Saturday, August 30, 2014

Letter from State Rep. Jeff Irwin: Legislature removes wildlife decisions from voters' hands

[Editor's Note: State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), of House District 53, was one of 43 state representatives who voted against the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act on Aug. 27. He spoke eloquently on the Floor of the House preceding the vote.* (See link below to video of his speech.) He also sent the following letter to his constituents and others who asked him to vote against this Act, a petition initiative which intends to deprive Michigan voters of their right to decide the wolf hunt issue by voting on two November ballot proposals.**]

Letter from Rep. Jeff Irwin
Aug. 27, 2014
Reprinted with permission

Thank you for writing to ask me to vote against the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, which will institute a wolf hunt and take decisions relating to game species out of the hands of voters. Today, I voted against this initiated law in the House, and I spoke passionately in opposition on the floor. Unfortunately, however, this initiated law has now passed both houses of the Legislature, and it does not require the governor’s signature.

This effort was designed to nullify a pair of citizen initiatives that would have prevented the hunting of wolves for sport. Wolf hunting was authorized last year, after the Legislature blocked a previous initiative effort to ban the hunt. Because the pro-hunting measure passed today, citizens will see ballot questions on wolf hunting in November, but their votes on the questions will have no effect. Wolf hunting will be allowed, and the law cannot be repealed by another initiative, because it contains a small appropriation of funds.

Regardless of one’s opinion of whether wolves should be hunted in Michigan, the passage of this measure raises serious concerns about the integrity of the democratic process in Michigan. It is only the most recent in a string of actions by the Legislature to thwart citizens who are exercising their rights under the Michigan Constitution to bring measures to the ballot.

I support two measures that would help bring the practices of the Michigan Legislature back in line with the spirit of our state constitution. House Joint Resolution Q would put an end to the use of token appropriations to immunize unpopular bills from citizen referendum. Senate Joint Resolution X would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature in order to pass a bill that is the same or similar to a law rejected by referendum.

I will continue to work on behalf of my constituents’ rights to participate in the democratic process. Thank you again for your advocacy on this issue.


Jeff Irwin***

Editor's Notes:

* Click here to see the video of Rep. Irwin's speech against the initiative denying citizens the wolf hunt vote.

** The Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act passed with 65 votes in favor, including YES votes by two of our local Upper Peninsula Representatives, District 110 Rep. Scott Dianda and and District 109 Rep. John Kivela -- both Democrats.

*** Rep. Irwin's official statement on why he voted Nay on this initiative, as well as statements by Representatives Lamonte, Schor, Howrylak, and Zemke -- explaining their nay votes -- appear in the official No. 62 State of Michigan Journal of the House of Representatives, 97th Legislature, Regular Session of 2014, for Aug. 27, 2014. (See pp. 1638-1640)

You can learn more about Rep. Jeff Irwin or comment on his letter or the two measures he supports for citizens' rights to participate in the democratic process by visiting his Web site.

Inset photo: Rep. Jeff Irwin. (Photo courtesy Jeff Irwin. Reprinted with permission.)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Keweenaw National Historical Park Advisory Commission acquires Quincy Smelting Works

View of the historic Quincy Smelting Works from the Portage Lift Bridge. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

CALUMET -- The Keweenaw National Historical Park Advisory Commission is pleased to announce its acquisition of the historic Quincy Smelting Works. The Advisory Commission finalized the purchase from Franklin Township TODAY, Aug. 29, 2014.

Built by the Quincy Mining Company in 1898, the Quincy Smelting Works is the most complete late-nineteenth century copper smelting facility left in the world. The remaining industrial structures and equipment provide a unique opportunity to explore an important part of the copper production story.

Although the property deteriorated in the decades after its closing, recent efforts by Franklin Township, the National Park Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency have helped make the site safer for public tours. By acquiring the property from Franklin Township, the Advisory Commission is now poised to work with the National Park Service and the Quincy Smelter Association to further the preservation and interpretation of this important piece of our national history. Ultimately, the Commission intends to transfer the property to the National Park Service to ensure its long-term protection.

