Saturday, August 25, 2012

Michigan League of Conservation Voters: This Bill is the Pits!

[Editor's Note: This June 19, 2012, article may be of interest to readers planning to attend the Aug. 28, 2012, EPA Hearing on CR 595 or to comment on the EPA concerns.* Thanks to Jessica Koski for calling attention to this article, which is reprinted here with permission from the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.]

Posted by Michigan League of Conservation Voters
June 19, 2012

A new bill could open up a whole new can of worms for Michigan public land.

Introduced in the midst of the clamor over the attack on northern Michigan public lands, Senate Bill 1164 would require the Department of Natural Resources to approve any request by a county road commission to mine gravel or sand on state land chosen by the county.

Currently, counties already receive a reduced rate to extract gravel from existing gravel pits on state land. The lease approval process takes about three months because it must go through multiple channels of approval, including the Department of Transportation. Under existing guidelines, an approval could not be obtained any sooner. Also, since at least 2000, no new gravel pits have been dug on state land because there has not been a need for them; counties can extract gravel from existing pits without carving new roads and digging new holes on public lands.

Senate Bill 1164, however, turns this process on its head. It requires the DNR to approve contracts within 30 days -- impossible under current procedures -- and allows the county to select both the extraction site and the reclamation plan. Despite already receiving reduced rates from counties, the bill would prohibit the DNR from collecting royalties on either the extracted minerals or fees for the timber cut down on the gravel pit sites -- which can be huge -- and along the access roads.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Thomas Casperson (R - Escanaba). Marquette County, within Sen. Casperson's district, is proposing to build a new road, County Road 595, to serve the Kennecott sulfide mine located at the headwaters of the Salmon Trout River in the Yellow Dog Plains. Kennecott had originally proposed the road as a private haul road called the Woodland Road, but its plans were rejected by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers due to environmental concerns. Now the county wants to build the road for them, which Casperson touted in a letter to Michigan’s two U.S. Senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow.

While it’s unknown whether SB 1164 and CR 595 are in any way related, the bill, if passed, would allow Marquette County -- or any other -- to extract the gravel needed for the road from any state land of its choosing without having to pay royalties to the state. As it relates to CR 595, Kennecott has agreed to fund the road, so this bill could reduce Kennecott’s financial burden in purchasing the gravel needed to build the road, giving away the state’s natural resources to private industries. There is nothing to indicate that the bill and the haul road are purposefully linked, but this could be the result, nonetheless.

As with most legislation, whether or not it is intended to address a specific situation, it will have statewide consequences. Counties who want a closer gravel source than the nearest existing gravel pit could pick one out at their whim, carving new roads through state land. Since the DNR would be prohibited from charging a timber removal fee, someone would be receiving that timber for free, depriving the state of timber sale proceeds from state land. The ability of a county to dig a hole on any state land it chooses could intrude on outdoor recreation uses, too, continuing the legislature’s Assault on Pure Michigan.

SB 1164 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Transportation.

Text and links courtesy Michigan League of Conservation Voters. Visit their Web site at www.michiganlcv.org.

* Click here to read Keweenaw Now's Aug. 21, 2012, article with information on the Aug. 28, 2012, hearing at Northern Michigan University in Marquette.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Skip Jones, folksinger and storyteller, to give concert in Van Riper State Park Aug. 25

Skip Jones, folksinger and storyteller, performs at Baraga State Park earlier this month as part of his "Water is Life" Summer 2012 Tour. He will give a free concert again this Saturday, Aug. 25, at Van Riper State Park near Champion, Mich. The concert will include a Wild Blueberry Shortcake Social. (Photos © and courtesy Margaret Comfort unless otherwise indicated.)

CHAMPION -- Skip Jones, Wisconsin folksinger and storyteller, will give a free concert, accompanied by a Wild Blueberry Shortcake Social from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 25, at Van Riper State Park near Champion, Mich. The concert is part of his "Water is Life" Summer 2012 Tour.

Tara Melleen, Department of Natural Resources hostess at Baraga State Park, welcomes visitors to Skip Jones's Aug. 10 concert.

