Friday, April 04, 2014

Adam Robarge to announce candidacy for 38th District State Senate seat Apr. 5 in Marquette

MARQUETTE -- Adam Robarge of Marquette will Declare his candidacy for Michgan's 38th District State Senate seat (now held by State Sen. Tom Casperson) beginning at noon TOMORROW, Saturday, April 5, at the Ore Dock Brewing Co. Community Space, 114 W. Spring St. in Marquette. The event is open to the public. Robarge will speak at 12:30 p.m.

Adam Robarge and supporters will gather to celebrate the beginning of his campaign to take Michigan in a better direction. Robarge, community liaison for the Ore Dock Brewing Company, will speak to his commitment to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; his desire to bring tax relief to Michigan’s working families; and his commitment to sustainable development that creates jobs and protects our natural resources.

Adam Robarge, candidate for Michigan’s 38th District State Senate seat, is running to restore great leadership to the people of the Upper Peninsula. For more information, please visit

Robarge visited the Houghton County Democratic Party meeting on April 2 in Houghton. Click here to see a brief video interview (recorded during that meeting) in which he talks about his priorities for the people of the U.P.

First Friday in Calumet to offer new exhibits, art projects April 4

Editor's UPDATE: We received word that some of the galleries may be closed tonight, Apr. 4, depending on weather. If you are making plans to come to Calumet for First Friday please call ahead to make sure the galleries will be open. The CCAA will be closed; but Cross Country Sports, Hahn's Hammered Copper, Cafe Rosetta, Calumet Art Center and Paige Wiard Gallery will be open, weather permitting.  Phone numbers: Calumet Art Center 906-934-2228; Paige Wiard Gallery 906-337-5970; Cross Country Sports 906-337-4520; Hahn's Hammered Copper 906-231-6510; Galerie Boheme 906 337-4087; Cafe Rosetta 906-337-5500.

CALUMET -- First Friday in Calumet offers a new art exhibit at Galerie Bohème, a workshop at Copper Country Associated Artists and art opportunities at the Calumet Art Center. Please see UPDATE above.

Galerie Bohème

Evolution Shoes 1. Sculpture by Tom Rudd. (Photos courtesy Galerie Bohème)

Galerie Bohème will exhibit sculpture by Tom Rudd this month, with a reception from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, April 4.

"The walls in the Bohème are looking like Valentines day in a Chicago garage," Rudd says. "Time to clean away the stains, fill and paint. For April we'll take the art off the walls and put sculpture in the center of the gallery!"

The April exhibit is an abbreviated retrospective of small works from Rudd's not-so-small series produced over the past 40 years.

AAAladle. Sculpture by Tom Rudd.

"It will be intriguing to be able to view sculpture in the round, in this small space indoors, so stop by check out the sculpture, have good bread, fine cheese, questionable drinks and stimulating conversation," he adds.

The walls will be made pristine for the upcoming summer shows beginning in May with an exhibit of outstanding  artworks from Dolores Slowinski and Bonnie Peterson.

Update: Paige Wiard Gallery

Trees are such a huge part of our environment. At the Paige Wiard Gallery during the month of April, artists will be showing artwork that celebrates their visions of the beautiful world of trees.

Little Enchanted Forest, by Bill Wiard. (Photo courtesy Page Wiard Gallery)

Weather permitting (see UPDATE above) an opening reception will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, April 4, at 109 5th Street, Calumet. The show will be up for the month of April, so stop by Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to see all the wonderful trees!  If you have questions please call 906-337-5970 or email

Copper Country Associated Artists
UPDATE: We have just heard this gallery will be closed because of weather.

Join Copper Country Associated Artists (CCAA) for a workshop on tiles on this First Friday, April 4. Drop in any time from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and put textures into a 4X4-inch earthenware tile.

These will be fired and available for pick-up on around April 11th, and would be useful as a coaster, trivet or decorative wall tile. The workshop is free and all supplies will be provided, but you can bring your own textures if you'd like.

The Gallery is located at 205 Fifth Street in Calumet.

Calumet Art Center

The Calumet Art Center will be open for First Friday from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Continued inclement weather may mean an early closing. If you're on Fifth Street, stop in to check out the current art projects. Visit their Web site for details. Don't forget the jazz duo concert here TOMORROW, April 5.

Community Arts Center in Hancock to host film series beginning Apr. 18

Editor's UPDATE: The first showing for the Unsilvered Screen Series, that was scheduled for tonight, April 4, in the Copper Country Community Arts Center Ballroom, is cancelled due to weather. The next film is scheduled for April 18, Le Gai Savoir, 1969, directed by Jean-Luc Godard. We have updated the schedule below.

HANCOCK -- The Copper Country Community Arts Center in Hancock will be hosting a bi-weekly film series with filmmaker and photographer Pedro Trevino starting Friday, April 18.

The Unsilvered Screen Film Series will trace the imprint of cinema on culture, politics, and the arts through viewings of unfamiliar and subversive works. Screenings will be preceded by a brief talk, contextualizing each film's history, themes, and aesthetics. Films will be shown at 7 p.m. on alternating Fridays, starting April 4, in the CCCAC ballroom. For mature audiences. Freewill donation to attend.

Films will be shown at 7 p.m. on April 18 and May 2, 16. The Copper Country Community Arts Center is located at 126 Quincy Street in Hancock.  Call 482-2333 for more information.