The Advisory Commission would like to thank Franklin Township for its stewardship of the smelter property over the last fifteen years, and the Quincy Smelter Association for its continued efforts to share the story of the smelter with the public. The Commission would also like to thank the Americana Foundation and the many corporate and individual donors who helped make this purchase possible.

Friends of Brockway: Send HARD COPY of letter with concerns to SBA

Alert from Gina Nicholas:

HOUGHTON -- For everyone who filed a letter with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) regarding the proposed Brockway Cell Tower on or before Aug. 20, 2014, please be sure that you sent a HARD COPY to SBA at the address below.  If you filed online but did not send a hard copy, PLEASE SEND NOW via regular mail! You may also wish to distribute your letter via email to SBA and the FCC.

Here are the addresses:

SBA Contact for Service of Pleadings: SBA Towers III LLC, Attention To: Edward G. Roach, 5900 Broken Sound Pkwy NW, Boca Raton, FL 33487.

Courtesy email copy of pleading to
Courtesy email copy of pleading to Donald Johnson at the FCC --

Some people are beginning to be contacted directly by the FCC. If you are contacted, please send a message to and let us know why. What you learn may help others who are concerned about the proposed Brockway Cell Tower.

Orpheum Theater to host Pfeiffer's Corner TONIGHT, Aug. 29

Pfeiffer's Corner with John Pfeiffer, left, and Steve Jones will perform TONIGHT, Friday, Aug. 29, at the Orpheum Theater in Hancock. (Photo courtesy Orpheum Theater)

HANCOCK -- TONIGHT, Friday, Aug. 29, the Orpheum Theater will host Jazz, Swing and maybe even a few show tune style compositions from Pfeiffer's Corner (and our own Steve Jones will be standing on that corner with John Pfeiffer himself!). Pfeiffer's corner is led by frequent Hot Club guest, John Pfeiffer.

"John is a Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra French Horn player who also has incredible Jazz chops and writes quite a bit of his own material as well," says Mike Shupe, Orpheum owner.

Plan on Swing and Jazz standards, plus a few more out-of-the-way tunes from the American songbook, along with John's compositions. Music begins at 8:30 p.m. Admission to the show is $10.

John Pfeiffer says, "Pfeiffer’s Corner is a creative gathering place for musicians (like Steve Jones and members of The Garden City Hot Club), the songs and arrangements I write -- and for the lovers of jazz, blues and the classics who come to listen, share a laugh, and dance.

Whether dancing polkas, playing horn with the Pine Mountain Music Festival, or joining Steve Jones and the Garden City Hot Club at the Orpheum and elsewhere, John Pfeiffer has nurtured a love affair with Michigan’s Upper Peninsula since 2001.

John says, "Something magical always happens when I play music with Steve Jones and the guys."

Though Bob Hiltunen, Dan Fuhrman and Scott McIntosh are usually "the guys" he’s referring to, others are often included as well.

"Last summer we had a memorable night at the Orpheum when -- with the addition of violinist Glen Basham of the Bergonzi String Quartet, myself on natural horn and harmonicas, and Adam Johnson on the drums -- the Garden City Hot Club became a septet that I still hear folks raving about," John adds.

Coming from the Washington, D.C. area, where he is Assistant Principal Horn of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, John says, "I’m always amazed at how many incredibly talented musicians and artists make their home in the U.P."

The Orpheum Theater is located across the street from Finlandia University at 426 Quincy Street in downtown Hancock.

Disco-Ball Chandelier, Backroom Boys, to entertain TONIGHT, Aug. 29, at Franklin Square Tap

HOUGHTON -- Bobby and Belinda -- Disco-Ball Chandelier -- have invited the rest of the Backroom Boys Jazz Band to sit in with them TONIGHT, Friday, Aug. 29, at the Franklin Square Tap, high on the top floor of the Magnuson Hotel in Houghton. Come on down for some tasty swing, acoustic rock, and high-jinks. Time: approximately 8:30 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.

