Saturday, December 01, 2012

Updated: County, township officials oppose Huuki's mining severance tax bills

By Michele Bourdieu

The Humboldt Mill, pictured here, is the facility where Rio Tinto plans to process ore from their Eagle Mine into separate nickel and copper concentrates, which will be transported by rail to an offsite smelter. The tailings will be sent to the Humboldt Tailings Disposal Facility, which includes a pit used by previous mines. Rio Tinto has been remediating that pit and building an underground cut-off wall to contain the water in the pit. Rio Tinto changed its original plan to haul ore to a railhead close to the Eagle Mine when the company bought the mill. (Photo © and courtesy Jeremiah Eagle Eye. Reprinted with permission.)

HUMBOLDT, Mich. -- Humboldt Township Supervisor Joe Derocha made two trips to Lansing (about a 7.5-hour drive each way) in less than a week to defend his township against outgoing 110th District Michigan Rep. Matt Huuki's proposed package of House bills for a nonferrous metallic minerals extraction severance tax that would replace property taxes.

The Humboldt Mill is projected to be used for processing ore from Rio Tinto-Kennecott's Eagle Mine (for nickel and copper), located on the Yellow Dog Plains near Big Bay, Mich.

Humboldt Township Supervisor Joe Derocha points out the multi-volume permit (on top shelf) that will allow Rio Tinto to process ore from their Eagle Mine at the Humboldt Mill. Derocha has asked state legislators to remove Humboldt Township from a proposed package of bills for a nonferrous metallic minerals extraction severance tax that would replace property taxes. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Derocha says the new tax, if enacted as law, would result in a loss of several millions of dollars in tax revenue for his township over the life of the mine.

On Thursday, Nov. 29, Derocha's own 109th District State Representative, Steven Lindberg (D-Marquette), called him with the unhappy news that the package of bills (HB 6007, 6008, 6009, 6010, 6011 and 6012) had just passed the State House of Representatives on a third reading, with the vote almost 100 percent along party lines -- Republicans all voting in favor of the package of bills. Next the bills go to the State Senate, which also has a Republican majority.

Last week Derocha, along with a group of local officials, including Marquette County commissioners, hoping to convince the House Tax Policy Committee of their concerns about the bills, met with a panel of 10 Republicans and seven Democrats on Tuesday, Nov. 20.

According to a Nov. 24, 2012, article in the Marquette Mining Journal on that hearing, "State Rep. Matt Huuki, R-Atlantic Mine, recently introduced the severance tax bills (house bills 6007-6012) aimed at simplifying the tax structure and decreasing high start-up costs for non-ferrous mining operations and creating an associated rural development fund for infrastructure improvements."*

Derocha told House representatives on the Tax Policy Committee, "I respect Representative Huuki, but I strongly disagree with his legislation."

The revenue from the proposed severance tax was originally to be divided with 60 percent to benefit the local taxing units and 40 percent for the rural development fund to be created by the legislation. Many western Upper Peninsula officials, including the Marquette County Board, believed that split would mean much less revenue to support school districts and local government services normally funded by property taxes.

Huuki and his Republican colleagues ceded some ground by changing the revenue split to 65 percent for local taxing units and 35 percent for the rural development fund and by eliminating transportation deductions for mining companies.

Debbie Pellow, Marquette County Board chair, told Keweenaw Now on Friday, Nov. 30, that the Board's position at this time is an 80-20 percent split, with Humboldt Township not being included in the severance tax.

"That's been our position for the last several months and we're not changing it," Pellow said.

She noted the county is now working on the numbers to determine what the 65-35 split would mean with the loss of property taxes. They also have issues with the bill's wording on buffer lands, the fact that property taxes already paid by Rio Tinto -- or paid through an interim severance tax in 2013 and 2014 -- would have to be returned through a credit to their severance tax over a five-year period with the county paying interest.**

"We gained some ground with the transportation deduction being removed from the bill (and with) their increasing the split (but not enough)," Pellow added. "Every little bit they change it helps us locally, and we hope to gain more ground in the Senate."

Pellow said the county is working with Rio Tinto and hoping to have the buffer lands issue and the interim severance tax issue introduced in the Senate committee hearings that begin this coming week.

"We're not happy with what it is now," Pellow said about the House Bill. "It needs to be changed."

She said the county also has issues with the rural development fund. Instead of having only two members on that board from the Upper Peninsula, they would like to see three and, "in a perfect world," would want the entire fund to be spent in the UP, nowhere else. They oppose as well the fact that the bill allows up to $250,000 to be taken out of this fund for surveillance by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)**

Derocha agreed the rural development fund should be spent in the UP -- in his opinion for local education. He also considered the slight change in the split and other changes insufficient. After returning home for Thanksgiving, Derocha drove to Lansing a second time on Sunday, Nov. 25, in order to attend a second hearing the following day -- Monday, Nov. 26 -- with the House Tax Policy Committee considering the bills. He went alone this time, the only one representing a local government and community.

At the beginning of Monday's hearing, Rep. Vicki Barnett (D-Farmington Hills) challenged Huuki's proposed bills.

"We have no fiscal data on this at all so I'm not sure what kind of money we're talking about here when it comes to what the local governments are currently collecting vs. what they'll be getting by giving up all other taxes collected and moving to a severance tax -- and then what they're going to give up when we move to a severance tax that's split 65-35," Barnett said.

Huuki talked about models being used to estimate the severance tax but was not able to give Barnett any concrete data of comparison.

"We have no numbers in front of us, and you're asking me to make a vote that's going to change a major form of taxation in this state without any numbers today, tomorrow or ten years from now going forward," Barnett added. "If you've got model numbers I really think it would be nice if you shared them with the committee members so that we know what numbers we're looking at."

Invited to speak by Chairman Rep. Jud Gilbert (R-Algonac), Derocha addressed the House committee members, expressing his hope that he could consider them true "statesmen" and "stateswomen" -- by definition, persons with a bedrock of principles, a moral compass.

"We have a moral compass for the 469 residents that I represent -- and a moral compass for your constituents as well," Derocha said. "We have to have a vision. We also have to have the ability to build a consensus to achieve that vision. That's why we're here."

Derocha went on to explain that the Humboldt Mill has been on the ad valorem rolls for 34 years processing ore from ore bodies and numerous mines outside the township.

"We have no minerals for extraction," Derocha said. "The severance tax is designed, by design, for mineral extraction. Humboldt Township has no minerals. It should not be included."

Derocha gave examples of (non-mining) companies in other Michigan townships that pay ad valorem taxes to those communities. He also cited documents, including one from State Geologist Hal Fitch, that said the Humboldt Mill would be exempt from the severance tax.

He asked the representatives to remove Humboldt Township completely from the severance tax bills, noting that would not cost the state anything, while it would cost Rio Tinto.

Asked how much his township would receive from property tax on the mill, Derocha said, "We will receive $580,000 on the ad valorem rolls."

Derocha objects to the fact that the bill package does not address ore coming from ore bodies or (potentially) from other companies outside the township. He said the proposed legislation doesn't guarantee protection from possible pollution that could end up in Humboldt's pit from an under-capitalized mining company that might not be able or willing to protect the environment in the way that a wealthy company like Rio Tinto promises to do. Derocha said this legislation would allow these smaller, under-capitalized companies to get permitted in Michigan -- which can raise environmental questions.

"We've seen first-hand what happens to under-capitalized mining companies," Derocha noted.

An example of a company that left an environmental mess in Humboldt Township was the owner of the Ropes gold mine near Ishpeming that used cyanide to process ore at Humboldt and left it and a large amount of tailings in the pit, leading to water issues.

On a map in his office, Humboldt Township Supervisor Joe Derocha indicates the proximity of the Humboldt tailings pit to wetlands and the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River (about a half mile north of US 41), which empties into Lake Michigan. Rio Tinto intends to build a water treatment plant at the site and to keep the tailings under water (see videos below). (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

When the Ropes mine collapsed and had to close, the State of Michigan settled for $100,000 and left a mess for Humboldt, Derocha explained.

An April 1993 article in the Michigan Outdoor Journal states as follows: "Waste water containing low levels of nickel and arsenic was discharged from the Ropes Mine site until it was closed in February 1991. At the Humboldt Mill site gold was extracted from the mined material and tailings were deposited in the Humboldt Pit until March 1990. The pit continues to discharge waste water containing copper and nickel. Earlier cyanide, a chemical component of the gold-removal process, was also discharged. The cyanide has since naturally decomposed."

Marquette County Commissioner Mike Quayle, who listened to the Nov. 20 House Committee on Tax Policy hearing, agrees with Derocha that the severance tax opens the door to mining companies that may not have the capital to protect the environment.

"I think it's a very bad tax, not only for Marquette County but for the whole Upper Peninsula," Quayle said. "Not only is it not making the locals whole, but it's also allowing for under-capitalized mining companies to start mines in the UP -- which may lead to environmental disasters if these companies don't have the capital to do the job right."

Quayle said he does have some confidence in Rio Tinto in that they appear to be trying to mine in an environmentally sound way.

"However," he added, "I've not seen any evidence of a mine that at some point in time did not contaminate the area. I also feel that Rio Tinto has received too many tax incentives."

Quayle pointed out that Rio Tinto has already received at least $300 million in deductions. Thanks to Governor Snyder's tax breaks to corporations, Rio Tinto will not pay corporate business taxes -- thus the need for the 35 percent going to the rural development fund. Without that, the state would have only received around $600,000 for the state school tax. In addition, the state will receive 7 percent in royalties as they leased the land for the mine to Rio Tinto.

Derocha told the committee he was grateful to Rio Tinto for cleaning up pollution left in the pit by previous mining companies.

"(Rio Tinto) has been a good steward for the environment in Humboldt Township," Derocha said. "They've been exemplary in cleanup and their environmental vision for Humboldt Township."

At a September community forum they held in Humboldt, Rio Tinto staff answered several questions from local residents concerned about water in the Humboldt pit,
water testing and monitoring, the capacity of the pit, and water discharge amounts.

At Rio Tinto's Sept. 17, 2012, community forum held in the Humboldt Township Hall, Rio Tinto staff answer questions from the audience. Pictured here, from left, are Gary Laitala, Humboldt resident, who asked about the volume of water discharge; Kristen Mariuzza (standing), Rio Tinto Eagle Project environmental and permitting manager for technology and innovation; Jessica Sandstrom, Human Resources coordinator for the Rio Tinto Eagle Mine, who spoke about local hire numbers; Dan Blondeau (standing), Rio Tinto Eagle Mine Communications and Media Relations advisor, who gave an introductory presentation on the Eagle Project; Darrell Fox, Rio Tinto Eagle Mine Human Resources advisor; and Darby Stacey, chief metallurgist for the Rio Tinto Eagle Mine. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Videos: Humboldt water issues discussed at Rio Tinto community forum

At the Rio Tinto community forum in Humboldt last September, Kristen Mariuzza, Rio Tinto Eagle Project environmental and permitting manager for technology and innovation, answers a resident's question on betonite, explaining how it is being used to make an underground cut-off wall to keep water from leaking out of the Humboldt pit. Concerning the resident's complaint about truck traffic on a road near his home, she assures him staff members will communicate with him about the inconvenience. (Videos by Keweenaw Now)

Kristen Mariuzza answers a question on water testing and explains how the water treatment plant planned for Humboldt is being designed to take care of the worst-case scenario.

Humboldt Township Supervisor Joe Derocha asks Kristen Mariuzza about the capacity of the Humboldt pit.

Rio Tinto's Kristen Mariuzza answers questions from local residents on water quality in the Humboldt pit and the amount and rate of discharge at the facility.

Derocha said his objection to the severance tax is separate from environmental issues. At the time of Rio Tinto's September forum, the proposed tax didn't come up in the discussion. He said he was aware of Huuki's idea for a severance tax bill at that time but had no bill draft to review and was not certain it would even be introduced.

"The severance tax format is based on cost of goods sold," Derocha said. "It allows the mining company to extract the minerals and not have to pay taxes on the minerals they've extracted until the minerals are sold."

A local community could provide services for this company, but if the company never sells the ore there's no benefit for the community, he noted.

At the Nov. 26 committee hearing, Chris Meyer of Warner Norcross and Judd, representing Rio Tinto, commented that the Dept. of Treasury would determine how the severance tax is divided between Humboldt Township and other jurisdictions.

"This is state policy and I'm sure the Department will be fair to Humboldt Township," Meyer said.

