gas, as every sign they post says.”
Quarterman hopes this report, and the multi-million dollar fine, will lead to more accountability and regulation for natural gas companies.
For more about that, see WWALS blog post.
- 2019-03-16: Amanda M. Usher, Valdosta Daily Times, 14 March 2019, Suwannee Democrat, 16 March 2019, Row, Row Your Boat: Residents to paddle Withlacoochee, Suwannee: Residents to paddle Withlacoochee, Suwannee (see also WWALS PR),
VALDOSTA, Ga. — For the first time in its 15-year history, Paddle Georgia will cross state lines into Florida from Valdosta.
Paddle Georgia is an annual canoe and kayak journey down state rivers hosted by Georgia River Network, said Joe Cook, Paddle Georgia coordinator.
The 92-mile trip, taking place June 15-21, will begin at the Withlacoochee River in Valdosta and will meet the Suwannee River near Mayo, Fla.
Organizers will have a campsite at Grassy Pond Recreation Area from June 14-18.
“(Paddle Georgia) is considered the largest week-long canoe/kayak camping adventure in the country,” Cook said. “We have each year between 300-450 people participating.”
Members paddled the Withlacoochee last August, and Cook said they “fell in love with it” adding the river is “beautiful.”
About 225 people have already registered for this year’s trip, but Cook said registrants are still being accepted.
Participants can choose to paddle the entire week. They can choose to take advantage of the Paddle Lite option and journey the first two days or last two days.
Adult registration is $425, $230 for youth ages 8-17 and $30 for children age 7 and younger for the week-long trip.
Paddle Lite adult registration is $120, and youth registration is $70.
Proceeds will be given to the Georgia River Network and the Suwannee Riverkeeper to help protect the Withlacoochee, Cook said.
- 2019-03-13: Video: WWALS E.D. Gretchen Quarterman on Charlie Walker Radio 2019-03-13,
In eight minutes she talked about the BIG Little River Paddle Race, the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, on the air with Charlie Walker, KIX 99.5 Country Radio, plus Paddle Georgia, and all the other events and outings.
“That’s our signature event,” said WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman, about the Seventh Annual BIG Little River Paddle Race.
- 2019-03-07: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 7 March 2019, WALB TV March 8, 2019, Task force looks to curb Valdosta sewage spills (WWALS blog post),
Volunteers with WWALS Watershed Coalition test waters in Valdosta, but organizers said that isn’t enough.
“We hope it helps spur some action from the states. While we’re doing volunteer water quality testing program, we have someone testing here every week, a tiny little volunteer organization trying to cover 10,000 [square] miles of the Suwannee River Basin, it seems like that states could do it quicker, faster and probably more thoroughly,” said John Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper.
Organizers hope that with more people involved, the more likely change is going to happen.
Last month [Actually December 20, 2018], the Georgia Environmental Protection Division began publishing all reported sewage spills across the state on a daily basis, something WWALS has been pushing for.
- 2019-02-22: Video: BIG Little River Paddle Race, Paddle Georgia, Songwriting Contest, coal ash, trust funds, and wastewater, on Scott James Radio 2019-02-22,
On WWALS TV radio Scott James and Valdosta Airport Executive Director James Galloway and I discussed alligators, karst limestone, and water levels on the Suwannee, Withlacoochee, and Alapaha Rivers….
About outings, we discussed:
- BIG Little River Paddle Race Saturday, April 27, 2019, about 3 miles starting at Red Roberts landing. You can race or you can just paddle. Watch out for overhanging branches.
- Paddle Georgia, June 15-21, 2019, for the first time ever from Georgia into another state, on our Withlacoochee River from Troupville Boat Ramp. Yes, Scott James, or you, can join for a day. I invited him to broadcast from the river on the Suwannee Riverkeeper Aircraft Carrier. He said he might.
- and the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, Saturday, August 24, 2019. And our winner from last year, Laura D’Alisera, will play June 21st at the Final Feast of Paddle Georgia, which WWALS is also catering via the Salty Snapper.
As a 501(c)(3) WWALS can’t support or oppose any specific candidates for election, but we can say Valdosta wastewater will be an issue in the mayoral election.
Finally, thank you, Langdale Company for the key to Old Quitman Highway so we can take out below Spook Bridge on Paddle Georgia.
- 2019-02-15: Jamie Wachter, Valdosta Daily Times, 2019-02-15, Ongoing Valdosta sewage spills concern Fla. neighbors and Suwannee Democrat 2019-02-18, also Jim Tatum, OSFR, 2019-02-14, Marathon Meeting at SRWMD (WWALS blog post),
Moving to the area three years ago, Jim McBrayer had his well near the Suwannee River in Hamilton County tested.
It came back positive for E. coli, leading McBrayer to have a water infiltration system installed.
John Quarterman, the Suwannee Riverkeeper and president of the WWALS Watershed Coalition, said while other cities do have spills, Valdosta had more spill locations in December than the rest of the state of Georgia combined, according to data from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
“Valdosta, being the largest city in the entire Suwannee River basin by far, it also has the largest responsibility to fix its problems,” Quarterman said.
- 2019-02-13: Albany Herald, WWALS Watershed plans summer paddle: Weeklong water adventure will start on Savannah [sic] River, move into Florida,
HAHIRA — From the next-to-the-largest Suwannee River Basin city — Valdosta — to between some of the smallest — Mayo and Luraville — Paddle Georgia will bring 300 paddlers this summer to venture for the first time across the state line from Georgia to Florida on the Little, Withlacoochee and Suwannee rivers, June 15-21….
See WWALS press release for more information.
- 2019-01-31: John S. Quarterman: Sewage spills in Georgia affecting Suwannee River basin, Gainesville Sun, 2019-01-31, also Lake City Reporter and Columbia County Observer 2019-01-30, and Valdosta Daily Times, 2019-02-01 (WWALS blog post),
A December upsurge of raw sewage spills from the city of Valdosta, Georgia, has a dozen downstream counties organized into a task force, demanding action from Florida state legislators. But what action?
I recommend first getting a grip on the extent of the problem, keeping that picture up to date and then funding fixes.
Photo: John S. Quarterman of Sara Jay, Water Temperature, TGroupville Boat Ramp, Little River, 2019-01-06
Valdosta spilled not just twice, but two dozen times in December, totaling more than 6 million gallons of raw sewage. Spills also happened in Tifton, Quitman and Lowndes County, Georgia.
We know this because….
- 2019-01-18: Thomas Lynn, Valdosta Daily Times, 18 January 2018, Moody neighbor wants water tested (WWALS blog post),
Those firefighting chemicals that leaked from Moody Air Force Base are on the front page of the Valdosta Daily Times today:
Moody recommends private well owners contact their county representatives for information on testing personal wells.
Paige Dukes, Lowndes County clerk and public information officer, said this is an opportunity for county residents such as Tann to have their water tested. Not only for PFAS but for any other contaminants that might be there.
Indeed, and Lowndes County operates the Moody AFB wastewater treatment plant that spilled into Beatty Branch and Cat Creek. So it’s an opportunity for Lowndes County to help organize testing for these per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs), because testing for them isn’t nearly as simple or inexpensive as testing for other contaminants.
Debra Tann and I were back at Beatty Branch on January 7, 2019, this time with the VDT, about the firefighting chemical issue that was in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the first week of January. This time it was for local reporters. Moody neighbor wants water tested, Thomas Lynn, Valdosta Daily Times, 18 January 2018,
VALDOSTA — When Debra Tann learned Moody Air Force Base had been washing dangerous chemicals down the drain for more than 40 years, she was understandably concerned.
The Lowndes County resident has lived less than two miles from the base for 24 years and wants to know if her water is safe.
In May 2018, Moody released a report stating the base’s water was deemed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency, but Tann wanted to know if residents living near the base shared the same diagnosis.
“I want residents near the base to be equally confident their water is not hazardous,” Tann said. “Residents need to know if their water is contaminated or not.”
Fears of water contamination, both inside and outside of Moody, began after the release of a study conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2016.
- 2019-01-03: Meris Lutz, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Contaminated groundwater, a toxic legacy of Georgia’s air bases, 3 January 2019, (WWALS blog post), and AP, Air Force Times, Military.com, Valdosta Today, 5 January 2019,
“Everything in this area depends on groundwater,” said John Quarterman, the Suwannee Riverkeeper in Lowndes County, where Moody is located. “I’m not saying that Moody necessarily did make enough contamination to be a problem, but I can’t tell from this report, and I don’t think it’s our responsibility to determine that they didn’t.”
Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman and Lowndes County resident Debra Tann at Beatty Branch near Moody Air Force Base, which was contaminated by a special firefighting foam used by the military. Tann’s well is less than a mile from the base, and she and Quarterman expressed concern about the pollution of groundwater by the Air Force. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
- 2018-12-06: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 6 December 2018, Heavy rain causes sewage spill in Lowndes County (WWALS blog post),
LOWNDES COUNTY, Ga. (WCTV) — More concerns about Withlacoochee River water safety arose after another sewage spill was reported in South Georgia.
- 2018-11-24: Dinah Voyles Pulver, The Daytona-Beach News-Journal, 24 November 2018, State geologist challenging springs action plan raised questions before (WWALS blog post)
When groups across the state challenged new springs protection rules published by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection over the summer, one name stood out: Thomas Greenhalgh.
Greenhalgh, a hydrogeologist who works for the DEP’s Florida Geological Survey, surprised many by taking the rare step of challenging his own agency’s proposed action plan for improving water quality in the springs in the Suwannee River basin. That plan was one of 13 approved in June for springs that include Blue Spring in Orange City and Gemini Springs in DeBary. Echoing concerns voiced by Volusia County officials and environmental advocates, Greenhalgh’s letter stated the springs plans made claims that are “inaccurate and unsubstantiated.”
John Quarterman, the Suwannee River Riverkeeper, one of the groups challenging the proposed springs action plans, called Greenhalgh “a brave man.”
“I’ll give him that. And also, of course, he’s right,” said Quarterman, who recalls meeting Greenhalgh only once, at an event to do dye trace studies in a tributary to the Suwannee.
Photo: John S. Quarterman for WWALS, of Thomas Greenhalgh suiting up at the Alapaha Dye Test, 2016-06-22.
- 2018-10-02: Staff Reports, Moultrie Observer, 2 October 2018, Georgia River Network plans cross-border journey in June,
ATLANTA — Georgia River Network’s annual Paddle Georgia event is going out of state in 2019 as the organization celebrates its 15th year of serving up week-long canoe/kayak/paddleboard adventures.
The statewide river advocacy organization announced earlier this month that Paddle Georgia 2019 will take place June 15-21 over 92 miles of the Withlacoochee and Suwannee rivers in far south Georgia and north Florida. It marks the first time that the annual event has crossed state boundaries.
Paddle Georgia 2019 will begin on the Little River near Valdosta. After launching, paddlers will immediately meet the Withlacoochee River and spend five days following its winding course through Georgia and into Florida. The final two days of the trip will descend the Suwannee River in Florida, ending June 21 near Mayo.
Both the Withlacoochee and Suwannee are known for the breathtakingly cold and scenic blue hole springs that feed into the blackwater rivers. Along the paddling route, participants will have the opportunity to dip their toes—or their whole bodies—in no less than a dozen of these springs that boil up through karst limestone from the Floridan aquifer.
Among the highlights will be Madison Blue Springs and Lafayette Blue Spring state parks in Florida.
And, though the Withlacoochee travels through flat land, the river does offer up some shoals along its route and is flanked in places by high limestone bluffs. The Suwannee, which has its beginning in Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp, is also characterized by limestone bluffs.
Proceeds from this year’s event will support Georgia River Network and Suwannee Riverkeeper and the WWALS Watershed Coalition. Since its inception in 2005, GRN’s Paddle Georgia has introduced more than 4300 people to Georgia’s rivers while generating more than $430,000 for river protection.
- 2018-10-02: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 2 October 2018, North Florida communities look to solve sewage spills in Valdosta, (WWALS blog post)
“It has a negative impact on our livelihood,” said Madison County Commissioner Rick Davis. “It’s a health issue, it’s an environmental issue, it has a negative impact on our economy and it certainly negatively impacts our tourism.”
Madison County is now teaming up as part of the Regional Planning Council, which is made up of representatives from 12 North Central Florida counties. The group will be forming a task force to come up with a solution.
Organizers also want to see immediate notification when a spill occurs, which they believe is not yet happening. The WWALS Watershed Coalition is asking for the same.
“If you’re swimming in this river you don’t really want to know the fecal coliform is 100 times higher than the state limit, and that happens in this river sometimes in the summer,” said [Suwannee] Riverkeeper John Quarterman. “So, if that is happening no matter what the source we want to say, not safe, don’t swim.”
Over the last few years, the City of Valdosta has invested millions of dollars to improve the wastewater treatment plants, including building a new multi-million dollar facility in 2016.
“They’ve made a lot of progress, which is partly why it’s so frustrating to people. Why are they still spilling, they need to not be doing that,” Quarterman said.
Your organization can still ask GA-EPD to tell everyone when anyone spills.