Here is the UPDATED film schedule:

April 18  Le Gai Savoir. 1969. Dir. Jean-Luc Godard
May 2     Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom. 1975. Dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini
May 16   Death by Hanging. 1968. Dir. Nagisa

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Northern Standard Time jazz duo to present concert Apr. 5 at Calumet Art Center

Northern Standard Time jazz duo will perform a variety of music Saturday, Apr. 5, at the Calumet Art Center. (Poster courtesy Calumet Art Center)

CALUMET -- The Calumet Art Center will host jazz duo Northern Standard Time (NST) at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 5. Northern Standard Time features Mike Christianson -- on trombone, tuba, and electric bass -- and Mike Irish on guitars.

The NST repertoire consists of jazz standards from all eras, Latin and Brazilian classics, blues, Pop, soul, and even some funk. The hallmark of the group is creative improvisation in the moment. No two performances are alike, and thus always refreshing. The groove is the focus.

Mike and Mike, as NST, are available for concerts, clinics, private parties, co-op openings, grassfires, and snake-stomps!

Tickets are $10 at the door. Proceeds benefit the Calumet Art Center programs. For more information call 934-2228. The Calumet Art Center is at 57055 Fifth St. in Calumet.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Citizens question, challenge MDEQ proposed Groundwater Discharge Permit for Eagle Mine

By Michele Bourdieu

Steve Casey, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Upper Peninsula District Supervisor, Water Resources Division, right, answers a question from the audience during a lengthy question-answer session preceding the March 25 MDEQ Public Hearing on re-issuance of the Groundwater Discharge Permit for the Eagle Mine near Big Bay, Mich., a projected nickel-copper mine now owned by Lundin Mining Company. On the panel with Casey, from left, are Jeff Warner, MDEQ geologist, Lansing office; Jeannette Bailey, Groundwater Permits Unit, Lansing; and Rick Rusz, groundwater permits chief, Lansing, and decision maker for this permit. (Photo © and courtesy Jeremiah Eagle Eye)

ISHPEMING, Mich. -- It's about the water. That was the first concern of most of the nearly 150 citizens who showed up at Westwood High School in Ishpeming for the March 25, 2014, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Public Hearing on the reissuance of the Groundwater Discharge Permit for Eagle Mine.

Eagle Mine, February 2014. On the right is Eagle Rock, an Ojibwa sacred site with the mine portal (right, foreground). The building on the bottom of the photo is the aggregate storage/back-fill plant. Here aggregate or crushed development rock is stored prior to being used as cemented rock fill (CRF) in the mine. The enclosed building above it is the coarse ore storage area or COSA, where the underground trucks unload the ore. The over-the-road trucks enter this building and are loaded. Prior to leaving the site for the Humboldt mill, they drive through the truck wash to remove any debris. (Photo courtesy Lundin Mining Co. Reprinted with permission.)

Some braved the cold to drive an hour or more in the prolonged winter weather the U.P. has been experiencing this year. Several MDEQ officials from both the Lansing office and the regional Marquette office were on hand -- both on the panel conducting the hearing and in the audience -- to answer questions during the question and answer session, which lasted about two and a half hours, and to listen to comments from the public, expressed more formerly during the hearing portion, which lasted another hour and a half.

Both the quality and the quantity of water to be discharged into the groundwater and eventually into surface water -- including springs (or seeps), wetlands, rivers, streams, lakes and Lake Superior -- were subjects of discussion and comments at the hearing on this proposed draft permit.

Water Quality: Rules determine setting limits for substances in groundwater

Before the question period began, MDEQ officials offered a preliminary Power Point slide presentation to attempt to answer some questions or comments they had already received from the public. In the following videoclip, Steve Casey, MDEQ Upper Peninsula District Supervisor, Water Resources Division, who conducted the hearing, points out some of the issues MDEQ is already considering based on the public's concerns:

In a presentation preceding the question period at the March 25, 2014, public hearing on the re-issuance of the Groundwater Discharge Permit for Eagle Mine, Steve Casey, who conducts the hearing, presents several issues taken from public comments on the permit and gives an example of one issue, the need for specific limits rather than just reporting, using nickel as an example. (Videos by Keweenaw Now)

Another concern expressed by the public before the hearing concerned uranium that was detected in water from the Temporary Development Rock Storage Area (TDRSA) at the Eagle Mine.

The MDEQ's fact sheet on this permit states, "The source (of this uranium) is thought to be a natural occurrence from rock that was used in construction and brought in from another site. Uranium is removed from the wastewater by the (water) treatment system."

According to Casey, the amount of uranium detected from the water from the TDRSA was lower than drinking water standards, while, in other parts of the U.P. uranium is higher than drinking water standards. In fact, he noted, 20 percent of the wells in the UP exceed drinking water standards for uranium.

Casey speaks to this issue in the following video:

During MDEQ's presentation preceding the question session, Steve Casey of MDEQ addresses a public concern about uranium detected at the Eagle Mine.

One important change in the proposed permit (which is a reissuance required five years after the first permit was issued) is what the public perceives as relaxed limits on vanadium and pH. Here Casey explains why these limits were changed to higher values than those in the original permit:

Steve Casey explains why limits for vanadium and pH were changed, following rules for setting limits.

During the question session, Cynthia Pryor of Big Bay and Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve asks for further explanation of the pH limit (9.7).

