Thursday, October 18, 2007

Keweenaw Kafé to celebrate "Lights On Afterschool!" Oct. 18

MOHAWK -- Come join Keweenaw Krayons in support of after school programs at the Keweenaw Kafé "Lights On Afterschool!" celebration from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, at the AmericInn in Calumet. This event is one of thousands across the nation including the lighting up of the Empire State Building.

Kelly Suvanto will play favorites on her fiddle from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and again from 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Rhythm 203 with Norm Kendall, Sue Ellen Kingsley and Phyllis Fredendall will play a variety of tunes from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Kelly Suvanto plays her fiddle with the group Maple Sugar Folk at the August 2007 Calumet Heritage Celebration. Kelly will be playing at Keweenaw Krayons' "Lights on Afterschool!" event Oct. 18 at the AmericInn in Calumet. (Keweenaw Now file photo © 2007 Michele Anderson)

Drop by, listen to music, have a cup of coffee, buy a piece of pizza, make an art piece, sign a lightbulb to send to Michigan policy makers in support of area youth.

Rhythm 203 plays some favorite folk songs at a Keweenaw Krayons fund raiser last May at the AmericInn in Calumet. Pictured are, from left, Phyllis Fredendall, Norm Kendall and Sue Ellen Kingsley. They will perform here again at the the Oct. 18 Keweenaw Krayons event. (Keweenaw Now file photo © 2007 Gustavo Bourdieu)

During after-school hours, children and teens are more likely to become victims of violent crime than at other times. Many teens get involved in dangerous and risky activities during the after-school hours -- including using alcohol and drugs, getting arrested and other inappropriate behaviors.

Fortunately, increasing numbers of teens are staying safe and using this time to learn, grow, explore and make a difference by participating in after-school programs.

For more information contact Michelle Perin at 296-0821 or Keweenaw Krayons at 337-4706 or email staff@keweenawkrayons.com. Check out the Keweenaw Krayons Web site for more about their programs.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Council to hold public hearing on housing project ordinance Oct. 17

HANCOCK -- The Hancock City Council will hold a public hearing following their 6:30 p.m. work session and preceding the regular 7:30 p.m. meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 17, in the Council Chambers of City Hall.

The purpose of the public hearing is to take citizen comments on proposed Ordinance #268, "An ordinance to provide for a service charge in lieu of taxes for a proposed multiple family dwelling project for persons of low income to be financed or assisted pursuant to the provisions of the State Housing Development Authority Act of 1966, as amended."

The ordinance is proposed for a project to build Quincy Haven Apartments at 1419 W. Quincy St. in Hancock. Plans for the building, to be owned by the City of Hancock, include 20 units of barrier-free, handicap-accessible housing for low-income families.

The proposed ordinance reads, in part, as follows: "The City of Hancock acknowledges that the Hancock Housing Foundation in its own behalf has offered, subject to receipt of an allocation under the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and a Mortgage Loan from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, to erect, own, and operate a housing development identified as the Quincy Haven Apartments on certain property located on W. Quincy St. and east of Hecla St. in the City of Hancock to serve persons of low income, and that the Sponsor has offered to pay the City of Hancock on account of this housing development an annual service charge for public service in lieu of taxes."

Hancock's Swedetown Creek area may become public park, following 1941 deed

By Michele Anderson

HANCOCK -- New information concerning a 1941 deed through which the City of Hancock acquired its Government Lot 5, presented at the Sept. 19, 2007, meeting of the Hancock City Council, could result in the City's creating a public park rather than selling part of the acreage for residential development.

After hearing from several local residents, still opposed to the sale of land near the recreation area at the mouth of Swedetown Creek and the Portage waterway, the City Council took no action on a recommendation from the Hancock Planning Commission to sell part of Government Lot 5.*

The Council, instead, directed City Manager Glenn Anderson to do some research on the property's potential for becoming a public park.

Patricia Toczydlowski spoke at the Sept. 19 City Council meeting concerning the 1941 deed from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that conveyed the property to the City for $1 with the understanding that it be used solely for park and recreational purposes. The deed included a reversion clause that provided for returning the land to the State of Michigan should it not be used for these purposes.

