Thursday, November 27, 2014

State Rep. Scott Dianda notes concerns about clean energy, road improvement, public transit, more ...

By Michele Bourdieu

After a recent interview with Keweenaw Now, Scott Dianda (D-Calumet), 110th District state representative, right, chats with two local residents, Jack Korri, left, of Calumet, and Mark Korpela of Hancock in the Kaleva Café in Hancock. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

HANCOCK -- Scott Dianda (D-Calumet), 110th District state representative, is concerned about alternative, cleaner energy and also about roads and public transit -- especially in the context of what will benefit his constituents in seven Upper Peninsula counties. He recently discussed several issues under these topics in an interview with Keweenaw Now.

Coalition needed for building renewable energy future

Dianda recently joined with Republican colleagues in the Michigan House in proposing a bipartisan legislative package of energy bills targeting sector growth, job creation, new investments, lower energy costs and environmental protection. Rob VerHeulen (R-Walker) and Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) joined Dianda in proposing bills intended to start a discussion about Michigan’s energy future.

"I’m pleased that my colleagues in the House are taking a forward-looking approach to Michigan’s energy challenges," said Dianda. "Between woody biomass, wind, solar and geothermal, we have the opportunity to make cheap, renewable energy right here at home. Our consumers in the U.P. are facing job-killing energy rate increases. We need to encourage investment in energy generation and empower people to produce their own power. It’s the future."

Since Democrats are in the minority in both the Michigan Senate and the House, Dianda said, he believes a partnership with Republicans is necessary and he is glad to work across party lines to get renewable energy legislation passed.

"We have to build a coalition to improve our energy future with renewables," he noted.

Dianda said residents in his district -- which ranges from Gogebic County in the west to parts of Marquette County (Ishpeming and Powell townships) -- cannot afford to pay more for electricity than they are already paying, especially during the cold U.P. winters.

"We are going to have to have more electricity for our furnaces and -- for those who heat with wood -- for the fans to move the air around," he noted. "A lot of my residents use electric blankets and heating pads because they don't have much heat in the house."

Michigan State Rep. Scott Dianda introduces himself to Kaleva Café customers Bob Lean, left, of Bootjack, a former UPPCO (Upper Peninsula Power Company) employee, and his grandson, Bobby Lean, of Hibbing, Minn.

Dianda's bill, HB 5968, introduced on Nov. 13, 2014, would establish clean energy targets for each Michigan utility, he said. Dianda envisions Michigan's coal power plants, by switching to bio-fuel, reaching a goal of 15 percent renewable energy by 2019 and 19 percent by 2022, with additional increments of 4.5 percent every three years until they reach 100 percent.

"We need some of the bigger producers to come and help us in the U.P. with an incentive program for investment," Dianda added.

If forest waste products in the U.P. were used for bio-mass, local energy production could be increased from the current 10 percent renewables to 30 percent, Dianda said. He also suggests using some sort of organic waste, e.g. food waste, to return nutrients to the soil after these forest products are removed.

Dianda's bill also includes wind energy -- creating a wind energy resource zone board and providing for its power and duties and authorizing the creation and implementation of wind energy resource zones.*

Dianda told Keweenaw Now he is in favor of using geothermal energy from water in the local mines (as has been proposed recently and is presently being used at the Keweenaw Research Center).**

"We could never re-create the caverns of warm water that we have under these communities," Dianda said. "They're created by the mining industry, and we're left with the by-product."

With the resources at Michigan Tech and the Keweenaw Research Center, there must be a way we can tap into these old mines that have an abundance of warmer water -- for district heating, Dianda noted.

Dianda said he is also aware of and supportive of the HEET (Houghton Energy Efficiency Team) and their recent efforts and application for a Georgetown prize of $5 million to support their energy efficiency plan.

State Senate bill would raise gas tax for Michigan road improvement

Dianda has expressed concern about a recent Senate bill to add a 41-cent per gallon tax on gasoline in order to fund road repairs in Michigan.

"We've got people right now having a hard time paying their heating bills and putting food on the table," Dianda said. "It's going to be a very big tax burden on people up here who can least afford it. And out of the $1.2 billion that they want to raise, how much money is going to come to our seven counties and what is it going to do to help our local county road commissions?"

He noted, for example, that the funds would not be designated for snow removal.