Sing along with the traveling troubador. Words of Wisdom for all. Rain or shine. No charge for the event, but to enter the park for free, you must possess a Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) Recreation Passport.

At the concert he gave in Baraga State Park on August 10, 2012, Jones talked about his concerns for the water and the environmental threats to rivers, lakes and streams -- especially from the mining industry.

"When you look at water -- at some point you realize it's who we are," Jones said.

Margaret Comfort of Save the Wild UP, who helped organize Skip Jones's "Water is Life" Summer 2012 Tour, introduces Jones to the audience at Baraga State Park. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Jones said he worked with groups who fought the Crandon Mine (that threatened the Wolf River in Wisconsin) for 27 years.

His wife, Judy Gosz, who accompanied Skip on the tour, said, "I think it's some kind of a sadistic joke that we have to fight for clean water and clean air -- resources that should belong to all the people."

Jones, who is a Navy veteran, is a member of Veterans for Peace and Guitars for Vets. He teaches veterans to play guitar, and they teach others to play.

"I also sit with vets that are dying and sing with them," he said.

Jones also works with the homeless and food pantries.

"The needs are so incredibly enormous," he said.

Jones will also give concerts in Big Bay, Marquette and Munising in September. Dates will be announced.

More photos of the Aug. 10 concert in Baraga State Park:

Participants in the Baraga State Park Rendezvous event attend the concert by Skip Jones in Baraga State Park. (Photos © and courtesy Margaret Comfort)

Linda and Dave Rulison of Friends of the Land of Keweenaw joined the audience at the Skip Jones concert in Baraga.

A young visitor listens intently as Skip tells stories for young and old.

Skip sings a special birthday song to a young fan.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Seth Bernard and May Erlewine-Bernard to perform at Orpheum in Hancock TONIGHT, Aug. 23

Seth Bernard and (Daisy) May Erlewine-Bernard will perform at the Orpheum Theater in Hancock tonight, Thursday, Aug. 23. (Photo courtesy http://sethandmay.com)

HANCOCK -- Copper Country ultra favorites Seth Bernard and May Erlewine-Bernard will be live on stage at the Orpheum Theater in Hancock TONIGHT, Thursday, Aug. 23. Doors open at 7 p.m., and music starts at 7:30 p.m.

"Michael Shimmin of the Red Sea Pedestrians and Brennan Andes of The Macpodz (both bands have had unbelievably great shows at the Orpheum too!) will also be gracing our stage with their awesomeness!" says Mike Shupe, Orpheum owner. "Admission is $10 and worth every penny many times over!!"

The Orpheum Theater is at Studio Pizza and Ice Cream, 426 Quincy St, Hancock.

Call 906-482-5100 for more information.

Seth and May to perform at Porcupine Mountains Music Festival Aug. 24

Seth and May return to the Porkies with their band, also featuring Michael Shimmin and Brennan Andes, tomorrow, Friday, Aug. 24, at the Porcupine Mountains Music Festival. Showtime is 5 p.m.

Learn about the Music Festival, sponsored by Friends of the Porkies, on their Web site:
http://www.porkiesfestival.org/
Click here for the schedule.

Updated: 2012 Houghton County Fair opens TODAY, Aug. 23, in Hancock

The theme for this year's Houghton County Fair is "Color My World." What can be as colorful as a Merry-go-Round? Come to the Fair this weekend to find out! (2011 file photos by Keweenaw Now)

HANCOCK -- Hey! Ho! Come to the 61st Annual Houghton County Fair Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 23-26 at the Fairgrounds and Houghton County Arena in Hancock. Amusements, Midway and Exhibit Buildings open at 3 p.m. TODAY, Thursday, Aug. 23.

This year the theme of the Fair is "Color My World." Displayed on all days of the Fair will be the Antique Tractor/Implement Show (Ballfield) and the Ham Radio Special Event (Indoor Arena) Sponsored by the Copper Country Radio Amateur Association (CCRAA).