Cynthia Pryor of Big Bay and Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve challenges the 9.7 pH limit. (Photo © and courtesy Jeremiah Eagle Eye)

MDEQ panel members attempt to reply to Pryor's questions:

MDEQ panel members address Cynthia Pryor's question on pH.

During the official part of the hearing, when citizens in the audience were invited to state their comments, but with no reply from MDEQ officials, Kathleen Heideman, Save the Wild U.P. president, expressed her concerns about pH limits. She also spoke about air pollution from the mine that could impact the groundwater and surface water.

During the hearing, Kathleen Heideman, Save the Wild U.P. president, challenges the permit limit of 9.7 for pH, noting it could cause problems downstream. She also expresses concern that relaxed limits for airborne pollution could result in pollutants from the air being washed into the soil and into the groundwater. (Photo © and courtesy Jeremiah Eagle Eye)

Margaret Comfort of Michigamme pointed out in her comments at the hearing that vanadium can have many harmful impacts on human health. Vanadium pentoxide dust and fumes, she noted, can cause illnesses from bronchitis to lung damage. Comfort also cited a study that showed high concentrations of vanadium (which can cause kidney damage) in acid mine drainage from coal mining in Indiana.

"Your job is to regulate, not facilitate," Comfort told the MDEQ panel.

Casey told Keweenaw Now that vanadium has not been detected in Eagle’s discharge.

"The highest amount allowed (by Eagle’s draft permit) in the groundwater is 3.6 ug/l," Casey noted. "This value has been approached and even exceeded due to natural variation in the groundwater."

Groundwater limits in the permit are set by the rules, which state that limits for most inorganic substances are set at halfway between background groundwater quality and Part 201 generic residential cleanup criteria.

This slide in the MDEQ presentation explains how rules provide for groundwater limits in the permit. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

While the Eagle Mine's Wastewater Treatment Facility, using reverse osmosis, is used to remove ions from water before it is discharged into the groundwater and eventually surface water, specific (electrical) conductance is used to indicate whether the treatment system is working right and successfully treating the water.

In this video clip, Erik Moisio of Marquette, a Save the Wild U.P. volunteer, asks about the groundwater limits:

During the question session  Erik Moisio of Marquette, a volunteer for Save the Wild U.P., asks about how limits are set for substances in groundwater. Chromium is used as an example in the MDEQ slide presentation.

Corey Kelly of Marquette, also a volunteer for Save the Wild U.P., asked what the procedures would be if the company violates limits on the permit:

Corey Kelly of Marquette, a volunteer for Save the Wild U.P., asks what would happen if the company violates the Groundwater Discharge Permit. Casey explains how specific conductance is used to monitor the water treatment and describes some circumstances under which the discharge could be shut down.

Casey also noted the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) has suggested a better way to use specific conductance as an indicator of water treatment effectiveness. MDEQ staff are working with KBIC on this, he added.

In their Jan. 20, 2014, letter to MDEQ on this draft permit, KBIC notes that specific conductance monitors the effluent from the Waste Water Treatment Facility (WWTF), but the Groundwater Discharge Permit does not require monitoring the chemical characteristics of the influent for comparison.

"The chemical profile entering the WWTF in the influent would seem to be a critical component of evaluating the efficiency and performance of the water treatment process," the letter states. "This would require just one more sample to be collected during sampling of the rest of the WWTF yet would yield very useful information."

Casey and other MDEQ officials met with KBIC Tribal Council members and other tribal members in Baraga the morning of March 25, before the hearing.

"We’re working with KBIC to improve the accuracy of the "Allowable Operating Range," which is used to determine whether the treatment system is working right or whether the discharge should be stopped," Casey told Keweenaw Now. "Influent monitoring is part of that conversation."

In her statement during the hearing, Jessica Koski, KBIC mining technical assistant, mentions the need for strict enforcement to protect groundwater and surface water:

Jessica Koski, KBIC mining technical assistant, thanks MDEQ officials for their visit and consultation with KBIC leaders. She expresses concern for the potential of acid mine drainage from Eagle Mine in a pristine watershed and the need to recognize the interface between groundwater and surface water in setting limits.

KBIC member Jeffery Loman spoke during the hearing and requested that MDEQ regulate the groundwater permit under the same standards as the Clean Water Act:

KBIC member Jeffery Loman expresses appreciation for the MDEQ officials' visit to consult with the KBIC Tribal Council and other tribal members. Loman says he is glad to hear the MDEQ share his goal of protecting surface water as well as groundwater in the tribe's ceded territories, where treaties protect KBIC's rights to hunt, fish and gather. He asks that MDEQ, with the authority delegated to them by the federal government, issue a permit with Clean Water Act standards.

Attorney Michelle Halley, whose analysis of the permit was recently posted on the Save the Wild U.P. Web site, also spoke about the Clean Water Act in her comments at the hearing.

Attorney Michelle Halley comments during the hearing that MDEQ should require a Clean Water Act permit. (Photo © and courtesy Jeremiah Eagle Eye)

Halley noted the difference betweeen the (federal) Clean Water Act and MDEQ's Groundwater Discharge Permit.

"Under the Clean Water Act greater federal oversight would be involved," Halley said. "The anti-degradation rule would be applied."

Halley noted the mining company has intentionally formulated their mine plan to avoid federal permits, and the MDEQ has perpetuated this.

