– June 22, 2022 –

Shaking in Stillmore

You probably slept through it, but if you were awake around 4 a.m. Saturday morning and felt some shaking, you experienced the fifth highest magnitude earthquake recorded in Georgia. The US Geological Survey put the 3.9 magnitude quake’s epicenter in Candler County just east of Stillmore.

Savannah’s city manager is blaming the earthquake for damage to a parking garage and paved brick plaza on Hutchinson Island near the Ferry Landing, Savannahnow.com reports.

Responses from citizen scientists in Savannah, Tybee, Richmond Hill, Townsend, and Brunswick were among the 2,319 reports the USGS plotted on the map below. Hazard analyst Chuck Watson, a Savannah resident wrote in his blog that the quake was in an unusual place. “Usually geologists write off this kind of thing as the earth readjusting to equilibrium from various stresses and strains,” he wrote. “It does show that earthquakes can happen anywhere, not just on known faults (the key word being “known”).” Watson initially put damage estimates at less than $1 million.

The USGS mapped citizen reports of the earthquake’s intensity.

Another PSC puzzle

Last month we brought you the story of how two sitting Public Service Commissioners worked with each other and the legislature to draw new residency districts that left Democratic rival Patty Durand’s candidacy in limbo. Over the course of reporting about Durand, The Current’s Mary Landers realized that another Democratic candidate, Shelia Edwards, had also had her residency challenged. But even though Edwards had never even tried to live in her district, she was never disqualified. The kicker? The same judge heard both Edwards’ and Durand’s cases. The judge came to different conclusions based on the eccentricities of the law surrounding Georgia’s utility regulators. Why should you care? The PSC plays an outsize role in determining not only how clean Georgia’s energy supply is but also how much electricity costs.

Vogtle partners fissioning

Speaking of Georgia’s energy supply, the addition of two new reactors to Plant Vogtle hit another snag over the weekend. Georgia Power owns the largest share of the project and is overseeing the years-late and billions-over-budget expansion near Waynesboro, the only new nuclear under construction in the U.S. Minority partner Oglethorpe Power on Saturday announced it wants to freeze its cost in exchange for owning a smaller portion of the finished plant, Dave Williams of Capitol Beat reports. Oglethorpe, an electric membership cooperative, wants to protect its members from rising costs. It’s unclear if the PSC will require Georgia Power shareholders to shoulder any of the cost overruns or if the burden will fall mainly on ratepayers. The regulators have jurisdiction over Georgia Power but not over the EMCs. The other two minority partners are the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG) and Dalton Utilities.

Originally estimated at $14 billion, the Vogtle expansion has topped $30 billion.

BEACH ADVISORIES: As of this writing, there are no new beach water bacteria advisories on the Georgia coast. The following permanent advisories remain in place Clam Creek Beach and St. Andrews Beach on Jekyll Island and King’s Ferry County Park along the Ogeechee River at the Chatham/Bryan County line.
Before you head to the beach, check the link to see current notices.

Okefenokee burial grounds

Last month the U.S. Army Corps sent plans for mining near the Okefenokee back to the drawing board because of a failure to consult with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. The lower Muscogee Creek here in Georgia have some good reasons why they don’t want the land disturbed, Ray Glier of The Georgia Recorder reports. “There are burials all around that area, of course we want to be consulted,” said Marian McCormick, the principal Chief of the Lower Muscogee Creek Tribe, who lives in Whigham, Ga. “I hope we can permanently stop them. The Creek Indians and Muscogee are connected to the land through the bones of our ancestors and we do not want them disturbed. The mining people are going to be in areas they have no right to be in.”

Paddlers navigate the water trail to Minnie’s Lake in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge Credit: Tom Wilson

Turtles at halftime

Loggerhead sea turtles are nesting at a faster rate than last year in Georgia. A quick perusal of seaturtle.org, where nesting data is updated daily, shows 2,319 loggerhead nests have been documented on Georgia beaches so far this year. With more than six weeks of nesting season still to come, the turtles seem likely to surpass last year’s total of 2,493 nests. If you’re at beachfront property, keep the lights from shining seaward to prevent hatchlings from becoming disoriented. They’ll be hatching in earnest soon.

Loggerhead hatchlings from a previous season. Credit: Ga. DNR

If you have feedback, questions, concerns, or just like what you see, let us know at thecurrentga@gmail.com.

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Redistricting reshape races for powerful commission seats as board challengers face residency rules.

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Last minute election snafu in Georgia’s public service commissioner race

Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State disqualified PSC candidate Patty Durand hours before Tuesday’s primary. She claims she’s a victim of partisan politics.

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Oglethorpe Power freezes its costs to complete Plant Vogtle

In freezing its costs, Oglethorpe is exercising an option agreed to by all four project co-owners in 2018. Under the agreement, Oglethorpe will reduce its share of ownership of the project from 30% to 28% in exchange for Georgia Power paying 100% of Oglethorpe’s remaining share of construction costs.

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What ratepayers should know about the Vogtle expansion

The Plant Vogtle expansion is overdue and overbudget. A new report lays out how it got that way and who’s paying for it.

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Will confirmation of suspected tribal burial grounds end Okefenokee mine for good?

Change to U.S. Army Corps jurisdiction allows opportunity for Native Americans to have impact on mining decision.

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Mary Landers covers Coastal Georgia’s environment for The Current, a topic she covered for nearly 24 years at the Savannah Morning News, where she began and ended her time there writing about health,...