Ronda Jones to teach indigo dyeing at Community Arts Center Sept. 13

HANCOCK -- Join fiber artist Ronda Jones and learn about the indigo dyeing process at the Copper Country Community Arts Center in Hancock.

Instruction will include a brief overview of the history and chemistry of indigo dyeing, and instruction in techniques of bound resists. Students will then dye a fall scarf (provided) and are invited to bring one other item from home to dye (no bigger than an adult t-shirt). Please bring a pair of kitchen gloves and wear play clothes. Class is open to students age 10 and up.

Class happens from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13, at the Copper Country Community Arts Center, 126 Quincy Street in Hancock. Register by Sat., Aug. 30, for a discounted rate. Deadline to register is Saturday, Sept. 6.  Call 482-2333 for more information.

Fee: $60 if registered and paid by Aug. 30; after Aug. 30, $70.  Fee includes scarf and dye.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Melissa Hronkin to speak on honeybees TONIGHT, Aug. 27, at Calumet Public Library

CALUMET -- Friends of the Calumet Library will host "Navigating a Flightpath: My Life with the Honeybees," presented by beekeeper and educator Melissa Hronkin, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. TONIGHT, Wednesday, Aug. 27, at the Calumet Public Library.

The event is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served.

Melissa Hronkin of Algomah Acres Honey Farm will share her knowledge of beekeeping and local nectar sources that honeybees love. Melissa (which means honeybee in Greek) will also discuss how flowers offer insects nectar and pollen as a nutrition source in return for help in pollination. Since flowers are rooted and can't move about, they benefit from their mobile visitors. It is an agreeable symbiotic relationship. An extensive list of books and resources will be shared. Delight your senses with a sampling of honey and beeswax products!

Calumet Library summer hours continue through Sept. 8: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday -- 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.; Wednesday 2 p.m. - 8 p.m.

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.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Michigan Democratic Party: Resolution in Support of Right to Referendum

LANSING -- At their 2014 Convention this past weekend, the Michigan Democratic Party accepted a resolution "In Support of Michigan’s Constitutional Right to Referendum."

The resolution is in response to the recent "Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act," which was approved in the Michigan Senate on Aug. 13, 2014, and may be voted on tomorrow, Wednesday, Aug. 27, in the Michigan House. This Act, which includes an appropriation of $1 million in funding for Asian carp control (and thus not subject to referendum), is intended to undermine the two November ballot proposals that would allow voters to decide whether Michigan should continue to have a wolf hunting season.

According to Nancy Warren, National Wolfwatcher Coalition Great Lakes Regional director, "The Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act is not based on science and has nothing to do with conservation. We hope lawmakers have the courage to stand up for democratic ideals by voting No on Wednesday, thus insuring voters can decide in November."

The following is the text of the Michigan Democratic Party's resolution:

In Support of Michigan’s Constitutional Right to Referendum

WHEREAS, the Michigan State Constitution gives citizens the democratic right to challenge laws with which they do not agree, by means of a referendum petition campaign, and

WHEREAS,  wolves are an invaluable part of Michigan’s ecosystem and are only now beginning to recover after being hunted to the brink of extinction, and

WHEREAS, wolves are held in public trust and should be protected from a reckless hunt which is not based on sound science but rather on misinformation, skewed statistic and fabricated stories, and

WHEREAS, farmers, ranchers and other landowners are already allowed to kill wolves to protect their livestock or dogs and there are currently effective lethal and non-lethal methods of dealing with problem wolves in the rare instances where they cause a threat to property or public safety, and

WHEREAS, the state legislature passed Public Act 21 in 2013, giving the Michigan Natural Resources Commission the right to decide which animals will be hunted in Michigan with no input from the people of Michigan, and

WHEREAS, the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act was put in front of the Legislature in 2014 to make the basic tenet of Public Act 21 permanent and referendum-proof, despite a successful referendum that would have allowed Michiganders to vote to overturn PA 21

WHEREAS, successful initiative petition campaigns that go directly to the state legislature rob voters of their democratic right to decide

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the Michigan Democratic Party endorse the efforts of the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected campaign and urge our members to vote NO on making wolves a game species and any ballot question that takes power away from the people and puts our wildlife at risk.