"You have the ability to require a Clean Water Act permit, and that's exactly the tool you should be using to accomplish your stated goals," Halley said.

Other speakers offered their personal views on the importance of water protection, based on their experiences living in other regions that have been degraded by mining or other industries.

Sara Culver of Marquette spoke about her experience in Grand Ledge, Mich., where the Grand River, once a popular fishing spot, is now polluted.

"We should not be putting a mine at our water source," Culver said. "We need water. We don't need more pollution."

Culver also referred to Thomas Power's report on the economic effects of mining on communities that often suffer from the boom and bust industry.*

Robert Tammen of  Soudan, Minn., who worked 30 years in Michigan's Empire and Tilden mines and has opposed PolyMet's proposed open-pit sulfide mine in northeastern Minnesota which would impact the Lake Superior watershed, spoke about the detrimental effects of Minnesota mining on the local economy and the environment.

"In Michigan and in Minnesota, mining does not have a good record for economic development," Tammen said.

Noting in the discussion preceding the hearing how much higher permit levels are than background levels, Tammen said Michigan could use an anti-degradation clause in their statute.

Richard Sloat of Iron River noted mines of the past, such as the Buck and Dover mines, are examples of how pollutants were not regulated. He said their hazardous waste was trucked to sites right near Lake Superior. Sloat also said he wondered if state officials had ever done a study on the cumulative effects of metals and other substances released into the environment from mining.

Water quantity: Will the Eagle Mine be able to handle the amount of groundwater discharge and still protect surface water?

MDEQ's Fact Sheet on this draft permit, distributed at the hearing and available on their Web site, states, "The discharge permit is designed so that surface water quality standards will be met at the ground water surface water interface."**

In addition, Casey told Keweenaw Now that the Part 632 permit requires monitoring of springs. 

Several questions and comments at the hearing referred to concerns about the need for a hydrologeological study to determine whether or how the Eagle Mine can guarantee that groundwater discharges will protect the large areas of surface water on the Yellow Dog Plains -- from springs (seeps) to streams and rivers to Lake Superior.

During the question session, Steve Garske of Marenisco, Mich., a botanist who has done considerable hiking on the Yellow Dog Plains, described the surface water areas that could be impacted by groundwater and requested that a hydrogeological study be done for this permit:

Steve Garske describes how groundwater on the Yellow Dog Plains is not very far below the surface and sometimes becomes surface water. Garske notes reasons why a hydrogeological survey of the area is needed before this permit is allowed.

Offering a detailed explanation of this need for a hydrogeological study, Gail Griffith, retired Northern Michigan University chemistry professor, spoke about a 2004 petition requesting a hydrology survey. She also mentions the change from what would have been an EPA underground injection system to the present above-ground TWIS (Treated Water Injection System) regulated by MDEQ, and she notes the unknown impacts of the groundwater on surface water:

In her comments at the hearing Gail Griffith, retired Northern Michigan University chemistry professor, gives reasons why a hydrogeological study of the area to be impacted by Eagle Mine is needed.

Cynthia Pryor of Big Bay gave more details on the refusal of Kennecott/Rio Tinto (former Eagle Mine owner) to support a hydrogeological study in the past and the problem this lack of a study poses for this groundwater permit:

Cynthia Pryor of Big Bay adds her voice to those calling for a hydrogeological study for the Yellow Dog Plains.

During the question session preceding the hearing, William Malmsten, Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition president, asks about snow melt and other climate events that could impact the efficiency of the groundwater discharge at the Eagle Mine. Casey explains the mine's capacity for flood events and snow melt in this video clip:

William Malmsten, Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition president, questions whether Eagle Mine can handle snow melt and flood events.

Catherine Parker of Marquette asked about water storage capacity at the mine, noting a report from a DEQ consultant on the Part 632 mine permit, David Sainsbury, who had said mine water inflows were likely to have been underestimated:

Catherine Parker of Marquette cites an MDEQ consultant, David Sainsbury, who questioned estimates of mine water inflows for the Eagle Mine. Joe Maki, MDEQ geologist, replies to her question.

Parker told Keweenaw Now recently that her information for the question on Sainsbury's report was based on a signed and notarized affadavit (March 2007) from Dr. Jack Wittman, documenting a phone conversation he had with MDEQ consultant Dr. David Sainsbury regarding the (Kennecott/Rio Tinto, former owner of Eagle Mine) application to mine.

Not all comments at the hearing were critical of the permit. A few were supportive.

Alvar Maki, Michigamme Township supervisor, while he expressed a preference for holding the hearing in his township since the mine is located in Michigamme Township, said he supported the permit based on the independent monitoring of the Superior Watership Partnership.***

"We think this permit should be approved," Maki said.

Michael Welch, Eagle Mine general manager, spoke at the hearing about his and Lundin's commitment to transparency and communication with the community as well as their commitment to protect water quality:

Lundin Mining Company's Michael Welch, Eagle Mine general manager, expresses support for the Groundwater Discharge Permit and his wish to be transparent with the local community.

On the other hand, Save the Wild U.P. Executive Director Alexandra Thebert, addressing the MDEQ officials in her comments, cited several requests for improved communication with the public and assurances that the groundwater will be protected:

Alexandra Thebert, Save the Wild U.P. executive director, comments on the need for more communication between the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the public.

