Federal clean water protections restored for hundreds of acres of wetlands next to Okefenokee Swamp
WASHINGTON—The Southern Environmental Law Center today praised an announcement that— thanks to Senator Ossoff’s leadership—the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is reversing a flawed decision made under the Trump administration’s so-called “Navigable Waters Protection Rule” that left nearly 400 acres of wetlands on the doorstep of Georgia’s iconic Okefenokee Swamp at risk of destruction from a proposed titanium mine.
The Trump administration’s federal clean water rollbacks have now been vacated by two federal courts, but projects like the massive strip mine proposed to be built by Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals, LLC., benefitted from the short-lived rule’s gutting of water protections and lack of tribal consultation. With today’s announcement, the wetlands—so critical to the health of the Okefenokee—will be safeguarded under the Clean Water Act as they have under every other administration.
“Mining on the doorstep of a rare ecological treasure like Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp defies common sense, and we are thrilled that today’s announcement removes the threat to hundreds of acres of critically important wetlands,” said Kelly Moser, senior attorney and leader of the Clean Water Defense Initiative at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Formally rescinding the unlawful decisions made by the prior administration restores protections for wetlands that are vital to the swamp’s unique ecosystems and makes it possible for the many Georgians, visitors from across the country, and people worldwide who love to visit, paddle, and explore this iconic place to continue to do so.”
The Okefenokee Swamp is one of the largest remaining intact freshwater ecosystems in the world. In addition to its ecological significance, the Refuge is critically important to local communities, supporting over 750 jobs and nearly $65 million in annual economic output per year. As recognized today by the Corps, the Swamp is also important to Native American nations with ancestral homelands in the region.
Twin Pines’ proposed mine directly threatens the hydrogeology and ecological integrity of the Okefenokee and the nearby St. Marys and Suwanee Rivers. The affected wetlands are critical to the health of the surrounding watersheds because they store water during storm events and filter water, lessening flooding and pollution downstream. Allowing these wetlands to be destroyed would directly harm water quality and quantity locally and for downstream communities, including St. George, Kingsland and St. Marys on the St. Marys River and Fargo and Edith on the Suwanee River, as well as degrade the hydrology of the iconic Okefenokee Refuge.