Wednesday, September 12, 2012

EPA Hearing on CR 595: Part 2: Comments

By Michele Bourdieu

[Editor's Note: This is Part 2 in a series of two articles on the Aug. 28, 2012, Environmental Protection Agency Public Hearing on proposed CR 595 in Marquette County.]*

Listening to public comments at the Aug. 28, 2012, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Public Hearing on EPA's objections to a permit application by the Marquette County Road Commission for the proposed County Road 595, are, from left, Peter Swenson, EPA Region 5 (Chicago) Water Division, Watersheds and Wetlands Branch chief; Sue Elston of EPA Region 5 Watersheds and Wetlands Branch; and Steve Casey, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Water Resources Division Upper Peninsula district supervisor. (Photos © and courtesy Jeremiah Eagle Eye, unless otherwise indicated. Reprinted with permission.)

MARQUETTE -- Following the one-hour informal question-answer session, the formal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Public Hearing on the Marquette County Road Commission's (MCRC's) permit application for the proposed County Road 595, a 21-mile haul road through the wilderness to connect Rio Tinto's Eagle Mine with the Humboldt Mill near US 41, lasted from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Aug. 28, 2012. As the hearing began, an audience of nearly 400 filled the Great Lakes Rooms of the University Center at Northern Michigan University.

EPA Region 5 (Chicago) Water Division has objected to the permit application because of impacts to wetlands and streams and inadequate wetland mitigation plans.

EPA hears elected officials supportive of CR 595 for more than an hour before calling on concerned citizens

Those who wished to speak at the formal hearing were asked to sign in at the door. While many supporters of the EPA's objections to the road arrived and signed in early, they had to wait more than an hour while nearly all the elected officials spoke in favor of the proposed CR 595 before any names of individual citizens were called.

Jessica Koski, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) mining technical assistant, was one of the last called to speak. Her time was cut from the originally allowed three minutes to two minutes merely because time was running out as the clock neared 10 p.m. when she finally spoke.

At about two and a half hours into the three-hour public hearing, Jessica Koski, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) mining technical assistant, was called to present her comments on CR 595. After the hearing, Koski said, "The numerous politicians (who all had the privilege of going first before Ojibwa people and locally affected citizens) want the road for jobs and foreseeable future jobs the road could open up to development. Their strong-held vision is merely unsustainable resource exploitation in our treaty territory and homelands of the Upper Great Lakes region."

Koski said her community (1400 residents in Baraga and Marquette counties) asks the EPA to uphold their concerns and objections and the spirit and integrity of the Clean Water Act.

"And also please uphold federal treaty obligations to the federally recognized tribes in these territories that will be impacted," Koski said.

Koski held up photos of the mine and Eagle Rock, a sacred site for her people, where CR 595 would begin -- and the Humboldt Mill, where it would end and "where about 2.5 million tons of sulfide-bearing waste is to be deposited for eternity and left here for future generations."

The Humboldt Mill, pictured here, is the end point for the proposed CR 595. Rio Tinto changed its original plan to haul ore to a railhead close to the Eagle Mine when the company bought the mill, where, according to the Rio Tinto Web site, the ore is to be processed into separate nickel and copper concentrates and then transported via rail to an offsite smelter, while the tailings will be sent to the Humboldt Tailings Disposal Facility. (Photo © and courtesy Jeremiah Eagle Eye. Reprinted with permission.)

"It is very clear that this is a road to destruction," Koski said, "and I ask the EPA to please seriously question the project purpose and to hold Rio Tinto responsible for applying and for paying for their permit and for their project."**

Nancie Lamb, a KBIC tribal descendant, said the road could pose a considerable threat to cultural resources still used and being revitalized by the tribe. She mentioned the plants (many located in wetlands) in the proposed CR 595 area that are used by the Great Lakes Ojibwa for traditional food and medicinal purposes.

Nancie Lamb, a KBIC tribal descendant, comments on treaty rights and Ojibwa cultural resources that could be impacted by CR 595.

