Monday, June 29, 2015

Community Arts Center to host 30th annual Summer Arts Camp and 5th annual Book Arts Camp

Summer Arts Camp for 3rd to 6th graders begins in July at the Community Arts Center in Hancock. (Poster courtesy Copper Country Community Arts Center)

HANCOCK -- The Copper Country Community Arts Center is offering two arts camps this summer. Registration is open and space is limited.

Summer Arts Camp, now in its 30th year, is five exciting days of art making and exploration for children entering 3rd-6th grades. This year’s theme is "Colorways and Color Play." Students will explore color usage through making projects with local professional artists in a variety a media, such as painting, clay, paper arts, fiber arts, and writing.

Camp happens from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. and students can choose to attend either session, July 20-24 or July 27-31. Register by Wednesday, July 1, for a discounted rate. Deadline to register is Wednesday, July 15. Summer Arts Camp Fee: $110 by July 1. After July 1 the fee is $125. Supplies included; students must bring a lunch.

Book Arts Camp for students in grades 8-12 will be Aug. 10-14. Register by July 21 for a discounted rate. (Image courtesy Copper Country Community Arts Center)

The 5th annual Book Arts Camp is a unique opportunity for students in grades 8-12 to study bookbinding, creative writing, zines, paper marbling, letterpress printing, and block printing. This program is supported by a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Book Arts Camp happens from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. August 10-14. Register by July 21 for a discounted rate. Deadline to register is August 4. Book Arts Camp Fee: $80 by July 21. After July 21 the fee is $90. Supplies included; students must bring a sack lunch.

The Copper Country Community Arts Center is located at 126 Quincy Street in Hancock. Call 906-482-2333 for more information.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Local summer youth projects benefit from National Park Service increased funding

Kendra from Dollar Bay paints a window for the Carnegie Museum in Houghton. Her work is a summer youth project supported by Keweenaw National Historical Park. (Photo courtesy Keweenaw National Historical Park)

WASHINGTON -- From trail repairs to new wayside interpretive panels, road and bridge repairs and restoring the most photographed barn in America, the National Park Service announced $26 million for more than 100 initiatives that will help parks prepare for centennial visitors.

The National Park Service received a $10 million Congressional appropriation that was matched with $15.9 million from more than 90 partner organizations. The 106 projects, located at more than 100 parks in 31 states and the District of Columbia, are designed to improve visitor services, support outreach to new audiences, and leverage partnerships to reinvigorate national parks while forging connections with communities.

"As the National Park Service approaches its Centennial in 2016, the National Park Foundation and local park friends groups have pledged to raise private funds to improve the facilities, accessibility, and programs of our national parks, matching the federal appropriation and resulting in a $26 million investment in the parks," said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.

Keweenaw National Historical Park (Keweenaw NHP), with $20,000 of federal funds and $20,000 from the Keweenaw NHP Advisory Commission, National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation, and Isle Royale and Keweenaw Parks Association, will establish a Youth Stewardship Work Crew to Assist Heritage Sites and Partners.

"We are very grateful that some of our outstanding park partners have stepped in to help make this program a reality," said Keweenaw NHP Superintendent Mike Pflaum. 

Local youth will be employed during the summer to work on a variety of projects throughout the Keweenaw Peninsula while also learning about the area’s copper mining history. For this project, the Park is also partnering with SEEDS Youth Conservation Corps, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering youth to create change. Everyone involved is excited about this upcoming season and the chance to work with historic properties and engage with park visitors.

"We will be able to accomplish important work for the park and partner sites and provide meaningful employment for young people in our community," stated Superintendent Pflaum.

Follow the Keweenaw NHP Facebook page for project updates and photos of the youth working throughout the summer. Click here for a complete list of centennial challenge projects and partners.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Portage Library to host Summer Reading Program Opening Day family activities, Used Book Sale June 27

Parents and kids enjoy making their own ice cream sundaes during the 2014 Portage Lake District Library Summer Reading Program Opening Day activities. This Saturday, June 27, 2015, the library's community room will again be the scene of ice cream sundaes and craft activities for the whole family.  (Keweenaw Now file photos)

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library will hold two events from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 27: Opening Day activities for their Summer Reading Program and a Used Book Sale.

Summer Reading Program

The Portage Library Summer Reading Program is open to all ages, children through adults. This Saturday, kids are invited to make crafts and everyone can create an ice cream sundae in the community room.