Editor's Note: Thanks to Nancy Warren for sending us the text of this Resolution.

Community Energy Meeting to be held TONIGHT, Aug. 26, in Houghton

HOUGHTON -- The City of Houghton will host a Community Energy Meeting TONIGHT, Tuesday, Aug. 26, at the Shelden Grill (7th Floor, Franklin Square Inn). The door opens at 5:30 p.m. A presentation will be given from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and discussion will follow from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. The meeting is open to the public.

The Houghton Energy Efficiency Team (HEET), entered in the Georgetown University Energy Prize competition, is sponsoring the meeting.

  • How our community can re-think our energy use and implement creative strategies to save energy costs.
  • Current and future U.P. energy landscape.
Community Discussion:
  • Building an effective and inclusive network that strengthens our capacity to respond in ways that directly benefit our area and community.

Fourth Thursday in History: Change in Aug. 28 program

CALUMET -- Due to unforeseen circumstances, Keweenaw National Historical Park is adjusting the program for this week’s Fourth Thursday in History event.

National Park Service Ranger Lynette Webber will be presenting "The People’s Portage: Early Travel on the Keweenaw Waterway." This program replaces the scheduled talk, "Copper Country Streetcars," which the NPS (National Park Service) intends to present at a later date.

The event will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, at the National Park Service’s Calumet Visitor Center, located at 98 Fifth Street in Calumet. It is free and open to the public.

The Fourth Thursday in History series arranges public presentations on important aspects of Copper Country and regional history, including techniques for historic preservation. Presentations are scheduled in venues throughout the Keweenaw Peninsula, particularly at historic sites associated with specific topics. They are free and open to the public.

For further information, including specific directions to this event, contact Keweenaw National Historical Park at (906) 337-3168 or check the web at

Monday, August 25, 2014

Michigan House expected to vote Aug. 27 on initiative to continue wolf hunt, undermine voters' November ballot proposals

Photo of wolf courtesy Reprinted with permission.

By Michele Bourdieu
With information from Keep Michigan Wolves Protected

[Editor's Note: This article has been slightly updated since the first posting earlier today.]

LANSING -- The Michigan Senate once again thumbed its nose at Michigan voters by approving the so-called Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, rather than allowing it to appear on the November statewide ballot. It’s the latest in a series of political shenanigans to undermine the right of Michigan citizens to vote on the issue of wolf hunting. The Michigan House of Representatives is expected to take up the issue this Wednesday, Aug. 27.

Keep Michigan Wolves Protected has invited citizens concerned about their right to vote on this issue to join a Rally at the Capitol at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27, at 100 N. Capitol, Lansing.*

The purpose of the Rally is to urge the House of Representatives to end this abuse of power, stand up for citizens and vote NO on this initiative so Michigan voters can decide important wildlife issues on the November ballot.

In March 2013, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected submitted more than 255,000 signatures to overturn a wolf-hunting law (Public Act 520 of 2012) that was approved during the 2012 lame duck session and was based on fabricated stories about wolf incidents in the Upper Peninsula. Public Act 520 will be on the November 2014 ballot. The Legislature, ignoring the people, then passed a second law (Public Act 21 of 2013) to give the political appointees on the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) the power to designate game species, thus allowing the wolf hunt to continue. In March 2014, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected submitted more than 225,000 signatures to place Public Act 21 on the November 2014 ballot.**

According to 110th District Scott Dianda (D-Calumet), a group of wolf hunt supporters have planned a counter Rally for Aug. 27. This weekend Dianda told Keweenaw Now the vote in the House will probably occur at noon or 1 p.m. He also said he has received many calls from Upper Peninsula voters who support the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act and who feel they would lose on the November ballot initiatives since the majority of people opposed to a wolf hunt are from Michigan's lower peninsula and outnumber them in population.

The Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act gives the unelected, politically appointed Natural Resources Commission the power to designate game species and includes two separate issues -- an appropriation of $1 million establishing an emergency fund to fight Asian carp, which is designed to make the measure referendum-proof (since laws with appropriations are not subject to referendum), and a provision for free hunting and fishing licenses for active military members. Those licenses for members of our armed forces are currently $1.

Dianda, who voted for the present law allowing a wolf hunt, appears to favor any funding that would protect Lake Superior from invasive Asian carp. The protection is needed now, he said, since the efforts planned for stopping them in Chicago would take several years and could be too late for Lake Superior.

"Right now we could protect Lake Superior by putting electric grids in the Soo Locks," he said.

Dianda also said he spoke with Gogebic County Sheriff Pete Matonich recently about wolf sightings in his county.

Matonich replied to an email from Keweenaw Now today, saying he spoke with Dianda at a civic function in Ironwood Township.

"I advised him that a few folks have commented to me that they have been seeing wolves in Erwin Township, just south of the City of Ironwood. In response to your specific questions…….a single incident?  Just comments I have heard…….Was anyone harmed?  No………Did I have to kill any wolves? No." (Ellipses are the Sheriff's.)

Matonich added the area where people reported these sightings is "rural residential," an area where "there are homes, but spaced out with some small acreage."

Jill Fritz, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected director, is quoted in their Aug. 13, 2014,  press release with comments on reported wolf sightings in the past.

"Politicians relied on exaggerated and even fabricated stories about wolf incidents, and nearly two-thirds of all wolf incidents in the U.P. occurred on a single farm, where the farmer baited wolves with cattle and deer carcasses," Fritz said. "They can’t be trusted on this issue, but the voters can be trusted and should be allowed to hear the arguments from both sides and make an informed judgment this November. We call on House members to end this abuse of power, and restore respect for the democratic process by letting the people vote."

Earlier this year, Michigan Senator Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba), the leading champion of the wolf hunt, made false claims about incidents involving wolves, and was later forced to apologize for those false statements and misrepresentations.

On their 2013-14 Environmental Scorecard, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (Michigan LCV) gave Casperson a score of 0 percent, noting his opposition to biodiversity in his proposed SB 78.*** Michigan LCV gave Dianda a score of 64 percent for 2013-14.

The MLive Media Group, the Battle Creek Enquirer and the Lansing State Journal have urged lawmakers to reject the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act and allow voters to settle the debate on wolf hunting.**** According to Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, there has been no editorial support for this latest initiative, which seeks to shut the people out of the process.
Nancy Warren, National Wolfwatcher Coalition Great Lakes Regional director, says the people should be allowed to decide on the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act as well as the other two ballot proposals. This third initiative could be added to the ballot if the House does not pass it. If it is passed, she adds, it is still critical that voters vote on the two ballot proposals.

"The wolf management plan says a recreational wolf hunt could be considered 'if biologically defensible, legally feasible, and supported by the public.' What better way to assess support by the public than with a vote by the people?" Warren notes.*****

Keep Michigan Wolves Protected is supported by humane organizations, more than 100 Michigan veterinarians and veterinary hospitals, Native American tribes, conservation groups, faith-based organizations, the Detroit Zoological Society, leading wolf biologists including Michigan Tech professors Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich, rank-and-file hunters and many other concerned Michiganders.******

To contact Rep. Scott Dianda with your views, call him Toll-Free at (888) 663-4031 or call (517) 373-0850 or email him at

* Click here for directions to the Rally.

** Last year, the NRC ignored testimony from wildlife experts and deleted thousands of emails from the public before designating the wolf as a game species and establishing Michigan’s first wolf hunt in more than four decades. In their rationale for the wolf hunt, NRC members used wolf-cattle depredation figures to justify their decision -- even though two-thirds of the incidents occurred on one poorly managed Upper Peninsula farm. The farm owner pocketed more than $33,000 in reimbursements for livestock losses, failed to use fencing provided by the state to protect his animals, and recently pleaded no contest to animal cruelty charges for the death of two guard donkeys provided to him at taxpayers’ expense to prevent wolf predation.

