Monthly Archives: July 2023

Langdale Park to Sugar Creek Chainsaw Cleanup, Withlacoochee River, 2023-09-09

Come help us remove some deadfalls that are impeding canoe and kayak paddling.

Bring a chainsaw if you really know how to use it.

But you do not have to use a saw to join us.

When: Gather 9 AM, launch 9:30 AM, end 1 PM, Saturday, September 9, 2023

Put In: Langdale Park Boat Ramp, 3781 N. Valdosta Rd., Valdosta, GA 31602,

GPS: 30.88747, -83.32395

[Easy and hard deadfalls 2021-05-15]
Easy and hard deadfalls, 2021-05-15

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Banks Lake Full Blue Supermoon Paddle 2023-08-30

Join us for a leisurely Sunset and Full Moon Paddle.

This will be the only blue moon of 2023 (second full moon of a month), and is expected to be the biggest and brightest supermoon this year. It will be the third supermoon of this year, “when the moon’s orbit is closest to Earth at the same time the moon is full.”. According to NPR, this will be the only blue supermoon of 2023, and there won’t be another until 2032.

There may still be bats.

When: Gather 7 PM, launch 7:30 PM, moonrise 8:08 PM, sunset 7:58 PM, end 9 PM, Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Put In: Banks Lake Boat Ramp, 307 Georgia 122, Lakeland, GA 31635, in Lanier County, on the Alapaha River Water Trail (ARWT).

GPS: 31.034824, -83.096725

[Sunset 2023-03-07, Moonrise 2018-12-22; Full Blue Moon Paddle, Banks Lake, Lakeland, GA 2023-08-30]
Sunset 2023-03-07, Moonrise 2018-12-22;
Full Blue Moon Paddle, Banks Lake, Lakeland, GA 2023-08-30

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Retry Sugar Creek to Troupville Chainsaw Cleanup, Withlacoochee River 2023-08-03

Come help clean up the Withlacoochee River behind the Valdosta YMCA and onwards to the Little River Confluence, then upstream on the Little River to Troupville Boat Ramp. Bring a chainsaw if you really know how to use it, but you do not have to saw to join us.

Our main target this time is one remaining big deadfall between I-75 and GA 133.

When: Gather 1 PM, launch 1:30 PM, end 6 PM, Thursday, August 3, 2023

Put In: Meet at the back of the Salty Snapper parking lot, 1405 Gornto Rd, Valdosta, GA 31602 and we’ll put in at the railroad tracks.

GPS: 30.861764, -83.318854

[Crowe Deadfall 2022-07-30; Riverhill Drive Deadfall 2022-10-16; Retry Sugar Creek to Troupville Chainsaw Cleanup, Withlacoochee River 2023-08-03]
Crowe Deadfall 2022-07-30; Riverhill Drive Deadfall 2022-10-16;
Retry Sugar Creek to Troupville Chainsaw Cleanup, Withlacoochee River 2023-08-03

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Clean Withlacoochee River, filthy Crawford and Sugar Creeks 2023-07-28

Update 2023-08-02: Very bad water quality at US 41 and GA 133 Monday 2023-07-31.

The Withlacoochee River tested good for Friday in WWALS sampling, but Crawford Branch and Sugar Creek were each above the one-time test limit for E. coli.

The Sugar Creek result is presumably due to ongoing effects from Valdosta’s July 17th 6,000 gallon sewage spill into Hightower Creek “behind the Target,” reported as at 1700 block River Street. This follows the disturbing Sugar Creek results Valdosta Utilities told us about Friday a week ago, after which we converted a cleanup paddle into an on-land cleanup.

We do not have any downstream results because the WWALS volunteer water quality testing program is short-handed this week. Maybe you’d like to become a WWALS tester; please fill out this form:

No new sewage spills have been reported in the Suwannee River Basin in Georgia or Florida.

Rain fell hard today, but only briefly, so most of the rivers are probably OK for fishing, swimming and boating this weekend, although we have no downstream test results to tell.

I’d avoid the Withlacoochee River downstream from Sugar Creek as far as the Little River Confluence.

[Chart, River and Creeks, Swim Guide Map 2023-07-28]
Chart, River and Creeks, Swim Guide Map 2023-07-28

The most recent results we have from Valdosta are for Wednesday upstream and Wednesday two weeks ago downstream. For Monday Valdosta got way-too-high results for US 41 Continue reading

Arglass GA-EPD air permit application for a second facility to produce glass containers 2023-07-17

The Arglass glass container manufacturing plant off of Rocky Ford Road southwest of Valdosta, Georgia, has filed an air quality permit application for a second furnace. This is the phase 2 that was in the plans since at least 2016.

[Maps, Arglass air permit application 2023-07-17]
Maps, Arglass air permit application 2023-07-17

What they want to do is more pithily summarized in a local variance Arglass already got from the Valdosta-Lowndes County Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBOA) on June 6, 2023:

  1. VAR-2023-13- All or part of Tax Map 0059-Parcel 094 and a part of Tax Map 0063- Parcel 012. A request from Arglass for a Variance to Table 4.01.02 (E) of the ULDC as it pertains to standards for building location. The subject property is located at 1 Arglass Road, Valdosta, Georgia in a M-2 (Heavy Manufacturing) zoning district.