Parents, library aides and volunteers help kids with craft activities during the 2014 Summer Reading Program Opening Day at Portage Lake District Library.

The "Every Hero Has a Story" Summer Reading Program will continue through Saturday, August 29; and people may register throughout the summer. Participants will receive a reading log, book bag, and bookmark when they register and prizes as they progress through their reading lists. Reading logs may include books, magazines, audio books, reading to young children, or being read to.

The Summer Reading Program includes Storytimes and programs and events for all ages. Look for programming information in the library, the media, and at Everyone is invited to join the fun and learn the stories of heroes!

For more information, please call the library at 482-4570.

Used Book Sale

The Friends of the Portage Lake District Library invite all book lovers to their annual Summer Book Sale from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 27.

Gloria Melton of Houghton and Cindy Barth of Dollar Bay are pictured here at the 2014 Friends of the Library Used Book Sale at Portage Library. This year the sale will again take place at the same time as the Summer Reading Program, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 27.

The sale will take place in the Michigan and Local History room at the library. An excellent selection of new and gently used books, audio books, and DVDs for adults and children will be sold to raise money for library projects and items that the Friends provide. A half price sale will be held from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Projects that the Friends of the Library have done include buying books, furniture, computers, a work bench for staff, the Children’s Listening Center, and other materials. Proceeds from book sales also pay for annual events sponsored by the Friends of the Library including the Salsa Contest, the Summer’s Bounty Social, Scrabble Tournaments, Blind Date with a Book, the Friendship Tea and more. Information on how to become involved with the Friends will be available at the book sale.

For more information, please call the library at 482-4570 or visit

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Eagle Mine exploration of "Eagle East" site raises environmental concerns

From Save the Wild U.P.*

Eagle Mine's environmental impacts continue to expand. This aerial photograph taken on June 19, 2015, shows the following: 1. Salmon Trout River, Eagle orebody and Main Vent Air Raise, 2. Eagle Rock and mining portal tunnel, 3. Eagle Mine surface facility, and 4. new drilling rigs, logging and mineral exploration in what Lundin Mining is calling the "Eagle East" area. Click on photo for larger version. (Photo courtesy Save the Wild U.P.)

MARQUETTE -- Lundin Mining, parent company of Eagle Mine, recently announced exploration results for the potential orebody known as "Eagle East," which is located outside the current footprint of the mine and said to contain "high grade massive and semi-massive copper-nickel sulfide mineralization."

With the current Eagle orebody located just below the Salmon Trout River and Eagle East exploration approaching the Yellow Dog River, environmental groups are speaking out about renewed concerns regarding ground and surface water contamination, the creeping industrialization of the Yellow Dog Plains, undisclosed exploratory drilling, trash left by exploration contractors, and the threat posed by acid mine drainage (AMD).

The Yellow Dog River, part of which is designated a National Wild and Scenic River, is threatened by the proximity of the Eagle Mine and Eagle's continued mineral exploration. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

AMD is a dangerous byproduct of sulfide mining. Sought-after minerals such as copper, nickel, lead, cobalt, silver and zinc are embedded in sulfides; the process of extraction brings the sulfide-rich rock into contact with air and water, resulting in sulfuric acid. AMD could devastate watersheds like the Salmon Trout or the Yellow Dog, as it has historically devastated watersheds in coal mining regions, and in hardrock mining districts throughout the Rocky Mountains.

In Michigan, mineral exploration is regulated under Part 625, which establishes the protocol for adherence to environmental protections during the exploration phase. According to the state’s "Typical Metallic Mining Exploration Flowchart," much of the mineral exploration process occurs before any permits are required, allowing industry to perform much of the exploration process without regulatory or public scrutiny.

PVC pipe left behind by unregulated mineral exploration on the Yellow Dog Plains. (Photo courtesy Save the Wild U.P. (Photo courtesy Save the Wild U.P.)

Companies currently conducting exploratory drilling on the Yellow Dog Plains do so with impunity. According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s (MDEQ) website, "(E)xploration companies are extremely secretive about their projects. All information regarding exploration drilling is considered proprietary under Part 625." According to the MDEQ, "Most metallic mineral exploration occurs in an area exempt from acquiring a Part 625 permit."

