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Wednesday, February 3, 2010 - 9:29am

New Satilla Riverkeeper Begins Work

Bill Miller started work this week as the second-ever Satilla Riverkeeper.

Part of a Riverkeeper's job is to prod public officials when they believe their designated river is threatened by pollution.

Miller says one of his main concerns will be a proposed coal-fired power plant at the Satilla River's headwaters in South Georgia's Ben Hill County.

"All of the indications are that, realistically, we need to be trying to move away from coal," Miller says. "The Riverkeeper, we're concerned about the water."

Environmental scientists say, much of the nation's mercury pollution in rivers comes from coal-burning plants.

However, coal power advocates say exhaust scrubbers, and low sulfur coal can reduce much of that pollution.

Besides the power plant, other issues to face Miller might include the use of all-terrain vehicles on river banks and upland development.

He has a lot of ground to cover. From Ben Hill County, the Satilla runs more than 200 miles to the Atlantic Ocean.

Eleven counties are in its watershed.

Miller is a former land manager for Sea Island Company and a native of coastal Camden County, where he grew up on the Satilla River.

He says of his childhood, "I learned to fish. I learned to ski. I learned to swim. I spent many fond weekends down the river."

Miller hopes to move the organization's headquarters to the main street in his hometown of Woodbine.

The current headquarters are in Waynesville near the home of the first Satilla Riverkeeper, Gordon Rogers.

Rogers resigned as Satilla Riverkeeper last year to become the Flint Riverkeeper.