Meyer also noted that if ore from other companies is processed by the Humboldt Mill it would be subject to the severance tax and Humboldt Township would have an argument that they should have a portion of that and could bring that argument to the Dept. of the Treasury.

Derocha explained to Keweenaw Now that the severance tax, while it simplifies the tax on an ore body and assumes job creation, is really not needed in Humboldt.

"We currently have legislation in place -- it's called an Industrial Facilities Tax. So if the local unit wants to attract business as Humboldt has done, we can utilize what's called an Industrial Facilities Tax abatement," Derocha said. "The Industrial Facilities Tax would allow a community to come in and give a tax rebate (a reduction of their property tax) to a mining company to encourage start-up. We already have that in place. We don't need this special legislation."

Derocha added, "I respect the fact that the state representative (Huuki) wants to create jobs. I just wish there was a little more balance in this legislation."

Update: Derocha and residents of his township plan to attend a State Senate committee meeting in Lansing on the package of House Bills on the severance tax. A Senate committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 5, in Rooms 402 and 403, Capitol Building, 100 S. Capitol Avenue, Lansing, MI   48933.

Notes:

* Click here to read the Nov. 24, 2012, Mining Journal article, "Mine tax vote set Monday," by John Pepin.

** Click here to read a legislative analysis of the House Bills 6007 - 6012, as passed in the Michigan House of Representatives this week. Click here to read HB 6008 on the severance tax. Click here for HB 6009 on the rural development fund.

Trees duo to perform Dec. 2 at Portage Library

HOUGHTON -- Fans of the band Trees  will be treated to their 4th annual concert at the Portage Lake District Library when the duo performs at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 2. Copper Country natives, Lindsay Tomasic and Jessie Fitzpatrick have been crafting songs and creating fine acoustic music since the early 1970s.

They will perform songs from their albums Trees and One Voice and also new original songs. Their earthy and exquisitely woven sound, intricate guitar work, and light percussion will take you on a timeless journey.

Library programs are free and everyone is welcome!

1913 Strike exhibit visits Ontonagon Dec. 1 - Jan. 5

HOUGHTON -- "Tumult and Tragedy: Michigan’s 1913-14 Copper Strike," a traveling exhibit created by the Michigan Tech Archives, will be on display from Dec. 1 through Jan. 5 at the Ontonagon County Historical Society Museum at 422 River Street in Ontonagon, Michigan. The museum will be open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A special open house will take place TODAY, Saturday, Dec. 1. Bruce Johanson will provide a presentation about "Ontonagon County and the 1913 Strike" at 1 p.m. and the exhibit will be opened to visitors.

The exhibit explores a turbulent period in Michigan’s historic copper mining district. On July 23, 1913, members of the Western Federation of Miners took to the streets over grievances about pay and working conditions. The strike was marked by violence, including the deaths of more than 70 people, mainly children, during a Christmas Eve party at Calumet’s Italian Hall. Local mining companies refused to recognize the union, however, and the strike finally ended in April 1914. The conflict, sorrow, and tragedy of this confrontation between organized labor and mining companies affected local residents from all walks of life, created headlines across the nation, and continues to resonate in Michigan’s Copper Country today.

The "Tumult and Tragedy" traveling exhibit consists of 12 panels and includes photographs, excerpts from newspapers, documents, and songs from the strike era. A free giveaway brochure contains links to related web content about the 1913-14 Michigan copper strike online at http://www.1913strike.mtu.edu.

The exhibit will remain on display at the Ontonagon Museum through Saturday, Jan. 5, and then tour to five other locations in Houghton and Baraga Counties. The exhibit was made possible through a $14,500 grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional funding was provided by Michigan Technological University, Cranking Graphics, and Dr. Robert and Ruth Nara.

For further information, contact the Michigan Tech Archives at copper@mtu.edu or 906-487-2505, or contact the Ontonagon County Historical Society at ochs@jamadots.com or 906-884-6165.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Celebrate Diwali Night with Indian cuisine, performance Dec. 1

By Jennifer Donovan, Michigan Tech University Director of Public Relations

HOUGHTON -- Diwali Night, one of the biggest festivals celebrated in India, is coming to Michigan Tech this Saturday evening, Dec. 1. Diwali marks the victory of good over evil and light over darkness for the Indian people.

The Indian Student Association (ISA) sponsors Diwali Night at Tech, featuring an eight-course Indian meal followed by a colorful show at the Rozsa Center.