During the 2011 Houghton County Fair this noisy duck tries to get attention in the Small Animal Barn -- which will be the scene of the Poultry/Rabbit Show tonight at 6 p.m. (2011 video clips by Keweenaw Now)

Some highlights for today, Thursday, Aug. 23, include the Open Horse Show -- Speed (Horse Arena) at 5 p.m.; Barnyard Express (Midway) at 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.; Poultry/Rabbit Show (Small Animal Barn) at 6 p.m.; Miss Houghton County Queen Pageant (Indoor Stage) at 6:30 p.m.; Motocross (Main Event Arena) at 7 p.m.; Bob and Trish Juggling Show (Indoor Stage) at 8:30 p.m.

Kids admire the rabbits at the 2011 Houghton County Fair.

Friday, Aug. 24, offers several attractions for animal enthusiasts: the Swine Show (Livestock Pavilion) at 9 a.m.; Market Steer Show (Livestock Pavilion) at 11 a.m.;
Dairy and Beef Show (Livestock Pavilion) at Noon; Wild World of Animals (Indoor Stage) at 12:20 p.m. and (Midway) at 1:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Equine Freestyle Demonstration (Horse Arena) Copper Country Horse Riders 4-H Club; Sheep and Goat Show (Livestock Pavilion) at 3 p.m.; Barnyard Express (Midway) at 3:30 p.m.; Horse Jumping Show (Horse Arena) at 5 p.m. Exhibit Buildings open at 11 a.m. on Friday.

"Don't forget me," this lonely sheep seems to be saying. This Friday, Aug. 24, the Sheep and Goat Show will be held at 3 p.m. in the Livestock Pavilion at the Fair.

The Ruth E. Best Homemaker of the Year (FCE) and Open Class Exhibits Awards will take place at 12:15 p.m. Friday.

Amusements and Midway open at noon Friday, Saturday and Sunday and remain open after 10 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday -- and after 5 p.m. Sunday.

Amusements open at 3 p.m. TODAY, Thursday, Aug. 23, and remain open in the evenings at the Fair.

Also on Friday, from noon - 4 p.m., will be the Senior Citizens’ Day Program (age 55 and over free lunch), entertainment, prize drawings (Indoor Arena). And don't miss the Farm Tractor Pull (Main Event Arena) starting at 6 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 25, is a full day of activities, entertainment and events, beginning with the Livestock Skill-a-thon (Livestock Barn) at 9 a.m., John Bishop MemorialYouth Horse Show (Horse Arena) at 10 a.m.; Dick Storm- Eagle Country Hall of Fame (Indoor Stage) at 10 a.m. Exhibit Buildings also open at 10 a.m.

Sometimes livestock need a little urging to participate in the Fair activities!

The whole family will have fun trying science experiments with the Michigan Tech Mindtrekkers (Ballfield) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Michigan Tech Mind Trekkers demonstrate making ice cream from liquid nitrogen and serve it to visitors at the 2011 Houghton County Fair. Mind Trekkers return to the Fair with lots of fun-filled science experiments for everyone this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Ballfield. *

Kids' Fun Day (Indoor Arena) is at a NEW TIME on Saturday -- from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Saturday also offers the Horse Shoe Pitching Tournament (singles) at noon, with registration at 11 a.m. (Horseshoe Pit in Ballfield); the Livestock Auction (Livestock Pavilion) at 4:30 p.m.; Midwest Monster Trucks (Main Event Arena) at 7:30 p.m.; and Cirque de UP: Bob, Trish, Jason Unicycle Juggling Act (Roving) at 9:30 p.m.

Be sure to admire the work of local gardeners, farmers, homemakers and artisans in the Exhibit Buildings.

Sunday, Aug. 26, the final day of the Fair, kicks off with the Open Horse Show (Horse Arena) at 9 a.m. -- the Draft Show at 9:30 a.m. will run during the open show. The
Horseshoe Pitching Tournament (doubles) is at noon, with registration at 11 a.m. (Horseshoe Pit in Ballfield).

Don't miss the Youth Talent Show (Indoor Stage) at 1 p.m. (NEW TIME) and the Demolition Derby (Main Event Arena) at 2 p.m.

Among the musical groups entertaining at the Fair are the following:
Friday: Rolling Thunder (Indoor Stage) at 1 p.m.; Bret and Frisk Variety Music (Indoor Stage) at 6 p.m.; Conga Se Menne (Indoor Stage) at 8 p.m.
Saturday: Tom Katalin (Indoor Stage) 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Sunday: Kivajat Folk Dancers (Indoor Stage) at 2:30 p.m.

These and many more events are listed in the online brochure. Click here for the full schedule and more information about the Fair.

More photos from the 2011 Houghton County Fair:







See you there!

* UPDATE: Click here to learn more about Mind Trekkers on Tech Today.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Portage Library to host Bug Hunt for all ages Aug. 23

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library invites everyone to bring their magnifying lenses and learn about bugs from amateur entomologist extraordinaire Tim Eisele.

From 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 23, Eisele, will share his passion for bugs and arachnids in his program "Going on a Bug Hunt!" His slide show presentation will feature some of the more than 300 local species he has found so far. Participants will be able to examine live specimens of insects, spiders, and other crawling things that are found around the house and yard and learn what they are doing there. Anyone who has found an interesting insect is welcome to bring it. The program will conclude with an outdoor bug hunt at the west end of the library where participants will identify and photograph what is found.

This event will be enjoyed by bug enthusiasts of all ages. To learn more about Eisele’s work with bugs, see his Backyard Arthropod Project at www.somethingscrawlinginmyhair.com.

Library programs are free and everyone is welcome. For more information, please call the library at 482-4570 or visit www.pldl.org.

Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club to hold board meeting Aug. 22

HANCOCK -- Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club will hold its fall board meeting at 7 p.m. TODAY, Wednesday, Aug. 22, at 616 Lake Ave. in Hancock. Look for the yellow house across the street from John Diebel's. The purpose of the meeting, which is open to the public, is to begin planning the fall work schedule.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

EPA to hold Public Hearing on Wetland Fill Permit Application for County Road 595 in Marquette Aug. 28; written comments due Sept. 4

By Michele Bourdieu

CHICAGO, MARQUETTE -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012, at Northern Michigan University in Marquette to take comments on the Marquette County Road Commission’s revised application for a wetland fill permit for the construction of County Road 595.

This photo shows Wildcat Canyon in the potential CR 595 corridor. Looking straight down the canyon, one can see Eagle Rock in the middle of the photo, close to the top, below the bluish ridges on the horizon. The sand from the Eagle Mine site is visible just to the right and left. The proposed 21-mile primary county road, running north-south between U.S. Highway 41 and County Road Triple A, would connect the Eagle Mine with the Humboldt Mill. (File photo © and courtesy Jeremiah Eagle Eye. Reprinted with permission.)

Oral and written comments will be taken at the public hearing. EPA will hold an informational question-and-answer session immediately before the public hearing -- at 6 p.m. on Aug. 28. The public hearing begins at 7 p.m. Both will be held at Northern Michigan University, Don H. Bottum University Center, Ontario/Michigan/Huron Rooms, 1401 Presque Isle Ave., Marquette.

EPA scheduled the hearing at the request of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

The EPA states the Road Commission has proposed a new 21.5-mile primary county road, running north-south between U.S. Highway 41 and County Road Triple A, through Champion, Ely, Humboldt and Michigamme Townships. According to the application, the EPA hearing notice says, construction would affect 25.81 acres of wetlands and would require the building of 22 stream crossings.*

MDEQ has the authority to issue permits for projects under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act for wetlands, lakes and streams. EPA’s role is to ensure that proposed projects comply with federal guidelines. At the hearing, EPA will take comments on two issues: (1) whether there are practical, alternate routes for the road which would have less impact on aquatic resources; and (2) proposals to mitigate damage to wetlands and streams.

The public comment period started on July 27 and concludes on Sept. 4, 2012. Comments should be addressed to Melanie Haveman, U.S. EPA (WW-16J), 77 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60604-3590 or by email to rd.county@epa.gov. For questions or additional information, call EPA toll-free at 800-621-8431, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.,week days.