The lack of oversight has real consequences. Following a phase of surface and seismic mineral exploration in 2014, performed by Lundin Mining contractors who pulled miles of geophysical survey cables through the landscape, piles of PVC pipes were left abandoned in forests, ravines, and swamps, a plague of plastic ribbons fluttered from trees, and ATV tracks cut through wetlands.. Members of the public -- including adjacent landowners and watershed groups -- learn of exploration drilling sites only when the drill rigs appear, bringing 24-hour drilling noise, or leaving behind pools of drilling fluid.

Drilling oil from mining exploration in the Yellow Dog Watershed. (Photo © and courtesy Shawn Malone)

"Given the new Wild West mining camp vibe, who is monitoring the work of Lundin's numerous contractors?" asked Alexandra Maxwell, Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) interim director. "What enforcement tools are in place to guarantee adherence to environmental safeguards, as specified under Part 625? Is anyone really checking the situation on the ground? It appears that Lundin’s contractors don’t even pick up their trash when they finish a project."

The circle on this photo shows trash left by Eagle Mine exploration contractors. (Photo courtesy Save the Wild U.P.)

While Lundin is quick to promote the potential "Eagle East" discovery to its investors, the company insists that it is too soon to consider any environmental concerns.

Eagle Mine’s spokesman Dan Blondeau has stated, "We're very early in the exploration stage for this area. It's too early to tell if this will materialize into anything significant. It's too early to talk mining or permitting.”

According to the MDEQ’s mineral exploration flowchart, however, drilling is actually one of the final stages of exploration.

Kathleen Heideman, SWUP president, says, "Lundin's new orebody appears to be comprised of copper-nickel-platinum-palladium, all wrapped in a matrix of massive hype. Investors, beware! No word on how much uranium-vanadium-arsenic this orebody will contain -- but the Yellow Dog River will be directly threatened. This is nothing to celebrate."

Michael Loukinen, SWUP advisory board member, filmmaker, and retired professor of Sociology at Northern Michigan University, has also expressed concern that the Yellow Dog River could be contaminated by expansion of mining in this area.

"Rio Tinto (former owner of Eagle Mine) had made a big public relations effort to assure citizens that their mining was going to leave a small footprint and would NOT contaminate the Yellow Dog River watershed -- just the Salmon Trout River. Now by 'discovering' a so-called new deposit they are incrementally expanding their footprint and clearly violating their promises," Loukinen noted. "I fear that this will not be the first discovery of new deposits but the beginning of a pattern of new environmental losses."

Cynthia Pryor,Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve (YDWP) board member, says a hydrologic assessment of the Yellow Dog Plains is needed.

"In 2004, the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve (YDWP), Concerned Citizens of Big Bay, all but one of the townships of Marquette County, and the Marquette County Commission petitioned the State of Michigan to require that a full Hydrologic Assessment of the Yellow Dog Plains be done, by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) -- 'before' any mining activities took place on the Plains. That did not happen," Pryor noted. "Now, more than ever, there needs to be a third party hydrologic assessment of the Plains; and the only party qualified to do an unbiased assessment is the USGS. They are already involved in surface water monitoring on the Plains, so let them do their job and give us, the people of the State of Michigan, the straight story about the cumulative impact of these sulfide metallic mines on the Yellow Dog Plains."

Jeffery Loman, former federal oil regulator, expresses concern that Eagle Mine is in violation of the Clean Water Act.

"The mine’s industrial wastewater discharges at Eagle mine are presenting to the surface," Loman said. "Soon there will be undisputed evidence that Lundin is violating the Clean Water Act. When people across the U.P. finally realize our water is at risk, Eagle East will go South."

* Founded in 2004, Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots environmental organization dedicated to preserving the Upper Peninsula of Michigan's unique cultural and environmental resources. For more information visit

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Calumet Library to host "Butterflies and Moths of Houghton County" June 24, Used Book Sale June 27

Monarch butterfly observed in Houghton County. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

CALUMET -- The Calumet Library will host two events this week: a presentation on butterflies and moths on Wednesday, June 24, and a used book sale on Saturday, June 27.

"Butterflies and Moths of Houghton County"

Are you curious about the butterflies that visit your garden? Do you know the difference between moths and butterflies? From 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 24, Dr. Thomas Werner, Michigan Tech assistant professor of genetics and developmental biology, will share his knowledge with young and old in a presentation titled "Butterflies and Moths of Houghton County" at the Calumet Library. The event is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served.