Thebert noted documents should be posted on the MDEQ Web site to be more accessible so that citizens will be spared the need to resort to FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests. She also reiterated the request by Carla Champagne of Big Bay and others that future hearings on the Eagle Mine be held in Big Bay or in a large population center such as Marquette so that those most directly affected by the mine can attend.

Toward the end of the hearing Chauncey Moran, who has been monitoring streams and springs on the Yellow Dog Plains for several years, displayed some of his photos related to groundwater issues:

Displaying some of his photographs, Chauncey Moran notes his observations of the TWIS (Treated Water Infiltration System), a drilling rig, water going into the development rock storage and his work with the springs.

Moran said he believes the MDEQ is doing a great job but perhaps receiving information that is not true.

Today, April 1, 2014, is the final day to submit public comments on the permit. According to Steve Casey, these may be submitted by mail and postmarked April 1 or emailed before midnight April 1. Email comments to Jeannette Bailey at or mail them to Jeannette Bailey, Department of Environmental Quality, Water Resources Division, Permits Section, P.O. Box 30458, Lansing, Michigan 48909.


*Click here to read about Thomas Power's presentations on the economic impacts of mining during his visit to Houghton last fall.
** Click here to access the Fact Sheet, the draft Groundwater Discharge Permit, Eagle Mine contour maps and other related documents on the MDEQ Web site.
*** Click here to learn about the Superior Watershed Partnership's Community Monitoring Program at the Eagle Mine.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Guest article: Statement in response to DEQ Public Hearing on Eagle Mine Groundwater Discharge Permit

By Dana Ferguson*

It was very encouraging to see the community get out and ask valid, concerning questions in a respectable way regarding a very important topic: the environmental well-being of our land and water. While the DEQ, with the assistance of certain Lundin employees, attempted to address as many of the questions as possible, I can't help but feel many of the expressed concerns were not abated. Nor can I say that this was solely the fault of the DEQ.

Many of the insufficient or unsatisfactory responses were the result of there being lax, or no, regulations or standards in place to reference. These would have to be addressed at the state and federal level by our legislators. But we cannot, nor should we, relinquish all responsibility to those few involved in the legislative process. The community must play a larger part in this story, for it concerns them, their home, and their future. The voice of a strong community is far louder than the voice of a politician.

If Lundin and the DEQ can show that our community and environment will not be adversely impacted at all, then there may be a strong case to halt the resistance. But I believe it is their burden to prove.

It is dangerous and irresponsible to tempt a community which has been hit with unemployment and hard times with a promise of jobs, and with no regard to the future of that community. The promise of jobs right now may not make up for the consequences of when those jobs leave. This is not an obstinate stance, it is a valid concern regarding the future of a community. This is our home and we should be making decisions which make our home a better place to live, not just now but in the future as well. We must move forward with our eyes open. We must be cautious. Do we take the chance of sacrificing, or negatively impacting, one of our largest industries, tourism, as well as possibly damaging our irreplaceable natural treasures for the sake of a few jobs? How do we know what the tradeoff will be? We do not have to sacrifice our beautiful and unique home at the expense of jobs.

There are ways to bring jobs here which will allow us to keep the integrity of the U.P. in place. This should be our goal. It is too important to be ambivalent on the topic, so I encourage people to play a part in this discussion.

* Editor's Note: Guest author Dana Ferguson of Negaunee, Mich., is a potential candidate for Michigan's 1st District Congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek. He attended the March 25, 2014, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Public Hearing on the Groundwater Discharge Permit for the Eagle Mine and offered his comments on the hearing to Keweenaw Now. To learn more about Dana Ferguson, visit his Web site, Ferguson for Congress or his Facebook page. (Inset photo: Dana Ferguson. Photo courtesy Dana Ferguson)

Watch for Keweenaw Now's video report on the March 25 hearing, coming soon.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Michigan Tech Jazz Studies to present 14th Annual Don Keranen Memorial Jazz Night March 28

Don Keranen, founder of Michigan Tech's jazz program, is pictured here in 1977 with the Concert Band. (Photo courtesy Michigan Technological University)

HOUGHTON -- Energy and Jazz! Michigan Technological University Jazz Studies brings it all home with the 14th Annual Don Keranen Memorial Jazz Night at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 28, at the Rozsa Center. Michigan Tech's Jazz Lab Band (JLB) and R and D Big Band will perform a wide variety of classic and modern jazz, Latin jazz, fusion, ballads, blues, rock and funk.

"Today is an exciting time to be a jazz musician," Mike Irish, director of Jazz Studies says.

Mike Irish, Michigan Tech director of Jazz Studies. (Photo courtesy Michigan Technological University)

Don Keranen, founder of MTU's jazz program 47 years ago, made "fusion" a byword here, so today's eclectic world music, with jazz infused by many different styles and genres, is right at home.

"By the time our students graduate, they will have performed just about every style of jazz imaginable, including their own compositions and arrangements," Irish says. "I know Don would be pleased with the results!"

This concert will also feature the jazz stylings of trombonist Mike Christianson, the current director of bands at Michigan Tech, whose prior experience was as a top-call jazz trombonist in New York for 22 years.

"The level of jazz performance that Mike brings to our program is outstanding," says Irish. "Mike is a total pro, and his performance is such an inspiration for our students and me."