In the minutes, Trinni Amiot explains for Lowndes County, “Arglass needs a second furnace. The only way for the bank lending officer, to support that is for it to be on its own parcel. What they’re suggesting is to create a second parcel, put the furnace on that with zero lot lines, and then it’ll meet the requirements of the lending company. What they’re suggesting is to create a second parcel, put the furnace on that with zero lot lines, and then it’ll meet the requirements of the lending company. It’s on M-2 surrounded by E-A. Those black lines are the current parcel lines. Now, those will be reconfigured. The expansion of the Arglass will more than double the footprint of the existing facility and includes the second furnace. The lending agent requires that the furnace is on the side of the parcel. To maintain efficient operations, the new expansion must be connected to the existing facility and the variance request is for zero lot lines between the two tra[cts].”

There was apparently a map of the proposed new plant area in the ZBOA packet, which I have requested from Lowndes County.

Lowndes County parcel 0059-094 is the current site of the plant in 80.93 acres owned by the Valdosta-Lowndes Industrial Authority. Parcel 0063-012 is the much larger parcel owned by LANGDALE CAPITAL ASSETS INC from which the plant parcel was split out in 2016. Continue reading

Judges announced for Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest in WWALS River Revue

Hahira, GA, July 27, 2023 — The judges for the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest in the WWALS River Revue are Joe Smothers from Lowndes County, Georgia, Anna Stange from Madison County, Florida, and Tony Buzella from Columbia County, Florida. Joe and Tony have judged before; Anna is new to this Contest.

“I’m very pleased to welcome Joe Smothers and Tony Buzella back again, plus new judge Anna Stange,” said WWALS President Sara Jay Jones. “We’re gonna rock the Autumn Equinox.”

[Songwriting Flyer 2023]
Songwriting Flyer 2023

Judge Joe Smothers is from Reidsville, NC, lives in Valdosta, and often plays The Salty Snapper, with a second home in Cortez, FL, with his wife Murphy. Joe’s mom Betty purchased a Stella guitar at the local pawn shop when he was thirteen. Born in the Piedmont area of North Carolina in 1950, he toured with his teenage inspiration, the legendary Doc Watson, and played on more than a dozen albums with him. Joe has performed at every Merle Fest (31) and was asked to perform at Doc’s funeral. Joe toured extensively with Jack Lawrence as a supporting act for John Prine, Leo Kottke and Emmylou Harris, to name a few. He has released two albums: These Things I Know, and ‘Terpretations. His song “The Three Buglers” — a mix of fiction and history on Taps — won him a first place at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS, in 2007.

“We are excited to see and hear the talented songwriters and discuss future water protection goals,” said new organizing committee member Matt Prentice.

Judge Anna Stange moved to Madison, Continue reading

Valdosta notified GA-EPD four days after the latest Knights Creek sewage spill 2023-07-06

Update 2023-07-29: Clean Withlacoochee River, filthy Crawford and Sugar Creeks 2023-07-28.

That word “immediately,” I don’t think it means wait yet another day before informing the public, after Valdosta Utilities already waited four days to tell GA-EPD about the sewage spill.

Even though Valdosta wrote to GA-EPD, “we did not observe any direct flow to the creek,” Valdosta’s own state-required followup testing showed too-high Fecal coliform and E. coli in Knights Creek a week later, downstream, but not upstream, of the spill. Just because they didn’t see the sewage running over the ground doesn’t mean it’s not seeping through the vegetation or the ground itself.

Maybe you’re as tired as I am of Valdosta blaming sewage spills on contractors. Who hires the contractors? Who supervises them? Why doesn’t Valdosta’s fancy SCADA system alert the city to these spills early, where, when, and how much?

The information seemed pretty skimpy that Valdosta Utilities supplied to the public about its July 6, 2023, sewage spill into Knights Creek. Also, I wanted to know when did Valdosta tell GA-EPD, since that spill did not show up in GA-EPD’s Sewage Spills Report for a long time, Not until after I asked GA-EPD about it, actually, even though Valdosta City Manager Richard Hardy had said he would look into that.

So I filed an open records request with the City of Valdosta for all communications between Valdosta and GA-EPD about Valdosta’s last three sewage spills. I only got back information about the Knights Creek spill, so here is that much.

[Where, When, After: Valdosta's Knights Creek Sewage Spill 2023-07-06]
Where, When, After: Valdosta’s Knights Creek Sewage Spill 2023-07-06

Let me say that recent communications from Valdosta Utilities have been much improved in recent days, coming from Assistant Director Jason Barnes. Barnes took it upon himself to warn WWALS about contamination in Sugar Creek before the cleanup paddle we had scheduled for last Saturday, so we converted it into an on-land cleanup. That elevated Fecal coliform and E. coli came from Valdosta’s July 17, 2023, spill into Hightower Creek near River Street, upstream from Sugar Creek and the Withlacoochee River. Reporting for that July 17th spill was much better: a press release went out the next day, and it also appeared in GA-EPD’s Sewage Spills Report the day after the spill. And Jason Barnes showed up in person to see about getting a warning sign placed at Sugar Creek.

