Mining Company Can’t Tap Water Needed For Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge: USFWS

"SAVANNAH, Ga. — A federal agency is asserting legal rights to waters that feed the Okefenokee Swamp and its vast wildlife refuge, setting up a new battle with a mining company seeking permits to withdraw more than 1.4 million gallons daily for a project that critics say could irreparably harm one of America’s natural treasures.

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tells Georgia state regulators that federal law prohibits diverting water from the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in quantities that would harm its function as a protective habitat for native animal and plant species.

“Disruption to the natural flow of groundwater in this interconnected system could have far-reaching consequences for both the Refuge and surrounding areas,” Mike Oetker, the federal agency’s acting Southeast regional director, wrote in a Jan. 31 letter to Georgia regulators. He added: “Any decision regarding the proposed mining permit must be made with consideration of federal reserved water rights.”"

Russ Bynum reports for the Associated Press March 4, 2024.

Source: AP, 03/06/2024