In an open letter released this week, Dianda called on Governor Snyder to make the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) a more cost-efficient organization. The lawmaker warned that he would not vote for a gas tax increase on his constituents unless he felt that MDOT was making the wisest use of its current budget.

"In the U.P., we are seeing that MDOT maintains a fleet of state planes for its employees to use, but the department won’t keep our main streets clear of snow and ice during a storm," Dianda said. "There is something very wrong with that picture."

Dianda is concerned that even with the proposed gas tax increases, municipal governments in his district still would not get the service they need to function properly unless the state cuts back. In his letter, Dianda outlines several steps the governor could take to curb costs at MDOT, including a smarter system for awarding state contracts and making sure that MDOT employees use videoconferencing technology whenever possible to avoid travel expenses.

"We have a sacred trust to guard the resources of the people and to spend their money as we would our own. My constituents are very concerned about how a gas tax increase is going to impact their daily lives and ability to commute to work," Dianda noted. "We need to fix Michigan’s roads and maintain them during the winter. Our counties and townships have been asked to do more with less. I understand that," he added. "But I will not vote to make it more costly for folks to get to work unless I know I have done everything I can, and the governor is doing everything he can, to make the Michigan Department of Transportation a leaner, meaner organization."

Dianda formerly worked for MDOT and he is now on the House Transportation Committee.

Need for public transit in rural areas

Asked about future possibilities for improving public transportation in the U.P., Dianda told Keweenaw Now lawmakers have talked about public transit in committee, but funding is lacking.

"The way the funding situation is, I'm just glad we have what we have," Dianda said. "I'd like to see it improved for all of our counties up here."

He agreed that Hancock and Houghton public transit could be improved with evening and weekend hours -- to benefit both senior citizens who don't drive and young people who have to work part-time jobs.

Dianda said he fears most of the funding might go for road expansion in more populated metropolitan areas rather than improvement of existing roads and needed public transportation in the seven counties he represents.

"If we spend $1.2 billion is the quality of transportation life in the U.P. going to get better? That's my question," Dianda said.

Mining trucks through Marquette add high carbon footprint

Since Dianda's constituency includes parts of Marquette County, he also expressed concern about the truck transport from the Eagle Mine to the Humboldt Mill, now that the mine is in production.

"The truck traffic from the Eagle Mine to the Humboldt Mill has to take an out-of-the-way route through the Northern Michigan University campus -- Wright Street to U.S. 41 and west to Humboldt," Dianda said. "This is a large carbon footprint -- trucks having to do extra mileage."

Dianda noted the mining company should have put in an elevated railroad with lighter loads in order to have less impact than truck traffic.

Dianda's Bill naming bridge for veterans approved in House

The Michigan House recently approved unanimously Dianda's Bill 5715, which names a bridge in Ontonagon County the "Ontonagon County Veterans Memorial Bridge."

“Our brave veterans deserve our support and recognition for their courage and willingness to leave their families to serve," Dianda said. "I am proud to sponsor this bill to show them our appreciation."

HB 5715 was introduced in July following a recommendation from the Ontonagon County Veterans’ Association, which has been in operation for 10 years. The bridge is located on Highway M-64 over the Ontonagon River in Ontonagon Township.

"I thank my House colleagues for joining me to honor our veterans and approving my bill," said Dianda. "I hope that my Senate colleagues will give their approval so we can see this bill signed into law before session ends in December."

To learn more about State Rep. Scott Dianda or to contact him, visit his Web site.


* Click here to read Dianda's proposed HB 5968.

** See the guest article by Laura Smyth, "Minewater Geothermal on the Keweenaw Peninsula."  A Green Lecture on this subject was also held in Houghton on Nov. 20, 2014. Watch for more on this issue, coming soon.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Guest article: Lundin mineral lease application -- Here we go again

This photo from the north demonstrates the proximity of Lundin Mining's proposed 40-acre mineral lease to the Yellow Dog River and recreational access. The actual corner of the parcel with trees removed north of the bridge (red X) is less than 400 feet from the river and less than that from the flood plain. Click on photo for larger version. (Photo and caption © and courtesy Jeremiah Eagle Eye)

By Gene Champagne*

Eagle Mine LCC, a subsidiary of Lundin Mining of Toronto and Sweden, has recently applied for a mineral lease on 40 acres of state owned property (in other words OUR property) that lie a short distance southeast of the current Eagle Mine site. The parcel also lies within a few hundred yards of the Yellow Dog River -- close enough to be in the river’s 100-year floodplain. Public comment is currently being accepted by the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources (MDNR) until December 1, 2014. Citizens should not only comment on this proposed mineral lease, but also request that a public hearing be held on the permit application either in Marquette or Big Bay. Marquette is a regional hub that would enable more people to comment. Big Bay is the community most affected by the creeping industrialization of the decreasingly pristine Yellow Dog Plains.