Christianson will be featured on John Clayton’s "Soupbone" that highlights not only Christianson's improvisation skills, but his sought-after soulful playing with the plunger mute. To close the concert, he will be featured alongside Brittany Vanderwall in a duet titled "Two-Bone Barbeque," by Al Cobine.

Don Keranen (1942-2000) was one of the most talented musicians ever to be associated with the Copper Country. Born and raised in Baraga, Don received his academic music education at Northern Michigan University and graduate studies at the University of Oregon. He also accumulated an enormous breadth of musical experience, in all genres, as a composer/arranger, sax/flute performer, keyboardist, bassist and a marvelous vocalist.

Though associated mostly with the jazz idiom, Don was adept at performance in all styles of music. While a quiet individual, Don was a tremendous innovator at Michigan Tech.  He developed the jazz studies program, which today includes two big bands, three combos and academic courses in Jazz History, Jazz Improvisation, and Jazz Arranging. He  instituted and developed the MTU Wind Ensemble (known today as the Superior Winds); originated the "scramble band" concept used by the Huskies Pep Band; put the Pep Band into the now legendary "Stripes" uniforms; took the JLB on numerous Caribbean performance tours; and developed HiTech, one of the first all-synthesizer jazz combos in the country.

Tickets are: Adults $13, Youth $5, Students $5, Michigan Tech Students Free with Experience Tech Fee. To purchase tickets, call (906) 487-2073, go online at, or visit Ticketing Operations at Michigan Tech’s Student Development Complex (SDC).  Please note the Rozsa Box Office is closed during regular business hours and will only open two hours prior to show times. 

Finlandia's International School of Art and Design to host student art exhibit, fashion show TONIGHT, March 27

Artwork by students in the Finlandia University International School of Art and Design is on exhibit from now through April 15, 2014, in the Finlandia University Gallery in Hancock. An opening reception and fashion show will be held TONIGHT, Thursday, March 27. (Photos courtesy Finlandia University)

HANCOCK -- A juried exhibit of artwork by students in the Finlandia University International School of Art and Design (ISAD) is featured at the Finlandia University Gallery, Hancock, from March 27 through April 15, 2014.

An opening reception will be held from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. TONIGHT, Thursday, March 27, at the gallery, in the Finnish American Heritage Center. A fashion show will begin at 7:15 p.m. and awards for student excellence will be presented. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Fiber arts and fashion design are among the variety of media included in the student exhibit.

The exhibition includes works by students working in media including drawing, painting, illustration, ceramic design, fiber arts and fashion design, sculpture, integrated design, graphic design, digital media, photography, and mixed media/installation.

Much of the student artwork featured in the juried exhibit will be available for purchase.

The awards include Best of Show, awards for Freshman, 2-D and 3-D, a Faculty award, and a Purchase award. The jury included a faculty member, a graduating ISAD senior, and a community member.

The Finlandia University Gallery is in the Finnish American Heritage Center, 435 Quincy St., downtown Hancock.

For more information, contact the Finlandia University Gallery at 906-487-7500.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Environment Michigan: EPA proposes major protections for Michigan’s streams and wetlands

From Environment Michigan
Press release sent March 25, 2014

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- On Tuesday, March 25, in the biggest step forward for clean water nationally in more than a decade, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule to close loopholes in the Clean Water Act that leave 48 percent of Michigan’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands at risk of unchecked pollution and development.

"With the drinking water for 1.4 million Michiganders at risk, we’re thrilled to see the EPA moving forward to protect our waterways," said Shelley Vinyard, regional director with Environment Michigan, which has worked for many years to restore these Clean Water Act protections. "Today’s action is about ensuring that all our water is safe and healthy. And it has a huge impact on the health of the Great Lakes. Whether we’re fishing on the Au Sable, swimming in our favorite stream, or just drinking the water that comes from our tap, we need Michigan’s streams and wetlands to be clean and protected."

This rulemaking comes after a decade of uncertainty over the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act, following polluter-led Supreme Court challenges in 2001 and 2006. The rule, which could be finalized as soon as later this year, would restore Clean Water Act protections to many of Michigan’s wetlands and nearly half of Michigan’s streams.

"This rule would protect the streams that feed into and the wetlands that filter pollution out of our Great Lakes," said Vinyard. "If we don’t protect these critical waters, we can’t ensure that any of our waterways are fully protected."

With so much at stake, Environment Michigan and its sister groups across the country have waged an intensive multi-year campaign to restore these Clean Water Act protections -- including more than 1 million face-to-face conversations with people across the country, and rallying more than 400 local elected officials, 300 farmers, and 300 small business owners to call on the Obama administration to take action.      

In September 2013, EPA announced it was moving forward with the rulemaking to restore Clean Water Act protections to waterways throughout Michigan and across the country. It simultaneously released a draft science report on the connection between smaller streams and wetlands and downstream waters, which makes the scientific case for the rulemaking. Members of the public submitted more than 150,000 public comments in support of the report’s findings that these waterways merit protection under the law.

Many of the nation’s biggest polluters are already weighing in against the rulemaking, spreading misinformation about the rule’s potential impacts. While the EPA has announced the rule will preserve all existing Clean Water Act exemptions for the agricultural sector, the American Farm Bureau is insisting that the rulemaking is "a land grab" by the EPA and cause for "battle." The American Farm Bureau Federation is one of 28 members of the Waters Advocacy Coalition, an industry group formed to lobby against clean water protections.