Related documents and information about the public hearing are available on EPA’s website at www.epa.gov/region5/water/cr595.

Click here for a project location map and the EPA's map of the proposed CR 595.

The official records are also available at the Ishpeming Carnegie Public Library, 317 N. Main St., Ishpeming.

In a recent letter to the Marquette Mining Journal, Catherine Parker of Marquette points out that support for the road does not come from the general public, but from area politicians and industry representatives.

"The DNR’s evaluation of the 595 application describes the likelihood of extremely serious consequences to fish and wildlife habitat, animal populations, and recreational experiences; and yet it rather flippantly concludes that these concerns can somehow be remediated," Parker writes.

"And during a brief meeting in Marquette, Director Dan Wyant told environmentalists that the DEQ intends to excel at customer service," she notes.

On a visit to the site of the proposed County Road 595 during his recent visit to the U.P., MDEQ Director Dan Wyant, fourth from left, and his policy assistant Jim Goodheart, third from left, look at a map of the area shown to him by MDEQ staff Ginny Pennala and Mike Smolinski. In the foreground are Steve Casey, right, MDEQ Water Resources Division district supervisor of the Upper Peninsula District Office, and State Sen. Tom Casperson. Casey said MDEQ staff took Wyant on a five-hour tour of the wetlands and stream crossings included in the CR 595 permit application. Here the group is shown near the Wildcat Canyon Creek crossing of the proposed CR 595. (Photo courtesy Brad Wurfel, DEQ Communications director.)

"How does this translate to our present situation? Who is the DEQ’s customer?" Parker continues. "Clearly, County Road 595 is a haul road for Kennecott, as was the Woodland Road before it. The timber and aggregate industries will see only marginal profit increases if it is built. Negative impacts to the environment, both natural and human, will be severe and are entirely avoidable."

Parker also questions the justification for building this road when Marquette County alone needs $200,000,000 just to repair existing roads and bridges.**

EPA letter states objections of federal agencies, based on Clean Water Act

An Apr. 23, 2012, letter from the EPA to MDEQ offers the combined comments from three federal agencies: the EPA, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Army Corps of Engineers with these objections to the permit application, based on the Clean Water Act (CWA) Guidelines:

"In sum, the Federal agencies have concluded that the materials included in the application and accompanying analysis do not demonstrate that the County's preferred route is the least environmentally damaging practical alternative (LEDPA), and therefore, it is not possible at this time to provide the conditions necessary for issuance of this permit in accordance with CWA 404(b)(1) Guidelines. In addition, the project would lead to the significant degradation of aquatic resources, and the proposed wetland and stream mitigation would not fully compensate for the loss of aquatic function and value."

The letter also states the following:

"Because road construction is not a water-dependent activity, the CWA § 404(b)(l) Guidelines require an applicant to demonstrate that practicable alternatives do not exist which are less damaging to the aquatic environment. The alternatives analysis should demonstrate that the County's preferred alternative meets the criteria for being the LEDPA while still meeting the project purpose. Finally, once the LEDPA is selected, the applicant must demonstrate that it has avoided and minimized impacts to the maximum extent possible and compensated for any unavoidable impacts."***

Among the impacts and concerns mentioned in the EPA letter are these:
  • Approximately 75 percent of the proposed wetland impacts are to forested wetland types, which are difficult to replace. The probability of success of replacing the lost wetland functions is low.
  •  22 stream crossings -- 8 new and 14 replacement crossings -- could mean loss of stream functions due to the lengths of bridges and culverts and due to changes in hydrology and water quality. Additional stream mitigation would be necessary.
  • A significant amount of clearing, excavation, and fill would impact at least 171 acres.
  •  Long-term impacts on hydrology and water quality (e.g. road-salt, sediment, oil inputs) would degrade habitats adjacent to the proposed road.
  • Disturbances and changes to wetland flow patterns due to floodplain compensating cuts will negatively impact adjacent wetlands.
  • Vehicles along CR 595 may spread invasive species that would impact natural communities along the proposed route.
  • The road would have negative impacts on migratory birds, amphibians and reptiles (turtles).
  • "With a design speed of 55 mph, the proposed road is also expected to increase the number of vehicle collisions with other wildlife including white tailed deer, gray wolf, and moose."
  • Kirtland's warbler and Canada lynx, federally protected under the Endangered Species Act, have the potential to be found in the proposed CR 595 corridor.
In conclusion, the EPA letter states, "As presently proposed, the project would lead to the significant degradation of aquatic resources, and the proposed wetland and stream mitigation would not fully compensate for the loss of aquatic function and value."***

