Feb. 9, 2022

Citizen actions and voting decisions have been a hot topic for a while, but this week they take on new meaning and power as grassroots work moves the needle on government action. The spaceport plan and surface mining permits get new levels of scrutiny through work by citizens to make their concerns heard.

Spaceport Camden: The vote is on

On Tuesday, the Camden County Elections Supervisor finished verifying the 3,516 voter signatures on petitions designed to trigger a vote on buy property for Spaceport Camden. Signatures needed to represent at least 10% of the county’s 34,814 “active voters,” and there were about 100 more than needed. The countywide vote is set March 8.

This update came the same day as a hearing on the county’s lawsuit to demand that two men appealing an earlier court move be forced to post a $20 million bond to cover any losses the county might have for the entire project if the purchase falls through. Camden has spent about $10 million in its effort to develop and get permits for the small-rocket launch site. The property, which is the former site of Thiokol, Rhone-Poulenc and Bayer plants is considered a polluted site that can never be used for housing or other high density uses.

James Goodman, one of the men appealing Judge Stephen Scarlett’s earlier ruling to allow the property purchase, was initially a spaceport supporter. But, he said the more he learned about the specifics the more concerned he became. The county’s latest move against him isn’t helping its cause. Now the decision will be in the voters’ hands.

Citizens act, will legislature?

The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge may get another layer of protection. Coastal Georgia legislators lined up to co-sponsor Georgia House Bill 1289, which would prohibit the state Environmental Protection Division from permitting any surface mining in the Trail Ridge area between St. Marys and Satilla rivers adjacent to the swamp. Twin Pines Mining LLC has been seeking permits to pull minerals such as titanium and zirconium from the sands there. More than 100,000 public comments were filed with state and federal governments opposing the project.

As Twin Pines waits on its final permits for a mining project on land adjacent to the protected Okefenokee Swamp, there’s one less potential buyer for their products. Mining giant Chemours issued a statement last week saying it would not buy products from mining near the fragile lands.

In response to a shareholder proposal filed in November on behalf of the Felician Sisters of North America, a community of Catholic sisters, Chemours pledged to not do business with the company for the next five years.

Activists share strategies

At an online panel sponsored by One Hundred Miles and moderated by The Current’s Mary Landers, three coastal activists on Tuesday shared how they’re working to remedy the ongoing harm from three coastal tragedies. Jannie Everett with Thiokol Memorial Project discussed her efforts to bring recognition to the victims of a deadly explosion and fire at a trip flare factory in Woodbine 51 years ago. Ron Johnson, President of Sapelo Island Cultural And Revitalization Society, Inc. (SICARS) talked about legal challenges affecting land ownership of the Gullah residents of Sapelo Island. Finally, Fletcher Sams, executive director of the Altamaha Riverkeeper explained that while the capsized Golden Ray cargo ship is gone, its effects linger.

One Hundred Miles’ “Choosing to Lead” conference continues online each Tuesday throughout February. Registration is free and available on its web site.

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

Camden County residents to vote March 8 on spaceport property

Invoking a seldom-used right outlined in the Georgia Constitution, petitioners have a chance to repeal a ordinance and effectively quash the spaceport plan

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New bill aims to protect Okefenokee Swamp from mining

The effort to permanently protect the Okefenokee from mining gains traction in the Georgia General Assembly.

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Chemours pledges to avoid mining near Okefenokee

Pressure from shareholding Catholic sisters prompts a large mining company to distance itself from Okefenokee-adjacent mining, but privately held Twin Pines Minerals LLC continues to seek permits.

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Camden wants spaceport opponents to pay if purchase delayed or thwarted

Camden fights its own citizens, suing for $20 million in a move opponents call ‘desperation’

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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...