- 2019-09-26: Dave Miller, WALB TV, 26 September 2018, Paddle down Georgia’s great rivers: Georgia River Network Plans Cross-Border River Journey for 15th Anniversary of Paddle GA,
ALBANY, GA (WALB) – Georgia River Network’s annual Paddle Georgia event is going out of state in 2019 as the organization celebrates its 15th year of serving up week-long canoe/kayak/paddleboard adventures.
The statewide river advocacy organization announced earlier this month that Paddle Georgia 2019 will take place June 15-21 over 92 miles of the Withlacoochee and Suwannee rivers in far south Georgia and north Florida. It marks the first time that the annual event has crossed state boundaries.
“As Georgians we’re kind of possessive about our rivers, but the reality is that many of the rivers that start here in Georgia are shared with our neighboring states,” said Joe Cook, Paddle Georgia Coordinator. “One of the themes of this journey from Georgia into Florida is that we have a responsibility to our downstream neighbors.”
Of Georgia’s 14 major river basins, half flow into neighboring states, including the Suwannee. Georgia has been embroiled in a 30-year dispute with Florida and Alabama over the use of the Chattahoochee, Flint, and Apalachicola rivers.
Paddle Georgia 2019 will begin on the Little River near Valdosta. After launching, paddlers will immediately meet the Withlacoochee River and spend five days following its winding course through Georgia and into Florida. The final two days of the trip will descend the Suwannee River in Florida, ending June 21 near Mayo.
Both the Withlacoochee and Suwannee are known for the breathtakingly cold and scenic blue hole springs that feed into the blackwater rivers. Along the paddling route, participants will have the opportunity to dip their toes— or their whole bodies— in no less than a dozen of these springs that boil up through karst limestone from the Floridan aquifer.
Among the highlights will be Madison Blue Springs and Lafayette Blue Spring state parks in Florida.
And, though the Withlacoochee travels through flat land, the river does offer up some shoals along its route and is flanked in places by high limestone bluffs. The Suwannee, which has its beginning in Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp, is also characterized by limestone bluffs.
The route will take participants near the towns of Valdosta, Quitman and Lake Park, Georgia as well as Jennings, Madison, Live Oak and Mayo, Florida.
On the river by day, the paddlers will camp at nearby facilities where catered meals, educational programs, and entertainment will be served up nightly. In Florida, the group plans to camp at Advent Christian Village, a retirement community and retreat facility on the banks of the Suwannee. While many participants will tent camp, others will take advantage of the village’s hotel rooms and hostel-style sleeping facilities.
Organizers are still working to finalize accommodations for the journey’s first few days in Georgia.
Paddle Georgia is regarded at the country’s largest week-long canoe/kayak camping journey with 300 to 400 people participating each year. The purpose of the trip is to raise awareness of Georgia’s rivers and raise funds to protect those rivers.
Proceeds from this year’s event will support Georgia River Network and Suwannee Riverkeeper and the WWALS Watershed Coalition. Since its inception in 2005, GRN’s Paddle Georgia has introduced more than 4,300 people to Georgia’s rivers while generating more than $430,000 for river protection.
The trip is open to paddlers of all skill levels. Participants have ranged in age from 4 to 84. Registration for Paddle Georgia 2019 will open in early February. Registration fees range from $70 to $425. Registration options are available for the seven-day journey as well as two-day portions of the trip. For more information about Paddle Georgia visit: www.garivers.org/paddle_georgia
- 2018-09-13: Video: Paddle races, water trails, and Sabal Trail jury trials; Suwannee Riverkeeper on WGOV Radio
Thanks to Steve Nichols for having me on The Morning Drive with Steve Nichols, 105.9FM WVGA. We talked about water trails, paddle races, and the Sabal Trail pipeline federal eminent domain jury trials, which were being settled as we spoke. Also we hear the Naylor Boat Ramp will be finished soon by Lowndes County.
- 2018-08-21: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, Sewage spills prompt concern over Withlacoochee River safety (WWALS blog post),
MADISON, Fla. (WCTV) — A North Florida community is fighting for cleaner water.
Community members in Madison are pushing for safer waterways. It stems from concerns over sewage spills at Valdosta’s Withlacoochee Treatment Plant. The most recent of the spills happened in June.
Many of those concerned said their goal is to have no sewage spill into the river.
“These are public resources, they belong to us,” said Thomas Potter with the WWALS Watershed Coalition. “It’s our duty and our responsibility to make sure that they remain clean.”
Valdosta Utilities Director Darryl Muse said the city has treated about 2.2 billion gallons of sewer, recalling 300,000 to 400,000 gallons worth of releases. He said this puts the city at an over 99 percent success rate.
“I think most industries would be okay with .2 of one percent failure rate, but we’re not. We’re still working diligently, we want to get that number down as low as we can,” Muse said.
Others said that’s not enough.
“Hopefully these are small hiccups on the path to getting a system that essentially works flawlessly. In the meantime, these problems are still occurring,” Potter said.
- 2018-06-29: Landowner wins over Sabal Trail in jury trial, jsq on Scott James radio 2018-06-29,
The just compensation for property takings required by the Fifth Amendment is not “just” compensation, said Scott James. And a jury of peers of a landowner told Sabal Trail to pay up five times what it offered for an easement for its fracked gas pipeline.
“…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
—Fifth Amendment, U.S. Constitution
VDT front page
And five times is more just than before. But how is a one-time payment when the pipeline company will profit forever just? Especially when, by the Sabal Trail’s own appraiser’s estimate, the pipeline company took 85% of the rights for that easement, so while in principle the developer can still build a subdivision on that property, he can’t even build a road across that easement without the pipeline company’s permission.
- 2018-06-27: Thomas Lynn, Valdosta Daily Times, Sabal Trail ordered to pay: Jury awards landowner five times pipeline offer
John S. Quarterman | Submitted Photo Lynn Lasseter and his attorney, Jonathan Waters, after a jury ordered Sabal Trail Transmission to pay Lasseter $103,385 in just compensation for land taken under eminent domain.
- 2018-06-27: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 27 June 2018, Landowners, environmentalists celebrate ‘small victory’ over Sabal Trail (WWALS blog post)
LOWNDES COUNTY, Ga. (WCTV) — Landowners and environmentalists in South Georgia are celebrating a small victory in a case against Sabal Trail.
The Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline was granted eminent domain in order to run through some of the private properties along its path. In doing so, it was required to offer what the defense calls ‘just compensation.’
One Moultrie land owner was offered around $20,000 for an easement on his property. This week a jury sided with the land owner, deciding that was not enough.
Sabal Trail is now ordered to pay five times that amount to the property owner; more than $103,000.
The pipeline runs underground through private and public properties, as well as the Withlacoochee River. Environmental groups, like the WWALS Watershed Coalition, fear it will compromise the river, as well as public safety for nearby homeowners.
They said small victories like these are reasons to keep fighting, and rid pipeline companies of their sense of inevitability.
“There is something you can do. You can hold out and they’ll have to pay you a bunch more than they offered you. Okay, it didn’t stop the pipeline, but think about it, if they have to pay five times as much as they offered for every easement would they be able to afford to build a pipeline,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman. “This thing is not for public benefit. Why should someone in Moultrie, Georgia in this case, or all the people in Lowndes County, Georgia who had to give up easements, why should they have to give up easements for a few big companies to make a profit. They shouldn’t.”
- 2018-06-13: Bruce Ritchie, Politico Pro, 13 June 2018, Groups say they’re preparing challenge to natural gas exports from Florida (see also wwals.net/issues/lng/),
Environmental groups say they are raising money toward a lawsuit to be filed against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, charging that it is failing to regulate liquefied natural gas exports from facilities in Florida.
The WWALS Watershed Coalition, based in Hahira, Ga., is among the groups challenging the legality of the 515-mile Sabal Trail Transmission LLC pipeline, which was built in 2017 to move gas through Alabama and Georgia to Central Florida. The group says LNG shipments on Interstate 75, and from the Sabal Trail pipeline to export facilities in Florida, pose risks to communities.
“Sabal Trail and FERC said this gas was needed by the public and NOT for export, and that’s how they justified eminent domain,” Mike Roth, president of Our Santa Fe River, said in an announcement. “To risk wetland destruction for private corporate gain is just wrong; to take private land to allow the companies to export fuel rattles the foundations of our democracy.”
- Jason Nail, NailTravels, 26 April 2018, Wanee Festival ’18: It’s Time To Panic,
As we move ever close to the environmental consciousness of festivals like Telluride and Rockygrass, we’re starting to see more advocacy groups devoting their time to Wanee. WWALS is a nonprofit educational corporation advocating for watershed conservation and stewardship of the Withlacoochee, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Little and Suwannee Rivers. Mad props to WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. for their work with the Alapaha River Water Trail and the First Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest. These are perfect reasons to get involved. Visit their website for upcoming outings and events or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Carmella Guiol, Kate Bradshaw, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, 15 Feb 2018, (WWALS blog post), The experts were right: Troubles for the Sabal Trail pipeline: They warned us — correctly — about the pipeline’s dangers to the environment. ,
For years, environmentalists warned against constructing the Sabal Trail pipeline. Yet construction wore on, and the controversial natural gas conduit is functional — for now.
…“Without the certificate, they cannot operate,” says John Quarterman, president of the WWALS Watershed Coalition….
- Staff Reports, Albany Herald, 28 November 2017, Riverkeepers ask court to shut down Sabal Trail pipeline: Group calls FERC impact statement factually incorrect, irresponsible,
HAHIRA — “Factually incorrect, failing to account for LNG export or solar power, and irresponsible for not finding or creating a method for attributing environmental effects to greenhouse gases, as the D.C. Circuit Court had instructed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to do.”
[See WWALS PR for the rest.]
- Amy Martyn, ConsumerAffairs, 14 September 2017, Company says its natural gas pipeline ‘operated safely’ through Hurricane Irma; However, activists say the Sabal Trail Pipeline is dangerous and needs to be removed (WWALS blog post: Who do you believe? A local county fire department, or someone paid by a pipeline company to put the best face on any event? Especially when she didnâ€™t actually deny anything Marion County Fire Rescue reported?)
- John S. Quarterman, Valdosta Daily Times, 28 July 2017, Georgia Power has opportunities to lead in solar power,
Your editorial’s “buyer beware” would better be directed towards the electric utilities, which set up the price mismatch that caused the problem for the customer in your story. The story says, citing John Kraft of Georgia Power, “The utility company offers to pay the producer only as much as it costs to produce solar power. If a utility company can produce solar energy at a solar farm for 5 cents per unit, it isn’t going to pay a residential producer a higher rate for energy it doesn’t need.”
If Georgia Power does not need new energy, why is it building two new nuclear units at Plant Vogtle and charging its customers in advance every month? Four years ago….
- News coverage of charges dropped against Sabal Trail protesters, 17-18 July 2017
â€œEven with Sabal Trail, the fight is not over,â€ Quarterman said. â€œThe case brought against FERC by Sierra Club, Flint Riverkeeper, and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper has not been decided. Even if the gas keeps flowing, we all have to watch for sinkholes, leaks, polluted wells and explosions.â€Jamie Wachter, Suwannee Democrat, 27 June 2017 (also Waterkeeper Alliance 28 June 2017, and Valdosta Daily Times page 8A 28 June 2017 but apparently not online), Gas now flowing through Sabal Trail pipeline (WWALS blog post),
Photo: Beth Gammie for WWALS, Suwannee County, Florida, 14 January 2017
Is this a good use of Florida local and state law enforcement?
Protecting an invading, unnecessary, pipeline from the unarmed public?
The pipeline’s first phase is supposed to provide service to Florida Power & Light to meet the start of its peak cooling season, Grover said.
Note Ms. Grover’s careful phrasing “to meet the start of its peak cooling season”. She’s backed off from Sabal Trail’s previous claim that its gas was needed to meet peak summer demand, perhaps because, as WWALS spelled out before the gas was turned on, and as an analyst on a leading stock blog has now determined because the gas is flowing, there was no need for Sabal Trail; all it is doing is reducing gas flowing through FGT and Gulfstream with no net increase into Florida….
- Noelani Mathews, WCTV, June 15, 2017, Local environmentalist groups prepare for Sabal Trail Pipeline to go online (WWALS blog post),
The 515 mile underground pipeline spans twelve Florida counties, and runs through the heart of the state’s springs country. Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman is worried how the underground natural gas line could affect the state’s signature waterways and springs in the area. He’s concerned pollution from the project, like road runoff and drilling mud, could ultimately seep through the porous limestone into the subterranean waterways that make up the Floridan aquifer. That’s the water source for some 10 million people.
“The nature of the springs in the springs heartland of Florida is, not just down at the levels where the aquifer are, but right up at the surface, there’s cracks all through this limestone,” Quarterman said.
Quarterman says activists will continue to monitor the project for possible leaks or sinkholes.
“I see no reason why anyone should accept any risk to the outstanding Florida waters, the Suwannee River, the Sante Fe River, the Withlacoochee South River, or of course to our Withlacoochee River in Georgia,” he said.
- Susan Salisbury, Palm Beach Post, 12 June 2017, Sabal Trail gas pipeline starting up; group seeks FERC reform,
That same day the worldwide Waterkeeper Alliance, which opposes the pipeline, called for an overhaul of FERC at the U.S. Congressional level. The agency is funded through costs recovered by the fees and annual charges from the industries it regulates.
Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman, a member of the Hahira, Ga.-based WWALS Watershed Coalition, said the start-up of the pipeline does not mean their legal challenges and public opposition are over. “The case brought against FERC by Sierra Club, Flint Riverkeeper and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper has not been decided,” said Quarterman. “Even if the gas keeps flowing, we all have to watch for sinkholes, leaks, polluted wells and explosions.”
- Alexis Bonogofsky, Truthout, 8 June 2017, “This State Is on the Front Lines”: Floridians Mobilize Against Sabal Trail Natural Gas Pipeline (WWALS blog post),
Sabal Trail Reunion Compressor Station
Photo: Mark Skogman for WWALS on Southwings flight, 2 February 2017
John Quarterman, head of the WWALS Watershed Coalition — which advocates for the Withlacoochee, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Little and Suwannee River watersheds — has fought the Sabal Trail pipeline since it was first announced in 2013. He points to many different incidents in which the pipeline company has damaged the environment and the people in the communities it goes through. He documented these offenses on WWALS’s website. The real kicker, Quarterman says, is that the reason the utilities gave for needing the pipeline is completely bogus.
“This pipeline is totally unnecessary and [its unnecessary nature] was admitted to by Florida Power and Light. They stated in their 10-year plan they submitted to the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) in 2013 [that Florida needed 13% more electricity in the coming decade, and they used that claim to sell Sabal Trail to the PSC and to FERC. Yet FPL contracted that in its 2016 Ten Year Plan, which said Florida needs] no new electricity capacity until 2024 at the earliest.” Quarterman told Truthout.
The text in [square brackets] is my correction of a typo in the article.
- Lee Henderson, Valdosta Today, 5 June 2017, Morning News Briefs for 6-5-17,
Thereâ€™s news from the Wwals Watershed Coalition and the Annual Big Little River Paddle Race. Dwight Griner of Berrien County took the first place honors for the fifth time. Organizers report that prizes were handed out to a dozen other boats and this yearâ€™s participation set a new record. Tifton and Tift County had the most paddlers; other racers came from Moultrie and Colquitt County. Lowndes had the second highest number of paddlers, with others coming from Cook, Houston Harris and Thomas Counties.
- Susan Salisbury, Palm Beach Post, 26 May 2017, Sabal Trail seeks new pipeline start date; group wants shutdown,
Sabal Trail Transmission on Friday asked federal regulators for an early June in-service date for its portion of the Alabama-to-Florida natural gas pipeline, a later date than it had requested earlier this month.
On May 17 Houston-based Sabal Trail had asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permission to start sending gas through the pipeline by today — May 26.
Also Friday, the Georgia-based WWALS Watershed Coalition asked FERC to deny all requests to place the pipeline into service, and said FERC should revoke the permit and shut it down.
The Sierra Club recently asked FERC to delay the pipeline’s operation until after pending litigation is resolved.
FERC has yet to act on either of Sabal Trail’s start-up date requests or on The Sierra Club’s request.
WWALS president and Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman said Friday, â€œIt’s not too late for FERC to do its job and actually evaluate all the new evidence that has come to light. Even more, FERC should look at how the world has changed since 2013, now that solar power has won the economic race.
â€œEven Florida Power & Light, whose customers are on the hook for the $3.2 billion, admits Florida needs no new electricity. That means there is no need for this Sabal Trail pipeline boondoggle. There are many more reasons of water, agriculture, and economy, but the sheer lack of need alone should be enough reason for FERC to shut Sabal Trail down,â€ Quarterman said.
- John S. Quarterman, Progress for All, 19 May 2017, Natural Gas is Going Down Like Coal and Kodak: Let the Sun Rise!
There is no reason any of us should risk our lands, water, or safety for utility and fossil fuel company profit.
Business models change as fast as cameras became digital and Kodak went under.
As fast as the Internet and personal computers rose.
As fast as mobile phones spread and even faster smartphones are everywhere.
As fast as big coal companies went from kings to a tenth of their market cap.
Natural gas is going down next.
The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Let the sun rise!
- Lee Henderson, ValdostaToday.com, 19 May 2017, Morning News Briefs for 5-19-17,
With nationwide Hands Across the Sand this weekend Suwannee Riverkeeper will â€œSay NO to dirty fuels and YES to clean energy. The public is invited to join the four hour outing four hours this month down the Suwannee River from Woods Ferry Tract Launch to Suwannee Springs. Start time is at 9AM. For more information call 850-290-2350 or 229-242-0102.
“We’ve got loss of production for the future that will take not my lifetime, not my kids’ lifetime, but my kids’ kids’ lifetime to recover from,” Randy Dowdy
QUITMAN — A Brooks County farmer said Wednesday the controversial Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline has ruined his farmland.
Randy Dowdy is a major corn and soybean producer. In fact, he holds a world’s record for soybean production and a U.S. record for corn production but now he says his award-winning farm is in jeopardy.
Environmentalists held a press conference this week alongside Dowdy to say their worst fears about the pipeline have been realized.
“Sabal Trail gouged its pipeline through his terraces on the land he used for those soybeans in Brooks County. Despite his warnings, they left that damage unfixed until rains in January caused massive erosion, washing his topsoil into a nearby creek. Beyond immediate damage, this destruction affects Dowdy’s ability to grow such record yields, and the basic productivity of his fields,” the WWALS Watershed Coalition said in a prepared statement.
- News coverage of the BIG Little River Paddle Race, 28 April 2017:
Lee Henderson, 106.9 FM and Valdosta Today, 21 April 2017,
Morning News Briefs for 4-21-17
The friends of Reed Bingham State Park and the Watershed Coalition invite you to come and paddle a canoe or kayak in the fifth annual BIG Little River Paddle Race on Saturday, April 29, 2017.This year the lunch included afterwards will be grilled at the park, and there will be a silent auction. This family friendly event takes participants 3 miles down a scenic section of the River from Red Roberts Landing at to the park boat ramp on the Colquitt side of the lake. Although called a race, paddlers may also participate at their own pace. Registration is from 8-9 a.m. and the start of the river trip is at Red Roberts landing, a boat ramp at Rountree Bridge. To get there from I-75 take exit 41 and turn in front of Horse Creek Winery and follow Rountree Bridge road about 4.8 miles to the bridge. For registration and rental fees, vehicle parking charges and to make reservations go to www.wwals.net or the office at Reed Bingham State Park. Call 229 392-5513.
- Moultrie Observer, 25 April 2017, Paddle race to benefit Friends of Reed Bingham, WWALS Watershed Coalition
- Valdosta Daily Times, 26 April 2017, Paddle race to benefit Friends of Reed Bingham, WWALS Watershed Coalition
- Steve Nichols, The Morning Drive, WVGA 105.9 FM, 26 April 2017, BLPR and Neighbor Steve Nichols
- Charlie Walker, KIX 99.5 FM, 26 April 2017, Charlie Walker dried off in time
- Scott James, Talk 92.1 FM, 27 April 2017, Paddle or Race
Lee Henderson, 106.9 FM and Valdosta Today, 27 April 2017,
Morning News Briefs for 4-27-17,
The Friends of Reed Bingham State Park and WWALS Watershed Coalition invite the public to come paddle a canoe or kayak in the fifth annual BIG Little River Paddle Race on Saturday, April 29. This year the lunch included afterwards will be grilled at the park, and there will be a silent auction. Registration is from 8-9 a.m. with a mass start planned shortly thereafter. For fees and other information call 229-392-5513.
- Tifton Grapevine, 27? April 2017, online only FIFTH ANNUAL BIG LITTLE RIVER PADDLE RACE LAUNCHES SATURDAY
- Tifton Gazette, 28 April 2017, page 8A (not online), pictured.
Beth Kassab and Kevin Spear, Orlando Sentinel, 2017-04-01, Gas pipeline across Central Florida brings cheap energy and protests (WWALS blog post),
The WWALS Watershed Coalition, which advocates for protection of Florida and Georgia rivers, has staunchly opposed nearly every aspect of Sabal Trail, which crosses under the Suwannee, Santa Fe and many other rivers.
Coalition spokesman John Quarterman called the pipeline a profit bonanza for private companies and a boondoggle for utility customers.
Well, I said it’s a boondoggle for the utility, namely FPL, at the expense of its customers. Here’s why I say that, including that FPL admitted in its 2016 Ten Year Plan that Florida needs no new electricity until 2024 at the earliest, contradicting FPL’s 2013 excuse for Sabal Trail.
It’s not just two connected pipelines; it’s at least five just in Florida. Audubon Florida did endorse Sabal Trail starting with FPL’s first announcement. And sure, Ms. Grover, your “safety programs are designed to prevent pipeline failures”, but they haven’t actually stopped numerous incidents of corrosion, leaks, explosions, and compressor station blowouts. Other than those things, it’s a pretty good story.
- Joseph A. Mann Jr., FloridaBulldog.org, 23 March 2017, With help from investor-Gov. Scott, Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline looks to open in June (WWALS blog post that fisks Ms. Grover’s misinformation)
“Florida is swarming with protests, like an antbed stirred up by a 600-mile pipeline stick,” John S. Quarterman, president, WWALS Watershed Coalition
Brian Fahrenthold and Andrea Grover of Spectra Energy and John S. Quarterman on WALB, in Spectra speaks about Sabal Trail pipeline at Lowndes County Commission, by Robert Hydrick, for WALB TV, 9 December 2013.
- Susan Salisbury, Palm Beach Post, 3 March 2017, Sabal Trail pipeline shooter killed by law enforcement in Citrus County ( WWALS blog post)
John Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper, said as far as he knows, no one involved in any pipeline opposition has ever heard of Marker prior to the incident.
“As the first person ever to call for protests on the pipeline this is not what I called for,” Quarterman said Friday.
- Molly Minta, The Fine Print, 5 February 2017, Rise Against the Machine: In 2013, Marion County residents began to receive letters from Sabal Trail Transmission. Now, they’ve made it their mission to save their land, and stop Sabal Trail.
But those opposed to the pipeline don’t just have to take on corruption at the state level. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency that granted Sabal Trail eminent domain and which oversees interstate pipeline projects, is supposed to regulate the natural gas industry and hold the companies accountable. Activists, however, contend that it does just the opposite.
“The whole system is corrupt from top to bottom,” said John Quarterman, president of the WWALS Watershed Coalition, which stands for the Withlacoochee, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Little and Suwannee rivers. He said that though FERC receives money from Congress every year, it’s self-funding, which means that it is authorized by the government to collect annual fees from the industries it regulates. FERC is the only independent executive agency in the United States with this kind of authority. In essence, Quarterman said, the agency is susceptible to being bought out by the natural gas industries.
“The word you’re looking for starts with ‘c,’ as in corrupt,” Quarterman said. “The polite way of saying it is ‘regulatory capture.’”
FERC isn’t just authorized to collect annual fees, it brags in its annual budget request that it does pay back 100% of its Congressional allocation from fees and charges on the industries it supposedly regulates. This is the wording in FERC’s 2017 budget request:
As authorized by statute, including the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986, the Commission recovers the full cost of its operations through annual charges and filing fees assessed on the industries it regulates. This revenue is deposited into the Treasury as a direct offset to its appropriation, resulting in no net appropriation.
- John S. Quarterman, Tallahassee Democrat op-ed, 29 January 2017, Quarterman: Sabal Trail pipeline already damaging our area
- Terry Richards, Valdosta Daily Times, 11 January 2017 (WWALS blog post), Sabal Pipeline protest meeting planned
- John S. Quarterman, Valdosta Daily Times op-ed 8 January 2017, Solar power versus Sabal Trail â€“Suwannee Riverkeeper in VDT 2017-01-08
- Richard Luscombe, The Guardian, 24 January 2017 (WWALS blog post), Why a protest camp in Florida is being called the next Standing Rock: At first glance the quiet town of Live Oak seems an unlikely venue for a stand against Big Energy. But in recent weeks it’s become a centre of opposition
- Adam Dubbin, World Waters Weekly, 30 December 2016 (WWALS blog post),
…breaking news, if you will. John S. Quarterman has been selected as the Suwannee Riverkeeper. If you’re not familiar with the Riverkeeper role, it’s part of a bigger organization called the Waterkeeper Alliance. It’s a sort of, it’s a way to formalize the care of these rivers, and also these people are river warriors, out there documenting things and providing the type of information we need to know if somebody is not in compliance or if something is not right. They basically are boots on the ground.
I have not met John personally, but I have interacted with him a lot and I’ve read a lot of his work. He runs WWALS Watershed Coalition webpage which is extremely informative; very well-vetted information and I use it a lot when I am trying to clarify things. So this guy he’s a great addition to what we’re trying to do here. Well, not an addition; he’s been here all along, but he’s now been given an official role on the Suwannee River. So I just want to send a shout-out to him and let you all know that river is now in good hands.
- Thomas Lynn, Valdosta Daily Times, 16 December 2016, Pipeline protests gain momentum in Florida,
- John S. Quarterman, Citrus County Chronicle, other voices, 25 December 2016, Stop gas pipeline; invest in solar (WWALS blog post with illustrations and links to evidence)
Sabal Trail and FDEP assured us there would be no problems drilling a 36-inch natural gas pipeline through the fragile karst limestone under the Suwannee River and the Withlacoochee (south) River in Florida, yet already Sabal Trail’s pilot hole under the Withlacoochee (north) River in Georgia caused a frac-out of drilling mud into the river and a sinkhole. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should halt construction and do a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.
