Friday, December 07, 2012

Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve: EPA issues decision on CR 595

From Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve (reprinted with permission)
Posted Dec. 5, 2012*

BIG BAY -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Dec. 4, 2012, that they are both removing and upholding objections to the permit for County Road 595. The objection over whether the Marquette County Road Commission did an adequate job analyzing the alternative routes was removed. The objection over whether the Road Commission supplied an adequate Compensatory Mitigation Plan was upheld.

This wetland in the proposed CR 595 corridor is one of many sensitive areas that would be impacted by the proposed wilderness road intended primarily for hauling ore from the Eagle Mine to the Humboldt Mill. In their recent decision on the permit application for the proposed road, EPA continues to object to the inadequacies in the Compensatory Mitigation Plan for wetland and stream impacts. (Keweenaw Now file photo © and courtesy Jessica Koski)

Originally, the EPA came up with their objections in April 2012, with the consultation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The main issues they saw with the project were the potential for damaging impacts on aquatic resources, a lack of information regarding alternatives analysis, and a project purpose that was too narrowly defined. After allowing the permit applicant to resubmit information regarding the EPA's concerns, as well as holding a public hearing and soliciting public comments, they have now supplied their decision letter. Along with the decision letter was a document listing the requirements that the applicant needs in order to satisfy the EPA's only remaining objection over the Mitigation Plan.

That letter states that the applicant will be required to supply more information, such as a long term management plan for streams and wetland mitigation, secured mineral rights of wetland preservation area, a stewardship agreement with a third party who will maintain the proposed preservation area, and demonstrated financial assurances for construction and long term management of aquatic resources.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has 30 days to satisfy the objection by either denying the permit or issuing a permit for the application that contains a sufficient Compensatory Mitigation Plan. If the MDEQ does not act within that time period, the permit application would then be transferred to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"For those of us who were, and still are, very concerned about the full impacts this project would have, we are glad that at least one objection has been upheld," states Emily Whittaker, Executive Director of Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve. "We particularly are interested to see how the applicant will respond to the numerous requirements needed before the permit can be issued or work started. We also request the chance to review the additional documentation that would be supplied for the project's Compensatory Mitigation Plan."

At the Aug. 28, 2012, EPA Public Hearing on CR 595 in Marquette, Emily Whittaker, Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve (YDWP) executive director, summarizes YDWP's concerns about CR 595 for the EPA panel. (Keweenaw Now file photo © and courtesy Jeremiah Eagle Eye)**

For more information on the EPA's action, visit their website at http://www.epa.gov/region5/water/cr595/. This website has the documentation including the EPA's letter to the MDEQ, the EPA's list of requirements for the mitigation plan, and all past documents regarding the project.

Editor's Notes:
* The Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve is an environmental organization comprised of grassroots individuals who take environmental ethics to heart. They focus on informing the public about the watershed, conducting sound science, and protecting the resources from threats like sulfide mining. Learn more about their work by visiting their Web site at http://www.yellowdogwatershed.org.

**Members of the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve (YDWP), including their Executive Director, Emily Whittaker, spoke during the comment period at the Aug. 28, 2012, EPA Public Hearing on County Road 595. Click here for part 2 of Keweenaw Now's coverage of that hearing. Click here to read YDWP's formal resolution on CR 595, sent to the EPA during the public comment period.

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