"The proposed road is located within the territory where KBIC and its tribal members reserve treaty rights under the treaty of 1842," she said.**

Chuck Brumleve, mining specialist for the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, said KBIC agrees with the EPA, Fish and Wildlife Service and Army Corps of Engineers on their objections to CR 595.

"We agree with the EPA objections and find them well founded," Brumleve said. "We're mystified why MCRC (the Road Commission) and the State are so insistent on this specific haul route and so reluctant to consider perfectly practical and viable alternative ore haul routes. We're also a little mystified as to why the County is acting as developers and attempting to open the area up to development. It's a senseless, unjustifiable disruption of an undisturbed area."

Michelle Halley, National Wildlife Federation attorney and Lake Superior Project senior manager, in her letter to EPA noting potential threats to wildlife by the proposed County Road 595, also commented on the order of speakers at the hearing: "Last, I must commend Ms. Hyde on her facilitation of the public hearing held in Marquette on August 28. She handled a large and passionate crowd very well. My one concern about the evening was that while elected officials were invited to speak first, representatives of tribal sovereign nations were left with the dregs until after 10 p.m. This seemed to me a real slap in the face to the tribal nations present that evening."***

Michelle Halley, National Wildlife Federation (NWF) attorney and Lake Superior Project senior manager, delivers comments from NWF, one of the organizations involved in a lawsuit against Rio Tinto-Kennecott challenging their mining permit, was called to speak toward the end of the hearing, close to 10 p.m., when comments were limited to two minutes and many members of the audience had left. Behind her, next to speak, is Teresa Bertossi of Headwaters News, who has written extensively on the sulfide mining issue.

At the hearing, Halley gave several reasons why rail would be a better alternative than CR 595 for hauling ore and timber.

"Construction of a railway would create significant jobs," Halley said. "Rail is infinitely safer than motor vehicle traffic. Rail transportation is far more fuel efficient and air emission efficient than motor vehicle traffic probably will ever be. Rail transportation would conserve wetlands and minimize impacts to critical wildlife habitat and corridors."

With less than a half hour left for comments toward the end of the hearing, Emily Whittaker, Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve (YDWP) executive director, briefly summarized concerns in letter they sent to EPA so that others could speak.

Emily Whittaker, Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve (YDWP) executive director, summarizes YDWP's concerns about CR 595 for the EPA panel.

Whittaker said YDWP opposes CR 595 because of their concerns about sedimentation, fragmentation -- potential of increased moose-vehicle accidents, the "guise of increased recreational opportunities" (there are already plenty of recreational opportunities) and the false purpose statement in the permit application. ****

In answer to a question on how the EPA decided the order of speakers making comments, Tinka Hyde, EPA Region 5 Water Division director, told Keweenaw Now, "It is standard practice to invite elected officials to speak first as I noted in my opening remarks. The number of County and Township officials was significant. We did hold speakers to 3 minutes initially and eventually to 2 minutes to ensure all speakers were given a chance to speak."

Here are the opening remarks at the hearing from Tinka Hyde of EPA and Steve Casey, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Water Resources Division Upper Peninsula district supervisor:

In this video clip Hyde explains the EPA's procedures for reviewing all comments and making a decision on whether to maintain, modify or withdraw its objection to the permit application. Steve Casey, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Water Resources Division Upper Peninsula district supervisor, explains the MDEQ's role in the permitting process. (Video clips by Keweenaw Now)

Representatives from Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow and First District Congressman Dan Benishek were called first to read the senators' and the Congressman's letters to the EPA. Following these were more political figures -- a representative from Gov. Snyder's office, State Sen. Tom Casperson, 110th District
State Rep. Matt Huuki, and various county and township officials -- nearly all expressing support for CR 595.

Amy Berglund, Upper Peninsula representative for Sen. Carl Levin, read a letter from the Senator to the EPA. Levin noted the area of the proposed CR 595 has a long history of logging, excavating and motorized recreation and is already crossed by vehicles. He said the proposed road, by avoiding the longer route through busy Marquette roads and streets, would increase safety, save carbon-producing fuel and provide access in case of flooding that has occurred in the area in the past. He pointed out the applicant (Marquette County Road Commission) is planning to mitigate wetland impacts by preserving 25 acres of wetland for every one acre impacted.

"The protection of the wetlands is vital to the health of our water resources, including our precious Great Lakes. It is in all of our interests to protect wetlands, which filter contaminants, prevent flooding and erosion and provide habitat for a variety of birds, animals and plants; however, such protection provided for in the Clean Water Act must also consider whether there are practicable alternatives (that would have less adverse impact to the aquatic ecosystem)," Levin writes.

"In this case, it appears there may be no practicable alternative to CR 595 other than the route through the city of Marquette because funding for an alternative route is not available," Levin adds.

Toward the end of the hearing Teresa Bertossi referred to this comment by Sen. Levin.

She asked the EPA panel to "consider that so far Rio Tinto has not really shown that they will fully fund 595. Therefore by (Sen.) Levin's own definition 595 is also not a practicable alternative."

Jeremy Hoskins, Sen. Debbie Stabenow's Northern Michigan representative, read a short letter from Stabenow in which she says, "County Road 595 is strongly supported by many community leaders and is of great economic importance to the region."

A representative from First District Congressman Dan Benishek read a letter of full support for the construction of CR 595, which "will provide the most direct route between the Eagle Mine and Humboldt Mill."

He added his belief that there are no practicable alternatives and CR 595 will bring both temporary and permanent jobs to the area.

A representative for Gov. Snyder's office addressed a letter of support for CR 595 to Susan Hedman, EPA Region 5 administrator (rather than to the EPA Water Division's Watersheds and Wetlands Branch that is handling the permit) -- a letter coming apparently not from the Governor but from the directors of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and the Michigan Department of Transportation.

"In our opinion the public benefits achieved from permitting the construction of CR 595 clearly outweigh the resource impacts involved," the letter concludes.

State Sen. Tom Casperson appeared in person to speak of his support for CR 595, saying, "Clearly we have the support of the people to move forward on this thing."

That statement was followed by booing from the audience:

State Sen. Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) is booed by many in the audience at the Aug. 28, 2012, EPA Public Hearing on CR 595 when he asserts that most of his constituents support the road. This video clip also includes statements of support for CR 595 by Matt Huuki, Michigan 110th District representative (R-Atlantic Mine); Jim Iwanicki, Marquette County Road Commission engineer manager (representing the permit applicant); and Debbie Pellow, Marquette County Board chair.

Matt Huuki, 110th District State Representative, like Casperson, seemed to assume his constituents are in support of CR 595.

"I want to give it (CR 595) the support from the 110th District," Huuki said in his brief comment.

Richard Sloat of Iron River, Mich., prefaced his comments by saying he resented the implications made by politicians and their representatives that they represent him.

"I think that's really unfair," Sloat said.

Richard Sloat of Iron River recalls the US Army Corps of Engineers' opinion on the earlier Woodland Road -- that the haul road should be evaluated along with the mine, mill and tailings under one project.

Sloat also noted the absence of cumulative impact studies involving the mine, haul road and mill. He pointed out that 595, a haul road for the mine, "is the Woodland Road by another name." He cited the Army Corps' comments on the Woodland Road application had stated the mine, haul road, mill and tailings disposal should be evaluated under one project.

He also said he believed hauling by rail (an earlier plan by the company that changed when they purchased the Humboldt Mill) would be preferable and consume less fuel.

Jim Iwanicki, Marquette County Road Commission engineer manager, representing the applicant, spoke about their recent wetland mitigation plan -- approximately 640 "high quality" acres of wetland being preserved and 930 acres of upland to compensate for the 26 acres of impacted wetlands.

"We believe that public safety will be increased," Iwanicki said. "We have gone through a public process at the Road Commission to determine this is best for the public here in Marquette County."

Debbie Pellow, Marquette County Board chairperson, affirmed the County Board has supported the road from the beginning.

"We support this for emergency services, economic development -- including the timber industry that really wants this badly -- recreation development," Pellow said. "Alternative[s] 2 and 3 are longer and they're more costly."

After the hearing, Catherine Parker of Marquette, an opponent of CR 595 who has attended most MCRC meetings and followed the CR 595 plans closely, expressed shock at Levin's and Stabenow's support of CR 595 and dismayed at the lack of political representation for those concerned about the environment and supportive of the EPA objections.

"I was saddened and shocked by their outright support for this project," Parker said of the messages from the two Michigan Democratic Senators. "The crowd seemed stunned into silence. The jeers accompanying comments from Tom Casperson and from Benishek's aide were much deserved, in my opinion, and a reflection of the feeling that we do not have a voice in Lansing, either."

Catherine Parker of Marquette, who has attended most Marquette County Road Commission meetings and followed federal objections to the previous Woodland Road proposal by Kennecott, comments on CR 595 at the Aug. 28 hearing. "As with the Woodland Road, the project purpose for 595 has been defined specifically to accommodate Kennecott’s wishes, to the exclusion of other, less-damaging alternatives," Parker said. "It does not have to be taken at face value by the EPA. Since the project purpose is deceptive, and road-building is not a wetland-dependent activity, the whole application should be thrown out as an obvious attempt to skirt the regulations."

Unlike most of the local officials who spoke, Marquette County Commissioner Michael Quayle asked the EPA and MDEQ decision makers to make a decision based on law and not to bow to pressure placed on them by individuals on either side because their decision will have a long-term impact on Marquette County.

"I am not a member of any organization that would have a vested interest in this matter," Quayle said. "I simply represent the citizens of Marquette County."

Quayle, a former law enforcement officer, said Rio Tinto's having the County apply for their road permit was setting a dangerous precedent where companies can pressure local governments to apply for their permits. He noted he believed Rio Tinto should be completely responsible for applying for the road or a railroad plan and bear the entire cost.

Sheriff, city officials: Road would improve safety, emergency response

Describing the difficulties of answering emergency calls in the remote areas of the northwest part of the county, Michael Lovelace, Marquette County Sheriff, spoke in support of the proposed paved road and its potential effects on emergency response.

Marquette County Sheriff Michael Lovelace speaks in favor of CR 595 because of safety issues and emergency response.

"That is one long haul back there in the woods and if you're on a rescue sled it's not fun," the Sheriff said.

The elimination of heavy truck traffic on the city roads of Marquette, Negaunee and Ishpeming would enhance public safety and reduce the potential of accidents, Lovelace added.

"If you're going to run these trucks through the cities it's going to be a nightmare," he said.

Marquette City Commissioner Don Ryan echoed the Sheriff's concerns for public safety and added a concern for the quality of life of those living along the route should the mine trucks transport the ore through city roads.

"Wetlands can be replaced," Ryan said. "Human lives cannot be replaced. The opportunity for serious traffic accidents is greatly increased without County Road 595."

Other city commissioners and township officials made similar statements about safety in their statements of support for CR 595.

John Haan, MTU graduate and mining engineer, who recently returned to Michigan, is currently the Project director for Rio Tinto's Eagle Project. He expressed support for CR 595 and said he believed it would enhance public safety. 

Joe Derocha, Humboldt Township supervisor, read a statement concerning the Humboldt Township Weight Limit Ordinance of August 2012 to direct trucks to CR FY (as part of the CR 595 route) rather than CR FX (Wolf Lake Road), a residential area. (Humboldt Township supports CR 595 and appears to welcome Rio Tinto's use of the Humboldt Mill for processing its ore in spite of the fact that the company will deposit 2.5 million tons of sulfide tailings in the Humboldt Mill pit.)

Joe Derocha, Humboldt Township supervisor, a supporter of CR 595, requests that the Road Commission's preferred route include CR FY as a truck route rather than CR FX, which is in a residential area but impacts fewer wetlands.

Residents challenge stated "purpose," "need" for road

Daryl Wilcox, outgoing Powell Township supervisor, said his township has supported CR 595, but not as a road that dead ends at the nearby Eagle Mine.