Army Corps, local residents note road would chiefly benefit Rio Tinto - Kennecott

Gabriel Caplett of Headwaters News notes in a May 6, 2012, article, that, unlike the Army Corps of Engineers letter in March 2012, also objecting to CR 595, the April EPA letter fails to indicate that the proposed CR 595 would be built largely to service Rio Tinto-Kennecott's mining operations.

"The Corps outlined a number of hauling options that could work to service Kennecott’s Eagle Mine operation, including an already planned bypass of Marquette Township, as well as road-to-rail options, something Kennecott seriously considered in its original Eagle mining application," Caplett says.****

The EPA letter, however, without mentioning the Eagle Mine, quotes the Road Commission's stated purpose for the road: "'to construct a primary county northsouth
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 Marquette population centers.'"

This map, displayed at the Sept. 19, 2011, Marquette County Road Commission meeting, shows 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 and streams. 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. (File photo of map by Keweenaw Now)

In an earlier article, Caplett cites comments from several local residents on the fact that Rio Tinto-Kennecott wants this road to haul its ore from the Eagle Mine to the Humboldt Mill.*****

County submits revised application, preferred route

A revised permit application from the Marquette County Road Commission, dated July 24, 2012, attempts to address EPA and MDEQ concerns, but not all wetland issues have been resolved. Marquette County Road Commission Engineer Manager Jim Iwanicki told Keweenaw Now a new wetland mitigation plan, with a ratio of 20 to 1 (20 new or mitigated wetlands to each impacted wetland) is expected to be submitted to the EPA and MDEQ today, Aug. 21.

Two alternative routes mentioned in the EPA letter for further consideration -- the Mulligan Plains East-Sleepy Hollow Route and the CR 510-Red Road-Sleepy Hollow-Wolf Lake Road route -- are still not acceptable to the Road Commission. According to Iwanicki, the former (brown solid line on map below) would require a bridge at a difficult crossing of the Yellow Dog River and the latter (red line on map below) would add about 20 miles to the route.

This map, from p. 43 of the July 24, 2012, revised application for CR 595 shows several alternative routes considered for the road from the Eagle Mine on the AAA Road to the Humboldt Mill just off US 41 in Humboldt Township. The Marquette County Road Commission prefers the north-south green route. Click on map for larger version or go to the revised permit application, p. 43 of section 4.0 on the Alternatives Analysis. (Map courtesy Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Web site)

"It's less wetland impact but it costs too much to build and it does not meet our project purpose, which is to build a north-south road in the western end of Marquette County," Iwanicki said of the longer route. "You might as well use the existing road system."

At the southern end of the County's preferred route, the EPA and MDEQ have expressed a preference for a stretch of the road called Wolf Lake South because it impacts three fourths of an acre less of wetlands than the County's choice of CR FY. However, according to Iwanicki, Humboldt Township has put a weight restriction on Wolf Lake Road South because it runs in front of residential areas. For this reason the Road Commission believes the Wolf Lake South Road option is not in the public interest.

This map shows the County's preferred route for the proposed CR 595, with some uncertainty about whether the southern end would use CR FY (red segment, no. 1) and the Wasie Alternative (green segment, no. 3) or Wolf Lake Road South (blue segment, no. 4) because of a 3/4 acre difference in wetland impacts (see above). The road would continue north on segment nos. 5, 6, 9, 7 and 32, ending at the AAA Road. For a larger version of the map, go to the revised permit application, p. 52 of section 4.0. (Map courtesy Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Web site)

"The Road Commission would still prefer CR FY," Iwanicki said. "But if the only way to get a permit is to go Wolf Lake Road, we will."

