Yesterday your historian was able to attend the Army Corps of Engineers’ virtual meeting held to involve the public regarding Twin Pines Minerals’ plan to mine for titanium and zirconium less than three miles from the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and the headwaters of the Suwannee River.
Our track record for participation in webinars is abysmal but improving, as it appears many people who wanted to attend were shut out for reasons we can’t fathom. OSFR was also represented by President Mike Roth and we were both able to contribute comments and questions.
Project Director and Hostess Holly Ross stated that the purpose of the meeting was to provide information about the mine to the public as well as provide public input. To us it seemed heavily weighted on the irrelevant information side, as the presenters went on and on giving facts that had nothing to do with what the public wanted, which was information and facts dealing with the impact of the mine on the environment. Also what the public wanted was their questions answered. Not much of that happened.
Upon seeing that the long-winded presenters would most certainly take up all the time alloted for the webinar, leaving none for the Q & A period, to Holly Ross’ credit, at 4 o’clock she interrupted the useless info about how clayey the soils were at every foot of depth, and allowed the Corps to comment on questions. Moderator was Billy Birdwell and comments were given by William Rutlin. Reference was made to earlier emailed questions/comments by the public and those submitted during the webinar by public participants.
An oft-presented comment was the desire for an Environmental Impact Study and Mr. Rutlin’s answer was fairly much in line with Governmentese: he said the Army Corps employs an “Environmental Assessment Process,” and during the course of this process, if it should be determined that there is a need for the E.I.S., then they would do one. So now we know.
No clue as to if the “Process” had been done yet nor if the “determination” had been made.
Other comments and concerns submitted during the webinar often dealt with requests for permit denial and questions pertaining to the aquifer. Denial was discussed briefly with no definitive answer. We recall that during the August 2019 failed meeting in Folkston, GA. Twin Pines representatives exhibited a surprising lack of knowledge about the aquifer. There was not a lot of improvement at this meeting.
Twin Pines’ abysmal mining record in Florida was brought out by your historian and others. They have been cited for serious infractions which indicate that they try to get away with all they can and do not care for the environment nor do they respect the rules. A.C.E. made no reference to this.
The subject of archaeological preservation brought a comment from Mr. Rutlin who said that the Native American tribes were consulted, revealing that the Corps’ rep had no clue that today’s tribes have absolutely nothing to do with paleoindian sites dating back 12,000 to 14,o00 or more years before present.
At 4:25 pm Holly Ross closed the Q & A to return to the presentations, saying that at the end of the session they would try to have more questions. At this point our computer, with a mind of its own, jumped out of the webinar, and we did not attempt to re-enter.
All in all, we appreciate that the A.C.E. took the time and trouble to conduct this meeting, but we went away without a lot of confidence that much was accomplished.
Here is a link from A.C.E where you can access all the presentations, the agenda, the comments by the public participants, etc. etc.: https://www.sas.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/Public-Notices/Article/2185012/sas-2018-00554-twin-pines-minerals/
Written comments on the proposed project and the public meeting will continue to be accepted until 28 MAY 2020 at [email protected]. The original Public Notice can be viewed here: https://www.sas.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/Public-Notices/Article/2111505/sas-2018-00554-sp-har/
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum