Wednesday, July 17, 2019

"Lights for Liberty" vigil participants protest against inhumane detention camps

By Michele Bourdieu
With photos by Miriam Pickens. 

Local residents concerned about the inhumane conditions faced by migrants -- especially those in detention camps on the U.S. southern border -- hold a "Lights for Liberty" vigil on Friday, July 12, 2019. The vigil was part of a worldwide human rights protest. (Photos © and courtesy Miriam Pickens)

HOUGHTON -- About 43 concerned citizens gathered for a "Lights for Liberty" vigil at the miner statue in Houghton on Friday, July 12, in solidarity with thousands holding vigils across the country to protest the dehumanizing conditions of detention centers for migrants on the U.S. southern border.

The July 12, 2019, Lights for Liberty vigils held from Maine to California, and internationally as well, were a response to a call for action by a group "dedicated to human rights and the fundamental principle behind democracy that all human beings have a right to life, liberty and dignity."*

"Here in the Copper Country, we participated in this vigil to help show our support for the principles that children do not belong in cages and that families belong together," said Valorie Troesch, a member of the Houghton County Democratic Party, which organized the local vigil. "We would hope that these values would be universal and non-partisan. We gathered quietly -- no march -- with candles and signs to demonstrate our united opposition to what is happening to immigrants and refugees on our southern border."

Organizer William Keith noted similar vigils were held in Marquette and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

William Keith, left, organizer of the Houghton vigil, displays a sign in support of diversity. Chatting at right are participants Tom Hiltunen (dark shirt) and Jim Pickens.

"So many people turned out to protest such a distant injustice because this particular cruelty shocks the conscience: children getting sick and dying in cages, adults who dared to dream of opportunity or safety in the land of hope finding only imprisonment and hate," Keith said. "There's so much this Administration has done that people of good will opposed, but this -- this is something to make the blood boil. Showing up to be present and bear witness is the least we can do, the first thing: we can tell everyone that this cruelty is not being perpetrated with our consent. The next thing to do is turn our refusal of assent into energy to stop the madness. It's a long time until November of 2020, but along the way we will do everything in our power."

Paul Mitchell, right, a volunteer with the Houghton County Democratic Party, joins another vigil participant to display a meaningful sign.

Janeen Stephenson of Houghton shared with Keweenaw Now her reason for joining the vigil.

"The way my country is treating human beings who are asylum seekers at our southern border is horrifying," Stephenson said. "We came together to express our concern and were uplifted by the honks and thumbs up of many people walking and driving by."

Janeen Stephenson of Houghton, right, and Cynthia Drake of Ripley display their Lights for Liberty candles during the vigil.

Cynthia Drake of Ripley said she participated in the Houghton vigil because she had attended a presentation by a group of Quaker youth from Milwaukee who had taken a trip to Washington, D.C., last fall after researching what was going on with ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement). These high school students talked to people in D.C. who were creating policy. Drake said she was very moved by what the youth had learned.

"The conditions already at the time they were there were just atrocious, and things were being covered up," Drake noted. "I don't know what the solutions are."

Drake said she went to the vigil knowing that the first thing we have to do is stop these conditions that treat people inhumanely.

"I do want to know what the next conversation is," Drake added. "What do we do about this situation that's better? What's an alternative that's better? And I hope that those of us who go to these vigils and these protests can think further into that and find doable solutions."

A very young vigil participant displays her sign, "No human is illegal."

Keith added this vigil is only the beginning and, as Drake also pointed out, more actions are necessary.

"It's a simple question," Keith noted. "You're either made furious by seeing the plight of scared children and refugees, or you're not. If you're as shocked and angry as we are, you're going to seek ways to fix it. This was the barest start."

* Click here to learn more about "Lights for Liberty."

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Detention Camps to be held July 12 in Houghton

Image courtesy Lights for Liberty.

HOUGHTON -- From 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. local time on Friday, July 12, 2019, Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Detention Camps will bring thousands of people to locations across the country to protest the inhumane conditions faced by migrants. In Houghton, the gathering will be at the miner statue on Shelden Avenue (on triangle where College Ave. meets Shelden and Montezuma) -- which honors immigrants who came to settle and build their part of America.

The Houghton County Democratic Party is organizing the vigil, but all are welcome and there will be no candidate-related activity. You can make a sign if you wish; electric candles will be available or you may bring your own. The vigil will open and close with brief calls to action; but otherwise participants will simply be present and silent, although quiet interaction with curious passersby is encouraged. Parking is available across the street at the Keweenaw Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.

Lights for Liberty is a coalition of people dedicated to human rights and the fundamental principle behind democracy that all human beings have a right to life, liberty and dignity. They are partnering with international, national, regional and local communities and organizations who believe that these fundamental rights are not negotiable and who are willing to protect them.