"When finalized, this rule would be the biggest step forward for clean water nationwide in more than a decade," said Vinyard. "Thank you, Administrator Gina McCarthy and the EPA for fighting to protect clean water. Now let’s get the job done."

* Editor's Note: The EPA needs to hear from more Michigan citizens concerned about the water. Visit Environment Michigan and click on Help Protect the Great Lakes to send a note to the EPA.

Portage Library to host "Beekeeping Basics" March 27

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library invites those who want to learn about the amazing world of honey bees to an evening with local beekeeper Todd Gemelli as he presents "Beekeeping Basics" from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 27.

Participants will learn what types of equipment a beekeeper uses, how much time it takes to maintain hives, and the costs and rewards of beekeeping. There will be a small, empty hive and basic tools of the trade to examine and pure Keweenaw honey to taste. Some beekeeping items will be given away. Come and catch the beekeeping buzz!

Gemelli has been a beekeeper for 15 years. He is fascinated by the important role bees have in nature and is eager to share his knowledge and experience with others.

Library programs are free and everyone is welcome. For more information, please call the library at 482-4570 or visit

Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District to hold Annual Meeting March 27

HOUGHTON -- The Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District (HKCD) will hold its ANNUAL MEETING from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 27, at the Ramada Inn in Hancock. Everyone is welcome!

The program will include HKCD 2013 Accomplishments and 2014 Updates and a special presentation: "Conservation plus Self-powered Recreation in Keweenaw," by Aaron Rogers of the Copper Harbor Trails Club.

Refreshments will include a Make-Your-Own Taco Bar
RSVP appreciated: please call 906 482-0214.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Portage Library to host local authors Todd and Kristen Neva TONIGHT, March 25

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library invites everyone to join local authors Todd and Kristin Neva for an evening of conversation on suffering, holding on to faith, and discovering joy in the midst of sorrow.

The Nevas will present "HEAVY: Finding Meaning after a Terminal Diagnosis/A Young Family’s First Year with ALS" from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. TONIGHT, Tuesday, March 25.

Participants will be encouraged as the Nevas read excerpts from their book HEAVY and discuss questions like these: How should we respond to suffering? Is there a purpose to suffering? How can we prepare our children to face adversity?

Shortly after the birth of his son in 2009, Todd Neva, then 39, experienced weakness in his left arm. His condition steadily worsened. In June, 2010, upon referral, a neurologist diagnosed Todd with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that leads to total paralysis and death, usually in 3 to 5 years.

There will be a book signing and selling after the presentation. You can read more about the Neva’s story at and at

Library programs are free and everyone is welcome. For more information, please call the library at 482-4570 or visit

Presentations on mining communities scheduled for March 24, 25 cancelled

Update from Tech Today
Posted Tuesday, March 25

HOUGHTON -- The two presentations on legacy mining communities by Allan Comp of the Office of Surface Mining (OSM), Department of the Interior, scheduled for March 24 and March 25 at Michigan Tech, have been cancelled since his flight was cancelled and he was unable to come to Houghton.

Guest article: Minewater Geothermal on the Keweenaw Peninsula

By Laura Smyth*

CALUMET -- I’ve always dreamed of making my house energy self-sufficient -- maybe a windmill could be mounted where that old TV antenna anachronistically sits; maybe we could get a wood stove for the living room, some solar panels on the roof? I even occasionally allow myself to fantasize that our entire peninsula could be energy independent with no need for a larger electrical grid. What an economic boon that would be to my family and my neighbors I think, wistfully. Imagine never paying an electric or heating bill again.

If that all sounds a little pie-in-the-sky, consider the fact that we live above a valuable resource that could make at least some of it possible. I’m not talking about copper -- I’m talking about water and the vast underground network of abandoned mines. One legacy of copper mining in the Keweenaw was boom and bust economics. The other could be renewable energy and sustained economic development through new technology.

What is minewater geothermal? In a nutshell, the holes in the ground that were left behind by decades of mining have, after decades of disuse, filled with water and the earth’s heat has warmed that water enough to make it useful in a heat-exchange system. Pump the water up, extract the heat, pump the slightly cooled water back to be reheated by the earth. Any engineers reading this are now slapping their foreheads at my simplistic description, but this is not a technological article.

On December 12, 2013, a group of student researchers from Michigan Technological University presented their report on "Exploring the Social Feasibility of Minewater Geothermal in Calumet." The students, led by Prof. Richelle Winkler, had spent their Fall semester devising and implementing a study to aid the Calumet community in the process of deciding whether and how we might best use this untapped resource.

Michigan Tech Professor Richelle Winkler (in foreground seated at computer) and several of her student researchers are pictured here during their Dec. 12, 2013, presentation on minewater geothermal at CLK Commons in Calumet. (Photo © and courtesy Laura Smyth)

You can access their full report as well as a report summary here so I won’t go into great detail about their findings in this article. Let me just say they did a great job -- and the community, in particular those of us at Main Street Calumet who helped coordinate this project with Prof. Winkler, greatly appreciate their work.

As part of their study, the students devised a survey to gauge community interest in and concerns about the idea of geothermal energy production from minewater. Among the questions on the survey, I think the most telling was this: "Do you believe that Calumet (or maybe the Keweenaw Peninsula more broadly) is capable and ready to be an innovator or leading community for sustainable energy sources?"