Werner will demonstrate how to distinguish butterflies from moths, what the life cycle of these beautiful creatures looks like, and how you can identify the species that visit your own backyard. Growing up in East Germany, Dr. Werner discovered his passion about butterflies and moths at the age of 10 and has been collecting and breeding them since 1981. His program will include photographs he has taken of the many butterflies and moths in the area.

This event is sponsored by the Friends of the Calumet Public Library. For more information, visit the library or call 337-0311 ext. 1107. (In case of bad weather, when school is cancelled, all library programs are cancelled.)

Used Book Sale

Sponsored by the Friends of the Calumet Public Library, the used book sale from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 27, is the organization’s annual fund raiser. Featuring a wide variety of books, CDs and DVDs, the collection will be on sale at the CLK Multi-Purpose room located down the hall from the library. (When entering the building from the library parking lot, turn left and the multi-purpose room will be a few feet down the hall on your left.) The book sale is scheduled during Calumet’s PastyFest celebration -- family fun for everyone -- another reason to enjoy the day’s festivities!*

Proceeds from this fundraiser go to sponsor library services and programs not provided for by the general library budget. In 2013-2014, funds were used to purchase large print books, multiple titles for the Red Jacket Readers book club, and many new books including additions to the children’s, young adult, and adult collections. Funding also helps bring evening programs to the library throughout the year and updates to some of the public computers.

If you have gently-read books or other materials to donate to this event, please bring them to the library prior to Friday, June 26.

Calumet Public Library hours are Monday 8 a.m. - 4 p.m., Tuesday 8 a.m. - 6 p.m., Wednesday 8 a.m. - 7:30 p.m., Thursday 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.

For more information, visit the library or call 337-0311 ext. 1107.  

* Click here to learn about Pasty Fest 2015.

Community Arts Center to hold Beading Class July 6, 13: register TODAY for discount

Tubular Herringbone beadwork. (Photo courtesy Copper Country Community Arts Center)

HANCOCK -- The Copper Country Community Arts Center will host "Tubular Herringbone: To Twist or Not to Twist," a beading class with Debra Goldman, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Mondays, July 6 and 13.

In this class, students will learn the herringbone beading technique to make their own bracelet, how to begin a bead ladder, making a tubular rope, altering the stitching pattern to produce a twist, and finishing their piece. Recommendations will be given depending upon skill level and the time the student will be able to devote outside of class to complete the project. A brief history of herringbone will be given and different materials will be discussed.

The Copper Country Community Arts Center is located at 126 Quincy Street in Hancock.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Portage Library to host Financial Workshops beginning June 23

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library is hosting a three-part series of financial workshops designed to give participants the information they need to make decisions about their financial goals.

Chris Riesgraf, financial adviser from Edward Jones, will present Foundations of Investing from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 23. This educational program is geared towards people who want an overview of investing, including key terms and investment types. Foundations of Investing covers basic features of bonds, stocks, and mutual funds and the importance of asset allocation.

Other workshops in this series are as follows:
Retirement By Design on July 21: Learn investment strategies to plan for retirement. This workshop also includes how to add flexibility to help handle unexpected events.

Ready or Not? Preparing for the Unexpected on August 18: Participants will learn how to develop a proactive strategy for protection against the unexpected and for providing for their family's future.

All programs begin at 6:30 p.m., are free of charge, and include time for questions and answers. Everyone is welcome. For more information, please call Riesgraf at 482-8680 or call the library at 482-4570.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Community members invited to sing in Heritage Hymn Festival July 25 at St. Anne's, Calumet

Keweenaw Heritage Center at St. Anne's. (Photo © and courtesy Anita Campbell)

CALUMET -- A small group of community members have been working hard this year to plan a Heritage Hymn Festival scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday, July 25, 2015, at the Keweenaw Heritage Center at St. Anne's in Calumet.

"I wanted to give you all a heads-up about this unique opportunity to sing with friends and other community members in the Festival Choir," said organizer Anita Campbell. "We have invited Dr. Michael Burkhardt of Livonia, Mich., to share his talents in preparing the Choir with a morning rehearsal and then leading the evening Hymn Festival. Dr. Burkhardt is also a very talented organist and will be performing three solos on the historic Barckhoff pipe organ. A wonderful local brass quartet has cheerfully agreed to join us, which, along with the amazing acoustics of the building, will help make  this a truly glorious evening of spiritually moving music, highlighting the faith heritage of the many different ethnic groups that came to the Copper Country."