- Larry Buhl, DeSmogBlog (and Enjeux Ã©nergies et environnement), 9 December 2016, Sabal Trail Opponents Say Pipeline Is Part of Florida’s ‘Overbuilt’ Gas Infrastructure, (WWALS blog post)
John Quarterman, president of [… WWALS] Watershed Coalition, recalled that Sabal Trail representatives, when pressed at public hearings, maintained that, as a pipeline company they had no idea where gas going through their pipes might end up, a claim that he and other activists find hard to believe.
Chris Pedersen, writing for the industry publication OilPrice.com in October 2014, wrote that Transco and Sabal Trail pipelines could be used to explore new overseas markets for Utica and Marcellus Shale gas.
Sabal Trail opponents say gas flowing through the Sabal Trail pipeline could easily end up at export terminals on the Florida coast. For example,…
- Savannah Elliott, Gainesville Scene, 14 December 2016, Organization Against Sabal Trail Pipeline Swells Across Florida
- Sabal Trail Resistance, Earth First!, 13 December 2016, Stop The Suwannee River Crossing! Calling all water protectors and anti-pipeline rebels to the Sabal Trail Resistance (STR),
Additionally, the HDD site on the Withlacoochee River in Georgia, which is also currently being drilled, has been found in violation for pressure cracks that allowed drilling fluid to migrate upward into the river and likely into the Floridan Aquifer to contaminate the water.
600×450 Turbidity curtains with human for scale (Chris Mericle), in Sabal Trail still leaking drilling mud into the Withlacoochee River in GA, by Deanna Mericle, 12 November 2016
- Anne Schindler, WTLV, 5 December 2016: “Sinkhole raises collapse concerns at pipeline drilling site”,
The company says the sinkhole, which appeared Nov. 5, has nothing to do with the Nov. 17 incident, in which drilling mud penetrated the Withlacoohee River from operations below.
“The two items you referenced are unrelated,” spokesperson Andrea Grover said in a written statement. “The sinkhole is in an upland and approximately 1,400 feet from the previously reported inadvertent release.”
Doesn’t Sabal Trail’s $3 billion dollar pipeline connect those two items?
- 2016-12-04: Larry Buhl, DeSmogBlog, 4 December 2016, Critics Call $3 Billion Sabal Trail Pipeline Florida’s Dakota Access Pipeline (WWALS blog post: National coverage of Sabal Trail as Floridaâ€™s DAPL: #NoDAPL, #NoSabalTrail, #WaterIsLife)
- 2016-12-03: Harriet Heywood, Citrus County Chronicle, 3 December 2016, Sabal Trail forum was informative (WWALS blog post)
- Karen Edelstein, FracTracker, 29 November 2016, The Sabal Trail Pipeline: A Sinking Feeling,
Even in the phases of construction, environmentalists in Georgia discovered that the Sabal Trail pipeline had started leaking drilling mud from a pilot hole into the Withlacooche River in late October, and continued to ooze turbid mud for at least three weeks. Environmental advocates from the WWALS … Watershed Coalition raised concerns that if a pilot hole could cause such a leakage, what could happen once full-scale directional drilling was occurring?
- Michael D. Bates, Citrus County Chronicle, November 26, 2016, “In the pipeline,”
“the project is proceeding as scheduled” and “We are on target for an end-of-June in-service date…”
Hm, that’s a month after their previous May 2017 in-service date.
- Derrek Vaughn, Valdosta Daily Times, 17 November 2016, WWALS Watershed Coalition hold demonstration (WWALS blog post),
“Demonstrators gathered to protest the Sabal Trail pipeline and participate in the “Dirty Dozen” waterways conference call.”
WWALS Watershed Coalition sponsored the demonstration.
Members and demonstrators met in the median of Highway 84 at the Withlacoochee River Bridge to listen to the Georgia Water Coalition’s “Dirty Dozen 2016” conference call.
- Georgia Water Coalition, Waterkeeper Alliance, 17 November 2016, â€œDirty Dozenâ€ Calls Out Most Threatened Waters in Georgia,
Written by Georgia Water Coalition, a group of more than 230 organizations including Altamaha Riverkeeper, Apalachicola Riverkeeper, Chattachoochee Riverkeeper, Flint Riverkeeper, Ogeechee Riverkeeper, Satilla Riverkeeper, Savannah Riverkeeper, St. Marys Riverkeeper, and WWALS Watershed Coaltion, a Waterkeeper Affiliate.
Georgia’s leading water coalition named its â€œDirty Dozenâ€ for 2016, highlighting 12 of the worst offenses to Georgiaâ€™s waters. The annual Dirty Dozen shines a spotlight on threats to Georgiaâ€™s water resources. It also highlights the polluters and state policies or failures that threaten the health and safety of Georgiaâ€™s waters. Nine Riverkeepers and Affiliates are members of the Georgia Water Coalition.
“This year’s report highlights the real, human costs of dirty energy production in Georgia’s communities,” said Joe Cook, Advocacy and Communication Coordinator for Coosa River Basin Initiative. “Toxic chemicals from coal plants are showing up in groundwater wells and in our rivers while risky proposals for transporting and extracting gas and oil threaten water supplies, wildlife and property rights.”
- Bruce Ritchie, Politico, 17 November 2016, Sabal Trail spill, protests across U.S. spur debate over natural gas pipeline in Florida,
TALLAHASSEE — Environmentalists are raising concerns over a drilling mud discharge last month from a natural gas pipeline being dug under the Withlacoochee River in Georgia that could damage the river and downstream springs in Florida.
The criticisms come as Native Americans have drawn national attention to their opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, and 14 people protesting the pipeline in Florida were arrested Saturday in Gilchrist County of disorderly conduct and other charges.
Sabal Trail Tranmission company officials said the discharge in the Withlacoochee River was cleaned up as they installed a floating yellow turbidity curtain, similar to an oil spill boom, to prevent the spread of two gallons of drilling mud. The river flows into Florida 15 miles downstream and eventually into the Suwannee River.
The Georgia Water Coalition on Wednesday listed the Sabal Trail pipeline on its annual “dirty dozen” list of threats to rivers in the state. Several of those rivers, including the Chattahoochee, Flint and Withlacoochee rivers, eventually flow into Florida.
John Quarterman of the WWALS Watershed Coalition environmental group in Georgia said the public was told such accidents were not possible.
“So what else can happen that they said couldn’t happen?” Quarterman asked. “And why should we take that risk or any risk for this pipeline that has never been of any benefit to the state?”
- Ashlyn Becton, WALB, 16 November 2016, Environmentalist raise awareness about Sabal Trail Pipeline (WWALS blog post),
Folks from North Florida and South Georgia held a protest at the Withlacoochee River Wednesday and listened to a news conference announcing the Georgia Water Coalition’s Dirty Dozen.
The report highlights the worst offenses and greatest threats to Georgia’s bodies of water.The 3.2-billion dollar Sabal Trial pipeline will pass through nine south Georgia counties, and water coalition members are not happy about it.
“There is no excuse for this pipeline and it is massively destructive,” said John Quarterman.
Quarterman is the president of the WWALS Watershed Coalition out of Hahira.
That group has fought the pipeline since it was announced in 2013, including a 4-month legal challenge.
“Sabal Trail told us in a legal case in Florida that we would never, it couldn’t happen that drilling would cause things to bubble up in the area. It happened right over there just 2,000 feet up stream,” said Quarterman.
- Nick Evans, WUSF, 14 November 2016, Drilling Mud Leak In South Georgia Raises New Sabal Trail Pipeline Concerns (WWALS blog post)
Water activists are raising the alarm over a South Georgia drilling leak in the Withlacoochee River. Sabal Trail is drilling beneath the river to build a more than 500-mile natural gas pipeline stretching from Alabama to Florida.
WWALS Watershed Coalition works to protect….
- Steve Patterson, Jacksonville.com, 14 November 2016, Gas pipeline project headed to Suwannee River leaks into Georgia waterway; sparks environmental worries (WWALS PR),
A leak in the shaft for a natural gas pipeline beneath a Georgia river has reinforced environmental worries at Florida’s Suwannee River and other waterways in the pipeline’s path.
The leak into the Withlacoochee River near Valdosta, Ga. underscored earlier concerns about twin hazards from the Sabal Trail pipeline: that pipeline shafts could leak contaminants into rivers, and let river water escape through cracks in the area’s sinkhole-riddled bedrock.
“What they said couldn’t happen did happen,” said John Quarterman, president of the WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc., a group fighting work on the 515-mile pipeline planned to cross three states.
- Jim Tatum, Our Santa Fe River, 22 October 2016, Sabal Trail Under Construction (WWALS blog post),
John Quarterman of WWALS organized and executed today Oct. 22, 2016 a flight along the Sabal Trail construction zone along the Suwannee basin. Flight covered was from the Santa Fe River crossing south of Branford to Moultrie, Georgia. Corridor covered from Suwannee, Hamilton in Florida to Lowndes, Brooks and Colquitt Counties in Georgia.
Hats off to John Quarterman for the organizing, research and execution, and also to Roy Zimmerman, volunteer pilot from Deland who gave his time, use of aircraft and aviation gas. Additional crew was Dominic Gheesling, professional photographer and your historian from OSFR. Look for the well-researched, heavily-documented, link-laden WWALS post soon to come out. Thank you John, for this opportunity.
- Thomas Lynn, Suwannee Democrat, 18 October 2016, Sabal Trail protesters camp outside pipeline route (previous WWALS blog post),
“This company has been given free range to do anything they want,” Jipson said. “There’s no oversight at all.”
She mentioned that Sabal Trail was granted a permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission based on a Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) completed by the company. Many other protest groups have criticized the EIS as inaccurate and deceptive.
Along with the WWALS Watershed Coalition, Malwitz-Jipson has fought to have the Army Corps of Engineers do its own EIS with little success.
The protesters are working on growing their numbers and plan on staying at the encampment for as long as they can.
- Desiree Carver, Valdosta Daily Times, Friday, September 23, 2016, front page, Sabal protests continue (LAKE blog post),
The WWALS Watershed Coalition stood on the bridge between Brooks and Lowndes County Saturday to show solidarity with Dakota Access Pipeline opponents in Dakota and to continue its battle against the Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline.
According to a release from WWALS, the stance was to “help demand the Army Corps reevaluate its permit for Sabal Trail just like its permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline.”
- Gloria Tatum, Atlanta Progressive News, 12 September 2016, Proposed SabaL Gas Pipeline runs through aquifer, wetlands, sinkhole territory (WWALS blog post),
“This is the last gasp of the dying fossil fuel industry….now that there are more solar power jobs than in all of oil and gas extraction,” John Quarterman, President of … WWALS Watershed Coalition in south Georgia and north Florida, told Atlanta Progressive News.
“Solar is the least expensive of all power sources, does not require three years to permit it, doesn’t require eminent domain, and [you] can install a big solar plant in a few months,” Quarterman said….
“We are taking risks with our sole source of drinking water,” Quarterman said.
“What we are seeing is short-term profiteering at the expense of our water, our environment, and our property rights,” Quarterman said.
- Christopher Curry, Gainesville Sun, 14 August 2016, In north Florida, the pipeline will run through conservation areas, under rivers, near springs, and sinkhole-vulnerable karst geological areas,
With permits in hand, the companies behind Sabal Trail applied to FERC to start construction on or before Aug. 17. FERC already approved the pipeline project in February and now is looking at whether the companies behind Sabal Trail met all conditions of that approval before green-lighting construction.
In an email, Spectra Energy spokeswoman Andrea Grover gave a target date of “late August” to start construction. She said the more than 500-mile route will be divided into five segments and construction on each will start simultaneously.
The company is engaged in authorized pre-construction activities such as surveys and gopher tortoise trapping and relocation, Grover wrote.
Already, pipe is being stored in an area north of Lake City, a fact made public by the WWALS Watershed Coalition, a south Georgia and north Florida group opposed to the pipeline project. The group argued that the storage yard was not an allowed pre-construction activity.
Grover wrote that a transportation contractor leased the storage yard to move “the pipe from the pipe mill to a location closer to the project to temporarily store pipe.”
The Army Corps of Engineers did not grant a request from the Madison County Commission in north Florida to further review potential environmental impacts of Sabal Trail’s main line, including “a site inspection to determine the actual proximity of active sinkholes and other features of the aquifer and cave systems to the proposed pipeline route,” records posted on the WWALS Watershed Coalition Web site showed.
Madison County commissioners noted that the pipeline passes through neighboring Hamilton County near the Withlacoochee River and expressed concerns about potential pollution to the river, area wells and Madison Blue Spring, either from construction or a possible pipeline leak later.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers declined the commission’s request, saying information already gathered about the project is sufficient for them to make an accurate evaluation.
- Jim Tatum, OSFR, 11 August 2016, Unusual Meeting in Live Oak — Some Success (WWALS blog post),
An unusual meeting today, Tuesday, August 9, 2016 at the Live Oak headquarters of SRWMD. Unusually long, as it continued well into the afternoon after lunch. The reason for this was that the public comment did not finish until almost 12 o’clock. And the reason for that, was that a large group from Gainesville, Fort White, Madison, Hamilton County, and Valdosta, GA came to express their concerns to the governing board.
