– October 5, 2022 –

Rocket docket

The Georgia Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on Thursday regarding the validity of the March 8 referendum in Camden County about Spaceport Camden. By a nearly 3-1 margin voters rejected the idea of the county buying land for its planned small rocket launch facility. County officials contend the state constitution doesn’t support direct democracy in this case, and officials of other counties are interested in how the case plays out for county-level referenda in the future. Spaceport opponents say the plain language of the constitution prescribed the petition and ensuing vote. Reporter Mary Landers lays out the background and arguments more fully in an article that also provides links to the briefs submitted in the case, scheduled to be heard at 10 a.m. Oct. 6 in Augusta. A livestream will be available at the Georgia Supreme Court site. The court typically issues its decisions within six months.

But even if the court rules in Camden’s favor, it’s still not time to blast off. Land owner Union Carbide no longer wants to sell. Camden is suing the chemical giant to try to force the sale. That litigation is ongoing.

Spaceport site
Potential site of Spaceport Camden Credit: Spaceport Camden

DNR Board silent on Okefenokee

The Board of the Department of Natural Resources met at the Stephen C. Foster State Park in Fargo last week. The park is unusual in that it’s located within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, the largest refuge east of the Mississippi and one that is the focus of attention because of plans to mine for titanium dioxide nearby. Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals needs four permits from the DNR to begin mining for titanium dioxide. The deputy director of DNR’s Environmental Protection Division gave the board a brief update on that permitting process but otherwise the 19 members of the board barely discussed the park where many of them had stayed overnight, as The Current’s Mary Landers reports. Activists tried to get their attention but weren’t invited to speak. State Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville) would likely have been given the floor, as is the board’s precedent, but at the last minute she couldn’t attend. After the meeting, DNR Board Chair Bill Jones said he was looking for an anti-mining statement from the U.S. Secretary of the Interior before his board took a stand, but that he planned to poll them about a possible resolution once the EPD issued the first draft permit for public review and comment.

A yard sign near the entrance to the Suwanee River Eco-Lodge at Stephen Foster State Park. Credit: Mary Landers/The Current

What’s a wetland?

The Okefenokee itself is a major wetland, one of the reasons it’s a haven for diverse species. The land proposed for mining, at its closest just 3 miles from the Okefenokee, also harbors wetlands. But the responsibility for protecting those wetlands has been shifting between the state and the federal government over the last 15 years or so, as has the scope of that protection. The U.S. Supreme Court took up the latest case on wetland jurisdiction,  Sackett v. EPA, on Monday. As Albert C. Lin explains in The Conversation, there’s a lot to sort out. “The court’s ultimate ruling in Sackett could offer lower courts, regulatory agencies and landowners clear direction on the meaning of ‘waters of the United States.’ And it will likely affect the government’s ability to protect the nation’s waters,” Lin writes.

To do list:

The Ogeechee Riverkeeper and the City of Savannah are holding their second rain barrel giveaway from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19 at Joseph Tribble Park, 12517 Largo Drive in Savannah. The barrels collect rainwater for later use. They can also mitigate flash flooding by slowing water runoff from roofs. Barrels will be given away on a first-come, first-served basis. 

A rain barrel from a previous Savannah giveaway. Credit: Mary Landers/The Current

The Center for a Sustainable Coast is hosting a public forum focusing on the climate crisis and new federal funding support for expanding the use of clean energy to help curb heat-trapping fossil-fuel emissions. Headlining the forum is Sam Gomberg, Senior Energy Analyst and Manager of Transmission
policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Register with the Center at susdev@gate.net or call 912.689.4471. The forum is 5-7 p.m. Oct. 13 at Savannah’s Cultural Arts Center, 201 Montgomery St. There’s no fee but donations are encouraged.

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

Georgia Supreme Court to weigh validity of Spaceport Camden vote

The court’s decision will shape not only Spaceport Camden, how Georgians in other counties can respond to local governing bodies in the future.

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On Okefenokee, DNR board looks for signal from feds

DNR board chair says he is waiting for a signal from the Secretary of the Interior regarding a controversial plan to mine near the Okefenokee Swamp

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Which wetlands should receive federal protection?

The Supreme Court takes up a challenge that’s vital to Coastal Georgia’s future: Which wetlands need federal protection?

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Visit from Interior Secretary shines a light on Okefenokee supporters

Interior Sec. Deb Haaland toured the Okefenokee but hasn’t yet weighed in on the issue of proposed strip mining nearby

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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...