"It (CR 595) is a dead-end primary road with no connection to Powell Township, even though the mine is one mile off. Big Bay is the closest community to that mine." Wilcox

Daryl Wilcox, outgoing Powell Township supervisor, says his township will suffer economically if CR 595 is built and dead ends at the Eagle Mine, isolating the Big Bay area.

Wilcox noted the Marquette County Road Commission has no plan to upgrade CR 510 or AAA for year-round traffic. He said Kennecott stated that once CR 595 is built there will be no commercial traffic allowed up to the mine from CR 550. This choice will bring serious economic harm to Powell Township, and that harm has not been addressed in any document or meeting of county government, Wilcox added.*****

Kristi Mills of Big Bay, former director of Save the Wild UP, thanked Wilcox for standing up and trying to make the point that 595 is a road to nowhere that is not going to benefit Big Bay's economy. Mills said although she had originally signed a petition against having the trucks on 550, she thought a creative solution for trucks on 550 would be preferable to the potential wetland destruction of the proposed 595.

"The common community person has not been allowed at these transportation task force meetings," Mills said. "A third lane, maybe a temporary third lane on 550, upgrades to our bridges along 550 around Marquette would be the more creative alternative -- and they haven't looked at that yet."

She told the EPA panel members, "We need you to stand firm on your objections to this road and to the wetlands destruction that it will result in. We need actually more federal oversight on this project (since the project has been piecemealed)."

Other speakers also mentioned the idea of a truck bypass around Marquette.

Constance Sherry, who was born and raised in the UP, said her family members were all in the logging and mining industries. However, she noted the diminishing wilderness of the UP.

"I oppose County Road 595 for that reason," Sherry said. "It will bring more people into an area that right now is essentially wild. I think that this road will have a very negative effect on the water, and I support a road not in Marquette but a Marquette bypass."

Most of the comments in support of the EPA's objections to the road came more than an hour into the hearing when individual citizens rather than political figures were finally called to speak.

"What will you tell your grandchildren?" asked Rosa Musket of Marquette, one of the first to comment after the township supervisors. "You work to leave a legacy of a healed community; a healthy land; the right to have untainted drinking water; fresh, breathable air -- and there is nothing so desirable to trade it all."

Gene Champagne of Big Bay received both laughter and applause for renaming Marquette County.

"First of all, thank you for being here and welcome to Kennecott County. I appreciate your patience as you sat here and listened to an hour and ten minutes of politicians' 'speak' before citizens could get up and speak," Champagne said. "I agree with all the objections you have raised and have a few more of my own that you may wish to consider."

Gene Champagne of Big Bay welcomes the EPA representatives to "Kennecott County."
Champagne noted other alternatives on the map start with Kennecott and end with Kennecott. He reminded the EPA and MDEQ officials that the "Kennecott County Board" didn't object to using CR 550 when the permit came out.

"And then the Woodland Road came out and a federal agency called it for what it was -- 'a haul road for Kennecott,'" Champagne noted. "Now ... Kennecott went to the Kennecott County Board, went to the Kennecott County Road Commission -- and here we have Kennecott Road 595. You can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig. You ... said you have to consider the purpose and need for this road. For that you would need a Justice Department here to look at a fraudulent permit. One of the stated objects was improved economy in Marquette County. I live in the northernmost community of Big Bay in Marquette County -- the northernmost township. No one up there was considered for this."

Champagne said no studies or plans were done for this (road) when the Woodland Road was dismissed.

"My township stands to lose," Champagne said."And I'm not an advocate for putting them on 550, by any means. It shouldn't be 550 or 595. It should be the least damaging consideration. And there are least damaging considerations. The area that they are proposing to go through for some temporary jobs -- and there will be jobs in other alternative roads too -- but that area will be lost for generations -- generations of hunters, fishers, berry gatherers, people in camps ... That's a rare thing that we have left and that will be lost for generations, and there's no price you can put on that."