No fewer than 11 people spoke, mostly against the pipeline company which has pushed relentlessly into Florida and run roughshod over landowners, falsified its reports to FERC and brazenly trucked its pipe illegally into Florida before obtaining the required permit.
A measure of success was attained today when Chairman Quincey, with approval of Executive Director Noah Valenstein, announced that the board would write a letter of concern to the Army Corps of Engineers regarding the Sabal Trail controversy over the inaccurate Environmental Impact Statement (EIS.)
- Thomas Lynn, Suwanee Democrat, 7 July 2016, Residents voice concern for Sabal Trail grant,
Before and after the board voted, concerned citizens spoke against the board taking any money. Sabal Trail is a controversial topic due to the proposed pipeline that would cut through Suwannee County and the Suwannee River.
The proposed route of the pipeline has come under scrutiny from various watershed groups including the … [WWALS] Watershed Coalition.
Jake Galvin and Dan Christensen, Florida Bulldog, 28 June 2016, Push to block Sabal Trail gas pipeline looks to enlist U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
In an escalating effort to block the controversial Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline, opponents are asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to examine allegations that information about potential environmental hazards was overlooked during the regulatory process….
The WWALs Watershed Coalition, whose name is an acronym for the watersheds of the Withlachoochee, Willacooche, Alapaha, Little and Upper Suwannee rivers, has spearheaded environmental opposition to Sabal Trail.
- Maryvonne Devensky, Gainesville Sun, 24 April 2016, Maryvonne Devensky: Pipeline can still be reconsidered,
The Sabal Trail pipeline project is not a done deal. Since January, there has been a momentum in Georgia and Florida to oppose this natural gas pipeline from citizens, officials and environmental groups because of very serious concerns.
Members of the Suwannee St Johns Sierra Club and [WWALS] … Watershed Coalition led a hike in the Suwannee River State Park to show how the area tagged for construction is full of sinkholes and how the Sabal Trail documentation is flawed. Johanna deGraffenreid, wetlands advocate with the Gulf Restoration Network, is coordinating efforts to make sure the public and our elected officials have the right information on the Sabal Trail project.
- Michael Praats, Valdosta Daily Times, 20 April 2016, BOC Chairman: Sabal Trail vote not endorsement,
VALDOSTA—The proposed Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline has some residents concerned with property values, environmental impact and a plethora of other issues. John Quarterman, speaking on behalf of the WWALS Watershed Coalition, has requested the county rescind its Sabal Trail agreement and stop the sale of easements to Spectra Energy.
Quarterman is leading the charge to prevent pipeline construction and publicly opposed a decision by the Lowndes County Commission to sell the easements.
- Adam Floyd, posting SpectraBusters PR, including a link to the PDF flyer, ValdostaToday, 19 April 2016, OPINION: Short-term jobs are not worth long-term Sabal Trail risk,
LIVE OAK, Fla. — Local residents and half a dozen environmental organizations want applicants at Sabal Trail pipeline job fairs to know a job for a few weeks isnâ€™t worth risking drinking water for all our families and children and grandchildren.
Opponents of the Sabal Trail fracked methane pipeline and supporters of solar power include the Suwannee-St Johns Sierra Club Group, St Johns Riverkeeper, WWALS Watershed Coalition, Our Santa Fe River, Earth Ethics, Gulf Restoration Network, and SpectraBusters.
- John S. Quarterman, Valdosta Daily Times, 10 April 2016, Thanks for a historic victory against Sabal Trail,
The Georgia House on March 22nd by an unprecedented 34 ayes to 128 nays rejected easements for Sabal Trail to drill our Withlacoochee and other Georgia Rivers. This was a historic victory by the Georgia Water Coalition, including Georgia Sierra Club, WWALS, Flint Riverkeeper, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, plus SpectraBusters, and thanks to all of you who called their state reps,
That same day….
- Nadia Steinzor, Earth Island Journal, in Truthout, 9 April 2016, Darkening Drillers’ Hopes in the Sunshine State,
Like everywhere else, fighting oil and gas in Florida increasingly means taking on big pipeline projects. The biggest and most hotly contested of all is the Sabal Trails Transmission Pipeline, proposed to run over 500 miles from Alabama through Georgia to Florida, and include at least five compressor stations along the way. The gas would be used to generate electricity and supply industries through two utility companies, Florida Power and Light and Duke Energy of Florida. The Sabal Trails Pipeline, which would cross numerous conservation areas, wetlands, rivers, and aquifers, has engendered strong resistance from watershed protection groups [WWALS], environmental advocates [Sierra Club], and residents [SpectraBusters] along the proposed route.
- John S. Quarterman, WWALS blog, 6 April 2016, Suwannee BOCC votes 4:1 to ask Army Corps of Engineers to investigate Sabal Trail 2016-04-05,
Yet Florida law requires citizens to be able to speak, and local landowner Wayne Ellison was first to the podium, saying he most definitely was still opposed to the pipeline, since Sabal Trail wants to run it through his cow pasture full of sinkholes, and what would become of his cows?
Also speaking were Debra Johnson of Suwannee County and SpectraBusters, Jim Tatum for Our Santa Fe River, Chris Mericle of Hamilton County and a WWALS board member, and John S. Quarterman, WWALS president. All five speakers are WWALS members. Suwannee County takes its own video, so in a few days you will be able to see everything we said.
- Jim Tatum, Our Santa Fe River, 5 April 2016, Suwannee Co. BOCC Votes to Send Letter to Army Corps of E. noting Sabal Discrepencies,
Tonight, April 5, 2016, the Suwannee County board of commissioners voted to send a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers expressing their concerns regarding the study for the proposed Sabal Trail pipeline. As outlined in our post â€œHas Sabal Trail Withheld Vital Information?,â€ another geological study done by someone not paid by Sabal returned very different conclusions.
- Debra Johnson, SpectraBusters, 5 April 2016, Suwannee County Votes to Send Letter to Army Corps Of Engineers Asking for Independent Geological Study,
Tuesday April 5th Suwannee County voted 4 to 1 , with chairman Bashaw dissenting, to send a letter requesting that the Corps perform an independent environmental study concerning the geological omissions Sabal Trail withheld from their Environmental Study submitted to FERC to receive a permit to bore under the Suwannee River. After comparing Sabal Trailâ€™s EIS with that of local geologist Dennis Price, Chris Mericle discovered omissions and discrepancies in this report endangering the Floridan Aquifer which supplies 60% of Floridaâ€™s water supply as well as endangering millions of citizens and hundreds, if not thousand, of springs. Sabal Trail submitted information for the pipeline permit to FERC stating the closest sinkhole to the pipeline route boring under the Suwannee River would be 750â€² from the pipeline which is not true. Commissioner Wainwright and other BOCC officials discovered one active sinkhole 75â€² from the 36â€³ fracked gas pipeline. In fact there is a sinkhole smack in the middle of the pipeline route with sinkholes covering the entire area.
Price, Mericle, and Johnson are WWALS members; Mericle is a WWALS board member.
- Carl McKinney, Suwannee Democrat, 1 April 2016, Suwannee County Commission to discuss Sabal Trail sinkholes, (WWALS blog post)
The letter would mimic one Hamilton County recently voted to send, said Suwannee County Commissioner Wesley Wainwright….
Several local residents, in addition to environmental groups, oppose the pipeline. One of the concerns, which has been brought up repeatedly by groups such as WWALS Watershed Coalition, is the sensitive nature of Florida’s geology….
The Suwannee County Commission have its next meeting 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Suwannee County Judicial Annex, 218 Parshley St. SW.
- Irina Slav, OilPrice, 31 March 2016, Gas Pipeline Uses 160 Eminent Domain Suits To Get Property In 3 States, picked up by SpectraBusters blog post),
There are a lot of groups fighting the construction of the pipeline, and the Sabal Trail is likely to have a tough time getting the necessary right of way.
- L. Elliott Jones, Albany Herald, 28 March 2016, L. ELLIOTT JONES: Construction of Sabal Trail pipeline is not inevitable GUEST COLUMNIST: Efforts are still under way to prevent the construction of the gas pipeline (annotated SpectraBusters blog post),
The preventable group also includes other entities, among them the WWALS Watershed Coalition representing river users and landowners of the Suwannee River basin, and the web-based information-sharing citizen organization, Spectrabusters.org. The preventable group also includes at least 160 landowners along the proposed pipeline route in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida who failed to reach adequate settlements with Sabal for the value of their land, according to a March 22 report in the Orlando Sentinel. Sabal began filing eminent-domain lawsuits against those unwilling landowners in federal court in mid-March, and more may follow. Defending landowners accuse Sabal of being unwilling to consider alternative pipeline routes, of offering insufficient compensation for pipeline land, for unavoidably damaging adjacent property, and for lacking required permits.
- Kristi E. Swartz, EEnews, 28 March 2016, PIPELINES: Ga. lawmakers move to block 2 interstate projects (WWALS blog post),
A coalition of environmental groups has been fighting the project for more than a year. After the state Board of Natural Resources approved easements last fall, Sabal Trailâ€™s opponents came up with a strategy for the legislative session.
Thatâ€™s the Georgia Water Coalition (GWC), which includes Waterkeeper® Alliance members Flint Riverkeeper and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and Affiliate WWALS Watershed Coalition, along with Sierra Club, environmental law firm Greenlaw of Atlanta, Georgia River Network, SpectraBusters, and other groups and individuals too numerous to mention, on the statehouse floor in Atlanta, calling and emailing legislators, letters to the editor, and blogging on the Internet, facebook, twitter, etc.; see WWALS writeup, and about Sabal Trail see the Dirty Dozen 2015,in which GWC listed Sabal Trail for the second year running, at the nomination of WWALS.
- John S. Quarterman, WWALS blog, 22 March 2016, Georgia legislature overwhelmingly rejects river easements for Sabal â€œSinkholeâ€ Trail fracked methane pipeline,
John S. Quarterman, President, WWALS Watershed Coalition, the Waterkeeper® Affiliate for the Withlacoochee River and Okapilco Creek, explained, â€œSo the governor canâ€™t veto what he doesnâ€™t get. Sabal Trailâ€™s Georgia river easements are dead!â€
- Aaron Gould Sheinin, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 22 March 2016, Georgia House defeats bill to grant easements for S. Georgia pipeline,
The Georgia House on Tuesday soundly rejected a controversial measure to grant easements to a Houston-based energy company to build a methane gas pipeline through parts of South Georgia.
Senate Resolution 954 was crushed by a vote of 34-128 after more than an hour of debate.
- John S. Quarterman, Valdosta Daily Times, 22 March 2016, Still possible to keep Sabal Trail out,
Many new groups and individuals have realized this and have joined the opposition to Sabal Trail. And all its ugly stepsisters: five already-approved liquid natural gas export operations on both Florida coasts, two schemes to ship LNG by rail and road as far as Miami and Jacksonville, and another natural gas pipeline already in FERC permitting by Kinder Morgan to connect Sabal Trail from Suwannee County to Jaxport, which has been loudly gearing up for LNG export for years. Enough greed for profit at our expense!
You can help call on our elected officials, local, state, and federal, to stop this pipeline boondoggle that benefits nothing but greed for profit by a few companies.
Ask Georgia, Florida, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers not to issue any permits; see www.wwals.net/issues/stt/.
Let the sun rise over the rivers and aquifer on which our life depends.
- Paulo Salazar, WTXL, 1 February 2016, Sabal Trail Pipeline Causing Concern for Suwannee County Residents,
[WWALS board member] Chris Mericle has voiced in opposition of the project and says, “The pipeline is going through some very sensitive areas that actually will be drilled underneath the Suwannee River State Park.”
- Jason Stewart, Valdosta Daily Times, 27 January 2016, County approves Sabal easement,
William Langdale of Langdale Vallotton LLP disputed the domain rights.
“As Sabal Trail’s proposed use does not appear to furnish any natural gas in the state of Georgia,” Langdale said, “it is not authorized to exercise eminent domain rights pursuant to O.C.G.A. 22-3-88.”…
Quarterman challenged Slaughter’s assertion the agreement is in the best interest of the county and is like any other utility.
“I’m curious,” Quarterman said, “how this pipeline, which provides nothing to Lowndes County, is like any other utility.”
- Adam Floyd, Valdosta Today, 27 January 2016, LOWNDES COUNTY GRANTS EASEMENT FOR SABAL TRAIL PIPELINE
- Noelani Mathews, WCTV, 27 January 2016, Lowndes County Leaders Vote 4-1 for Sabal Trail (WWALS blog post)
“They’re supposed to represent the people of the County, not the salesman for a pipeline company from Houston, Texas”, says John Quarterman, president of WWALS Watershed Coalition.
- John S. Quarterman, Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange, 27 January 2016, Videos: Sold out to Sabal Trail @ LCC 2016-01-26,
Exodus 23:2: Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.
