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State lawmakers seek to protect Okefenokee Swamp
Okefenokee Swamp
Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp is the object of a bipartisan effort by state lawmakers to stop sand mining. Photo provided by Georgia DNR.

How fortunate I am to write my article LET ME INTRODUCE YOU for the Bryan County News, bringing positive people, positive ideas and positive results to you.

In this article I have increased my reach by bringing you the Okefenokee Swamp. Although our coastal Georgia is home we often don’t consider the Lower Coastal Plain, the wetlands, tidal salt and brackish marshes and the Okefenokee as our coast because it’s not the Bryan County I write about. This is different, a huge part of coastal Georgia preserved by heroes, legislators both Democrat and Republican working together to protect this incredible habitat, speaking for us “we, the people .”

Save the Swamp, Stop the Mine.

Twin Pines Minerals, based in Alabama sought permission for a heavy mineral sand mine next to the Okefenokee Natural Wildlife Refuge to excavate heavy minerals used in the production of titanium dioxide, a pigment used to whiten cosmetic, paint, paper and food products.

Trail Ridge, the prehistoric sand dune that helped create the Okefenokee and hold back the waters was proposed for the mining. The Fish and Wildlife service warned irreversible damage of the effect the hydrology of swamp would be caused. This mining would destroy over 370 acres of precious wetlands, pump over a million gallons of fresh groundwater a day, discharge pollutants into the air and waste into the St. Mary’s River basin, cast noise and light over the refuge, damaging visitor experience, wildlife and the local economy.

A bipartisan group of coastal lawmakers, heroes for the people and wildlife, taking the Swamp out of the regulatory and business realms. filed H.B. 1289 to put protection into law, This is not a story about the law, or the mining company in question but about our legislators protecting this unique land and the people calling the coast home, about enjoyment for people from around the world who come to visit the Swamp.

Representative Darlene Taylor (R. Thomasville} sponsored the bill. A constituent of Rep. Taylor brought the mining issue to her attention. Representatives from the coastal area, Ron Stephens (R-Savannah}, Don Hogan {R-St.

Simons), Bill Hitchens (R- Rincon) and Al Williams (D-Midway) are co-sponsors as are three other Democrats and nine other Republicans from across the state. Representative Taylor isn’t active in the environmental arena but recognized the Okefenokee is special and different. It needs to be valued and preserved. These legislators recognize the importance of this, the largest swamp in North America and located in the southeast corner of Georgia. Winding waterways, Cyprus swamps, floating peat mats, abounding wildlife.

Thank you to these legislators for their foresight by creating positive results for us, their constituents to share and enjoy .

Georgene Brazer is head of the Downtown Development Authority of Richmond Hill. She can be reached by email at georgenebrazer@gmail.com.

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