Residents of Big Bay are literally the "canary in the coal mine" for this segment of the mining industry that is mapping out a new mining region around Lake Superior. Big Bay residents are just beginning to experience some of the negative side effects of this industrialization. Our quality of life is being seriously diminished by noise, super highways, and other precursor effects. Other potential effects to our water and air may not be felt for years to come. By the time any negative impacts to our water are realized, it will be too late; the horse will be out of the barn with no turning back. You cannot reverse the process of acid mine drainage. We need to give pause before proceeding with any new mineral leases of state land in this area.

First of all, Eagle Mine has just commenced production, which is not even up to full speed yet. This segment of the mining industry is relatively new to the region. The history and science of hard rock mining has left a legacy of watershed devastation worldwide and in the western US, where it is DRY. Michigan and the Great Lakes region may have too much water for this type of mining. Water is becoming the oil of the 21st century.

Eagle Mine permit challenged

Many consider the current permit very inadequate at the least. There is enough evidence to render it fraudulent and illegal. If Eagle Mine is to operate we should wait a few years with Eagle at full capacity before jumping down some sink hole we may never recover from. The minerals are going nowhere. If our water is ruined, it is ruined forever. No one is making any more.

Of most concern is the process of mineral leasing and mine permitting itself. The state leases minerals for exploration that may, or may not, turn out to be profitable. If determined to be profitable, the company submits a permit application to mine. The State of Michigan, through the Dept. of Environment Quality (MDEQ) feels obligated to grant a permit. You cannot lease minerals without the expectation of a permit application to follow. The area may be an inappropriate place to mine due to the sensitivity of the environment (read water table/watershed/rare fauna/flora). The permit may be totally inadequate to protect such an area, but will be granted regardless.

Michigan needs siting criteria for mining

Those who speak of our toughest in the nation mining laws (politicians and mine advocates/officials) are blowing smoke. For example, South Dakota, a traditional mining state, has siting criteria, which determine areas that are too sensitive for mining activity. Michigan needs such siting criteria. The writers of the current rules and regulations refused to include a siting provision when Kennecott Minerals opposed it. Some of these same mine advocates, with the backing of local media, portend the need to balance the environment with development, but there is no balance when development always wins out. All we get is an inadequate and illegally compromised permit. The "winners" of late are international conglomerates beholden to stockholders, while we are tossed "trinkets and beads." Trinkets and beads buy us nothing when our lands are gone.

Dan Blondeau, senior advisor, Communications and Media Relations for Eagle Mine, has stated that Eagle Mine LLC has no interest in mining this parcel, but hopes it will help them understand the geology of the area better.

Dan states, "Contrary to speculation there is no mine plan for the proposed lease area, nor is there an immediate plan for exploration."

I can relate to that. I lease parking spaces all the time and let them sit idle. I just want to better understand the nature of parking lots. I do the same with apartments and cars. When Lundin acquired Eagle Mine from Rio Tinto, the package came with over 5,000 acres of owned/leased mineral rights in the vicinity of Eagle Mine. What is this 40-acre parcel going to tell them that they don’t already know? And so we begin the slide down the slippery slope.

Why lease this public land?

To grease the skids down this slippery slope, the MDNR Fisheries Division quietly changed the property’s designation to "development -- with restrictions," which could include a mine, when Eagle Mine made their intention for a mineral lease application known to the MDNR. The property was originally designated as "non-development" in 2003. What changed on this land other than a mining company’s interest in it? This land is OUR land. This 40-acre parcel of OUR land sits adjacent to an additional 481 acres of OUR land. Sound familiar? It should.