This year, the performance focuses on the Indian movie industry. Its theme is "The Art of Bollywood, a Tribute to Indian Cinema." The dinner is from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Memorial Union Commons and Ballroom. The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Rozsa Center. Tickets are $9 for ISA members and $18 for non-members. A ticket includes dinner and the show. Tickets are available at the SDC ticket office and in the Memorial Union Commons or at Rozsa.

Khana Khazana to offer Chinese cuisine Nov. 30

HOUGHTON -- Khana Khazana will serve Chinese food this Friday, Nov. 30, in the Michigan Tech Memorial Union Food Court. Xin Diao, a mechanical engineering student from the Szechwan Province of China, will cook fried shrimp with green pepper and chili, stir-fry celery and carrot with Chinese sausage, and braised beef and potato in chili oil.

Vegetarian alternatives will be available.

Khana Khazana is served from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Fridays. A full meal costs $6.95 and includes a beverage. Individual entrees are available for $2.50 each.

A collaborative project of international students and Michigan Tech Dining Services, Khana Khazana is open to the campus and the community.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas in Calumet begins Nov. 30 with Tree Lighting Ceremony

CALUMET -- Christmas in Calumet begins this Friday, Nov. 30, with two early holiday events: at 6 p.m. the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony will take place at Calumet Theatre Park, and at 7 p.m. the Superior School of Dance will perform "The Nutcracker Ballet" at the Calumet Theatre.* Events for the whole family continue through Dec. 22.

At last year's Calumet Christmas Tree Lighting, Tom Tikkanen, Main Street Calumet director, welcomes visitors to the Calumet Theatre park. Carolers add to the festivities. This year the Christmas Tree will be lit at 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 30. (File photo by Keweenaw Now)

Here are the events for Christmas in Calumet this coming week:

Saturday, Dec. 1:

Santa arrives downtown via horse-drawn wagon at 11 a.m.
Visits with Santa and free goodie bags, Rowe Furniture, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Free horse-drawn wagon rides, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Holiday music by strolling musicians, various downtown locations, 11 a. m. - 3 p.m.
Carolers tour the downtown, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Judging of the downtown window decorating contest
"Calumet Celebrates the Arts" gallery events, various locations, all day
Poor Artists Sale at CLK Public Schools Gym**
Nutcracker Ballet (Superior School of Dance)  at Calumet Theatre, 7 p.m.*

Tuesday, Dec. 4:
Calumet High School Band and Choir Holiday Concert at Calumet Theatre, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 7:

First Friday events at galleries, shops, and eateries, 6:30 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Editor's Notes:
* Click here for more info on "The Nutcracker Ballet" performance by Superior School of Dance.

** Click here to read about the Poor Artists Sale and see photos from the 2011 Poor Artists.

Watch for more events, coming soon, or go to the Main Street Calumet Web site for the full schedule.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Superior School of Dance to perform "The Nutcracker Ballet" Nov. 30, Dec. 1 at Calumet Theatre

CALUMET -- The Superior School of Dance will present Tchaikovsky's holiday classic, "The Nutcracker Ballet," at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, and Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Calumet Theatre.

Watch in awe as talented local dancers tell the classic holiday tale of Clara's adventures with the Prince and his army of toy soldiers, the Mouse Queen and the Sugar Plum Fairy.

General Seating Tickets are $12 for Adults, $6 for Seniors and Child, 2 years and younger -- free. For more information call the Calumet Theatre Box Office at (906) 337-2610 or email BoxOffice@calumetTheatre.com. Box Office hours are Tuesday through Saturday 12 p.m. - 5 p.m. and two and a half hours before performances.

Tech Theatre Company to present "Romancing Horror: Four Stories By H.P. Lovecraft!" Nov. 29 - Dec. 1

HOUGHTON -- The Tech Theatre Company will present "Romancing Horror: Four Stories By H.P. Lovecraft!" at 7:30 p.m., this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, in the McArdle Theatre on the Michigan Tech campus. Join the Tech Theatre Company as they present the literary works of H.P. Lovecraft, "devised" for the stage, in an original theatrical production!