Lloyd Matthes, director of the Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Commission repeated the "purpose" and "needs" stated in the MCRC permit application and said the Commission agreed CR 595 would be consistent with the master plans for the County and Humboldt Township and necessary for economic development.

On the other hand, most of those opposed to CR 595 object to the "purpose" as stated in the permit application: "The purpose of the proposed CR 595 project is to construct a primary county north-south road that (1) connects and improves emergency, commercial and recreational access to a somewhat isolated but key industrial, commercial and recreational area in northwest Marquette County to US-41, and (2) reduces truck travel from this area through the County’s population centers."
Big Bay resident Carla Champagne, for example, told the EPA panel she approved of their objections and had one of her own.

"That is that this road goes from the mine to the mill," she said. "The alternatives go from the mine to the mill. It is a haul road. It should be treated as a mine haul road. The permit should be denied because it is deceptive. They need to follow the law, Part 632, and whatever that entails -- be it financial assurances, reclamation plans, contingency plans, whatever it is. It is a Rio Tinto haul road and should be treated as such."

As for a "need" for the road, Margaret Comfort of Michigamme Township (and formerly of Saginaw, Mich.) said on several occasions she had asked the Marquette County Road Commission to produce a 5- or 10-year plan showing a need for a road in northwest Marquette County, but they have not produced one. There was not a plan for this road until Rio Tinto designed one for them, she said.

Margaret Comfort of Michigamme Township tells EPA representatives she believes CR 595 will help open the entire district to more mining.

"As you might know or suspect, this proposed road will not be one road. It will ultimately be -- if they have their way with us -- an entire district, a lattice work of roads from Big Bay to Keweenaw Bay -- laying waste to one of Michigan's, if not the Upper Great Lakes' last remaining wildernesses."

Comfort said she anticipated, in addition to a north-south road,  east-west routes as well -- opening the entire district to mining.

"The EPA must consider foreseeable industrial activities throughout this region as potential impacts if County Road 595 is built," Comfort said. "Ask Rio Tinto to lay its cards on the table. First there was a mine; then there was a built mill; now there's the road. They are purposely doing business piecemeal."

Residents ask EPA to retain objections, protect water

Reading her passionate letter addressed to EPA, Marquette resident Lillian Heldreth said the road would be built for one reason only -- to be a haul road for Rio Tinto. Otherwise it would be "a road through nowhere to nowhere."

Marquette resident Lillian Heldreth reads her letter to EPA and asks them to do their job and deny the permit for CR 595.

"And it will forever turn the nowhere it bisects into somewhere else where people can run their machines and throw their trash, a place where a solitary hunter can no longer walk in silence," Heldreth added.

Heldreth asked the EPA to do their job and deny this permit -- for the sake of future generations. ******

Paul Rhodea said he works for Rio Tinto as a construction manager (though he was speaking for himself) and has lived in the area for 13 years.

"I'm considered a local hire like 60 percent of the other people. Many of them are NMU (Northern Michigan University) graduates or Michigan Tech graduates," Rhodea said. "I don't feel that the villain that is being described is quite the villain people are worried about.

Rhodea said although using 550 is the most economical path, Rio Tinto prefers 595 for several reasons: public safety, social license, a petition of over 900 signatures (against having the trucks haul through Marquette), emergency access and recreational use. He mentioned the wetland mitigation and said he was impressed by Rio Tinto's sensitivity for the environment during construction and for safety. He noted Rio Tinto has talked about financing the road if construction is able to start by next June.

"If it goes later than that it's not viable. It's less attractive. It's still valuable for other users, but our value diminishes if it doesn't support the project," Rhodea said.

Kurt Larson of Marquette said he was not opposed to mining or logging, but putting a road through the 595 corridor would change a wilderness area forever. He asked the EPA to consider the alternate routes with less impact.

Esteban Chiriboga of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) gave several examples of pollution from ore dust on haul roads in an aquatic environment, including the contamination at Kennecott's Flambeau Mine in Wisconsin.