Many area residents, as well as tourists, use this area for camping, fishing, hunting, hiking, gathering, snowmobiling, skiing, and quiet reflection. This is OUR quality of life. It is the main reason many have chosen to live here. Private land adjacent to this state- controlled 40 is used by many people for some of these same purposes. There was a recent gathering here in October for religious and spiritually inclined individuals to mourn the loss of our solitude and quality of life. The gathering bemoaned the destruction of our immediate environment and, reflecting upon nature’s gifts, resolved to stand against further loss. The gathering was well attended.

Public comments due Dec. 1, 2014

Do we, as residents of the central Upper Peninsula, wish to maintain our quality of life or would we rather sell out to foreign internationals for a temporary infusion of "trinkets and beads"? Your opinion matters. Comments may be mailed by Monday, Dec. 1, 2014, to
Karen Maidlow, Property Analyst
Minerals Management Office, Department of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 30452
Lansing, Michigan 48909-7952

or email Karen Maidlow at

* Editor's Notes:
Guest author Gene Champagne is a member of Concerned Citizens of Big Bay. Excerpts from this opinion article appeared recently in the Marquette Mining Journal.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Orpheum Theater to host The Saturday Giant, one-man art-rock band, Nov. 26

The Saturday Giant (Philip Cogley), a one-man art-rock band from Columbus, Ohio, will perform at The Orpheum Theater in Hancock on Wednesday, Nov. 26. (Photo © Mark Elliot. Reprinted with permission.)

HANCOCK -- The Saturday Giant (stage name of nomadic aural tinkerer Philip Cogley) will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 26, at The Orpheum Theater in Hancock.

Established in 2010, The Saturday Giant is a one-man art-rock band from Columbus, Ohio. Cogley crafts an innovative and compelling live show in which he sculpts layers of guitars, drums, bass lines, beat boxing, keyboards and vocals into towering walls of sound, without the aid of prerecorded samples.

"I put fresh trimmings of rock, folk, electronica and hip hop into a blender, add a dash of introspective, off-beat lyricism, and pour out a delicious pop smoothie," Cogley says.

Even while maintaining a rigorous touring schedule -- he’s on pace to give over 200 performances this year -- The Saturday Giant is preparing his full-length debut for early 2015. Get a taste of what's to come on that release when The Saturday Giant performs at The Orpheum on Nov. 26.

You can see The Saturday Giant in his multiple musical roles and listen to a sample of his music on his Web site:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Finlandia's Young Women's Caucus for Art to hold fundraiser Nov. 22 at Jutila Center

HANCOCK -- Finlandia University's Young Women's Caucus for Art will sponsor a fundraising event -- all the soup you can eat, music by Rhythm 203 and a silent auction -- from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 22, in the Jutila Center in Hancock.

Rhythm 203 -- from left, Sue Ellen Kingsley, Phyllis Fredendall and Norm Kendall -- will perform a variety of tunes during the Nov. 22 fundraiser for Finlandia University's Young Women's Caucus for Art. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

Help the Young Women's Caucus for Art in their quest to travel to New York City in February for the National Conference for the Women's Caucus for Art.

Musicians Sue Ellen Kingsley, Norm Kendall and Phyllis Fredendall will provide a variety of their harmonies as you enjoy homemade soup and a silent auction of art work.

Tickets are $10 and $7 for students.

Finlandia's Jutila Center is at 200 Michigan Street, Hancock.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Letter to DNR: Deny Eagle Mine's request for new mineral lease on public land

Lundin Mining Co. has applied to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for a 40-acre mineral lease (right side of photo) for exploration on State land near the Yellow Dog River, not far from the Eagle Mine. Both the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve and Save the Wild U.P. have expressed strong concerns about the potential impacts to the river, nearby wetlands and endangered and threatened species in the area -- and are calling for a public hearing on the proposed lease. Click on photo for larger version. (Photo © and courtesy Jeremiah Eagle Eye. Reprinted with permission.)*

[Editor's Note: This letter to the Department of Natural Resources from June Rydholm, who owns property near the Eagle Mine, is reprinted here with permission.)

Karen Maidlow, Property Analyst, Minerals Management
Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
P.O. Box 30452
Lansing, MI 48909

Dear Karen Maidlow,

This letter is with regard to land owned by the State of Michigan on the Yellow Dog Plains and next to the Yellow Dog River in Michigamme Township, Marquette County (40 acres, NE1/4 SE1/4, Sec.13, T50N, R29W).

