Sunday, February 12, 2012

Updated: Stand for the Land: Rio Tinto continues push for wilderness haul road

This map, displayed at the Sept. 19, 2011, Marquette County Road Commission meeting, shows the two possible haul routes for the Rio Tinto / Kennecott Eagle Mine. The red north-south route is an approximate projection of the proposed County Road 595, which would have ecological impacts, especially on wetlands. The longer route, in black, would use present roads: the Triple A Road (heading east from the mine site), CR 510, CR 550, and US 41 (heading west) to the Humboldt processing mill. Click on map for larger version. (Photo of map by Keweenaw Now)

From Stand for the Land
Posted Feb. 10, 2012
Reprinted with permission.

MARQUETTE -- Marquette County Engineer-Manager Jim Iwanicki scheduled meetings this week with staff from the offices of US Rep. Dan Benishek, US Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, and Governor Rick Snyder.*

The purpose of his visit, as reported in the Marquette Mining Journal, was to make sure the lawmakers were "up to date" and to "provide them with any information they might need and ensure the road commission is doing everything it needs to do."

Michigan’s state legislators have passed several key laws recently that will benefit extractive industry in the State:

Road commissions and the Michigan Department of Transportation are now exempt from mitigation permit requirements for work within existing road right-of-ways.

Local government zoning ordinances may no longer prohibit the extraction, by mining, of valuable natural resources unless "very serious" environmental consequences would result.

The process for granting easements across state land has been revised, and it is now mandatory to grant an easement if certain conditions are met, primarily if it isn’t an "environmentally sensitive" area.

State regulatory officials, including DNR Director Rodney Stokes, are helping things along, also.

According to a Michigan Association of Timbermen May 2011 legislative update, "Michigan’s new director of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has stated on numerous occasions that he is reaching out to the state’s timber, oil/gas and mining industries to see if there are any state rules that create a hindrance toward them doing business in Michigan."

And Governor Snyder has made it clear that UP timber and mining offer key opportunities for filling Michigan’s coffers -- which leads us back to Kennecott’s haul road.

Never mind that a nearly identical route was submitted in 2009 and subsequently rejected by both state and federal regulators primarily due to adverse effects on wetlands.**

Kennecott’s parent company, Rio Tinto, in their arrogance, expects to get what they want.

The DEQ (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) will hold a public hearing on the CR 595 proposal from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, at the Country Village Banquet and Conference Center in Ishpeming, Michigan. Concerned citizens may submit comments, both oral and written. Click here for more information.

Click here to read Big Bay resident Carla Champagne's letter,"Purpose is to haul."

Editor's Notes:

* In response to our inquiries on the Road Commission meetings in Washington this week, Keweenaw Now received this statement from Tara Andringa, Sen. Levin's press secretary, on Thursday, Feb. 9: "Senator Levin’s staff met today with members of the Marquette County Road Commission at the commission’s request. Among the topics discussed was the proposed County Road 595 project. Senator Levin’s office has heard from parties on both sides of this issue. At this stage in the process, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is the lead agency considering the project. MDEQ will hold a public hearing on February 21 where members of the public can register their opinions, and Senator Levin will monitor that process."

Ms. Andringa added later, "The staff has had communications with EPA on it."

** For background on the wetlands issue and the original role of the EPA in regulating this road, see Gabriel Caplett's March 11, 2011 article,
"EPA to Respond to Levin, Stabenow’s Rio Tinto Road Request," in Headwaters News.

Update: See Gabriel Caplett's Feb. 12, 2012, letter to the editor, "Digging for truth," in today's Marquette Mining Journal.

Visit SavetheWildUP.org for important information and links concerning this road issue.

Visit the Marquette County Road Commission Web site for links to the permit application to the DEQ for County Road 595.

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