Monday, July 08, 2019

EGLE’s UP Energy Task Force to offer Web, phone access for July 9 organizational meeting

MARQUETTE -- The first meeting of the UP Energy Task Force, established by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Executive Order 2019-14 as an advisory body within the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), will be accessible via webinar and telephone access.

The meeting is set for 1 p.m. (EDT) on Tuesday, July 9, at the Northern Center, Ballroom III, 1401 Presque Isle Avenue, Marquette, Michigan, on the campus of Northern Michigan University. The meeting will be open to the public.

On June 7, 2019, Gov. Whitmer signed Executive Order 2019-14, creating the UP Energy Task Force, which will do the following: assess the UP’s overall energy needs and how they are currently being met; identify and evaluate potential changes in energy supply and distribution; and formulate alternative solutions to meet the UP’s energy needs -- including alternatives to the current distribution of propane through Line 5, which poses an unacceptable threat to the Great Lakes.*

The Task Force plans to schedule multiple listening sessions across the Upper Peninsula this fall specifically for the purpose of receiving public input. The dates and locations for the listening sessions and other meetings will be made available after the July 9 organizational meeting.

To join the webinar, go to: To join the meeting by telephone, dial 646-558-8656 or 669-900-6833; use the webinar ID: 928 433 717.

To stay up to date on other EGLE news, follow

* Editor's Note: See "Gov. Whitmer signs executive order creating UP Energy Task Force."

To view Executive Order 2019-14, click here.

To view the names of persons appointed to the UP Energy Task Force, click here

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Attorney General Nessel takes legal steps to decommission Line 5; Gov. Whitmer seeks to dismiss Enbridge lawsuit

By Michele Bourdieu

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. (Photo courtesy

LANSING -- In a one-two legal punch, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel not only responded to the Enbridge lawsuit filed against the state earlier this month, but simultaneously took the first step to decommission the 66-year-old dual pipelines that run through the Straits of Mackinac by filing a lawsuit in Ingham County Circuit Court.

Meanwhile Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced her responses to Enbridge's failure to negotiate on tunnel construction and her goal of decommissioning Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac.

The Attorney General filed her lawsuit on June 27, 2019, the same day she filed a motion to dismiss Enbridge’s lawsuit filed in the Court of Claims on June 6 seeking to enforce agreements made in the last months of the Snyder administration that purported to authorize Enbridge to build a tunnel and continue operating Line 5.

"I have consistently stated that Enbridge’s pipelines in the Straits need to be shut down as soon as possible because they present an unacceptable risk to the Great Lakes," said Nessel.  "Governor Whitmer tried her best to reach an agreement that would remove the pipelines from the Straits on an expedited basis, but Enbridge walked away from negotiations and instead filed a lawsuit against the state. Once that occurred, there was no need for further delay."

Nessel’s lawsuit asks the Ingham County Circuit Court to find that Enbridge’s continued operation of the Straits Pipelines under the easement granted by the State in 1953 violates the public trust doctrine, is a common law public nuisance, and violates the Michigan Environmental Protection Act because it is likely to cause pollution impairment and destruction of water and other natural resources.

The Enbridge Line 5 Pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. (File photo courtesy National Wildlife Federation)

The Attorney General’s lawsuit identifies a potential anchor strike as the most significant risk to Line 5. In 2017, the State’s contractor, Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems, Inc., identified an anchor strike as the most "dominant threat" to Line 5.

"The location of the pipelines -- which carry millions of gallons of oil each day and lie exposed in open water at the bottom of the Straits -- combines great ecological sensitivity with exceptional vulnerability to anchor strikes," said Nessel. "This situation with Line 5 differs from other bodies of water where pipelines exist because the currents in the Straits of Mackinac are complex, variable, and remarkably fast and strong."

Nessel also noted the serious danger of anchor strikes, such as the one that occurred in 2018.*

"The continued operation of Line 5 presents an extraordinary, unreasonable threat to the public because of the very real risk of further anchor strikes, the inherent risks of pipeline operations, and the foreseeable, catastrophic effects if an oil spill occurs at the Straits," Nessel added. "We were extraordinarily lucky that we did not experience a complete rupture of Line 5 because, if we did, we would be cleaning up the Great Lakes and our shorelines for the rest of our lives, and the lives of our children as well."

In fact, an April 2018 anchor dragging incident -- which ripped through several inches-thick steel cables -- brought that threat home in a very real way. Although Line 5 was damaged -- not ruptured -- in that incident because the anchor hit a section lying directly on the bottomlands, if the anchor had dragged across the bottom of the Straits in an area where Line 5 is elevated, the likely result would have been a complete rupture of Line 5.

Nessel’s lawsuit seeks an order from the Court to shut down and decommission the Straits pipelines as soon as possible after a reasonable notice period to allow orderly adjustments by affected parties.

The Attorney General also filed a motion for summary disposition in the Court of Claims on June 27. That motion argues that PA 359 (2018), which would have created a new Straits Corridor Authority, is unconstitutional, and the agreements that purported to give Enbridge the right to build a tunnel and continue operating Line 5 in the Straits for the estimated seven to ten years it would take to build the tunnel are invalid.

This is consistent with Nessel’s first formal opinion as Attorney General determining that PA 359 -- rammed through in a chaotic lame duck session at the end of the Snyder administration -- was unconstitutional. Her office then notified all state agencies -- including the Straits Corridor Authority -- that PA 359 and any agreements relying on the statute, were unenforceable.

"The debate over Line 5 has been raging for over five years," said Nessel. "Real-world events have shown me we can’t wait another five to ten years for Enbridge to build a tunnel. We cannot prevent accidental or emergency anchor deployments in one of the busiest shipping channels in the Great Lakes.  And it only takes one such incident to cause an environmental and economic catastrophe. That is a risk no one should be willing to take."

Nessel also explained these steps to decommission Line 5 in a video statement. In this statement she notes that she and Gov. Whitmer are both committed to protecting the waters of the Great Lakes from a potential disaster.

"We have dual responsibilities and we are working on parallel tracks," Nessel said in the video statement. "I'm doing everything I can on the legal front, and she's doing everything she can on the administrative front."

Nessel also mentioned in the video the governor's "Task Force to ensure the energy needs of our UP residents are met in an affordable and reliable way."**

Governor Whitmer responds to Line 5 legal filings

Tiffany Brown, press secretary for Governor Whitmer, issued a statement on June 27, commenting on the legal filings regarding Line 5.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. (Photo courtesy

"The governor’s primary goal has always been and remains to get the Line 5 dual pipelines out of the Straits of Mackinac as soon as possible. The risk of a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes, and the harm that would follow to Michigan’s economy, tourism, and our way of life, is far too great to allow the pipelines to continue to operate indefinitely," the statement said.

The statement also explains that the governor's action follows her attempted negotiations with Enbridge:

"The governor has never viewed litigation as the best solution to this problem, and for this reason she entered negotiations with Enbridge about the possible construction of a tunnel. Her reasonable requirement has been that the dual pipelines through the Straits cease operation at a date certain, after allowing for a period of transition. Enbridge, however, has insisted that it be allowed to run oil through the Great Lakes indefinitely. Rather than negotiating, Enbridge walked away and filed a lawsuit. Today, Governor Whitmer filed her response asking the court to dismiss Enbridge’s lawsuit."

In addition, Gov. Whitmer has asked the Department of Natural Resources for a review of Enbridge's compliance with the 1953 Easement, which allowed Enbridge to operate Line 5's dual pipelines under the Great Lakes.

"Possible violations of the easement are just one of several grounds by which the state could seek to shut down the pipelines, some of which the attorney general has already invoked today," the statement concluded. 

Groups laud Nessel's, Whitmer's actions to begin Line 5 shutdown

Oil and Water Don't Mix, an environmental group opposing Line 5, stated their support of the actions taken by Attorney General Nessel and Governor Whitmer.

"The Attorney General’s strong and necessary stand vigorously defends Michigan’s Constitution, our environmental laws, and is aimed at protecting the Great Lakes. Gov. Whitmer's directive to the Department of Natural Resources to examine Enbridge's compliance with the state's 1953 easement agreement for Line 5 will confirm what is already on the public record: a pattern and practice of easement violations by Enbridge," the group stated on their Web site. "The attorney general’s March legal opinion clearly established that the legislation passed in lame duck last year was unconstitutional; and her actions today (June 27) seeking a court-ordered end to Enbridge's Line 5 operations in the Straits of Mackinac have the strong support of Michigan’s environmental community, civic groups and Michigan’s tribes with Treaty Rights in the Straits of Mackinac."

Sean McBrearty, Oil and Water Don't Mix coordinator, said, "Line 5 is wrong for the Great Lakes, wrong for Michigan, wrong for the rule of law and wrong for future generations who must deal with the impact of dirty fuels on an overheating climate."***

FLOW (For Love of Water) also commended Attorney General Nessel’s and Governor Whitmer’s legal actions against Enbridge to protect public waters located in arguably the worst possible place in the Great Lakes for an oil spill to happen.

"Attorney General Nessel returns Michigan and the protection of its citizens, taxpayers, and the Great Lakes to the rule of law," said Jim Olson, president and founder of FLOW. "Governor Whitmer’s action on behalf of the state to nullify the lame-duck tunnel agreements also returns Michigan to the rule of law. They should be thanked. No, they should be applauded."****

Democratic Caucuses support of Nessel, Whitmer in opposing Line 5 

The Michigan Democratic Party's Anishinaabek Caucus issued a press release on June 27, 2019, praising Attorney General Nessel for her legal filings and urging Governor Whitmer to join the Attorney General's lawsuit against Enbridge.

Andrea Pierce, chair of the Michigan Democratic Party's Anishinaabek Caucus, carries the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians tribal flag at Governor Whitmer's inauguration in January 2019. The photo is included with the Caucus's recent press release as a reminder that the 12 tribes of Michigan are here and are part of the decisions. (Photo courtesy Anishinaabek Caucus)

"Enbridge's continued exploratory work for the tunnel and operation of Line 5 are in violation of the Treaty rights of federally recognized tribes of Michigan," the Caucus stated, referring to their May 24, 2019, Position Statement.

In that Position Statement, the Caucus stated, "In accordance with the Tribal Treaties recognized under the United States Constitution and in solidarity with the position of the Twelve Tribes of Michigan as stewards of the land and water, the Anishinaabek Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party enjoins the Governor and the State of Michigan to shut down Line 5 immediately to eliminate catastrophic risks to water and land, and to abandon plans for a tunnel which would perpetuate existing risks to our resources."

That Position Statement also asked Michigan officials to reverse damage from burning fossil fuels, not to create opportunities to expand their use, and to include Michigan tribes in their decision making. The Caucus noted that treaties guarantee not only fishing rights but the right to habitat for the fish, which is threatened by the operation of unsafe pipelines.

"We applaud and celebrate Dana's stand as it is what she promised during her campaign and also at the Pipe Out Paddle Up Flotilla, when she came to Mackinaw City and met tribal leadership, environmental groups and citizens that are concerned about Enbridge's Line 5," said Andrea Pierce, Anishinaabek Caucus chair.

During the 2017 Pipe Out Paddle Up Flotilla in Mackinaw City, Dana Nessel, then a candidate for Michigan Attorney General, stated why she was running for that office and why she would shut down Line 5 if elected. (File video by Keweenaw Now)

The June 27 press release from the Anishinaabek Caucus also mentions dangers cited in the "Independent Risk Analysis for the Straits Pipelines" -- a study led by Guy Meadows, director of Michigan Tech's Great Lakes Research Center, and other faculty from Michigan Tech and including researchers from other universities and other scientific experts.

The Caucus notes, "As long as Line 5 operates, Michigan's water, wildlife, and people remain at risk. The report 'Independent Risk Analysis for the Straits Pipelines' (September 15, 2018) reveals that 2.4M gallons of crude would damage 60,000 acres of unique habitat affecting businesses personal property, and municipal water supplies. Since 1968 there has been more than 1.1M gallons of crude spilled from Line 5 inland, hence acknowledgement of a Line 5 spill in the Straits is real. Degradation of supports, mussel encrustation, deformities of the pipe, and an anchor strike have been reported."

The Anishinaabek Caucus notes that in their view Line 5 is not needed for bringing propane to the Upper Peninsula. They point out that, in addition to the fact that the volume of propane provided through Line 5 is only 0.25 percent, which could be trucked to the UP, the propane argument for Line 5 ignores good union green jobs.

"Developing renewable energy in the Upper Peninsula could be Michigan's beginning in green energy independence," the Anishinaabek Caucus states.

The Michigan Democratic Party Environmental Caucus. also issued a statement in support of Nessel and Whitmer as environmental leaders, calling their June 27 announcements "the shot heard 'round the world as we move closer to decommissioning the credible threat of a Line 5 rupture in the Straits of Mackinac."

According to the Environmental Caucus, "News of Attorney General Nessel’s actions is confirmation of her dedication to to the protection of our water, the adjacent waterways and the Straits of Mackinac themselves."

Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa threatened by Line 5 impacts to watershed

While several Native American groups concerned about the water and treaty rights have been protesting for several years against the Line 5 pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac, less attention has been focused on the part of Line 5 that passes through the reservation of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians -- impacting rivers, streams and wetlands and posing a threat to an area of northwestern Wisconsin that has recently experienced severe floods.

This map shows a North American pipeline system including Line 5 (bright red line) -- which carries oil from Superior, Wis, to refineries at Sarnia, Ontario. Line 5 uses the Straits of Mackinac as a short cut, jeopardizing Great Lakes waters and nearby lands, including the Bad River reservation in northwestern Wisconsin. Click on map for larger version. (Map courtesy Oil and Water Don't Mix)

This aerial drone video by Bad River member David Joe Bates illustrates potential failure of Line 5, which crosses the Bad River only 15.5 miles from Lake Superior:

This video, taken from a drone during a high water event in April 2019, shows how a portion of Line 5 pipeline passing through the Bad River Band's reservation, not far from where the Bad River empties into Lake Superior, could pose a serious threat to the watershed should there be an oil spill. Click on YouTube icon for a larger screen. (Video © and courtesy David Joe Bates)

On June 20, 2019, just a week before the actions of Michigan's Attorney General and Governor, the Bad River Band held a public event with a presentation by Naomi Tillison, their Natural Resources director, outlining the impending disaster from Enbridge Line 5 at the Bad River Meander. Click here for a video of her informative presentation.*****

Editor's Notes:

* See our June 5, 2019, article, "Michigan AG Nessel: Safety Board Report on Line 5 Anchor Strike means operating Line 5 'incredibly dangerous.'"

** Click here to watch Nessel's video on YouTube. Concerning the Task Force, see "Gov. Whitmer signs executive order creating UP Energy Task Force."

*** See Oil and Water Don't Mix for their complete statement.

**** Click here for more from FLOW.

***** For background on the easements that allowed Line 5 to pass through the Bad River reservation, click here for the introduction to the June 20 by Mike Wiggins, Jr., Bad River tribal chair.

Friday, June 21, 2019

UPDATED: EGLE to hold Consolidated Public Hearing on three permits for Back 40 Mine June 25; public comment deadlines announced

By Michele Bourdieu, with information from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE)

This map shows location of the proposed Back 40 Mine, near the Menominee River. The additional land in light green and the access corridor from the east are among the changes in the proposed Amendment to the Part 632 Mining Permit. A Consolidated Public Hearing will be held on Tuesday, June 25, to take comments on three permit applications for this mining project. Click on map for larger version. (Images courtesy Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, or EGLE)

[UPDATE: The June 25 Public Hearing will be livestreamed by Indian Country Today at 5:30 p.m. CDT (6:30 p.m. EDT). Click here to watch it.]

LANSING -- The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) (formerly Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) will hold a Consolidated Public Hearing on the Aquila Back Forty Mine Project from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. (CDT) on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, at Stephenson High School Gymnasium, W526 Division Street, Stephenson, Michigan 49887. Aquila  Resources, Inc., is proposing to develop an open pit polymetallic gold, zinc, and copper mine and associated beneficiation and storage facilities.

On June 17 and June 18 EGLE held a Webinar with information on the three permit applications to be considered at the June 25 Hearing. A video recording of the Webinar presentations is now available on YouTube here.

The purpose of the hearing is to take official public comments on three different Aquila applications:

1) Application for permit HNK-5X9D-9HC0S under Part 315, Dam Safety of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended (NREPA), by Mr. David Anderson, Aquila Resources, Inc. The applicant proposes to construct two regulated dams -- a Tailings Management Facility (TMF) and a Contact Water Basin (CWB) -- in association with the Back Forty Project mine.

Here the Tailings Management Facility (TMF) is outlined in the center of the map. The Contact Water Basin (CWB) is the section below the lower left corner of the TMF. Click on image for a larger version. The pit, to the left of the TMF, is only about 150 feet from the Menominee River.

The proposed TMF would have a height of 118 feet and an impoundment area of 124 acres. The size of the TMF has been compared to 100 football fields.*

This diagram of the proposed TMF shows how it would be constructed in stages. Click on image for larger version.

The Contact Water Basin would have a height of 27 feet and an impoundment area of 40 acres.

The Dam Safety hearing will be held pursuant to Section 324.31511.3 of Part 315 of the NREPA. The Part 315 application is available for review on EGLE’s Web site at:, or at the EGLE, Water Resource Division, Marquette District Office, 1504 West Washington Street, Marquette, MI, 49855, or by calling 517- 284-5567. The Dam Safety Part 315 public hearing record will remain open for ten days after the public hearing date, closing on Friday, July 5. Written comments on this Dam Safety permit must be received at the above address or at by July 5, 2019.

2)  The proposed conditional approval of Permit to Install (PTI) Application Number 205-15A under Part 55 of NREPA. It has been preliminarily determined that the installation and operation of the mining and ore processing facility will not violate any of EGLE's rules nor the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. EGLE's Air Quality Division (AQD) will accept comments on this proposed action until July 23, 2019. Send AQD PTI written comments to Ms. Annette Switzer, Permit Section Manager, EGLE, AQD, P.O. Box 30260, Lansing, Michigan, 48909-7760. Comments may also be submitted from this webpage: (After consulting the documents listed, click on "Submit Comment" under the Aquila Resources Inc., PTI Application No. 205-15A listing). All statements received by July 23, 2019, will be considered by the decision maker prior to final permit action.