I am a property owner on the west side of Eagle Mine and also on the east side. We have owned our property since 1949, and built a seasonal home there. The Eagle Mine mine has taken away the wilderness we have previously enjoyed.

I feel the DNR is mandated to care for the resources on Michigan-owned land for all citizens of Michigan, both living and future generations. Michigan is known throughout the country for our valuable natural resources.

You recently stated in an interview, "All we're doing is saying that if there's activity on state-owned land, we need to be paid for it. That's what the lease does."  You must understand, however, that this public land is more valuable because its minerals have not been leased, because natural resources on the surface are not undermined or threatened by mine activity. What value does the DNR assign to silence, to the tranquility of being in a wilderness area, to the experience of seeing wild animals and sleeping to the sound of wolves howling at night? What value does the DNR assign to the health of the Yellow Dog River, spring-fed lakes, or a drink of pure, cold spring-water? How do you put a price-tag on the experience of a family picking a full pail of wild blueberries, kneeling in soft reindeer lichen, enjoying pine-fresh air unpolluted by industry?

Clearly, Eagle Mine has removed value from public land. They have taken away the resources I describe above, along with their ore. Their profits go to stockholders in other states and countries with precious little benefit for the citizens of Michigan. Future generations will not have the pleasure of  breathing clean air and enjoying pure water. The mine has drawn up so much water from the aquifer that we cannot hand-pump our needs for the cabin. Animals we used to enjoy seeing are dislocated from their places of feeding and nesting: the mine already occupies so much acreage with noise, pollution and vehicle activity that our wildlife are forced from their native habitats. By allowing more mineral exploration, the DNR is not caring for Michigan's natural resources. The DNR will be leaving our children with holes filled with waste rock and tailings to replace the minerals extracted from below. Will our water ever be the same again?

Test-drilling for minerals on state-owned land must cease! The DNR must recognize that protecting all of our state’s natural resources is more than seeking glad-handing and backslapping from corporate executives. The constitution and laws of the State of Michigan are intended to serve the public, not the whims of Eagle Mine or Lundin Mining!

The DNR is not obligated to lease additional mineral rights simply because a mine requests them.  Eagle Mine will be gone when they obtain what they came for, leaving a barren landscape in their wake. Michigan’s citizens deserve better. Our regulatory agencies must stop serving profit-minded shareholders and begin to preserve and protect the experience of wilderness as it was before the mine -- for all to enjoy.

I am asking you to deny Eagle Mine’s request for a new mineral lease on the Yellow Dog Plains (NE1/4 SE1/4, Sec.13, T50N, R29W). Please hold a public hearing concerning this lease request.


June E. Rydholm
November 8, 2014

*Editor's Note: For background on this mineral lease proposal see our Oct. 31, 2014, article "Eagle Mine seeks new mineral lease near Yellow Dog River, continues exploration."
The deadline for comments on this proposed lease was originally Nov. 20, but has been extended to Dec. 1, 2014. Concerned citizens can sign an online petition to the DNR to request that they deny this lease. Click here to read more and sign the petition.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Green Lecture Series to present discussion on geothermal energy Nov. 20

HOUGHTON -- The 2014 Green Lecture Series will present "Using Mine Water for Geothermal Energy in the Keweenaw" from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 20, in G002 Hesterberg Hall, Michigan Tech Forestry Building.

Presenters will be Richelle Winkler, assistant professor of sociology and demography, Michigan Tech Department of Social Sciences, and Jay Meldrum, director, Michigan Tech’s Keweenaw Research Center.

The event is free and open to the public. A $3 donation is welcome. A discussion and reception with coffee, tea and refreshments will follow the lecture.

Billions of gallons of "warm" water are stored in the mine workings that underlie much of
the Keweenaw Peninsula. Michigan Tech's Keweenaw Research Center uses this water for geothermal heating and cooling. Could expanding mine water geothermal heating projects to local communities provide a sustainable, affordable, and community-centered source of local energy?

The public is invited to join in a discussion of local opportunities for using water from mines for geothermal heating and cooling, which can be a very efficient energy source.

Left inset photo: Richelle Winkler, Michigan Tech assistant professor of sociology and demography, leads a discussion with the Houghton Energy Efficiency Team (HEET) core leadership team on Oct. 3, 2014, in the Portage Lake District Library. A Michigan Tech graduate student team and community members discussed HEET's vision statement and goals. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Right inset: During the Nov. 3 HEET meeting, Jay Meldrum, director of Michigan Tech’s Keweenaw Research Center, reports on a meeting in Marquette concerning the impending closing of the Presque Isle Power Plant and how it will affect Upper Peninsula residents' electric bills. (Photo by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Editor's Note: Richelle Winkler and her students gave a presentation on the feasibility of using mine water for geothermal energy in Calumet at CLK last year. Read Laura Smyth's guest article on that presentation, "Minewater Geothermal on the Keweenaw Peninsula."

Community Arts Center to host reception for SHAFT and Junior SHAFT exhibit Nov. 20

HANCOCK -- The Copper Country Community Arts Center (CCCAC) will hold a reception for the SHAFT and Junior SHAFT -- a community exhibit on local mining history -- from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 20. The exhibit continues through Dec. 6, 2014.

The reception is free and open to the public. Participate in the Community Choice awards by voting for your favorite!Cash prizes will be awarded by public choice and will be announced the second week in December.

"At 6 p.m. we will give a brief state of the Arts Center report, and then we’ll enjoy refreshments and music with Mike Irish and Libby Meyer!" says CCCAC Director Cynthia Coté.

Thursday, Nov. 20, is also member day. Members will receive 10 percent off on sales in the gallery all day long. New members are welcome to join on Nov. 20 and enjoy this discount as well as the special members only shopping hour (10 a.m. - 11 a.m.) at the Poor Artists Sale on Saturday, Dec. 6, in the CLK Gymnasium in Calumet.

The Copper Country Community Arts Center is located at 126 Quincy Street in Hancock. Call 482-2333 or visit for more information.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Friends of the Land of Keweenaw to hold annual meeting Nov. 19

Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK) recently held a joint fundraising event with Marquette's Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) -- a concert by singer-songwriter Claudia Schmidt, second from left, at the Orpheum Theater in Hancock. Pictured here with Claudia are, from left, Linda Rulison, FOLK president; Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP outreach coordinator; and Kathleen Heideman, SWUP president. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK) will hold their annual membership meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19, at Portage Lake District Library in Houghton. The event is free and open to the public.

The Keynote speaker will be Nancy Langston, environmental historian and Lake Superior Binational Forum member, who will present the Forum's work on responsible mining in the Lake Superior Watershed. She will discuss her December 2013 Binational Forum report, Responsible Mining in the Lake Superior Basin.

Langston recently joined the faculty at Michigan Tech University, where she is professor of environmental history in the Social Sciences Department and a member of the Great Lakes Research Center.

Recently FOLK held a joint fundraising event with Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) of Marquette -- a concert by folk/jazz singer-songwriter Claudia Schmidt at the Orpheum Theater in Hancock.

Preceding the Oct. 25, 2014, fundraising concert by Claudia Schmidt at the Orpheum Theater in Hancock, FOLK President Linda Rulison, left, speaks about "Places Too Special to Mine" -- some of which are pictured on the display on stage. Also pictured are, from left, Alexandra Maxwell and Kathleen Heideman of Save the Wild U.P. 

For the past three years FOLK, through its Mining Education and Empowerment Campaign, has sought to involve citizens in shaping mining policy for the local region. This policy would ensure new mining projects preserve, not degrade, the region's natural and social environment and would strengthen, not harm, the local economy.

Among the Campaign's accomplishments is an economic report prepared by Thomas Power, a noted resource economist and former Chair of the University of Montana Department of Economics, that addresses issues raised by the resumption of mining in the western U.P. and proposes an alternative and more sustainable model of economic development.*

Power was the keynote speaker at FOLK's November 2013 annual meeting in Baraga. Here is a video clip from a discussion during last year's meeting:

During a discussion following his presentation at the Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK) meeting on Nov. 6, 2013, in answer to a question on economic effects of a large mining company moving into an area, Thomas Power discusses the "company town" syndrome. (Video by Keweenaw Now)**

Thomas Power gave two other presentations on his report, "The Economic Impacts of Renewed Copper Mining in the Western Upper Peninsula of Michigan," in Houghton during his visit to the Keweenaw in November 2013. Click here for Keweenaw Now's report on those presentations.

More Photos from the Claudia Schmidt concert:

Margaret Comfort, left, former SWUP president and member of the SWUP advisory board, organized the visit of her friend, Claudia Schmidt, for the joint fundraiser sponsored by FOLK and SWUP.