In this video clip Kurt Larson of Marquette asks EPA not to allow CR 595 to destroy the wilderness. Esteban Chiriboga of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) speaks on the danger of ore dust contamination of aquatic resources.

Barbara Bradley of Skandia thanked the EPA officials for coming to Marquette and expressed her hope that they would have the courage to protect the environment.

"From what I have seen so far the EPA has thoroughly reviewed and considered the facts in a timely and scientifically wise manner; and I hope you will continue to do so regardless of the pressure from the Michigan DEQ, the Marquette County Road Commission, certain local officials and business people and -- from behind the scenes -- Kennecott."

Bradley said the MCRC has shown an "improper use of authority" and "a serious lack of judgment" and is taking a gamble with taxpayers' money.

Lutheran Pastor Jon Magnuson, one of 100 faith leaders in Marquette County who have publicly opposed Rio Tinto's Eagle Mine since 2006, encouraged the EPA officials to
"be courageous and not be swayed by emotion." He also cited a Forest Service botanist who told him this area has species of plants and wildlife that are unique on the planet.

Lutheran Pastor Jon Magnuson reminds the EPA panel that they have a mandate under the Clean Water Act to protect the water resources that this proposed road could destroy.

Chuck Swedehorn -- former superintendent of highway safety in Anchorage, Alaska -- said he had recently returned to the Marquette area where he was born and raised. His concern is that salt added to sand on the road could damage the chemistry of the soils along the proposed CR 595. He concluded from his research that this damage could extend 650 feet on each side of the road. The area of potential damage to the soil, insects, small animals, amphibians and trees calculates up to more than 2000 acres.

"It looks to me like this road (with two 12-foot lanes and basically no shoulder) is way too narrow," he added. "Nobody's done any research on the railroads (which don't need salt and sand)."

Another local resident who spoke about the impacts of salt on the streams and trees along the road and the small size of the road was Doug Swenor.

"People are going to get hurt on that road," he said.

Swenor said he was very familiar with the proposed 595 corridor and believed this road construction would not be worth the amount of environmental damage. He mentioned the area is subject to "unbelievably huge amounts of snowfall" -- a fact that he did not see mentioned in the permit application or any of the studies by county agencies. He noted also impacts from materials used for the building of the road, such as gravel pits, have not been considered. Swenor said he believed previous environmental impact studies for the road were rushed through to completion and are deeply flawed.

"More detailed and comprehensive studies are required," Swenor said. "I suggest a two-year moratorium on the building of this road."

Lucy Wilcox of Marquette commented on a recent ad that says "Build a better UP."

"Some of us think that Mother Nature did a really fine job and that we don't have to build a better UP -- and that a huge part of that is our water," she said.

Wilcox mentioned Kennecott's mine has raised a serious concern for Lake Superior to the north and now this road raises concerns for the water to the south.

"Do we let them have the risk of the north and the south water in our community and our UP? I just don't think that we can not pay attention to wetlands and water to the south because of a road that the mine wants, that other people are now saying they need suddenly, when they didn't need this before Kennecott came here."

Cynthia Pryor of Big Bay, who lives on the current haul road near the Eagle Mine, stated Kennecott has not done a cumulative (mine to road to mill) environmental assessment required by law.

In the permit application the transportation plan was to haul the ore down CR 550 to a railhead to the Humboldt Mill, Pryor noted.

Cynthia Pryor of Big Bay speaks about Kennecott's original plan to haul ore by rail.

"The railroad is there. They can do it," Pryor said. "It would save a huge amount of dollars on their side. It would save all of the impact to cities and people -- and save our vast resources that are out in the Michgamme Highlands. Groups have worked for years to conserve, preserve the Michigamme highlands and the Yellow Dog Plains. It is now held out as a sacrifice zone."

Gabriel Caplett of Skandia said the Road Commission, the County Board, Rio Tinto and others are offering people a false choice of two options -- building 595 or driving trucks through Marquette -- but haven't told people about a potential bypass in Marquette Township (included in the township's Master Plan) and Rio Tinto's original plan to load the ore onto rail cars -- two options that would both reduce truck traffic in population centers. Many other options would create jobs -- even more than the proposed CR 595 route would, he added.