- John S. Quarterman, Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange, 26 January 2016, The hazardous waste Lowndes County Clyattville landfill is not just another Sabal Trail easement @ LCC 2016-01-26
- Jason Stewart, VDT, 25 January 2016, County to vote on easement for Sabal Trail
- Flint Riverkeeper Gordon Rogers, Georgia Sierran, January/February/March 2016, Pipeline in Southwest Georgia and Central Florida Risks Drinking Water,
The WWALS Watershed Coalition, representing the Waterkeeper affiliate for the Withlacoochee, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Little and upper Suwannee River watersheds, filed suit and recently completed court proceedings challenging the legality of the FDEP permit on environmental grounds. The presiding judge did not side with WWALS, recommending FDEP move forward with the permit. WWALS and their attorneys are examining an appeal. Sabal Trail wants to drill under Okapilco and many other creeks in Georgia, plus the Withlacoochee, Flint and Chattahoochee rivers in Georgia, in addition to Floridaâ€™s Suwannee. The Sierra Club Florida Chapter contributed to the WWALS legal fund for their case, following up on the March 2014 joint resolution against Sabal Trail by the Florida, Georgia and Alabama Chapters. Save Our Suwannee also contributed financially, while Our Santa Fe River, Suwannee Alliance for Sustainable Growth and SpectraBusters assisted in other ways, such as by finding witnesses. Without the permit, Sabal Trail cannot drill under the Suwannee River. FDEP cannot issue the permit until this legal case is resolved, and there will almost certainly be an appeal.
- Chris Beckham, WVGA 105.9 FM, 15 January 2016, WWALS Outings –interview with John S. Quarterman
- Carl McKinney, Suwannee Democrat, 15 January 2016, Informational/organizational meeting on Sabal Trail pipeline 11 a.m. Saturday
- Lori McCraney, Suwannee Democrat, 24 December 2015, Opinion: Suwannee County commissioners lack resolve against Sabal Trail (WWALS blog post),
“Apparently, rural lives matter less than urban lives.”
- Joe Adgie, Valdosta Daily Times (and Moultrie Observer), 20 December 2015, EPA reverses stand on impact pipeline would have on aquifer (WWALS blog post),
“I don’t understand how EPA and FERC can say there will not be a negative impact on our environment, aquifer, streams and rivers,” said Valdosta City Councilman Tim Carroll. “A number of experts testified and spoke up saying the likelihood is very high that there could be damage to the aquifer and the environment. Why would we want to allow this to happen, to run the risk of seriously degrading one of the best water resources in the world?”
A Sierra Club of Florida official suggested the change in direction was politically motivated.
“I smell a skunk,” said Frank Jackalone, senior organizing manager of the Sierra Club of Florida. “This sudden 180-degree reversal raises the question of whether the pipeline’s powerful investors pulled political strings to get EPA to back away from the objections it raised a few months ago.”
John Quarterman, WWALS Watershed Coalition president, was not pleased with the change in direction either.
“The one government agency actually defending our drinking water in the Floridan Aquifer and the many rivers in Georgia and Florida just stifled itself,” Quarterman said.
The pipeline has been the subject of criticism from residents of Florida, Georgia and Alabama since 2013.
Local opposition has concerned property rights, with landowners contending Sabal Trail has illegally used eminent domain to get on their property for a pipeline that may not supply natural gas to customers in Georgia.
The Lowndes County Commission and the Valdosta City Council passed resolutions in 2014 opposing the pipeline, contending the rights of property owners were in jeopardy because of the pipeline.
- Chip Harp, Valdosta Today, 19 December 2015, EPA STEPS BACK ON SABAL TRAIL CONCERNS
- Dan Chapman, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 18 December 2015, Southwest Georgia pipeline advances,
Georgia landowners and environmentalists were livid.
“This report just shows they are nothing but a lap dog for the natural gas industry and they’ve never seen a pipeline they don’t like,” said Steve Caley, legal director for Atlanta-based GreenLaw which is fighting the pipe. “They issued a final environmental (statement) while acknowledging they don’t have all the information yet.”
Spectra Energy, the Texas-based pipeline builder, wants to deliver 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from a major trunk line in Alabama to Florida. The proposed route would mostly follow existing utility rights-of-way, a factor cited Friday by FERC in support of the plan.
It would also cross under the Chattahoochee, Flint, Withlacoochee and Ochlocknee rivers. Spectra says the pipe will be buried at least 32 feet below any stream….
Federal environmental officials earlier this year outlined “very significant concerns” over the proposed route. The Environmental Protection Agency recommended that Spectra reroute the project to avoid more than 1,000 acres of wetlands, the Floridan Aquifer that supplies drinking water to millions of people and “other environmentally sensitive areas.”
“And FERC completely ignored all of them,” GreenLaw’s Caley said. “They totally ignored all the scientists at EPA, the expert reports we submitted and thousands of comments from public citizens.”…
Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources must still approve an air quality permit for the compressor station. FERC commissioners must also sign off on the project. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may weigh in too. GreenLaw is considering a lawsuit.
- Press Release, Florida Sierra Club, 17 December 2015, EPA says Sabal Trail pipeline is threat to Florida’s drinking water, then recants,
The Sierra Club strongly opposes any oil and gas pipelines proposed for Florida. Currently we are working in opposition to the Sabal Trail Pipeline, a joint venture of Spectra Energy, Duke Energy and Next Era, the parent company of Florida Power & Light Co….
Back in Florida, after the EPA issued its scathing report, the WWALS Watershed Coalition asked a Florida administrative law judge to take judicial notice of the EPA objections. But the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) joined Sabal Trail Transmission LLC, the company proposing the pipeline, and objected to the judicial notice. The Administrative Law Judge denied the Coalitionâ€™s request and on December 11th, the judge recommended that DEP should issue an environmental resource permit for the proposed pipeline.
Sabal Trail Transmission LLC must also acquire a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act before the pipeline can be built. Sierra Club Florida, working with the Gulf Restoration Network and Green Law recently submitted comments in opposition to the Sabal Trail Pipeline to the U.S Army Corps of Engineers.
We will continue to do everything we can to oppose the Sabal Trail Pipeline and will keep our Members posted about ways you can take action to oppose the Pipeline.
- Carl McKinney, Suwannee Democrat, 16 December 2015, The future of energy: Debate takes over Suwannee commission meeting (WWALS blog post),
Carl McKinney’s droll legend refers on his picture refers to WWALS board member Chris Mericle as “Jasper man”. The map shows sinkholes near the proposed pipeline path across the Suwannee River and the Falmouth Cathedral Cave System, at the Suwannee County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday December 15th 2015. They did nothing about a further resolution against Sabal Trail, although numerous citizens (many of them WWALS members) from Suwannee County and nearby counties helped discuss the situation.
- Susan Salisbury, Palm Beach Post, 16 December 2015, EPA reverses stance on Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline project,
“This was really bold. There was a very detailed analysis of why the pipeline was flawed in the 30-page letter by the EPA to FERC. Now suddenly in a five-page letter, James Giattina (an EPA administrator) throws it all out the window,” Jackalone said Wednesday….
EPA spokeswoman Davina Marraccini said Wednesday that based on the new information and more recent technical review, EPA has concluded the project as proposed addresses wetland-related issues…“EPA expects that the potential wetlands impacts will be addressed in more detail during the permit process and looks forward to reviewing the final mitigation plan during that review,” Marraccini said.
- Christopher Curry, Ocala StarBanner, 16 December 2015, EPA reverses position on Sabal Trail pipeline,
The lone government agency with environmental concerns over the planned Sabal Trail pipeline has changed its tune and dropped its objections.
In a Dec. 11 letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stated that it changed its stance after meeting with Sabal Trail company representatives, reviewing written comments from the companyâ€™s vice president/deputy general counsel and looking â€œmore closelyâ€ at the project….
“This sudden, 180 degree reversal raises the question of whether the pipeline’s powerful investors pulled political strings to get EPA to back away from the objections it raised a few months ago in a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,” Frank Jackalone, senior organizing manager for Sierra Club Florida, wrote in an email Tuesday evening.
In a message on its website, the south Georgia environmental group WWALS Watershed Coalition, which recently launched an unsuccessful challenge against a state permit for the pipeline, raised concerns about the EPA’s reliance on information provided by Houston-based Spectra Energy, the firm that will construct, own and operate the pipeline, instead of information from groups such as Sierra Club.
EPA and Spectra Energy officials could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday morning.
- Bruce Ritchie, Politico, 16 December 2015, EPA reverses course on several Sabal Trail pipeline issues (WWALS blog post),
“This sudden, 180-degree reversal raises the question of whether the pipeline’s powerful investors pulled political strings to get EPA to back away from the objections it raised a few months ago,” [Frank] Jackalone [of Sierra Club Florida Chapter] said in an email Tuesday to POLITICO Florida.
- Dean Poling, Valdosta Daily Times, 15 December 2015, Logo wanted for river trail (WWALS blog post
- Brittany Kleinpeter, WTXL, Tallahassee, Florida, 14 December 2015, Environmental Group is Not Surprised by Judge’s Decision (WWALS blog post),
- Carl McKinney, Suwannee Democrat, 14 December 2015, Judge rules in favor of Sabal Trail pipeline,
John Quarterman is the president of WWALS Watershed Coalition, which brought the legal challenge forward to try and block the state from issuing a permit.
“The judge’s decision is not unanticipated, but disappointing,” Quarterman said. “We’re considering our options.”
The basis of the lawsuit was that the DEP didn’t do its due diligence in making sure Sabal Trail’s assurances about environmental impact were accurate, he said.
Though the agency hasn’t done so yet, it intends to grant the permit. Until it does, WWALS can’t appeal the judge’s decision, Quarterman said.
Sabal Trail was treated like any other permit applicant, Quarterman said, according to the DEP’s own statements. However, the Suwannee and Santa Fe rivers, which the pipeline would cross, have a special legal classification giving them higher levels of protection, he added.
- Joe Fisher, Natural Gas Intelligence, 14 December 2015, ALJ Recommends Florida Permit For Sabal Trail,
Environmental group WWALS Watershed Coalition Inc.’s primary objection to the project is the laying of pipeline in what it says is unstable karst terrain unfit for such a project. Such limestone geology is subject to holes, cracks and fissures, as well as sinkholes, which are common in North Florida.
However, ALJ Bram D.E. Canter recommended that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issue a permit for the project [CP15-17], which is a joint venture of Spectra Energy and NextEra Energy Inc. (see Daily GPI, Nov. 21, 2014)….
Canter also wrote that besides four WWALS members whose property would be crossed by Sabal Trail, the concerns of other members of the organizations were generally speculative when it came to how they would be affected by the pipeline. "Although a substantial number of WWALS members have substantial interests in the use and enjoyment of the waters and environment of Hamilton County and Suwannee County, a showing of potential injury to those interests was only established in the record for four WWALS members — the four who own land that the pipeline will cross," Canter wrote.
WWALS members are not the first to raise the issue of fragile karst terrain in the path of Sabal Trail. Lawmakers from Georgia have asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to consider route alternatives, mainly to avoid low-income communities but also out of a concern for karst (see Daily GPI, Oct. 27). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has raised multiple concerns about the project, including karst (see Daily GPI, Oct. 23).
- Carolina Bolado, Law360, 14 December 2015, Enviros Lose Challenge To $3B Fla. Natural Gas Pipeline,
WWALS had filed a challenge in August after the DEP published a notice of intent to issue permits for the Sabal Trail Transmission pipeline proposed by Spectra Energy Corp. and NextEra Energy Inc.
The organization expressed concerns about how the pipeline would affect fish and wildlife as well as water quality in the area. WWALS also said its members’ recreational use of the rivers and surrounding area could be affected by the pipeline.
Attorney William Wohlsifer, who represents WWALS, expressed frustration at the judge saying that the environmental group had failed to provide evidence about potential consequences of the pipeline. He said the judge had not permitted the group to present evidence regarding safety.
- News Service of Florida, Daily Commercial (also Ocala StarBanner via AP) 12 Dec 2015, Judge backs Sabal Trail pipeline project (WWALS blog post),
The WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. challenged a department decision to approve the permit, pointing to concerns about issues such as the project’s effects on wetlands, water quality and wildlife. Canter ruled that the group didn’t have legal standing to challenge the permit but also went further and rejected arguments against the project.
- Bruce Ritchie, Politico, 11 December 2015, Judge: DEP should issue environmental permit for Sabal Trail pipeline,
But a lawyer representing the WWALS Watershed Coalition said she was waiting for the go-ahead from the group to appeal in state court once DEP issues a permit. She said the group will ask the court to consider the EPA letter after Canter refused to provide a judicial review of it.
“A lot of people don’t even know about this pipeline,” said Leighanne Boone, representing the WWALS Watershed Coalition.
“They don’t know about this coming through. They think DEP is out there to protect. Wouldn’t they be surprised?”…
Boone said Friday that if there is additional evidence, the department should be able to deny the permit.
“No, I don’t believe they are joined at the hip,” she said. “They should be an independent agency that serves the people of Florida.”
Canter said in his order that the pipeline would be drilled under the Suwannee and Santa Fe rivers to avoid surface impacts and 1.7 miles from Blue Springs State Park in Madison County. The pipeline, at four to six feet beneath the land surface, would cross above the Falmouth Cave system more than 100 feet below ground, Canter wrote.
Boone said the WWALS Coalition had its own expert testimony showing there was a reasonable chance of harm as a result of the pipeline going through the region.
“I’m not sure if they read the transcript or what happened,” she said. “But I definitely felt we showed expert testimony of irreversible impacts.”
