– June 8, 2022 –

Okefenokee mining on hold

This time last week only a few miles and a few state permits stood between a titanium strip mine and the Okefenokee swamp. But on Friday the US Army Corps of Engineers reasserted its authority over the project proposed by Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals at the edge of the largest blackwater swamp in the country. The Corps had stepped out of the picture in 2020 after the Trump Administration narrowed its authority over wetlands. That authority was broadened again under Biden, but most decisions made in the meantime, like the Twin Pines one, were allowed to stand. What sent this project back to the drawing board was a failure to consult with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation as required. Twin Pines President Steve Ingle has vowed to reapply for federal permits. But advocates for the swamp say they’re better prepared than ever to block his efforts.

If you’ve never been to the Okefenokee, read this essay by long time Coastal Georgia journalist Gail Krueger to transport you there. “Time stops in the swamp, but the cries and songs of the 200 bird species that inhabit it go on day and night,” she writes in the Georgia Recorder. “Many of the 60 species of reptiles living there are easy to spot from a canoe. I saw the biggest soft-shell turtle I’d ever seen and my first siren salamander on that trip. So full of life, it seemed to me that the Okefenokee must be like the world first was.”

A young alligator suns in the Okefenokee. Credit: Tom Wilson

Ship-shaped trail

If you love the nearly 6-mile long McQueen Island Trail that parallels U.S. 80 on the way to Tybee, get hiking and biking there as soon as it reopens later this summer. Chatham County refurbished the trail after Hurricanes Matthew and Irma washed out portions of it, but now the U.S. Army Corps says it’s not worth it economically to prevent future erosion with engineered fixes or a living shoreline along the adjacent river bank, Eric Curl reports in Savannah Agenda. While storms are blamed for the recent damage, large ships in the channel continually eat away at the banks, too, the Corps concluded.

McQueen Island Trail

BEACH ADVISORIES: Tybee beaches have been smoke free since June 1. Tybee City Council approved the measure last month.
As of this writing, no Georgia beaches are under a temporary advisory for elevated bacterial levels. The following beaches are under a permanent advisory, meaning
  • Clam Creek Beach and St. Andrews Beach on Jekyll Island
  • King’s Ferry County Park – Ogeechee River beach area off Highway 17 .
A permanent advisory means that there are continually elevated bacteria levels indicating a potential human health risk and therefore swimming or wading is advised against. Before you head to the beach, check the link to see current notices.

What chickens and eagles share

Avian influenza showed up in a large backyard flock of poultry recently in Toombs County, Jill Nolin of the Georgia Recorder reports. State officials had to euthanize least 350 birds in the flock of chickens, turkeys, ducks and peafowl to prevent the spread of the highly contagious virus. While it’s rare for humans to contract the disease, Georgia has seen three bald eagles die from it this year, all along the coast. State agriculture officials commended the Toombs county farmer for reporting the problem quickly and helping to contain it.

An eaglet was observed on the nest at Fort Pulaski on Feb. 3, 2022. Credit: Photo by Pam Vercellone-Smith

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