That’s really what it comes to in the end: do you believe we can do this? The technology is proven and even in use already on the Keweenaw. While every site and every situation is unique, one model that the students looked at is the Keweenaw Research Center. Headed by Michigan Tech’s Jay Meldrum, the Keweenaw Research Center, located near the Houghton County Airport, is a successful example of minewater geothermal in action. Another example of the increasing commercial potential of this technology is Keweenaw Geothermal Research Group LLC (KGRG), a privately owned company that is in the initial phases of harnessing minewater geothermal as an energy source.  

These are exciting times, but bringing minewater geothermal to the Keweenaw Peninsula on a larger scale won’t be simple and it won’t be immediate. One challenge facing proponents of minewater geothermal is funding for the initial development; another is politics. With the most promising mine shafts located on both municipal and private property there are concerns about costs, ownership, and how the benefits of resource development will be shared.

But we have the know-how. Do we have the will power? Can we harness our different and too often competing interests and outlooks in common cause? We can have both a clean environment and a strong economy, and we can realize benefits for our youth from the hard work and sacrifice of our elders.

(For more information on the work of Main Street Calumet and ways you can get involved visit

* Guest author Laura Smyth is a writer and founding member of Keweenaw Writers Workshop. She is also a graphic designer and owner of Smythtype Design in Calumet, Michigan. (Inset photo: Laura Smyth in her Smythtype Design office. Keweenaw Now file photo.)

Monday, March 24, 2014

"World Water Day Exhibition: Water's Edge" at Great Lakes Research Center celebrates three artists

Poster for World Water Day Exhibition at Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) through Apr. 23. The public is invited to a "meet the artists" event from 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 26, at the GLRC. (Poster courtesy Carrie Flaspohler of Finlandia University Gallery)

HOUGHTON -- An art exhibit in Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) is part of this week's World Water Day events and continues through Apr. 23.

The Water’s Edge Art Exhibition celebrates artists Amy Arntson, Joyce Koskenmaki and Bonnie Peterson. The artists use paintings, prints and textiles.

Koskenmaki and Peterson will attend a "meet the artists" event from 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 26, at the Great Lakes Research Center. The public is invited to attend.

Arntson’s watercolors explore the surface qualities of water, including the reflectivity of colors found at sunrise and dusk. Her works illuminate the first floor entryway of the GLRC. Around the corner, Koskenmaki’s lyrical and metaphorical images of waterfalls, fish and aquascapes come to life with intense, pure oil paints. The large paintings almost leap off the wall, full of life. On the second floor, Peterson’s richly embroidered, beautifully tactile, large-scale textiles depict maps and scientific data on water. Peterson investigates environmental issues and the changing role of water in our culture.

Water’s Edge is the brainchild or Dr. Noel Urban, Michigan Tech professor of civil and environmental engineering. Urban wanted to juxtapose art with the campus-wide celebrations of World Water Day, including lectures, poster sessions and other events, because art can help bring important ecological issues to light. Anne Beffel, Michigan Tech professor and Visual and Performing Arts Department chair, and Carrie Flaspohler, Finlandia University Gallery curator and director, teamed up with Urban and curated the exhibition. Beffel and Flaspohler agree that these are three amazing artists, each with her own way of paying attention to and translating the cultural and ecological qualities of this element.*

The exhibition is sponsored by Michigan Tech's Center for Water and Society, Great Lakes Research Center and Visual and Performing Arts Department and by the Finlandia University Gallery and the Sustainable Finlandia Committee.

* Editor's Note: Click here to read more about World Water Day events at Michigan Tech. Visit the Michigan Tech's Center for Water and Society for more details.

Speaker from Office of Surface Mining, Dept. of the Interior, to give presentations March 24, 25, at Michigan Tech

Editor's UPDATE (noon, Tuesday, March 25): Unfortunately the following two events have been cancelled, since the speaker's flight was cancelled.

HOUGHTON -- Allan Comp of the Office of Surface Mining (OSM), Department of the Interior, will give two presentations on the Michigan Tech campus -- today, Monday, March 24, and tomorrow, Tuesday, March 25.

Comp, who leads the Office of Surface Mining of the Department of Interior’s Western Hardrock Watershed and Appalachian Coal Country teams -- the two primary organizations linking OSM to rural communities -- will speak on "The OSM/VISTA - Michigan Tech Partnership," today at 5 p.m., in Dow 642.

Comp will discuss how OSM/VISTA partners with local organizations to provide VISTA volunteers working in economic rejuvenation and environmental restoration in legacy mining communities and watersheds. Michigan Tech has partnered with OSM to enable students to earn a graduate degree while participating in the OSM/VISTA program.

Comp’s presentation will be directed toward Michigan Tech students and faculty with an interest in details of how the program works. The talk is free and open to the public. Pizza will be provided. More information about the program can be obtained at the Michigan Tech Graduate School website.

At 7 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, March 25, in Room G002 of the Forestry Building, Comp will speak on "The rejuvenation of legacy mining communities in the southern Rockies and central Appalachians."

Comp's two OSM teams and their volunteers work with nongovernmental organizations in the rejuvenation and rehabilitation of legacy mining communities and surrounding watersheds.

Efforts range from business development with local Chambers of Commerce to water-quality and trout restoration with watershed groups. The talk will focus on the needs of these communities and what strategies can be used to revitalize small rural communities.

The talk is free and open to the public.