The Keweenaw Heritage Center's restored 1899 Barckhoff pipe organ. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

The public is invited to attend this special service with several opportunities for audience singing. There is no admission charge. However, a free-will offering will be taken to offset the expenses and raise funds for the Keweenaw Heritage Center at St. Anne's.

Please note, if you would like to sing in the Festival Choir, please register in advance by emailing or call Kathleen at 337-2567 for more information. There will be a 10 a.m. rehearsal the morning of the festival, and there is a $10 registration fee for singers, which includes lunch.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Scientific report on Enbridge pipeline under Mackinac Straits warns of risks; citizens call for pipeline shutdown

By Michele Bourdieu, with information from FLOW (For the Love of Water)
Photos and Video by Allan Baker 

Members of the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) of Traverse City and other groups from "Oil and Water Don’t Mix" -- a coalition of businesses, municipalities, Native American tribes and environmental and conservation groups -- gather at Conkling Park, Mackinaw City, on May 26, 2015, for a Great Lakes Call to Action -- to shut down Enbridge's Line 5 aging pipelines under the Mackinac Straits. Their event coincided with the arrival of dignitaries and decision makers for the Mackinac Policy Conference held on Mackinac Island May 27-29. (Photos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

MACKINAW CITY, MACKINAC ISLAND -- Two events scheduled to coincide with the Mackinac Policy Conference held on Mackinac Island May 27-29 called attention to the imminent danger of an oil spill from the aging Enbridge oil pipeline (known as Line 5) that runs through the Mackinac Straits. Concerned citizens and environmental groups held a Great Lakes Call to Action on May 26, 2015, at Conkling Park in Mackinaw City, displaying signs calling for a shutdown of Line 5. The following day FLOW (For the Love of Water) and its team of scientists and engineers, with assistance from the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, held a press conference to release the FLOW team's recent report on Line 5 and its dangers.

Concerned citizens display signs in Mackinaw City on May 26 -- a Great Lakes Call to Action to call attention to the dangers posed by Enbridge's Line 5 under the Mackinac Straits.

According to the FLOW report, the 62-year-old Enbridge oil pipelines running through the Mackinac Straits should be shut down pending a full public review because of structural concerns, including the worry that waste excreted by zebra mussels may have corroded and dangerously weakened the steel pipes.

The expert team -- two accomplished engineers and a hazardous materials risk-management specialist -- were convened by FLOW, a Traverse City-based Great Lakes law and policy center, to consider risks to the Enbridge oil pipelines. Enbridge, which is infamous for its Line 6b that corroded and spilled one million gallons of heavy oil in 2010 into the Kalamazoo River watershed near Marshall, Michigan, has withheld key data and reports from public scrutiny, the experts found.

"We convened these experts in order to bring key scientific facts and concerns to light," said FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood, an attorney and leader in a statewide campaign of groups, citizens, businesses, tribes, and local governments calling for the governor to conduct a full public assessment under state law -- the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act -- of the potential harm posed by Line 5 in the Straits and to identify alternatives to avoid that harm.

Kirkwood’s organization released the report of experts’ findings at a press conference held on May 27, 2015, at the Trinity Episcopal Church on Mackinac Island. Also attending the news conference were Bruce Wallace, national board chair of the National Wildlife Federation; Aaron Payment, Tribal Chairman, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians; David Holtz, Michigan chair of Sierra Club; and Gary Street, former Director of Engineering, Dow Environmental–AWD Technologies and currently an engineering consultant for FLOW.

Speakers line up and a crowd gathers near the "Oil and Water Don't Mix" display vehicle in Conkling Park, Mackinaw City, for the May 26, 2015, Great Lakes Call to Action.

Kirkwood opened the press conference with some comments on FLOW's April 30, 2015, report, which is addressed to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant for submission to the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force.*

At the May 27, 2015, press conference on Mackinac Island, FLOW (For the Love of Water) Executive Director Liz Kirkwood calls for the State of Michigan to hold a full review of Enbridge's Line 5 pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac because of the risks these pipelines pose to the public interest. (Videos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now

According to the expert team, the twin oil pipelines  rely on 1950s technology, including an outdated protective coal tar coating and welds connecting the 40-foot segments that make up the pipelines. These segments lack the required number of supports to secure the pipes in the powerful currents of the Straits, just west of the Mackinac Bridge. In addition, since the 1980s, invasive zebra mussels have attached themselves to the pipelines, creating additional risks.

