Clean water rollbacks enable destruction of 400 acres of wetlands near Okefenokee

The Okefenokee Swamp is at risk from a massive mine that plans to destroy nearly 400 acres of wetlands after the Trump administration slashed protections under the Clean Water Act. (© Chris DeScherer)

One impact of the Trump administration’s cutting of protections under the Clean Water Act is a massive mine’s plans to destroy nearly 400 acres of wetlands at the doorstep of the Okefenokee Swamp without a federal permit.

“[Similar] decisions are being made across the country, and we’re only starting to see the consequences,” said Senior Attorney Geoff Gisler, leader of SELC’s Clean Water Program, in an October 21 Associated Press article. “I think what we’ll see over the next several months, until this rule is thrown out or changes, is that we’re going to lose the streams and wetlands that we depend on.”

At the request of a mining company following the Trump administration's removal of protections for many waterways and wetlands, the Army Corps of Engineers revised a jurisdictional determination related to the massive proposed heavy mineral sand mine. The new jurisdictional determination made under the new “definition of waters of United States” concluded that the mine tract would impact no jurisdictional wetlands. Under the prior definition of “waters of the United States,” the mine’s first phase included about 400 acres of protected, jurisdictional wetlands. 

The mine is referenced in SELC’s ongoing challenge in federal court as an example of the damage resulting from the administration gutting clean water protections for wetlands, streams, river and lakes.

Similar decisions are being made across the country, and we’re only starting to see the consequences. I think what we’ll see over the next several months, until this rule is thrown out or changes, is that we’re going to lose the streams and wetlands that we depend on.”

—Senior Attorney Geoff Gisler

SELC represents Defenders of Wildlife, as well as 13 other organizations, in that litigation and both groups are monitoring this proposed mining operation that would encroach on the pristine wetland in Southern Georgia that’s home to the state’s treasured Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. For a laundry list of reasons why mining next to the Okefenokee Swamp is a bad idea, click here.

As Senior Attorney Kelly Moser told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution: “The big question will be whether the federal government and the state government will step in and help our efforts.”

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