Growing from the fertile soil of the romantics and the symbolist poets, HP Lovecraft surpassed his predecessor, Edgar Allen Poe, in perfecting the classic horror story. Since then, every horror film concocted in Hollywood, from the subtle and intrigue of Hitchcock to the evil of "Chucky," has followed Lovecraft's mystery mantra. In the sedate salon of their New England home, Professor Rodney C. Phillips, world authority on horror fiction, and his somewhat eccentric but charming wife, Edith Abigail, conjure theatrical life into Lovecraft's tales for their friends. Of course, there will be a surprise ending!

According to Director Roger Held, Chair, Department of Visual and Performing Arts, "'Devising' is the contemporary expression for the common theatrical practice of creating a performance from non-dramatic literature, or a script developed through the improvisations or written contributions of the actors. Such theatre pieces also provide design and performance challenges students don’t usually experience in educational theatre programs."

Tickets are $12.75/General Admission. Michigan Tech students are free. To purchase tickets, call 487-2073, click here to buy online at Rozsa, or visit Ticketing Operations at the SDC (Student Development Complex), 600 MacInnes Drive, in Houghton.

SDC box office hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday; and noon to 8 p.m., Sunday.

Calumet Art Center to host holiday concert Nov. 29

CALUMET -- The Calumet Art Center will host a concert for the benefit of the center at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 29, in the performance hall of the Art Center. It will feature favorite local performers: Monica Rovano, Connie Baruta, Cathy Isaacson, Jenny Isaacson, and Courtney Clisch. Holiday songs  will warm the evening. 

Donations are welcome. Bring your friends for this special event. 

The Calumet Art Center is at 57055 Fifth Street in Calumet. Call 906-281-3494 for more information.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Portage Library to host events Nov. 29 - Dec. 1

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library will host three family-friendly events this week -- a class on "Learning How to Use Twitter" and, for kids, a "Pirates Ahoy Adventure!" on Thursday, Nov. 29, and a Holiday Book Sale on Friday, Nov. 30, and Saturday, Dec. 1.

Learn to Use Twitter

The Portage Lake District Library and Michigan Technological University will present a special session of "Online at the Library: Learn to Use Twitter" from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 29.

Twitter is a way of communicating online in short bursts of text (140 characters or less). Twitter can be compared to sending a telegram over the internet. Messages can be sent to a particular person, people following one's twitter feed, or the whole world. The service has been used for conversation, self-promotion, public relations, politics and news.

Many people use Twitter to keep in contact with friends and family. Recently, Twitter has been in the headlines for its use during the U.S. presidential campaign and by both sides in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

This special session of Online at the Library is being presented by Leo Ureel, a graduate student at Michigan Technological University. Participants will learn the meaning of internet terms such as tweet, follow, and hash-tag. Everyone will create a Twitter account and send messages using the service.

Please let us know if you plan to attend by calling the Michigan Tech Computer Science Department at 487-2209. For more information, contact Leo Ureel at ureel@mtu.edu.

Need additional help using computers/technology? "Online at the Library" meets from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. every Friday at the Portage Lake District Library.

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

Portage Library, Reading Council team up for "Pirates Ahoy!"

The Portage Lake District Library and the Copper Country Reading Council will co-host a "Pirates Ahoy Adventure!" from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 29, at the library.

All children Pre-K through Upper Elementary are invited to come dressed like a pirate and join the fun. Kids will go on a scavenger hunt throughout the library and search for pirate facts. They will also listen to pirate stories and create their own treasure map, draw a pirate scene or write their own pirate story on scrolls of paper. Participants will take home a small pirate treasure.

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

Friends of Portage Library to hold Holiday Book Sale Nov. 30 - Dec. 1

The Friends of the Portage Lake District Library invite all book lovers to their Holiday Book Sale from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday evening, Nov. 30, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1. A half-price sale will begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday and continue until 2 p.m.

New and gently used books, audiobooks, and DVDs for children and adults will be sold to raise money for library projects, purchases for the library, and events that the Friends provide. The selection of books is excellent and will make great gifts for the holidays. Information on how to become involved with the Friends will be available at the book sale.

For more information, please call the library at 482-4570 or visit www.pldl.org.

Letter: One more for the Road

Another deadline approaches for (Marquette) County Road 595. The EPA expects to announce their final decision by December 1. Our legislators continue to pressure EPA at all levels, but we can’t let them have the last word. It’s time to raise some ire, muster your energy, and comment one more time.