Copies of PTI related documents are also available on the AQD webpage; at the Marquette District Office, 1504 West Washington Street, Marquette, MI 49855; at the AQD Central Office, 525 West Allegan Street, Lansing, MI 48933; at the Menominee County Public Library, S319 Railroad St, Stephenson, MI 49887; or you may request a copy be mailed to you by calling 517-284-6793. The PTI application and related correspondence are on the website at

3) The proposed decision to grant, with conditions, a request submitted by Aquila Resources Inc. to amend Mining Permit MP 01 2016, issued under Part 632, Nonferrous Metallic Mineral Mining (Part 632), of the NREPA. The Oil, Gas, and Minerals Division (OGMD) will accept comments on this proposed decision until July 23, 2019. Send Part 632 Mining Permit Amendment proposed decision written comments to Back Forty Project, EGLE/OGMD, 1504 West Washington Street, Marquette, MI 49855, or E-mail to with "Back Forty Mining Permit" as the subject. Comments applicable to the proposed  decision received by 5 p.m. July 23, 2019, will be considered prior to making a final decision.**

During the informational Webinar, Melanie Humphrey, geologist, Oil, Gas and Minerals Division Upper Peninsula district, noted the proposed amendment would increase the mine footprint from 865 acres to 1,087 acres, due to changes in storage. Another change is the additional option for access via an Eastern Corridor (see map above). The amended permit would also include minor modifications to processing circuits and updates to the Mining Plan, Treatment and Containment Plan, Environmental Monitoring Plan, Contingency Plan, Reclamation Plan, Financial Assurance estimates, and Environmental Impact Assessment.

View the May 20, 2019, Proposed Decision on Aquila's Mining Permit Amendment Application here.

Application materials may be reviewed at the Menominee County Public Library, S319 Railroad St, Stephenson, MI 49887, the EGLE Marquette District Office, or on the EGLE Mining website here

For  more  information on this Part 632 Mining Permit Amendment Application contact the EGLE, OGMD, Melanie  Humphrey, Gwinn  Field  Office, 906-250-7564,; or Mark Snow, Permitting and Technical Services Section Manager, 517-230-8233,

According to James Ostrowski, Supervisor, EGLE Training and Outreach Unit, the June 25 Consolidated Public Hearing will not be preceded by a question-answer session as some hearings have been in the past.

"There will not be a public information session with Q and A on June 25," Ostrowski told Keweenaw Now. "The hearing in Stephenson on June 25 will just be a hearing, meaning staff will be there to take official comment but will not respond to comments. There will be staff available to answer questions one-on-one throughout the evening."

He noted also that staff who presented at the Webinar can be contacted with questions related to the permits they discussed. They are the following:

Melanie Humphrey, Geologist, Oil, Gas, and Minerals Division, who spoke on the Mining Permit Amendment proposed decision, at 906-250-7564 or

Andrew Drury, Air Quality Division, who spoke on the Permit to Install application, at 517-284-6792 or

Lucas Trumble, P.E., Dam Safety Program, who spoke on the Part 315 Dam Safety permit, at 517-420-8923 or

Hearing participants will be asked to fill out an attendance card and indicate intent to speak before entering the hearing area. Following opening remarks at the start of the hearing, participants will be called to speak in the order of cards received. Speaker presentations will be limited to three minutes. Written comments will also be accepted at the hearing.

The hearing will not be a legal proceeding, witnesses will not  be sworn, and there will be no cross examination. During the hearing, EGLE technical staff will be available outside  the hearing room to answer questions regarding EGLE’s reviews and proposed actions. Individuals needing accommodations for effective participation at the hearing should contact Tina Coluccio, 906-228-4524 in advance of the hearing date to request mobility, visual, hearing, or other assistance.

June 25 Water Ceremony, Outside Action to precede hearing

On June 25, in advance of the Consolidated Public Hearing, concerned community members are invited to attend a Water Ceremony and Outside Action at 3 p.m., followed by a Press Conference at 4 p.m. at Stephenson High School.

Poster from Save the Menominee River - Stop the Back 40 Mine Facebook page.

Editor's Notes:

* See a recent Opinion article published in the Detroit News: "New mine could harm Menominee watershed," by Al Gedicks, emeritus professor of environmental sociology at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse and executive secretary of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, and Eric Hansen, an outdoor writer and commentator and author of Hiking Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

** A Public Hearing on Aquila's request for the Mining Permit Amendment was held on Jan. 9, 2019, followed by a public comment period and by the May 20 Proposed Decision. See our Jan. 23, 2019, article, with videos, on the Jan. 9 hearing, "Environmental groups, Menominee Nation, community residents oppose Back 40 mining permit amendment, seek technical expertise."

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Pine Mountain Music Festival to bring concerts to six UP communities June 17-30

The Bergonzi Trio will perform classical concerts in Houghton, Marquette and Iron Mountain during this year's  Pine Mountain Music Festival. (Photos courtesy Pine Mountain Music Festival)

HOUGHTON -- The Pine Mountain Music Festival (PMMF) is proud to announce an exciting season -- June 17-30, 2019. This year's festival marks the 29th year of bringing Classical and World Music to the communities of Houghton, Hancock, Calumet, Marquette, Iron Mountain and Crystal Falls.