Singer-songwriter Claudia Schmidt performs one of her original songs during the FOLK-SWUP fundraiser at the Orpheum Theater in Hancock on Oct. 25, 2014.

Chris Alquist, left, and Horst Schmidt, the two newest FOLK board members, volunteered to collect tickets at the Claudia Schmidt fundraising concert.

For more information about FOLK's Mining Education Project, click here.

* Click here for the Executive Summary of Thomas Power's Report on the FOLK Web site.

** See more video clips from last year's FOLK meeting with Thomas Power on Keweenaw Now's YouTube Channel, Keweenaw News.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Geology expert notes concerns about arsenic in Gay stamp sands as DEQ accepts comments on stamp sand removal proposal

By Michele Bourdieu
This photo shows the smokestack at Gay and the stamp sand from the original stamp mill that operated in Gay in the early 20th century -- still on the shore near the town. The stamp mill deposited millions of tons of this copper mining waste in Lake Superior, where a current has carried it for miles along the shoreline and farther into Lake Superior. (July 2014 photo by Keweenaw Now)

GAY, Mich. -- Today, Nov. 17, 2014, is the deadline for comments on a Public Notice from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) concerning an application from Greensand Inc., to dredge stamp sand from the Lake Superior beach near the town of Gay in Keweenaw County and to build a facility to store it and process it on site for eventual removal by truck or barge.*

Bill Rose, Michigan Tech professor emeritus (Geological Engineering and Sciences) says he is concerned about the fact that the Gay stamp sand -- mining waste left from copper mining in the early 20th century -- is rich in arsenic. While some residents are concerned about the transport of the stamp sand in trucks that could occur if Greensand is given the necessary permits, Rose says the arsenic issue is more important and is not even mentioned in the Greensand proposal.

"The Gay sands are arsenic-rich," Rose says. "We do not know whether this arsenic enrichment is ever actively transmitted into surface water, because it is mainly untested and not measured."

Rose says more investigation into the arsenic content of stamp sand and more public involvement are necessary before the proposed stamp sand removal projects are approved.

During a July 25, 2014, Keweenaw Geotour of Jacobsville Sandstone Rose led on Michigan Tech's Research Vessel Agassiz, he spoke about the Gay stamp sands as tour participants viewed them from the boat:

Aboard Michigan Tech's Research Vessel Agassiz during his July 25, 2014 Keweenaw Geotour of Jacobsville Sandstone, Bill Rose, Michigan Tech professor emeritus (Geological Engineering and Sciences), describes the current that moves stamp sands along the shoreline from Gay and into the lake; he also expresses his concerns about arsenic in the Gay stamp sands. Driving the boat is Steve Roblee, Agassiz captain. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

As the Agassiz cruised along the shore south of Gay, Rose explained the difference between the primary stamp sand on the shore near the location of the former mill at Gay and secondary stamp sand that is carried by the current and redeposited on the shore southwest of Gay.

In this image, the dashed line shows the area of stamp sand near the stack in Gay (upper right) has diminished since 1938 as that toward Big Traverse has grown. Number 1 marks primary stamp sands and number 2 secondary. Click on image for larger version. (Photo courtesy Keweenaw Geoheritage Web site and Bill Rose. Reprinted with permission.)**

"Secondary stamp sand is that sand that moved from its original position south of the stack, to the southwest toward Big Traverse," Rose explained. "Secondary stamp sand is better sorted than primary sand with the fine particles being distributed to the lake bottom while the coarser sands are deposited southwest along the shore toward Big Traverse." 

This photo shows redistributed and redeposited, i.e., secondary, stamp sands 1000 meters west of Gay. (Photo courtesy Keweenaw Geoheritage Web site and Bill Rose. Reprinted with permission.)**

According to Linda Hansen, DEQ Water Quality Division, Baraga Office, who is accepting public comments on the Greensand Inc. proposal as described in the Public Notice, the application will be reviewed according to statutory criteria that includes arsenic even though it isn't mentioned in the Public Notice.