- Carl McKinney, Suwannee Democrat, 10 Dec 2015, County not sending pipeline opposition letter,
The Suwannee County Commission adjourned a special Âcalled meeting Thursday after it declined to send a letter requesting regulators keep the Sabal Trail pipeline out of Florida and Suwannee County. “The pristine nature of this area should be kept in tact,” the letter states. Commissioners debated the letter at Live Oak City Hall Thursday morning. It would have been sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which the pipeline needs a permit from, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission….
Commissioner Wesley Wainwright was the first to elaborate on his stance at Thursday’s meeting.
“My business depends very heavily on energy,” he said, expressing concerns about how it would be impacted by rising costs.
“Natural gas is a viable alternative,” he continued.
However, if the other commissioners wanted to send the letter, Wainwright would support it to maintain a unified front, he added.
Wainwright said he believes the pipeline doesn’t pose a serious risk to the environment.
Environmental groups challenging the nearly 500Âmile project, which would run from Alabama through Georgia and Florida, dispute that stance, though.
John Quarterman, president of WWALS Watershed Coalition, said in an interview there is no peerreviewed evidence supporting claims it wouldn’t harm sensitive geological areas. It cuts right through Florida’s aquifer, he said, and threatens fragile layers of soluble rocks, which could create sinkholes.
“The pipeline would be massively destructive,” Quarterman said….
Area resident Debra Johnson asked the commission for a brief time to speak, which it reluctantly agreed to.
Natural gas is not a “bridge fuel” to sustainable energy, she said, but is actually one of the worst greenhouse gases.
The pipeline would deliver gas to Florida Power & Light, but there’s another way, she said. Solar power could meet the company’s needs just as well, she added, according to a statement from FPL itself.
A proposed port in Tampa could also be a better way to transport energy without threatening Florida’s aquifer, Johnson said.
“No matter which way you look at it, that’s what this pipeline does,” she added.
- Carl McKinney, Suwannee Democrat, 9 Dec 2015, Suwannee County pipeline fight: Sabal Trail emergency meeting tomorrow morning, (WWALS blog post)
The Suwannee County Commission has called an emergency meeting tomorrow, Dec. 10, at 9:30 a.m. to discuss the fight against the Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline. It was originally on the agenda for next week’s meeting on Dec. 15.
The meeting will be at Live Oak City Hall, 101 SE White Ave in Live Oak.
Commissioners will discuss sending a letter to the US Army Corps of Engineers asking it prevent the pipeline from running through the county.
- Carl McKinney, Suwannee Democrat, 7 December 2015, Suwannee County seeks allies in pipeline fight (WWALS blog post)
County staff is writing a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state of Florida, requesting the pipeline not enter Suwannee County….
John Quarterman, the president of WWALS Watershed Coalition environmental group, said he suspects several people will show up to the Dec. 15 meeting.
“There are certainly people in Suwannee County and nearby who are worried,” he said.
- Steve Ahlquist, RI Future.org, 30 November 2015, Former inspectors allege safety issues with Spectra pipeline project,
Spectra has a â€œhas a checkered history of accidents and violations of federal safety rules in the U.S. and Canada dating back decades,â€ says Dan Christensen writing in the Miami Herald. â€œSince 2006, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration recorded 25 incidents that caused more than $12 million in property damage along Spectraâ€™s main line â€” the 9,000-mile Texas Eastern Transmission that connects Texas and the Gulf Coast with big urban markets in the Northeast. The causes ranged from equipment failure and incorrect operations to pipe corrosion.â€
WWALS is featured in that 16 August 2015 Miami Herald story.
- Bruce Ritchie, POLITICO Florida, 25 November 2015 (tweeted by Watershed alliance 28 December 2015), Scott administration helped keep scathing EPA pipeline report out of legal challenge, (WWALS blog post)
Four days later, the WWALS Watershed Coalition asked Administrative Law Judge Bram D.E. Canter to take judicial notice of the EPA objections.
- Carl McKinney, Suwannee Democrat, 20 November 2015, Dozens gather in Live Oak to oppose gas pipeline, compress station (WWALS blog post),
Not one hand raised among the dozens in the room when a county commissioner asked who came to support the proposed Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline which would run through three states and dissect Suwannee County if approved.
Tuesday evening, every parking space at the countyâ€™s judicial annex building was full as Oâ€™Brien residents, people from Live Oak and activists and experts from as far as New Orleans gathered at the county commission meeting to voice their opposition to the project.
The commission was voting on a measure to send a letter to Sabal Trail Transmission, a partnership between Spectra Energy, Duke Energy and NextEra Energy, asking it to reconsider a controversial compressor station for the pipeline it plans to place in Oâ€™Brien.
- Johanna deGraffenreid, Gulf Restoration Network, 20 November 2015, Suwannee County Stands Up to Sabal Trail,
This week I had the pleasure of meeting dozens of community members in Suwannee County, Florida who are working to protect their community and the drinking water supply for the state. Individuals with the WWALS Watershed Coalition and Gulf Restoration Network walked a section of the proposed Sabal Trail pipeline route within the Suwannee River State Forest. Chris Mericle, a member of Gulf Restoration Network and board member of WWALS, showed the group one of the many active sinkholes along and nearby the proposed route.Chris Mericle shows the group an active sinkhole near the proposed Sabal Trail pipeline route through the Suwannee River State Park.
The Suwannee County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday to support moving the proposed natural gas compressor station associated with the Sabal Trail pipeline in their Florida community. When the county commission asked the packed room who was there to support the pipeline and compressor station not a single individual raised their hand. What followed was two hours of testimony supporting not just the resolution, but a complete ban on the compressor station and the Sabal Trail pipeline coming through their backyards.
- Joe Adgie, Valdosta Daily Times, 5 November 2015, Sabal makes Georgia Water Coalition’s Dirty Dozen (WWALS blog post and another WWALS blog post), In which Spectra Energy’s Andrea Grover claims “The pipeline will not contaminate water or aquifers,” despite Spectraâ€™s own SEC 10-K and Sabal Trail’s own Karst Mitigation Plan.
- Brad McEwan, Albany Herald, 4 November 2015, Proposed Sabal Trail pipeline makes water coalition Dirty Dozen: Georgia Water Coalition says Sabal Pipeline risky for SOWEGA (WWALS blog post),
According to the Dirty Dozen report the biggest concern voiced by the coalition, which is a consortium of 228 conservation and environmental organizations, hunting and fishing groups, businesses and faith-based organizations, is that the proposed pipeline could negatively impact the Withlacoochee, Flint, and Chattahoochee rivers, as well as smaller streams and creeks, along with the Florida aquifer, which is considered the regionâ€™s most important water source.
- Kristina Torres, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4 November 2015, “Dirty Dozen” pollution sites named by Georgia Water Coalition: Sabal Trail is on it again, submitted by WWALS again.
- Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel, 4 November 2015, Natural-gas pipeline threatens aquifer,
After 18 months of debate about a natural-gas pipeline that would tear through a corner of south Lake County, the federal Environment Protection Agency last week unleashed 30 pages of objections, including specific opposition to the line going through the fragile Green Swamp.
Finally! Thank heavens the EPA is defending the swamp, the source of much of the state’s drinking water stored in the Floridan Aquifer.
(The article doesn’t actually metion WWALS.)
- Ocala StarBanner, 29 October 2015, Editorial: A public watchdog when one’s needed (WWALS blog post)
How refreshing it is to see what is supposed to be a public watchdog, the EPA, act like, rather than serve as industry rubber stamps like the FERC, DEP and PSC.
- Christopher Curry, Gainesville Sun (also Ocala StarBanner and Daily Commercial of Sumter and Lake Counties), 27 October 2015, EPA: Sabal Trail pipeline’s path should be rerouted
The Environmental Protection Agency’s comments, outlined in a 26-page letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, left area activists feeling vindicated.
“Two years ago, that was the first thing we said to (FERC). With the aquifer and the karst sensitive areas, this is a bad place to put it,” said Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson of Our Santa Fe River Inc. “It’s nice to get the technical and scientific re-enforcement of what we as advocates have been saying from day one.
“But will it change anything? I hope so.”
The EPA strongly recommended an alternative pipeline route and a more thorough investigation….
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection intends to issue an environmental permit — a decision challenged by the WWALS Watershed Coalition, a south Georgia environmental group with members in north Florida.
- Dave Williams, Atlanta Business Chronicle, 27 October 2015, EPA objects to Georgia pipeline project (no actual mention of WWALS, but very similar to the AJC article with the WWALS picture)
- Greg Bluestein, AJC, (also Valdosta Today, Valdosta Daily Times, and WALB), 27 October 2015, Feds deliver blow to proposed Sabal Trail pipeline running through Georgia (WWALS member Don Thieme is pictured.)
- Susan Salisbury, Palm Beach Post, 26 October 2015, EPA objects to portions of Sabal Trail pipeline, calls for re-routing
- Carl McKinney, Suwannee Democrat, 23 October 2015, Jasper hearings could decide fate of gas pipeline
- Lori McCraney, Suwannee Democrat, 23 October 2015, Letter to the editor
In issuing the Environmental Resource Permit and Easement to use Sovereign Submerged lands for Sabal Trail pipeline project, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has apparently relied heavily on the information provided by Sabal Trail and has rubber-stamped Sabal Trail’s permit approval.
Just as disturbing is the Suwannee River Water Management District’s inability to meet its statutory responsibility to protect the Districtâ€™s water supply, water quality and natural systems.
In an April 18, 2014 memorandum to FERC, SRWMD geologist Carlos Herd and hydrogeologist Dale Jenkins essentially recommended that the pipeline project avoid karst limestone, areas with unconfined aquifer, caves, springs, wetlands, drilling under rivers, blasting, and using District groundwater for testing then disposing of the water afterwards. However, when called to testify Wednesday at the WWALS Watershed Coalition hearing, neither man seemed to recall any details about the memorandum that they co-authored.
Did these professionals neglect to review the memorandum prior to testifying, or were they muted by pressure from Tallahassee, where politics now trump established science? How can the DEP and SRWMD possibly be serving the best interests of the people of Florida in such a politicized climate?
- Suwannee Democrat, 23 October 2015, Jam-packed weekend and Sabal Trail fiasco,
Sabal Trail pipeline fiasco
The Sabal Trail pipeline’s proposed route has it running straight through Suwannee County, from north to south with a compressor station at Hildreth. The pipeline, if approved, will go under two rivers here, by many springs, karst topography areas and right above the Floridian aquifer.
We have a lot at stake in this county and by looking at the proposed route, we have a lot of the pipe going through here. So why is it, then, that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) felt the need to hold a public meeting in Columbia County to get public input on the matter and not here nor in neighboring Hamilton County, which will also see pipeline construction if approved? By the way, the pipelineâ€™s current proposed route doesnâ€™t have it going through Columbia County.
John Peconom, an environmental manager with FERC and one of the authors of the draft environmental impact study regarding the project, stated that FERC was unable to find suitable facilities here or in Hamilton County in which to hold public meetings.
The WWALS Watershed Coalition held a legal hearing this week against Sabal Trail. It was held in Hamilton County. The hearing was going to be held in Tallahassee, but was moved to Hamilton County, thanks to WWALS. By the way, the pipelineâ€™s proposed route doesnâ€™t have it going through Leon County, where Tallahassee is, either.
A suitable facility was obtained for this hearing in Hamilton County.
Funny how that happens.
- Amber Vann, Suwannee Democrat, 7 October 2015, Locals speak out against gas pipeline (WWALS blog post),
WWALS Watershed Coalition President John Quarterman asked the crowd if they felt insignificant, citing the DEIS’ findings that the SMP’s environmental impacts would be “less than significant”. Quarterman, as well as several other speakers, advocated for the move towards solar energy in Florida, the “Sunshine State”.
“In less than 10 years when most of the power, if not all, in the U.S.’s electrical grid is coming from sun, wind and water, the companies still pushing fossil fuels in the year 2015 and those who aid and abet them will be seen like the tobacco company executives still pushing cigarettes to children when they know full well they cause cancer,” Quarterman said. “FERC’s process is completely broken. I say to the FERC commissioners—if you don’t want to be remembered on the wrong side of history, do the right thing and deny this pipeline.”
Quarterman and WWALS are behind a hearing filed against Sabal Trail planned for Oct. 19-22 in Jasper or Live Oak, which could potentially halt the project if WWALS is favored, Quarterman said.
- Susan Salisbury, Palm Beach Post, 5 October 2015, Audubon Florida supports Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline, (WWALS blog post)
Hundreds of residents along the proposed route oppose the project, asserting that rivers such as the Suwannee River as well as springs and the regionâ€™s water supply will be adversely impacted by its construction and operation.