The classical foundation of PMMF for years has been the Bergonzi String Quartet. This year they return as a trio: Scott Flavin and Ross Harbaugh are joined by the young piano virtuoso Lindsay Garritson. The new group is guaranteed to delight! Beethoven’s Archduke Trio is being prepared for this season by special request. They will perform Beethoven's Archduke Trio on June 19 in Marquette, on June 21 in Iron Mountain, and on June 22 at the Rozsa in Houghton. Don't miss this long standing tradition. The Bergonzi Trio will be presenting Free Family Concerts in libraries in all three towns in the afternoon.

The festival kicks off Monday, June 17, in Iron Mountain when Moira Smiley and Jefferson Hamer present a one of a kind concert.

Singer Moira Smiley will perform with guitarist and singer Jefferson Hamer in Calumet, Marquette and Iron Mountain.

Moira Smiley creates and performs new work for voices while Jefferson Hamer, a gifted guitarist and singer, weaves gorgeous instrumental lines with close harmonies. Jefferson astounds as singer/songwriter and as an interpreter of Child ballads and, when he plugs in, as a dynamic rocker.

Jefferson Hamer, guitarist and singer. (Photo © Joe Singh and courtesy Pine Mountain Music Festival)

Moira and Jefferson will also be in Marquette Tuesday, June 18, and at the Calumet Theatre Wednesday, June 19. Jefferson will do a special solo concert at the Crystal Theatre, Crystal Falls, on Thursday, June 20.

The next troupe, "Trust me, will rock your world," explained the Head of Music, Stony Brook, NYU, enthusiastically. They are Miles Masicotte, Hristina Blagoeva, and Giovanni Perez. Miles, originally a jazz pianist turned classical pianist, with his wife, Hristina, a Bulgarian flute player,
are paired with Giovanni Perez, a show-stopping flutist.

They will be at the Calumet Theatre Wednesday, June 26.

"It will be something really exciting, original and classic," PMMF Director Douglas Day anticipates.

Perhaps the most notable new dimension comes from the inclusion of the UPStarts -- young performers from across the U.P., joining Miles Massicotte and Giovanni Perez, both from New York, who will act as mentor professionals to the UPStarts.

This year's UPStarts are (clockwise from above left) Eric Banitt, piano; Benjamin Merte, bass; Kalee Hernendez, piano; Karen Albert, mezzo-soprano; and Benjamin Zindler, trombone. 

PMMF will present the group of eight dynamic young performers in a single show opening as the finale of Marquette’s Artweek celebrations, in the Presque Isle Bandshell, Friday, June 28. Free to all thanks to Travel Marquette and the Arts and Culture Office of Marquette. The group will perform June 29 in Kingsford's First Presbyterian Church and June 30 at the Rozsa in Houghton.

Of special note to opera fans, UPStart soprano, Liz Grugin will join Karen Albert in Delibes’ Duo des fleurs / Sous le dôme épais from Lakmé. Arias from Rossini and Bizet echo 29 years of PMMF opera.*

You may purchase tickets at the door for all events. Calumet and Crystal Theatres order at All other shows order through Michigan Tech's Ticketing Service: (887)746-3999 or through, all concerts are at 7:30. Check the web site ( for the Children's Concert time in your area.

Through the $129 Family Pass, the Festival hopes to draw the next generation into a love of classical music through live performances. The Pass covers the whole family for all shows. Our patrons make up the difference by including a gift with their orders.

* Click here for the PMMF Schedule.

Inset photos: Miles Masicotte, Hristina Blagoeva, and Giovanni Perez. 

Western UP Tribal, County residents asked to take short survey to assist Hazard Mitigation Plans

HOUGHTON -- Hazard mitigation is any action taken before, during or after a disaster to eliminate or reduce the risk to human life and property from natural, technological, or human-related hazards. The Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region (WUPPDR) has been recently contracted by Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) and the six western counties in the Upper Peninsula to update and draft the five-year hazard mitigation plans.

In addition to guiding mitigation for KBIC and the counties, the plans will ensure their communities are eligible for certain grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Members of the public can have a voice in the planning effort by taking a short survey. Online responses are preferred and can be provided at the survey links below. The paper survey is available at the city and township halls, county clerk’s office, and public libraries.

Please take the 5-minute survey regarding hazards in your community by July 12, 2019. To access the online survey, click on the link below for the region that you live in.

The survey links are as follows:

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community:







The information you provide will help WPPDR and county and tribal officials better understand local hazard concerns and can lead to mitigation activities that should help lessen the impact of future hazard events in your community. All responses will be kept confidential.

For more information or for a paper survey contact:
Rachael Pressley,
WUPPDR Project Coordinator
1-906-482-7205, ext. 116.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Deploying High-frequency Radar in the Straits of Mackinac

High-frequency radar towers, like the pilot tower shown here near Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinac City, Michigan, create maps of an entire area rather than providing only a single point of data. (Photo © Nathan Shaiyen and courtesy Michigan Tech University)

By Kelley Christensen, Michigan Tech Science and Technology Publications Writer
Posted June 10, 2019, on Michigan Tech News
Reprinted here in part with permission

As Great Lakes water levels rise to record heights, remotely monitoring currents and waves grows in importance.