"Studies have concluded that excrement from zebra mussels has a corrosive impact on exposed steel," said Gary Street, former Director of Engineering, Dow Environmental-AWD Technologies, who spoke at the press conference on behalf of the expert team. "And there’s a real concern that bare steel indeed may have become exposed due to friction where the pipelines lie on the shifting sand-and-gravel bottom, and due to possible failure of the pipeline coating generally after more than six decades of use."

Street speaks here at the May 27 press conference:

Gary Street, former Director of Engineering, Dow Environmental–AWD Technologies and currently an engineering consultant for FLOW (For Love of Water), speaks about the risks of a catastrophic oil spill from the 62-year-old Enbridge pipelines under the Mackinac Straits -- including damage from invasive zebra mussels.

The Enbridge "Line 5" oil pipelines were installed in 1953 and not designed to withstand impacts from zebra mussels, an invasive species carried to the Great Lakes in the ballast water of ocean-going ships decades after the St. Lawrence Seaway was opened to navigation in 1959, the expert team concluded. Moreover, unless removed, a process itself that could compromise the pipelines, the encrusted layer of mussels makes external inspection virtually impossible, the experts determined.

Underwater video footage captured in 2013 by National Wildlife Federation divers shows the Straits of Mackinac pipelines covered in growth and debris, including zebra mussels.**

Bruce Wallace, National Wildlife Federation national board chair, also spoke at the press conference:

Bruce Wallace, National Wildlife Federation director, speaks about the dangers posed by Enbridge's No. 5 pipelines under the Mackinac Straits.

Also concerned about the ecological health of the lakes are Native American groups, many of whom depend on fishing and consider the water to be the life blood of Mother Earth.

At the press conference, Aaron Payment, Tribal Chairman of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, spoke for his own tribe and all other tribes in Michigan as well, expressing their opposition to the pipelines under the Mackinac Straits. He shared his own experience in the area of the Enbridge spill in the Kalamazoo River and warned what could happen to Mackinac Island if a spill were to happen in the Straits.

Aaron Payment, Tribal Chairman, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, speaks on tribal opposition to the Enbridge Line 5 pipelines under the Mackinac Straits. He displays images that illustrate effects of an oil spill.

During his talk, Aaron Payment displayed this image from the University of Michigan showing how, should a Line 5 pipeline rupture, oil would spread through the Great Lakes and cover Mackinac Island, causing a major disaster.

Payment also called on the public and the press to ask the Governor about HB 4540, which, if passed, will prevent citizens from obtaining information about the Enbridge pipelines.***

Several visitors to the press conference asked questions and expressed concerns about the pipeline issue and the effects on ordinary citizens:

At the May 27, 2015, press conference on Mackinac Island, Mich., visitors ask questions and express concerns about the Enbridge No. 5 pipelines under the Mackinac Straits and related environmental issues.

The team of experts also found that the "coal tar enamel" coating that protects the exterior of the Line 5 pipelines from corrosion is an "obsolete technology and may have failed locally, resulting in corrosion that has reduced the strength of the assembled pipeline." Protective coating similar to that on the Straits pipelines has failed elsewhere and resulted in oil spills, including the 2009 failure of Enbridge’s Line 2 near Odessa, Saskatchewan, which was constructed the same year as Line 5.

"This type of protective coating is not used on oil pipelines anymore because it is prone to failure and has been replaced by better technology," said Ed Timm, PhD., PE, a former senior scientist and consultant to Dow Chemical’s Environmental Operations Business. "Enbridge simply has not provided data to back up its claims about the safety of Line 5 in the Straits. There should be a full public review relying on independent expertise."

The experts also raised concerns about deficient welds connecting the 40-foot segments that make up the pipelines. In their report, they cited 16 Enbridge oil spills reported from 2002-2010 from pipelines with a coal tar enamel coating similar to that used on Line 5 in the Straits. The cause of five of those spills was listed as "weld failure" and two others resulted from "corrosion."