Wetlands will be filled resulting in reduced fish and wildlife habitat, WWALs Watershed Coalition Inc. stated in a petition filed with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
- Videos, Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange, 2 October 2015, Pipeline in Floridan Aquifer is total insanity â€“Marcellus Shale drilling veteran @ FERC Lake City 2015-10-01
- Dan Christensen, Miami Herald, 2 October 2015, Firm says Gov. Scott’s stake in pipeline project is ‘irrelevant’ (WWALS blog post)
Environmental groups seek to block $3 billion project
Coalition seeks all correspondences from Scott, his office
Staff says governor’s blind trust shields him from conflict
- Videos, Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange, 2 October 2015, Insanity: Sabal Trail pipeline in karst sinkhole Floridan Aquifer @ FERC Lake City 2015-10-01
- Joe Adgie, Valdosta Daily Times, 2 October 2015, REgulators hear from Valdosta about Sabal Trail (WWALS blog post),
John Quarterman spoke of sinkholes that could result from the construction of Sabal Trail and what it could mean for water wells or water sinks.
“I’m sure everyone around here has heard of the Shiloh Road sinkhole and the Snake Nation Road Sinkhole that the county had to spend around $500,000 to fix,” Quarterman said. “If the pipeline drilling under the Suwannee River or the Withlacoochee River were to cause a sinkhole, it could have an effect on we don’t really know whose wells or where else.”
- Videos, Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange, 1 October 2015, Sabal Trail bad for VSU, rivers, animals, landowners, and community: to FERC in Valdosta 2015-09-30
- Christopher Curry, Ocala StarBanner, 1 October 2015, Small crowd, big opposition to natural gas pipeline,
“The citizens in the counties this pipeline will go through will get no benefit from this pipeline,” said Deanna Mericle, a Hamilton County resident and member of the the environmental group WWALS Watershed Coalition.
This group has an active legal challenge to a pending Florida department of Environmental Protection approval of the project. It’s scheduled to go to an administrative law judge this month.
- Dan Christensen, Florida Bulldog, 30 September 2015, Pipeline company to judge: Evidence of Gov. Scott’s investment in us â€˜irrelevantâ€™
- Videos, Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange, 30 September 2015, A farce, a hoax, and wrong: citizens about Sabal to FERC in Moultrie 2015-09-29
- Kevin C. Hall, Moultrie Observer, 30 September 2015, ‘Hoax’ alleged in Sabal Trail
- Carlton Fletcher, Albany Herald, 29 September 2015, FERC gets an earful from Sabal Trail pipeline opponents: More than 200 show up for public hearing at Albany Civic Center (This article does not mention WWALS, but it’s about the first in the series of FERC meetings that next moved into WWALS territory.)
- Carlton Fletcher, Albany Herald, 26 September 2015, CARLTON FLETCHER: Anti-pipeline letter steps over line (WWALS blog post)
- Amber Vann, Jasper News (and Suwannee Democrat), 24 September 2015, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission: Sabal’s proposed pipeline impact ‘less than significant’ on environment (WWALS blog)
- Christopher Curry, Gainesville Sun, 14 September 2104, Sabal Trail pipeline environmental impact ‘not significant,’ feds say,
A south Georgia-based environmental group with members in north Florida, the WWALS Watershed Coalition, has an active challenge against that DEP permit that’s been assigned to administrative law judge with Florida’s Division of Administrative Hearings.
- Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson and Jim Tatum, Suwannee Democrat, 14 September 2015, The FERC flexes its muscles on Sabal Trail (WWALS blog)
- Carlton Fletcher, Albany Herald, 13 September 2015, FERC Sabal Trail ruling comes amidst protest: Group holds fasting vigil outside federal agencyâ€™s offices (WWALS blog post),
Meanwhile, in Florida an environmental group has filed a petition with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to stop development of the pipeline over concerns about the safety record of Spectra Energy, the Houston-based company that will build the pipeline. The group points to a May pipeline rupture under the Arkansas River that forced two miles of the river to be shut down after an estimated 3.9 million cubic feet of natural gas was released.
- Mary Shanklin, Orlando Sentinel, 9 September 2015, Natural-gas pipeline to Florida draws environmental concerns (WWALS blog post)
The Sabal Trail Pipeline has drawn opposition from a Florida group affiliated with WWALS Watershed Coalition Inc., which is based in Georgia. A chief concern is that the pipeline could impact Florida waterways and the drinking-water supply, said John S. Quarterman, director of the Florida and Georgia WWALS groups.
- Florida Water Daily, 8 September 2015, Environmental Groups Challenge Gas Pipeline Plans
- Dan Christensen, Miami Herald, 6 September 2015, Pipeline foes ask DEP to deny key permit, cite ‘conflict of interest’ by Gov. Rick Scott (WWALS blog post)
“The risk is not just to these waters … it is to the entire state of Florida whose growing population relies on the Floridan aquifer for much of its drinking water”
- Winnie Wright, WCTV, 4 September 2015, WWALS Receives Hearing on Sabal Trail Pipeline (WWALS blog post)
- CBS Miami, 4 September 2015, Judge To Consider Florida Pipeline Permit Dispute (WWALS blog post)
- Susan Salisbury, Palm Beach Post, 4 September 2015, State regulators grant hearing to anti-pipeline group (WWALS blog post)
Hamilton County resident and WWALS-FL registered agent Chris Mericle said, “We cannot continue to carve up our countryside like a cheap piece of meat and sell it to the highest bidder.”
- Christopher Curry, Gainesville Sun, (and Ocala StarBanner), 4 September 2015, Part of Sabal Trail challenge will proceed (WWALS blog post)
- Susan Salisbury, Palm Beach Post, 3 September 2015, Florida DEP says anti-pipeline group’s case to be heard (WWALS blog post)
- Christopher Curry, Gainesville Sun and Ocala StarBanner, 3 September 2015 DEP again rejects Georgia groupâ€™s challenge to Sabal Trail pipeline (WWALS blog post)
- Winnie Wright, WCTV, 3 September 2015, Pipeline Opposition Group Denied Appeal By FL-DEP (WWALS blog post)
- Scott Callahan and Christopher Curry Halifax Media Group, Daily Commercial, 2 September 2015, Proposed natural gas pipeline draws petition (WWALS blog post)
- John S. Quarterman, VDT, 2 September 2015, Let’s stop Sabal Trail before it makes any more mistakes
- Christopher Heath, WFTV, 1 September 2015, 9 Investigates new Florida natural gas pipeline (WWALS blog post)
- Susan Salisbury, Palm Beach Post, 31 August 2015, Gas pipeline slated to supply FPL’s plants faces opposition (WWALS blog post)
- Dan Christensen, Florida Bulldog, 1 September 2015, Pipeline foes ask DEP to deny key permit; Cite â€˜conflict of interestâ€™ by Gov. Scott (WWALS blog post)
- Chris Curry, Gainesville Sun, 1 September 2015, Natural gas pipeline permit challenged (WWALS blog post)
- WCTV, Winnie Wright, 28 August 2015, WWALS Watershed Coalition Files Petition Against Pipeline (WWALS blog post)
“The combination of all this opposition, what we of course want to do is to stop the pipeline”, says John Quarterman, with WWALS. “There’s no need for this pipeline. Solar power is what we should be doing.”
- FloridaBulldog.org, Dan Christensen, 19 August 2015, You donâ€™t need X-ray vision to see through Gov. Rick Scottâ€™s blind trust (WWALS blog post).
- Miami New Times, Tim Elfrink, 17 August 2015, Scott backs environmentally dubious pipeline from firm he invested in (WWALS blog post).
- Miami Herald, Dan Christensen, 16 August 2015, Pipeline company with tie to Gov. Scott and state backing, has history of accidents (WWALS blog post) (quoted in Rhode Island story).
- Ocala StarBanner, Christopher Curry, 15 August 2015, Georgia-based group hopes to block natural gas pipeline (WWALS blog post).
- FloridaBullDog, Dan Christensen, 13 August 2015, Pipeline company with tie to Gov. Scott, and state backing, has history of accidents (WWALS blog post).
- FloridaBulldog, Dan Christensen, 4 August 2015, Gov. Scottâ€™s pipeline investment gets a boost from Florida environmental regulators, by Dan Christensen.
DEP says it will issue the permit and easement unless an affected party files a petition seeking an administrative hearing by Friday, August 7. A spokesman for one environmental group, the Georgia-based WWALS Watershed Coalition, said it intends to file a petition by the deadline.
- WALB, 14 May 2015, Reed Bingham State Park,
Saturday, the park will host canoe and kayak races.
You can still sign up to take part in the 3rd annual Big Little River Paddle Event by calling (229) 896-3551.
- 2015-04-26: Tifton Gazette, BIG Little River Paddle Race in Tifton Gazette.
- 2015-04-03: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, South Georgia pipeline plan fuels fight,
“Atlanta is surrounded by fossil fuel invaders with more pipelines likely in the future,” said John S. Quarterman, a leader of the anti-Sabal Trail campaign in Valdosta. “But there’s no need for any of this now that solar power is cheaper, far cleaner than oil or gas and doesn’t require pipelines, terminals, compressor stations, eminent domain or environmental degradation.”
- 2015-03-23: Suwannee Democrat, 2 Hamilton County businesses donate prizes for logo contest
- 2015-03-20: Jasper News, Two Hamilton County businesses donate prizes for logo contest
- 2015-03-18: Valdosta CEO, South Georgia Talent Won the Alapaha River Water Trail Logo Contest
- 2015-03-13: Tifton Gazette: Prizes to High School Logo Contest Winners Saturday at Alapaha River Water Trail Conference
- 2015-03-11: Valdosta CEO: Prizes to High School Logo Contest Winners at Alapaha River Water Trail Conference
- 2015-02-16: Akron Ohio Beacon-Journal Eco-groups continue fighting natural gas pipelines across Ohio, By Bob Downing.
- 2015-01-20: Suwannee Democrat: High school student logo contest for Alapaha River Water Trail by WWALS
- 2015-01-09: Valdosta Daily Times: Valdosta in Moultrie discussing flooding Saturday
- 2014-12-11: WCTV: Lowndes County and Valdosta City Pass Resolutions against Sabal Trail Pipeline, by Winnie Wright
- 2014-11-27: WCTV: Sabal Trail on GWC Dirty Dozen: contamination, sinkholes, aquifer, by Winnie Wright
- 2014-10-14: Jasper News: Pipeline open house draws protesters
- 2014-08-28: Gainesville Sun: Water and property rights should trump pipeline profits (WWALS op-ed against Sabal Trail pipeline)
- 2014-08-03: Ocala Star-Banner: Water, property rights over pipeline profits (WWALS op-ed against Sabal Trail pipeline)
- 2014-08-01: Moultrie Observer: Much opposition (WWALS op-ed against Sabal Trail pipeline)
- 2014-07-27: Tifton Gazette: WWALS receives Alapaha Water Trali grant
- 2014-07-21: Valdosta Daily Times: WWALS gets grant from river network
- 2014-07-10: WALB TV: Sabal Trail pipeline hearing in Leesburg, GA
- 2014-06-25: Lanier County Advocate: Blueway Trails in South Georgia? by Christopher Lee Graham
- 2014-06-09: Palm Beach Post: FPL pipeline opponents attending hearing in Georgia Thursday
- 2014-03-10: Tifton Gazette: Big Little River Paddle Event
- 2013-12-11: Daily Commercial, Leesburg, FL, Gas pipeline discussed in Groveland,
But one group has already begun to question that. The WWALS Watershed Coalition Inc., an environmental group in Adel, Ga., has sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission opposing the pipeline.
In the letter, the group notes that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fined Spectra Energy, one of Sabal Trail’s parent companies, $15 million for spills at 89 sites along another pipeline.
“This pipeline brings only hazards and destruction with no benefits to Georgia, and it is expensive and equally hazardous and destructive to Florida,” Dave Hetzel, the group’s president, wrote.
“There is no excuse for yet another gas pipeline when solar power is already less expensive, doesn’t require a hundred-foot right of way, emits no pollution, doesn’t use massive amounts of water, risks no spills or fires, and provides cheaper electricity and jobs right here in south Georgia and north Florida.
“Profits for fossil fuel companies elsewhere are no reason to violate property rights of local people,” Hetzel added, “or to destroy our local watersheds, or to risk contamination of our aquifer.”
- 2013-08-21: fox31, Albany, GA, The importance of Watershed conservation
- 2013-02-13: Ocilla Star: Watershed conservation group raising awareness in south Georgia
- 2013-01-15: Tifton Gazette: Veteran river conservationist spoke to new WWALS Watershed Coalition
- 2019-12-02: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 2 December 2019, Valdosta City Council to consider supporting Troupeville[sic] River Camp,
- 2014-11-14: FERC and Sabal Trail at the Withlacoochee River in Hamilton County, FL filed with FERC by Chris Mericle
- 2014-10-27: WWALS Ambassador Dave Hetzel explains the Alapaha River Water Trail on YouTube.
- 2014-08-21: WWALS and Satilla Riverkeeper in Perry, GA
- 2014-08-19: WWALS President John S. Quarterman discusses the Alapaha Water Trail as a quality-of-life economic development asset at the Valdosta-Lowndes County Economic Development Authority.
- 2013-02-04: Water trails for economic benefit —Bret Wagenhorst
- 2015-03-05: Riverkeepers v. Palmetto Pipeline
- 2015-01-31: Sabal Trail ignored springs and underground connections —TSE Plantation
- 2015-01-31: SRWMD PR, Springs flow under the Suwannee River next to the Withlacoochee River
- 2014-08-28: DuPont withdraws permit application for Jesup mine —Riverkeepers and Greenlaw
- 2013-03-18: Test wells for arsenic —South Health District