At the Sept. 19, 2007, Hancock City Council meeting, Patricia Toczydlowski addresses the Council concerning two deeds for transferring ownership of Government Lot 5, including recreational land at Swedetown Creek, from the State of Michigan to the City. The original deed was filed in 1941. Also pictured are Councilmen Bill Laitila, center, and James Hainault. (Photo © 2007 Michele Anderson)

In May 2003 a Quit Claim Deed reversed the reverter clause of the original deed; however, Toczydlowski explained, it still binds the City, in accepting the deed, to A) use the land for recreation while owning it, B) sell the property for fair value when the city no longer needs the land and C) discusses how sale proceeds are to be handled by the County Treasurer with a full account given to the State of Michigan.

"I think there are some real deficiencies in the title report," Toczydlowski said.

She added two questions for the Council:

1) What is the councilors' and the planning commission members' understanding of the distribution of sale proceeds to be handled by the county Treasurer and accounted for to the State of Michigan (not described in the title report)?

2) What process was used and what factors were considered to constitute that the city no longer needs the land?

"I would suggest that, given the breadth of public comment asking that this land remain dedicated for park and recreational purposes, as expressly understood at the time of the original transfer -- and that's been in effect for 60 years to date -- that this is not a decision to be made lightly," Toczydlowski said. "Need is not defined and could serve as a basis for a lawsuit regarding a sale for other than park and recreational purposes."

Toczydlowski noted she was not threatening the Council but pointing out what she perceived to be the proper diligence required given the ambiguity (about "need") in the document.

"In my mind they (City officials) haven't demonstrated that they don't need this property anymore," Toczydlowski said.

According to Michigan law, the deeds also give the public the right of ingress and egress over and across all of the described property lying along any watercourse or stream, she added.

Toczydlowski said she wondered if any of the Councillors saw potential conflict in selling for private use land over which the public may have access rights.

"I don't believe that a sale of this land should even remain under consideration," Toczydlowski said, "but I do feel that these issues I raise really need to be more fully researched before a sale should even be considered and certainly before one should be voted upon."

Susan Burack of Hancock mentioned the "unprecedented response from the public to this issue."

Noting that we live in a democracy where -- when the people speak -- the people in office need to listen, Burack said, "I hope that you will consider the overwhelming concern of the people in this community."

Hancock resident Allyson Jabusch pointed out the value of the Swedetown Creek watershed in Government Lot 5 and gave several reasons why she believes it should be protected.

"This area protects trees, plants, wetlands, sandbars, songbirds and probably even fish," Jabusch said.

She pointed out that a healthy watershed provides good habitat for fish and wildlife, provides an attractive place for recreation, increases property values, filters contaminants to keep water clean, slows storm-water run-off and reduces flooding. By not selling this land the City would preserve trees and shrubs that slow run-off.

Jabusch said she wondered if this area had been studied or observed for flooding potential before a sale was considered.

"This is a well used recreational area (as evidenced by the trail)," Jabusch said. "Citizens of Hancock have already incorporated this area as a park just by the usage (without any cost to the City)."

Jabusch also cited Pat Coleman of U.P. Engineers and Architects in his presentation on the access management plan at the (August) Council meeting as saying the way a community looks helps improve property values.**

"Quality of life depends on having access to parks, waterfronts and riverfronts," Jabusch said. "All of this open space needs to be saved for continued public use and for the wildlife (including migratory birds)."

Jabusch noted the Council has an opportunity to show valuable leadership for the future -- leadership "that works for the community good, to balance the benefits for the few against the benefits for many."

Joe Kaplan, who has written to City officials concerning the Swedetown Creek habitat for migratory birds, said he was interested in hearing more from the Council -- feedback from them on the information provided by the public.

Joe Kaplan, who has urged Hancock City officials to dedicate the entire Swedetown Creek area as a City nature preserve, addresses the Council at their Sept. 19 meeting, asking for feedback. (Photo © 2007 Michele Anderson)

Evan McDonald, executive director of the Keweenaw Land Trust, said if the Council should decide to sell land in Govt. Lot 5 despite the loss of public access, recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat, then a thorough cost-benefit analysis should be shared with the public. He noted the Hancock Schools are looking for a place to do environmental stewardship and Swedetown Creek offers that possibility.