*** Casperson's SB 78 would remove biological diversity from the list of state forest management goals. Click here to learn about this bill.

**** See our Aug. 12, 2014, article, "Michigan newspapers urge lawmakers to allow voters to settle debate on wolf hunt."

***** See Nancy Warren's Aug. 14, 2013, guest article, "Will voters be allowed to decide the fate of Michigan wolves?"

****** See the April 16, 2013, article, "Letter from John Vucetich, wildlife ecologist: Reasons to oppose SB288." John Vucetich is Michigan Tech associate professor of wildlife ecology and co-director of the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Study.

Thimbleberry Trio to play ethnic music TONIGHT, Aug. 25, at Keweenaw Heritage Center at St. Anne's

CALUMET -- The Thimbleberry Trio will perform a concert of ethnic music at 7 p.m. TONIGHT, Monday, Aug. 25, at the Keweenaw Heritage Center at St Anne's in Calumet.

Anna Gawboy on concertina; Dave Bezotte on piano, accordion, and vocals; and Oren Tikkanen on guitar, mandolin and vocals will present a program of Finnish, French-Canadian, Italian, and Slovenian music -- plus local humor.

The Keweenaw Heritage Center at St Anne's is on the corner of 5th and Scott streets in Calumet.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

An Open Letter to Michigan’s Representative Scott Dianda

Dear Representative Dianda,

Seven months ago, at our community’s Heikinpäivä Festival, I was one of many constituents in the crowd who had the chance to converse with you. I’m also one of the many Michigan voters who worked on two successful efforts to place referenda on Michigan’s Fall 2014 ballot. That is, I participated in the democratic process that gathered 230,000 signatures in support of allowing voters to decide, first, whether we should hunt wolves in Michigan, and second, who should make decisions about game species. You and I talked about this, and I am grateful.

During the 2013 Parade of Nations, Diane Miller, center, author of this letter, is pictured at the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected booth along with two other petition gatherers -- Jackie Winkowski, left, Wolfwatcher Great Lakes Representative, and Leah Vucetich of Hancock. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

You listened to me as I expressed disappointment over your yea vote on SB288, a bill that allowed a group of non-wildlife experts to determine game species in Michigan -- a bill obviously designed to circumvent the referendum process. This bill passed and became PA 21.

I listened to you when you explained your reasons for the vote. You cited a situation in which a pet dog had been killed by wolves, here in Houghton County.

And you listened to me when I said that I knew that dog; it lived across the road from me, and I reminded you that legislation has existed since 2009 that allowed my neighbor to shoot the offending wolf, which he did: No hunting season was needed to protect his remaining dogs.

I listened to you as you expressed your concern about the children in the Ironwood day care center where wolves were reported to have been lurking. I could tell that you truly cared, and I was impressed by that.

You listened to me as I reminded you that not only has no human ever been attacked by a healthy wolf in Michigan, but the Ironwood stories -- including the one about the day care -- have since been publicly exposed and verified as lies. I asked you: "If you had known that the stories were false, would you have voted differently?"

"Yes, I probably would," I heard you say.

We don’t usually get second chances. But here we go again. As you know, the House convenes on August 27 and you will be asked to vote yea or nay on the "Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act" -- a law that neither embodies sound science nor seems conservation-minded. In fact, it repeats the earlier bill and adds an insignificant appropriation for Asian Carp control (a trick -- laws that include appropriations can’t be challenged by voters). Clearly, this is another effort to circumvent the democratic process.

Representative Dianda, you listened to me, and I listened to you. Now I am counting on you to do the right thing: Please vote nay.