Back to the July 6, 2023, spill into Knights Creek, above Mud Swamp Creek, the Alapahoochee River, and the Alapaha River.

Utilities Director Bradley L. Eyre did not write to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) until July 10th, four days after the spill was discovered on July 6th. Continue reading

Draft Conditions from the Planning Commission to the BoCC on SE 23-01 3RT Sand Mine, Levy County, FL 2023-07-20

The Levy County Commission is meeting tomorrow morning, Tuesday, July 25, 2023, at 9 AM. It’s always good to show up and be seen, maybe say a few words, even if your item of interest is not on the agenda. Or contact your Commissioner via telephone or email.

There will be no decision about the 3RT Sand Mine tomorrow. The agenda includes:

16. PUBLIC HEARING: Requesting the Levy County Board of County Commissioners grant the request for continuation by applicant for PETITION NO SE 23-01: Ryan Thomas for 3RT Sand Mine. Requesting a Special Exception for a major mining operation pursuant to Sec. 50-719; Mining and excavation of minerals, or natural resources, and site reclamation of the Levy County Land Development Code to allow a sand mine (no blasting) on approximately 1,100 acres (includes mine property and access to CR 337) of land located in Section 35, Township 12 S, Range 17 E, Levy County Florida. These parcels are located in Agriculture/Rural Residential (A/RR) Land Use and Zoning district. Parcel Number(s) 0359701600, 0359700400, 0359700000, 0359700300, 0360400600, 0360400000, 036040040B, 036040040A, 0360400400, 0360400500, 0360600500, 0360600300, 0360600000, 0359400000, and 0359200000.The applicant has requested a continuation to a date uncertain to evaluate the Planning Commission conditions with his project. This item will be continued.

[All 22 draft conditions]
All 22 draft conditions

These appear to be the 22 draft conditions from the Levy County Planning Commission about the proposed Special Exception for the 3RT Sand Mine. See also PDF.

Draft Conditions from the Planning Commission to the BoCC on SE 23-01 3RT Sand Mine

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Redesignation as Recreational, Withlacoochee River, GA 37 to Tiger Creek 2023-07-19

Update 2023-07-26: Valdosta notified GA-EPD four days after the latest Knights Creek sewage spill 2023-07-06.

This was unexpected. GA-EPD asked if we wanted to complete redesignating the rest of the Withlacoochee River in the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail (WLRWT) in Georgia from Fishing to Recreational, for tighter contamination restrictions. We said yes.

[Nomination form and map]
Nomination form and map

What’s the difference? There are three levels of waterbody designations considered every three years in the Triennial Review of Water Quality Standards required of each state by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These are Fishing, Recreational, and Drinking. Fishing has the least restrictions on contamination, and Drinking has the most. Nobody drinks out of our Suwannee River Basin rivers, so Recreational is what we want.

If this new request gets approved, that’s 46.3 more Withlacoochee River miles, added to the 23.71 miles redesignated in 2023, that’s 70 river miles.

Since Florida by default designates all rivers as Recreational, that means that if this redesignation happens, all of the Withlacoochee River in the WLRWT will be Recreational. That’s 97.6 river miles in Georgia and Florida.

Her question, received July 19, 2023: Continue reading

Levy County 3RT Sand Mine is in Springshed of Rainbow Springs 2023-07-23

Update 2023-07-24: Draft Conditions from the Planning Commission to the BoCC on SE 23-01 3RT Sand Mine, Levy County, FL 2023-07-20.

Levy County is in the territory of the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD), so I wondered why the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) was involved in permitting a sand mine in Levy County.

The only reason I can see is that the mine site is in the springshed of Rainbow Springs, and Rainbow Springs is in Marion County in SWFWMD’s territory.

Which makes it very curious that Rainbow Springs is never mentioned by SWFWMD nor by the Levy County Planning Commission, nor by anybody else represented in the board packet for the July 10th Levy County Planning Commission meeting.

Instead, Levy County staff wrote, “e) Site is not located within one mile corridor (one-half mile on either side) of known geological features with the potential to Impact Manatee Springs or Fanning Springs. Additional study is not recommended to be required.”

Well, maybe not, because the mine site is not in the springshed of Manatee Springs or Fanning Springs.

But according to a Florida state-mandated action plan by a Florida state agency, the mine site is in the springshed of Rainbow Springs.

Sure seems like further study should be required about that.

[Rainbow Springshed and 3RT Sand Mine]
Rainbow Springshed and 3RT Sand Mine

Maps of Florida Aquifer recharge areas going back to at least 1995 appear to show the mine site in a recharge zone. Continue reading