Addressing Hancock City Council members at their Sept. 19 meeting, Evan McDonald, executive director of the Keweenaw Land Trust, suggests Hancock consider the potential of the Swedetown Creek area for use by local schools, who need a location for teaching environmental stewardship. (Photo © 2007 Michele Anderson)

"What does it say to your children? What does is say to your teachers? What does it say to all the non-profits who are working to improve the quality of life of this community?" McDonald asked. "You have a tough job to convince me you're doing the right thing by selling this property."

Hancock Mayor Barry Givens commended the Copper Country Audubon Club for their resolution supporting protection of the Swedetown Creek River mouth riparian area, a high quality habitat for migratory birds, and making up to $1000 -- plus volunteer time -- available for improving public access at the site if certain conditions are met.***

"We have to listen to what the people have said," Givens said.

He suggested City Manager Glenn Anderson might do some research on future recreational uses for Government Lot 5.

Councilman Tom Gemignani referred to the new information presented about the 1941 deed.

"I feel compelled to hold to that agreement," he said.

Councilman James Hainault mentioned the recent Recreation Committee minutes listing several problems and expenses for the City to maintain park areas such as Hancock Beach and the Campground.

"I would be reluctant for us to take on another recreational site when we have several recreational sites in the city that need resources to maintain and upgrade them," Hainault said.

Councilman Bill Laitila said he learned a great deal from the presentations at this meeting, especially from Pat Toczydlowski's comments.

No vote was taken on the Planning Commission's recommendation to the City Council to sell one 20-foot-wide parcel (parcel C) and one 100-foot-wide parcel (parcel B), thus leaving a larger buffer of recreational land near Swedetown Creek and a reduced area for the proposed residential land sale near the mouth of the Creek on Portage Lake.

Instead of a vote, the Council decided to direct City Manager Glenn Anderson to do an analysis on the property and to research how to protect the entire parcel for public use.

Anderson said the Council needs to know "what it would take to put any land into park designation."

He noted land to be designated for a park could be the whole area of Government Lot 5 that has been considered for sale or it could be a part of it.

"That's yet to be determined," Anderson said. "We're seeking advice from our attorney because we haven't put land into a park in many years."

The Hancock City Council will meet at 7:30 p.m. this Wednesday, Oct. 17, in the Council Chambers of Hancock City Hall. The agenda includes mention of of an opinion on City Park Land Description (Government Lot 5).

A work session at 6:30 p.m. will precede the meeting. A public hearing on Proposed Ordinance #268, concerning a proposed low-income multiple-family dwelling project, will follow the work session before the regular meeting. All three meetings are open to the public.

* See our Sept. 17, 2007, article, "Planning Commission recommends larger buffer for Swedetown Creek."

** Pat Coleman also presented this access management plan at the July 23 Hancock City Planning Commission meeting.

*** See "Audubon Club passes resolution on Swedetown Creek habitat protection."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Annie B. Bond to speak on Green Living at MTU Oct. 18

By Rachael Sturtevant

HOUGHTON -- Do you ever think about how common household cleaners affect the environment? Does the mildew cleaner you use in your bathroom make you cough or irritate your eyes? Many marketed cleaning supplies that we use on a regular basis contain toxins that are both harmful to the environment and harmful to people.

Alternatives do exist, however; and an opportunity to explore these alternatives will be offered through a free lecture and free workshop on using and making healthy, natural and non-toxic cleaners on Thursday, Oct. 18, at Michigan Technological University.

The speaker will be the knowledgeable and insightful Annie B. Bond (aka Berthold-Bond), well known among natural living enthusiasts. Annie’s talk, titled "Green Living Myths vs. Reality," will be held from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Room G002 of the Forestry building.

Annie B. Bond will give a free lecture, "Green Living Myths vs. Reality," from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Room G002 of Michigan Tech's Forestry building on Thursday, Oct. 18. Following the lecture, the public is invited to a free workshop on natural household cleaners from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Forestry Atrium. (Photo courtesy Annie B. Bond and Michigan Technological University)

A free workshop will follow the lecture, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Forestry Atrium. Come learn how to make your own natural household cleaners! Annie has been recognized as an environmental leader and has contributed over twenty years of experience in writing and editing books and magazines. She is the executive producer of Care2.com’s Green Living channels, a website and membership designed for reaching out to the world and making a difference with the power of passion. Annie shares a passion for educating others on the connections between the environment and personal health, as she has been subjected to chemical poisoning in the past.