On the revised Permit Application Form, the project is marked "public/government" and the box indicating "project is receiving federal/state transportation funds" is unchecked.

"Right now we're working on an agreement to get Kennecott to fund the project," Iwanicki said. "If Kennecott doesn't pay for the road it won't get built."

Iwanicki added he is "pretty confident" the Road Commission will get an agreement from Kennecott if they receive the permit.

While the purpose statement still does not mention the Eagle Mine, the Project Overview in the revised application states the following: "The proposed CR 595 will be a public road, with all of the associated benefits that go with that designation. Those benefits include the fact that the new road will be open to public use and will be maintained as part of the Marquette County road system."

The "Eagle Development Project" is mentioned in the permit application overview as needing this road. The benefit to the mining and logging industries is stated as including both recreation and safety benefits for the public.

"The value of the logging and mining industries to this region is significant," the overview states. "Much of the infrastructure in Marquette County can be attributed to these two industries; including roads, power plants and hydropower facilities, recreation amenities, and public services. This proposed project, the construction of a new primary county road to serve these two heritage industries as well as providing access to lands for recreation and other public benefits, is essential public infrastructure to continue to support these baseline industries that form and sustain the region’s economy. The full economic benefits of the mining and logging industries cannot be realized without the proposed road."

To a question on how public recreation can benefit from a road where 50 mining trucks will be running each way (100 trucks just from the Eagle Mine, not counting logging trucks), Iwanicki said the main public benefit of the shorter route is that it increases public safety.

"By building 595 you're taking heavy vehicles (trucking) out of the populated area of Marquette County," he said. "You're keeping them out of the city of Marquette and out of the 41-28 corridor between the Ishpeming-Negaunee area and the city of Marquette -- which happens to be the heaviest traveled road in the UP."

While Iwanicki admits the EPA and MDEQ still have questions on the environmental impacts of the proposed road, he believes the County has answered their questions sufficiently.

"I wouldn't be spending the time and effort on the permit for 595 if we didn't think it was a public benefit for the people of Marquette County," Iwanicki said.

According to Steve Casey, MDEQ Water Resources Division district supervisor of the Upper Peninsula District Office, MDEQ requested the hearing after the EPA voiced their objection to permitting CR595.

"The County Road Commission is working hard to resolve that objection," Casey said.

After considering comments at the hearing, Casey added, the EPA will choose one of three outcomes: 1) continue with the same objection, 2) revise the objection, or 3) remove the objection.

If the EPA decides to issue the same or a revised objection, the Road Commission will have a month to resolve it.

"The DEQ decision is due October 1," Casey said. "The EPA expects to complete their public hearing process and follow up by October 1."

Editor's Notes:

* The revised application (July 24, 2012) cites the total wetland impacts as 25.48 acres of wetlands over a distance of 20.9 miles, with 26 stream crossings along the proposed 595 and one stream crossing on the East Branch Salmon Trout River stream mitigation project.

** Click here to read Catherine Parker's Aug. 10, 2012, letter to the Mining Journal.

*** Click here to read the Apr. 23, 2012, letter from the EPA to the MDEQ.

**** See Headwaters News for Gabriel Caplett's May 6, 2012, article, "EPA caving on Kennecott road?"

***** See Gabriel Caplett's Feb. 22, 2012, article, "Citizens pack hearing to oppose Rio Tinto road."

See also our Feb. 20, 2012, article announcing the Feb. 21 meeting, with video clips and photos of the Sept. 19, 2011, Marquette County Road Commission meeting taking public comments on the proposed CR 595.

Portage Library to host presentation on Isle Royale backpacking Aug. 22

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library will host Isle Royale National Park Ranger Lori Honrath for her presentation on planning a successful backpacking trip to Isle Royale.

Honrath has hiked over 100 miles of trails on the island and from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 22, she will show slides of her trips and share stories from the trails. Participants will learn how and what to pack for a wilderness backpacking trip as well as how to prepare for it. Honrath will discuss what "leave no trace" camping means and describe the unique qualities that make an island wilderness so special.

