– January 24th, 2023 –

Okefenokee at a crossroads

Georgia regulators are moving forward with the permitting of a controversial strip mine near the Okefenokee even as they’re looking into a problem with how the mining company collected its data. (See the full story here.)

Twin Pines Minerals drilled 385 boreholes to help figure out how water will flow as the area is strip mined for titanium dioxide. But the company failed to get the required state licensing for its geologist before drilling began. Documents obtained by The Current indicate the Georgia Environmental Protection Division is considering a fine. In the meantime, however, the clock is ticking on a 60-day public comment period for the mine’s land use plan, issued last week.

The boreholes aren’t Twin Pines’ first regulatory hiccup. The Alabama-based company previously applied for federal and state permits to mine on land it didn’t own, and it didn’t back off until the true property owner spoke up. While Twin Pines hasn’t previously mined in Georgia, it’s been cited for breaking mining rules in Florida. Company executives have ties to Georgia Renewable Power and Drummond Coal, both companies with stained environmental records.

Legislation to protect the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge from future mining efforts is again making its way through the Georgia General Assembly. House Bill 71, “The Okefenokee Protection Act,” was filed Tuesday with a bipartisan mix of 33 sponsors. Compared to last year’s failed version of the bill, this one shrinks the geographic region where mining is prohibited. The bill would not affect Twin Pines’ current permit applications.

Paddlers enjoy the water and views at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, the largest refuge in the Eastern U.S. Credit: Stephen C. Foster State Park

Spring has sprung

Climate change is shifting the timing of the growth and behavior of plants and animals each season. Scientists call the study of this natural calendar “phenology.” And the folks at the Arizona-based USA-National Phenology Network keep track of when spring arrives by looking for the leaf out of lilacs and honeysuckles, which are among the first plants to show their new leaves. In Coastal Georgia this year, spring leaf out is running about a week ahead of the most recent 30-year average, Director Theresa Crimmins said in a phone interview with The Current.

Spring is up to three weeks earlier than average (the period of 1991-2020) in parts of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. Check out the USA-National Phenology Network here.

phenology climate
The USA-National Phenology Network map shows the arrival of spring about a week earlier than average in Coastal Georgia.

Georgia fights bees’ disease

Pollinators are having a tough time lately. But Georgia beekeepers are helping to test out a new vaccine — the first ever vaccine for honeybees — that promises to protect them against a serious bacterial disease called American Foulbrood, as WABE/Grist’ Emily Jones reports. If you’re picturing a teeny syringe, stop. It doesn’t work that way. It’s an oral vaccine that beekeepers feed to the queen bees, which they then pass along to their eggs. The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) and Dalan Animal Health have teamed up to do field tests.

honeybees vaccine
The current research project calls for feeding queen bees Dalan’s proprietary vaccine after which the inoculated queen, for the remainder of her lifetime, will produce worker bees that are primed to be immune against that pathogen. Credit: Photo courtesy of Dalan Animal Health

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

Despite ongoing investigation and scientific disputes, a plan for strip mine near Okefenokee advances

While weighing fines for the mining company, state regulators open a comment period on its controversial plan to strip mine near the Okefenokee.

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General Assembly to renew debate over mining near the Okefenokee

A South Georgia lawmaker is preparing again to stop an Alabama-based company from mining titanium near the Okefenokee Swamp.

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Mary Landers is a reporter in Coastal Georgia focusing on the environment for The Current. It's a topic she covered for nearly 24 years at the Savannah Morning News, where she began and ended her time...