"The level of metals contained in the stamp sand is something we take into consideration relative to the statutory review criteria -- under Part 325 of NREPA (the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act), Great Lakes Submerged Land," Hansen said. "All of the Gay stamp sand is considered occupying Great Lakes bottomlands according to Part 325."***

Hansen said she will accept comments on the proposal up to midnight tonight, Nov. 17. If comments are received after the deadline, they will be accepted, but will not receive as much consideration as those received by the deadline. ****

"Any single person can request that we hold a public hearing," Hansen said. "If someone does request it (a public hearing), it probably will be held in the month of December (2014)."

Concerning the truck traffic that could ensue from the project or air quality concerns, those are beyond the scope of this review, she noted.

"We just look at the lake and what's going to happen to the lake under Part 325," Hansen explained. "What we review is impacts to Lake Superior that are lakeward of the ordinary high water mark."

This photo shows the contrast between the grey stamp sand beach on the east (right) side of the seawall in Grand Traverse Bay, which has held back some, but not all, of the moving stamp sand, and the cleaner sand on the west (left) side of the seawall at Big Traverse. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Should people have concerns about air quality that come up during a public hearing or in written comments, she could inform the DEQ Air Quality Division, Hansen added.

Rival company questions truck transport

Another company that has applied to the DEQ for removing the Gay stamp sand, but with the intention of transporting it by barge without building a facility on the land, is Torch Lake Industries. They have already received a DEQ permit for their proposal.

According to Hansen, their permit was issued, but modified with conditions. Unfortunately it is not posted on line, but can be requested through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

In a letter to local government agencies, Thomas Logue of Torch Lake Industries comments on the Greensand Inc. application.

"The applicant firm (Greensand Inc) made a presentation on June 25 in Houghton in which they stated that they intend to ship at least 1 million tons of the sand from Gay to L’Anse, Michigan, each year for the 5 consecutive year duration of their permit -- if their permit application is issued," Logue writes. "The information in this letter is my interpretation of the facts presented at that meeting. What actually happens, I have no way of knowing, except to say that if allowed the permit by MDEQ, the firm can legally run as many trucks through your community -- regardless of your town’s reaction."

Logue then cites his own mathematical calculations, assuming the trucks would run Monday through Friday, 12 hours a day, and includes return trips of empty trucks.

"This translates into one truck passing through your community each one minute and 7 seconds, half loaded trucks and the other half dead heading back to Gay," Logue continues in his letter. "Empty trucks, as you may know, are much louder than fully loaded trucks."

Logue then lists impacts of such truck traffic: air pollution, noise pollution, vibration damage to concrete foundations, safety, road damage and traffic jams.

Hansen said unfortunately Logue's advice to communities to write to the DEQ to oppose a permit for Greensand, his rival, is based on impacts not covered by the present DEQ Public Notice for the Greensand project. Greensand may have to apply for permits from the DEQ Air Quality Division or from the Michigan Department of Transportation if the truck traffic should present such potential problems.


* Click here to read the full Public Notice.

** Learn more about the Gay stamp sands on Bill Rose's Geoheritage Web site, which also has links to scholarly articles on the stamp sand, photos and more.

*** Click here to read about Great Lakes bottomlands.

**** The public can send comments, including a request for a public hearing, directly to Linda Hansen via email at

Prof. Sarah Green, Lake Superior expert, to lead discussion Nov. 18 at Carnegie Museum

HOUGHTON -- Sarah Green, Michigan Tech professor of chemistry and expert on Lake Superior, will lead a discussion titled "Lake Superior’s History and Future" from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 18, in the Community Room at the Carnegie Museum in Houghton. The discussion will be preceded by refreshments and introductions from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

"I will show how we can see day-to-day conditions on Lake Superior from buoys," Green says. "I will also talk about how the lake has changed over the past hundred years and what we predict for its future." 

The event is part of a monthly series of sessions on the Geoheritage and Natural History of the Keweenaw, held at the Carnegie Museum in Houghton. The discussions are aimed at the general public but focus on current research and science. All lectures are free, open to the public, and wheelchair accessible.

Seminar organizer Bill Rose, Michigan Tech professor emeritus, notes, "The Keweenaw is very special, and it guides our lives. The connection we feel is strongly influenced by our natural history, as well as our cultural history. In exploring our region’s natural history, we will ask, 'What are the elements of Keweenaw Natural History?' and 'How can the community discuss, participate and celebrate these elements?'"

For additional information about the Carnegie Museum seminar series click here.

(Inset photo of Professor Sarah Green courtesy Michigan Tech University)