Library programs are free and everyone is welcome. For more information, please call the library at 482-4570 or visit www.pldl.org.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Candidate Scott Dianda to speak on taxes affecting seniors Aug. 21 at Café Rosetta

CALUMET -- Michigan House Representative Candidate Scott Dianda will be at Café Rosetta in Calumet at 8:30 a.m. TOMORROW, Tuesday, Aug. 21, to talk about how new Michigan taxes on pensions and retirement income are affecting seniors.

Provisions of a law passed by House Republicans and Rick Snyder in 2011 that took effect this year also eliminate the homestead tax credit and senior exemption, which will further burden those living on a fixed income. In fact, the average 59-year-old couple in Michigan will see their income decrease by $3,000 from last year.

"We invite anybody who is concerned about these new tax increases to stop by Café Rosetta at 8:30 a.m. for coffee and conversation," says Elise Matz, field director for the Dianda campaign. "We want to show our support for Scott as he fights to represent the 110th District in Lansing. Scott will also discuss how, if elected, he plans to repeal the new tax on seniors."

Café Rosetta is at 104 Fifth St. in downtown Calumet.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

KBIC volunteers clean Keweenaw Bay beaches to celebrate Lake Superior Day

BARAGA COUNTY -- The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC), whose Reservation lands border Keweenaw Bay of Lake Superior, organized a beach cleanup on July 13, 2012, in celebration of Lake Superior Day.

KBIC Summer Youth Crew members collect trash along the Keweenaw Bay shoreline at the Ojibwa Campground for Lake Superior Day. (Photo © and courtesy Erin Johnston)

About 50 people including KBIC Natural Resources Department staff, tribal youth crews, and area community members cleaned approximately five miles of Lake Superior beaches from just north of Assinins/Sand Point all the way around the Bay to Pequaming.

The day started with an opening ceremony performed by KBIC members Charlotte Loonsfoot and Jessica Koski. The cleanup was followed by a luncheon provided by the KBIC WHIP Taskforce at the Sand Point Light House day use area. After lunch participants enjoyed time canoeing on the Lake.

"It was hot out, but it was a rewarding effort," said Erin Johnston, KBIC Lake Superior Program Coordinator. "We estimate we collected and disposed of about 30 bags of trash off the beaches. It was nice to take a day to reflect on how lucky we are to live where we do and share that with others."

Lake Superior Day, which was created in the early 1990s by the Lake Superior Binational Forum, is officially the third Sunday in July. 

The Binational Forum, a group of volunteers from the United States and Canada working together to protect Lake Superior, states that Lake Superior Day is a "special day held around the lake to highlight the importance of the world’s largest freshwater lake to the basin’s environment and economy."

KBIC will continue to hold annual events in honor of Lake Superior Day, but we encourage the community to treat every day as Lake Superior Day and take actions to restore and protect our beautiful Lake.

Remember to take your trash with you as the beaches are a shared resource for everyone to enjoy. For further information please contact our Natural Resources Department at (906) 524-5757 ext. 24.

Community Arts Center to host two birch bark workshops

HANCOCK -- Join artist and fine basket maker Karen Tembreull as she instructs two separate September workshops at the Copper Country Community Arts Center (CCCAC) in Hancock. For either workshop, register before Saturday, Aug. 25, for a discounted rate.

Tembreull will teach Athabaskan Birch Bark Basket Making from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 15. Students will make a basket with bias plaited sides and a spruce root rim and foot sewn with waxed linen. The basket is a double layer of birch bark, which is then fitted and laced into place, completing this functional and appealing basket.

From 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 22, and Sunday, Sept. 23, Tembreull will teach a Birch Bark Patchwork Journal Workshop. Design your own unique patchwork journal using a variety of colors and textures of birch bark. Several embroidery stitches will be taught using waxed linen. Learn to make a birch bark button as well as a five-stitch book binding over leather. The journal will be edged in sweet grass. Embossed bark will also be available. 

Call the Copper Country Community Arts Center at 482-2333 to obtain more information, including workshop fees, or to register before Aug. 25 for a discounted rate. The CCCAC is located at 126 Quincy Street in Hancock.