Diane Miller
Houghton County resident

Editor's Note:  See also Katie Alvord's Feb. 26, 2014, article, "Interview: Diane Miller of Houghton County explains why she has collected signatures for two anti-wolf-hunt petition drives."

Friday, August 22, 2014

Guest article: Mine haul roads and their potential environmental impacts

By Esteban Chiriboga, GLIFWC (Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission) Mapping Specialist

Published in GLIFWC's Fall 2014 issue of MAZINA'IGAN. Reprinted here with permission. 

Eagle mine haul road under construction. No evidence of silt fencing or erosion control best management practices is visible. (Photo © and courtesy Esteban Chiriboga. Reprinted with permission.)

MADISON, Wis. -- Mine haul roads are integral parts of a mine operation. These roads can vary in size from single lane dirt roads located within the footprint of a mine to multi-lane paved highways used to transport materials to and from a mine site. Roads located within the mine footprint are usually included in the analysis of potential environmental impacts of a mine. However, roads that lead away from the project site to processing areas or regional shipping hubs are often overlooked, and the impacts that occur along these transportation routes may be discounted.

The Red Dog mine in Alaska is one of the more notable examples of a project that has impacted the environment along its haul road. This open pit zinc, lead and silver mine transports crushed rock from the open mine pits to a concentrating facility. From there, the concentrate is transported via a 50-mile haul road to a port facility. Sampling along the haul road conducted in the early 1990s showed elevated concentrations of metals on the road surface and on the road shoulder. This finding led to additional studies which indicated that metal deposition has occurred along the road, and concentrations decrease with distance from the road right-of-way. Elevated metal concentrations in several plant species are detectable up to 1600 meters (approximately 1 mile) from the road (ADEC, 2002).*

The source of the metals is concentrate dust that adheres to the truck tires as well as trace amounts of concentrate dust on the surface of the trucks (ADEC,2002).* It is important to note that the trucks have hydraulically sealed doors that completely enclose the concentrate inside. Even with this precaution, contamination has still occurred.

Here in the Lake Superior region, there are ongoing concerns about impacts along mine haul roads in Minnesota and Michigan ceded territories. The proposed PolyMet mine in Minnesota is very similar to Red Dog in its operations and design. Although in the case of PolyMet, the crushed ore would be transported by rail and not by truck, GLIFWC staff are concerned about the potential for environmental impacts along the rail line. PolyMet proposes to use open rail cars that have gaps along the side door hinges to transport ore from the pit to the processing facility. There is no question that ore dust will escape the cars through these openings. In response to GLIFWC comments, the lead agencies for the PolyMet Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) have required water quality monitoring along the rail corridor between the pits and the processing facility. GLIFWC staff will continue to advocate for the use of sealed rail cars to reduce the possibility of contamination along the rail line.

The construction of a mine haul road also impacts the environment. The Eagle mine in Michigan is currently rebuilding sections of a county road to accommodate large ore trucks.

The Eagle mine haul road has caused habitat fragmentation in this biologically rich area. (Photo © and courtesy Esteban Chiriboga. Reprinted with permission.)

The construction of this road through a remote area involves filling of wetlands and numerous stream crossings. This area, which is included in the Lake Superior Binational Program Important Habitat List as an area of high biodiversity, has suffered habitat fragmentation due to this construction. It is possible that the use of salt in the winter will lead to water quality impacts in the area’s small creeks, and unintended ore dust deposition along the route is likely. Additional impacts may result from pumping water out of local creeks to use in dust suppression activities during construction.

Tanker spraying water for dust control along the Eagle mine haul road construction site. (Photo © and courtesy Esteban Chiriboga. Reprinted with permission.)

To our knowledge, the effects of pumping on creek water levels and biota have not been characterized. In addition, dust suppression often involves mixing the water with chemicals, and the effects of these chemicals have not been identified.