She has authored four books: Home Enlightenment (Rodale Press, 2005), Better Basics for the Home (Three Rivers Press, 1999), Clean and Green (Ceres Press, 1990) and The Green Kitchen Handbook (with Mothers and Others; HarperCollins, 1997). She also wrote the chapter on cleaning in The Healthy School Handbook (NEA Professional Library, 1995).

In addition, Annie is founder and editor in chief of Green Alternatives for Health and the Environment, editor of The Green Guide (a publication of Mothers and Others) and is an award recipient of Utne Reader Alternative Press for general excellence in newsletters.

This event is brought to you by Students for Environmental Sustainability (SfES) with support from MTU's Environmental Sustainability Committee and the Undergraduate Student Government. For more information about Annie Bond, please visit www.care2.com.

Editor's Note: Keweenaw Now contributor Rachael Sturtevant is an MTU student in the Department of Biological Sciences. She is studying biochemistry, molecular biology and ecology.

Viewpoint: Is mining permit based on sound science?



By Chuck Brumleve

I would like to comment on the proposed granting of mining-related permits for the Kennecott Eagle Project by the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Many have brought the environmental risks of a metallic sulfide mineral mine to the forefront of the mining permit discussions. But I am voicing my opinion on the quality of work by the Mining Permit Applicant, Kennecott, owned by Rio Tinto.

Regardless of where you stand on the mining permit question, for or against it, we all expect a certain level of professional quality from both a company filing a mining permit application and our regulatory agencies in accepting and reviewing a permit application.

I have been working with the DEQ since the early '90s and I regret the lack of professionalism displayed by the Department in reviewing the three required permit applications: Mining, Groundwater Discharge and Air Permit Applications.

I am a geologist and engineer of 30 years including 10 years in underground mining. I have submitted many reports to the DEQ and I have seen more rigorous technical review, more thorough analysis given to Closure Reports for gas stations than the review given to the Kennecott applications by the DEQ.

People of this state rely on the DEQ scientists to represent us, the people of the state. There is an inherent trust by us and an inherent responsibility by the DEQ to use sound science and engineering principles to make decisions.

Along with the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, National Wildlife Federation and Huron Mountain Club, I have reviewed the permits and worked with many professional scientists and registered engineers in reviewing these permit applications.

I am very disappointed, very angry that the DEQ, specifically the Office of Geological Survey, has accepted these applications that contain literally hundreds of technical mistakes, poor analyses, missing analyses, missing data, unsubstantiated assumptions, inadequate field work and faulty conclusions. How can the DEQ not only accept Kennecott’s applications but propose to grant permits based on such sloppy, unprofessional and incomplete work as presented in these applications? We’re not talking about "State of the Art" -- only meeting "Industry Standard" work. A university professor would flunk a student for work this poor. If Kennecott cannot do a proper mining permit application, how can they operate a zero discharge sulfide mineral mine -- the first in the world?

If the DEQ grants these permits to Kennecott, the State of Michigan regulatory agencies will set a dangerous precedent for accepting and doing very poor technical work. Due to the base and precious metal "gold rush" now occurring in the Upper Peninsula, several other mineral exploration / mining companies (e.g., Prime Meridian, Bitterroot Resources, Aquila) are out there watching how Kennecott does with its permit applications. If the markets hold, the State can almost certainly expect more mining permit applications. Whether we support this new mining or are dead set against it, shouldn’t we, the people of Michigan, demand good science and workable engineering? DEQ needs to raise the bar -- be scientist and engineers -- not political facilitators!

Editor's Notes: Chuck Brumleve, the author of this article, is a resident of Keweenaw County. Photo of Chuck Brumleve by Gustavo Bourdieu for Keweenaw Now.

See our previous article, "
MDEQ deadline for public comments on proposed Kennecott sulfide mine is Oct. 17, 2007," posted on Oct. 11, for information on how to email your comments to decision makers. See Save the Wild UP for more information on the mining issue.

See also, in the Madison, Wis., Capital Times, the article "Let's keep mine away from U.P. headwaters" by Eric Hansen of Milwaukee, author of Hiking Michigan's Upper Peninsula and Hiking Wisconsin.