The currents of the Straits of Mackinac are known for their volatility; they have for millennia pushed the birch bark canoes of Native Americans and voyageurs alike off course and forced lake freighters aground.

The currents are also part of the complex lake system that links Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. Monitoring currents and waves in the Straits -- and throughout the Great Lakes -- is of great interest to scientists, municipal managers, the shipping industry, environmentalists and government agencies.

In late May, Lorelle Meadows, dean of the Pavlis Honors College at Michigan Technological University and oceanographer by training, and Guy Meadows, director of Michigan Tech's Great Lakes Research Center, conducted the first test of a high-frequency radar system specifically tuned for use in the Great Lakes. 

Inset photo: Lorelle Meadows and Guy Meadows received a grant from the Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS) to bring a pilot high-frequency radar project to Michigan. (Photo © Nathan Shaiyen and courtesy Michigan Tech University)

Great Lakes Geometry

High-frequency radar is a shore-based remote sensing system used to measure currents offshore by sending a low-power electromagnetic pulse over the water. The electromagnetic wave interacts with marine surface waves, which scatter the radar signal. By measuring the magnetic pulse bounces from marine waves back to the radar tower, researchers are able to map the speed and direction of the underlying currents. ... Click here to read the rest of this article and see a video about this research on the Michigan Tech News.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Gov. Whitmer signs executive order creating UP Energy Task Force

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. (Photo courtesy

LANSING -- On June 7, 2019, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order that creates the UP Energy Task Force, which will do the following: assess the UP’s overall energy needs and how they are currently being met; identify and evaluate potential changes in energy supply and distribution; and formulate alternative solutions to meet the UP’s energy needs -- including alternatives to the current distribution of propane through Line 5, which poses an unacceptable threat to The Great Lakes.

"Our jobs, economy, and public health depend on the preservation of The Great Lakes, which literally define us as a state," said Whitmer. "Enbridge has a disappointing safety record in Michigan, and the dual pipelines that run through the Straits of Mackinac create an unacceptable risk of an oil spill by anchor strike or other means. Such an event would be catastrophic for The Great Lakes and our economy, and would send energy costs skyrocketing for UP families. This task force will help make recommendations that ensure the UP's energy needs are met in a manner that is reliable, affordable, and environmentally sound."

UP residents are currently incurring some of the highest electricity rates in the nation. Implementing real energy solutions will begin to rein in these high rates and provide relief to hardworking UP residents.

Moreover, about 25 percent of UP residents use propane for home heating, and much of that propane is delivered through the Line 5 pipeline. The future of Line 5, however, is uncertain.  As a report this week from the National Transportation Safety Board made abundantly clear, only by happenstance did Michigan avoid a catastrophic oil spill in The Great Lakes just last year, when a 12,000 pound anchor inadvertently dragged across the bottomlands of the Straits of Mackinac struck Line 5.* The unacceptable threat posed by the continued operation of the pipelines through the Straits, as well as the lack of an established back-up propane distribution system were Line 5 to malfunction, make developing alternative solutions a priority.

Attorney General Dana Nessel commented in support of Gov. Whitmer's Executive Order establishing the U.P. Energy Task Force.

"I commend Gov. Whitmer for taking a proactive approach to ensuring our UP residents have a long-term solution that reins in the exorbitant energy costs they face each day," Nessel said. "Enbridge has made clear its primary focus is its bottom line. And while the Governor and I work in tandem to decommission Line 5 as quickly as possible to protect our Great Lakes and the health and safety of our residents, her task force is a necessary step to ensure we meet the energy needs of all our state’s residents for generations to come."

Executive Order 2019-14 establishes the UP Energy Task Force, which will address the significant energy challenges that UP residents are facing. This task force will look for alternative, long-term solutions to rein in UP energy rates in regions facing the highest costs and identify alternatives to meeting the UP’s current propane-supply needs. The UP Energy Task Force is charged to do the following:
  • Be an advisory body to the governor within the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).
  • Consist of at least 13 voting members appointed by the governor, all of whom must be Michigan residents and possess relevant expertise.
  • Formulate solutions for meeting the UP’s energy needs, with a focus on security, reliability, affordability, and environmental soundness.
  •  Complete a final report in two stages. First, by submitting a propane plan to the governor by March 31, 2020, which will focus on alternative means to supply propane in the event of a Line 5 shut down. Second, by submitting the remainder of its report by March 31, 2021. 
This executive order will be effective immediately upon filing.

To view the full executive order click here.

Inset photo: Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

* Editor's Note: See our June 5, 2019, article, "Michigan AG Nessel: Safety Board Report on Line 5 Anchor Strike means operating Line 5 'incredibly dangerous.'"