The expert team also found that Enbridge has failed to install as many as 65 supports required by the state to prevent the pipeline from grinding along the bottom, bending, and potentially failing or breaking at its weld points. In June 2014, Enbridge disclosed it was in violation of the state easement for an unspecified number of years by not installing the required supports every 75 feet along the Straits oil pipelines.

During the question and answer period at the May 27 press conference, a resident of Mackinac Island asks about support of the pipeline in a very deep area that it crosses in the Straits:

During the question and answer period at the May 27, 2015, press conference on Mackinac Island, Mich., a local island resident asks about pipeline supports in a very deep part of the Mackinac Straits traversed by the Enbridge No. 5 pipeline. Gary Street, engineering consultant for FLOW, replies.

The aging Enbridge pipelines push nearly 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids a day through the Straits of Mackinac, which the company uses as a shortcut for its Line 5 route from Superior, Wis., to Sarnia, Ontario. A July 2014 study by the University of Michigan called the Straits "the worst possible place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes" and depicted the prospect of a plume from a million-gallon oil spill in the Straits stretching for 85 miles -- from Lake Michigan’s Beaver Island to Mackinac Island to Rogers City down the Lake Huron shore.

FLOW's Kirkwood says the scientific findings by these experts are evidence that Enbridge's Line 5 pipelines should be shut down pending an open, public process to determine how to avoid a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes.

"The public has a right to know the risk and to expect leadership from the Governor and his task force led by Attorney General Bill Schuette and DEQ Director Dan Wyant," Kirkwood said.

While Kirkwood, to date, has not received a written response from Gov. Snyder, she told Keweenaw Now this week that on Friday, June 12, she and other FLOW staff members met with the principal authors of the Task Force report at the Attorney General's office. Staff from the Attorney General's office and a representative from the Department of Environmental Quality attended the meeting.

"The good news is that the State of Michigan is committed to crafting a road map for addressing this imminent threat to the Great Lakes," Kirkwood said. "I hope that our report has raised more unanswered questions as to the safety and integrity of the 62-year-old pipeline."

Kirkwood noted the Michigan officials indicated they had questions after learning about the Santa Barbara County (California) oil spill on May 19, 2015. Apparently corrosion and wear on the pipelines contributed to the spill.****

"Pipeline company operators' assurances to the government are not enough. Federal and state regulators must conduct independent alternative risk assessments," Kirkwood said. "I think there will be much more work to do to satisfy the public trust and the public."

On May 29, 2015, U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-Michigan) applauded the White House’s announcement that Marie Therese Dominguez has been nominated to lead the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which plays a vital role in protecting communities across Michigan from spills and accidents while (reportedly) ensuring the safe flow of energy products. 

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-Michigan) is pictured here during an interview in Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel on May 27 during the Mackinac Policy Conference. (Photo by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

"Given the environmental and economic damage caused in the Kalamazoo River by the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history, Michiganders understand why it’s so important that we do everything we can to prevent another pipeline spill or accident, particularly in the Great Lakes," Peters said.

Earlier this year, Senators Peters and Stabenow introduced an amendment that would have ensured PHMSA has the resources required to oversee petroleum pipelines, including aging pipelines around the Great Lakes such as those running through the Straits of Mackinac, where a pipeline break could have disastrous impacts on the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem. The amendment would have required PHMSA to certify that they have the resources necessary to conduct proper oversight of pipelines in the Great Lakes before approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and require PHMSA to develop recommendations for special conditions to apply to pipelines in the Great Lakes, similar to the 59 special conditions developed for Keystone.*****

Kirkwood said FLOW plans to participate in the upcoming "Remember Kalamazoo" -- a fifth anniversary event to be held July 25, 2015, in Battle Creek, Mich., to remember Enbridge’s one million-gallon Line 6b oil spill in Marshall, Mich., in 2010. Local organizers want to focus in part on preventing a spill at the Straits of Mackinac. Click here for more information on this event.


* Click here to read FLOW's April 30, 2015, report. For more information visit the FLOW Web site. Read about the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force here.

** See this National Wildlife 2013 article, which includes an underwater video showing some of the structural problems of Line 5. Click here to read about National Wildlife Federation's report, "Sunken Hazard: Aging oil pipelines beneath the Straits of Mackinac an ever-present threat to the Great Lakes."

*** Click here to read Michigan House Bill 4540, introduced on May 5, 2015.

**** Read about the recent Santa Barbara oil spill here.

***** Read about the Peters-Stabenow amendment here.