GLIFWC staff have and will continue to advocate for inclusion of mine haul roads in the analysis of environmental impacts of proposed mine projects. In the case of the road construction at the Eagle mine, the environmental impacts of the road were not evaluated when the permits for the mine were considered. The Eagle mine’s haul road is permitted under general state permits that are issued for road construction. These general permits, while often adequate for normal roads, do not require the data and analysis needed for a road that will be used to transport mine concentrate and/or metallic ores. These materials are often reactive when exposed to air and water and, as exemplified by the Red Dog haul road, can create environmental impacts in very small quantities. The failure to evaluate infrastructure associated with mining activities appears to undermine the goal of clearly disclosing all impacts associated with mineral development projects. Mine haul roads should also be included in any analysis of the cumulative impacts of multiple mine projects on the ceded territories.

*Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC), 2002, Fugitive Dust Background Document -- Draft Report.

GLIFWC's publication MAZINA'IGAN is available on line. Click here to read more of their recent articles on Great Lakes issues.

Portage Library to host Key Club for Storytime Aug. 23

HOUGHTON -- Kids are invited to use their imaginations and have fun on the farm at Storytime from 11 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Aug. 23, at the Portage Lake District Library.

Houghton High School Key Club members will read stories about farms and kids will make some cows, chickens and pigs to take home.

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

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Houghton County Fair opens TODAY, Aug. 21, at Fairgrounds in Hancock

"Wake up! It's time for the Houghton County Fair!" says this 2013 prize-winning rooster. The fair starts TODAY, Thursday, Aug. 21 -- and the Poultry-Rabbit Show is one of the opening events. Check out the Small Animal Barn to see this year's winners. (2013 video by Keweenaw Now)

HANCOCK -- The 2014 Houghton County fair opens at 3 p.m. TODAY, Thursday, Aug. 21, and continues to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 24, at the Fairgrounds in Hancock. It will feature Spectrum Entertainment for the carnival and midway.

The Miss Houghton County Fair Queen Pageant for teens aged 16 to 18 will take place at 6:30 p.m. TONIGHT, Thursday, on the Indoor Stage.

At 8 p.m. tonight don't miss the Kivajat and Loistavat Finnish Dancers, also on the Indoor Stage.

Kids of all ages enjoy the rides at the Houghton County Fair. (2013 Keweenaw Now video. Click on x to remove ads -- beyond our control)

Entertainment this weekend will include Midwest Monster Trucks, Cirque Amongus (shows and a time for fair attendees to try their hand at circus acts), Whispering Pines Mobile Zoo with the addition of an aviary this year, Wayne the Wizard with magic shows, ballon-a-tics, and ventriloquism. Kerry Sharp, hypnotist, will return for a second year due to his popularity last year. Ward’s Local Logging Competition as well as Horseshoe Pitching and an Antique Tractor Display are also among the returning events.

Musical acts will include Mike Urbis, Yesterday’s Wine, Tom Katalin, Vince Anthony, and the Country Drifters. At 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, a youth talent show will offer nice monetary prizes.

Motorized events include Motocross Races, the Farm Tractor Pull, Off Road Derby, and both a Truck and Car Demolition Derby. A local truck Tug of War will entertain at half time of the Monster Truck Show.

This hen laid an egg to exhibit her talents to visitors in the Small Animal Barn. (2013 photo by Keweenaw Now)

Livestock shows include Open, Youth and Jump Shows, along with the "Cowboy Challenge." Kathy Caspary and Jack Kujansuu will offer an Equine Education Seminar for exhibitors. Rabbit, Poultry, Swine, Beef, Dairy, and Goat Shows are scheduled -- and new this year will be a Camelid (alpaca and llama) show.*

Horse jumping is a favorite event at the Houghton County Fair in Hancock, Michigan. This young rider puts her horse through some winning paces at the 2013 Fair. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

Exhibits, including youth projects, range from baking and preserving to arts and crafts, folk arts, needlework, photography, horticulture, floriculture, science projects, poetry, education posters and antiques. Exhibit buildings are open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

This year the fair is pleased to announce that a matching grant of more than $1000 was obtained from the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee for printing the Fair premium book, brochures, and passes.

* Click here for the full schedule of events.