This photo was taken from the old 510 bridge. It shows a plow spraying snow and presumably salt off the new 510 bridge and into the Dead River. The author of this letter says, "The impacts of similar activity at the 22 stream crossings described in the CR 595 permit application would be completely unacceptable." (Photo © and courtesy Catherine Parker)

Letters do not have to be lengthy, but they should be reasonable. Please tell the EPA why they should maintain their objections to the permit application. Here are some key points that you might use and/or expand upon in your letter:

Donation of off-site wetland areas by one of the interested parties does nothing to lessen the damage that would be done to the proposed 595 corridor.
  • Bisecting a relatively undisturbed area with a road this size would have severe impacts on wildlife.
  • Construction of new stream crossings and increased traffic will cause significant harm to aquatic resources.
Wildcat Canyon Falls. This waterfall is part of Wildcat Canyon Creek, which empties into the west end of the Silver Lake Basin. CR 595 would cross the creek and wetlands approximately a mile upstream from the falls. (Photo © and courtesy Catherine Parker)

There is no pressing public need for a new highway in northwest Marquette County.
  • CR 595 would be a dead-end road.
  • Building this road would likely result in more emergency calls, further straining fire department and other emergency services, as well as state police and sheriff’s department resources.
  • Rio Tinto admits that we’ll see less traffic during the operational phase of the mine than we have during construction.
  • There is no significant projected increase in logging activity for this region.
  • So-called beneficiaries, described in the permit application, have found existing roads to be both feasible and prudent for their purposes.
The 595 applicants have so narrowly defined their project purpose as to eliminate all but their preferred alternative. They have done this in an effort to force approval of Rio Tinto’s route.

Michigan DNR and DEQ field staff recommendations, and comments from USFWS (US Fish and Wildlife Service) and USACE (US Army Corps of Engineers), have been disregarded or overruled by the directors of both of these state agencies, presumably under Governor Snyder’s instructions.

Since the primary purpose of CR 595 would be to haul ore from Rio Tinto’s mine on the Yellow Dog Plains to its mill in Humboldt Township, cumulative impacts of all three components must be considered. Rio Tinto is "piecemealing" its project in an attempt to avoid additional environmental review, which is forbidden.
           
Allowing or encouraging a public agency to take over the permitting process for private interests sets a bad precedent. A permit may be denied solely on the basis of deception.

This project would not be a job-creator: Logging activity is not projected to increase significantly; 595 would not increase the amount of mining in the area (according to the permit application); and upgrading existing roads would create more work than new construction.

Rio Tinto has used Woodland Road/CR 595 as a way to divide the community and detract attention from allegations of fraud and inadequacy regarding its mine permits.

The Marquette County Road Commission has been accepting RFQs, or proposals, for both construction of CR 595 and upgrades to Rio Tinto’s currently permitted haul route (Triple A-510-550), demonstrating that using existing roads is both feasible and prudent.

The purpose of Part 303, Wetlands Protection, is "to ensure the preservation and protection of the wildlife habitats known as wetlands." The 595 corridor contains rare wetlands resources that cannot be replaced. They provide critical benefits within the affected watersheds.

Please e-mail your letter as soon as possible, to Susan Hedman, EPA Region 5 Adminstrator: Hedman.Susan@epa.gov and copy to these additional addresses: Hyde.Tinka@epa.gov, Haveman.Melanie@epamail.epa.gov, Elston.Sue@epamail.epa.gov, Swenson.Peter@epamail.epa.gov. *

Thank you, one more time.

Catherine Parker
Marquette, Michigan 

*Note:
Click here for additional talking points.
Click here for  official comments.

Editor's Note: See Keweenaw Now's coverage of the Aug. 28, 2012, EPA Public Hearing on CR 595:
"EPA Hearing on CR 595 permit: Part 1, Questions" and
"EPA Hearing on CR 595: Part 2: Comments"

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Copper Country Chorale to perform Christmas favorites Dec. 2

HANCOCK -- The Copper Country Chorale invites you to attend their Christmas concert called "A Potpourri of Christmas Favorites."  It will take place at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 2, in the St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church on Tamarack St. in Laurium.  Tickets are $7 and can be purchased at the door or from a Chorale member.