SAVANNAH, GA – August 23, 2016 – Ogeechee Riverkeeper held its Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 20 at Love’s Seafood Restaurant in Savannah. More than 100 guests packed a banquet room overlooking the organization’s namesake waterway to mingle, sample appetizers and drinks, and enjoy live music before the program began.
ORK Executive Director and Riverkeeper Emily Markesteyn gave a State of the Organization Address, touching on the nonprofit’s accomplishments over the past year and outlining some goals for the future. She stressed the importance of continuing to assure the public that the river is now safe and healthy, following the five-year anniversary of one of the biggest fish kills in Georgia History. Around the Memorial Day holiday in 2011, 38,000 fish were found dead along a 70-mile stretch of river from Screven County to Chatham County. Investigators discovered that a textile plant in Screven County, King America Finishing, had been illegally discharging into the river. Now, thanks to Ogeechee Riverkeeper’s efforts and dedication, all water-quality testing results show a normal, healthy river system.
Markesteyn also reminded attendees that Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline project may be dormant for now, but those who care about the state’s waterways cannot afford to be complacent. The energy giant could return with another proposal and she cautioned they might be even more fervent about getting a pipeline approved.
Markesteyn also still hopes to see legislation enacted soon to protect groundwater. Last session, Senate Bill 36, the Underground Water Supply Protection Act, passed the Senate by a wide margin – 48 to 3 – but was stymied in the House Natural Resources and Environment committee.
It would have fixed gaps in current laws to protect groundwater now and into the future.
After attendees listened to Markesteyn’s update and enjoyed fried shrimp, fish tacos, fruit, coleslaw and tea, award plaques were presented to ORK’s most dedicated supporters and volunteers.
Charlie Milmine was awarded Volunteer of the Year, Matthew Harris – Monitor of the Year, and Dr. J. Checo Colón-Gaud of Georgia Southern University’s Biology Department received the Educational Partnership of the Year award. The Business of the Year honor went to The Mechanical Shop in Bloomingdale, who purchased a new patrol boat for the organization. The new vessel was parked in front of Love’s Seafood during the event, giving attendees opportunities to admire it and take photos.
Love’s Seafood was recognized as an Ogeechee Riverkeeper corporate ‘River’ partner and Markesteyn also thanked Markus Kuhlmann from the local band Waits and Co., who entertained guests with low-key tunes all evening.
“This has been a wonderful year for Ogeechee Riverkeeper. We’re proud of all we’ve accomplished and are grateful to the many helpful people and surrounding supportive communities who helped us get here. But there is still a lot of work to be done, and we’re busy setting goals for the future and working hard to get results,” Markesteyn said.