"The applicant still does not have a sound plan," Caplett said. "This road is not a public road. The County cannot produce a single piece of information showing there was a need for this road prior to  Rio Tinto getting the County to apply for them."

Laura Nagle, representing mining engineer Jack Parker, also mentioned the original rail option as the best alternative. The mill would not be needed since the waste would be shipped by rail with the ore and would be recoverable and marketable.

Nagle also spoke on behalf of Students for Sustainable Living, saying, "As native to Michigan I understand that we are in a position to be leaders of fresh water. We are unique not just for our minerals but for our fresh water, and if we cannot keep that safe then we do not have a livelihood."

Plum Creek Timber Co. representative Dave Tormohlen stated his company's support for CR 595, noting the road would serve other uses besides the Eagle Mine ore transport, including recreation, businesses and the timber industry. In addition, he noted, the road would improve access to this part of the county, remove truck traffic from populated areas and reduce fuel consumption.

On the other hand, many residents question the long-term use of the road and whether Rio Tinto will continue to pay for the road maintenance after the mine closes since the MCRC does not have enough funding for adequate maintenance of existing roads and bridges.

Dale Throenle, a resident of K.I. Sawyer, said the Road Commission's Jim Iwanicki had told his community group the MCRC was underfunded and understaffed. He said he wondered how they could handle another 22-mile road. As a hunter and fisherman he noted also that this road would mean snowmobiles and ATVs would create more trails through the woods since they would no longer have use of the present two-track.

Teresa Schwalbach, Emergency Management coordinator for Marquette County, expressed support for CR 595, offering the 2003 Dead River flood as an example of a need for access by emergency responders.

Wendy Frye, who works at Bell Hospital (in neighboring Ishpeming), said in terms of emergency responsiveness no trauma is going to come there. It will go to Marquette General Hospital. Frye told EPA representatives she believed all three options other than the present route on city roads should be rejected as unviable since she believed the additional traffic would amount to only five vehicles per hour, which could be handled. Her objection to CR 595 was based on short-term gains as opposed to long-term costs, such as the road maintenance that would fall to the taxpayers.

"It's not clear how long Rio Tinto will be actually in production," she said.

William Malmsten of Ishpeming, who said he moved to Marquette County for hiking and fishing, told the EPA he supports their objections.

"It appalls me that the moral fabric in our state has decayed to the point where powerful corporations are able to use their wealth to manipulate our state and government officials to the point that the integrity of our democracy is threatened," Malmsten said.

The youngest speaker, Jeremiah Moran of Big Bay, was one of the last to speak.

Jeremiah Moran of Big Bay speaks for future generations.

"I support your objections to 595 and I would like all this wilderness and area to stay preserved for future generations," he said.

Jeremiah's Dad, Chauncey Moran, held up photos to show where the road starts and where it ends.

Chauncey Moran of Big Bay holds up a photo showing some of the wetlands that could be impacted by the proposed CR 595. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)
Chauncey Moran said he has walked up and down the site of the proposed CR 595. He  expressed support for the EPA as well as MDEQ and MDNR staff who collected information in the field.

Dan Blondeau, Rio Tinto advisor, Communications and Media Relations for the Eagle Mine, attended the EPA Hearing.

"We were pleased to see the outpouring of support for CR595 during the EPA’s public hearing," Blondeau said. "We’ll continue to support the MCRC in their efforts to acquire permit approval for construction of CR 595."

* Click here to read "EPA Hearing on CR 595 permit: Part 1, Questions."

** Click here to read KBIC's Sept. 4, 2012, letter to EPA with comments on the CR 595 permit application.

*** See Michelle Halley's "Letter: National Wildlife Federation comments to EPA on CR 595"

**** See "Resolution from Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve to EPA"

***** See Daryl Wilcox's "Letter: Truck Route alternative to CR 595 would benefit Marquette"

****** Click here to read Lillian Heldreth's letter to EPA on CR 595.

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