Friday, August 07, 2015

Eagle Harbor Art Fair to be Aug. 8, 9

By Michele Bourdieu 

St. Peter's by the Sea in Eagle Harbor is the scene of the annual Eagle Harbor Art Fair. Artists' booths offer a variety of art and crafts by local and visiting artists. Inside the church additional art is exhibited, including demonstrations by the featured artist. (Keweenaw Now 2014 photo)

EAGLE HARBOR -- Copper Country Associated Artists (CCAA) will host the Eagle Harbor Art Fair this weekend -- from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, and from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 9, at St. Peter's by the Sea in Eagle Harbor.

The featured artist this year will be watercolor artist Ellen Torola.

It has been over 50 years that the CCAA is hosting the fair, and it will continue to be as spectacular as ever. More than 60 artist vendors will be selling their wares: photography, pottery, jewelry, painting, woodworking -- just about anything you can think of. Goodies to eat are provided by Eagle Harbor Township to raise money for various projects. There are several lovely hotels in the area and a swimming beach. Restaurants can be found in Eagle Harbor as well as a few miles up or down the road in Eagle River or Copper Harbor. Bring the whole family!

Here are some photos from the 2014 Eagle Harbor Art Fair:

Ceramic artist Miriam Pickens displays a plate she made with a painting of one of her favorite butterflies. Pickens was the featured artist at the 2014 Eagle Harbor Art Fair. (Keweenaw Now 2014 photos)

An exhibit of tiles by Houghton artist Kanak Nanavati was displayed in St. Peter's by the Sea at the 2014 Eagle Harbor Art Fair.

CCAA artists Dolly Luoma, left, and Kanak Nanavati chat at one of the activity tables where visitors can work on art projects during the Fair. 

Fiber artist Andrea Puzakulich displays her  Distant Drum designs at the 2014 Eagle Harbor Art Fair.

Artist Judy Vivian displays a variety of lovely handcrafted items in her booth at the 2014 Fair.

Photographer Steve Brimm and Erika Vye offer a colorful display of Steve's photos for sale in his booth at the 2014 Fair. Steve also operates the EarthWorks Gallery in Copper Harbor.

Artists Bill and Edith Wiard are seen here with Bill's display of his lovely woodworking.

Artist Chuck Young offers his handmade jewelry for sale at the 2014 Fair.

Virginia Jamison of the Keweenaw County Historical Society welcomes visitors to the Society's historic Eagle Harbor School during the 2014 Art Fair.

Gustavo Bourdieu enjoys his first visit to the Eagle Harbor School.

Charlie Hopper of PastyNet was on hand to sell hot dogs during the 2014 Eagle Harbor Art Fair.

Tonight, First Friday, Aug. 7, the Copper Country Associated Artists Gallery will be closed since members will be preparing for the 2015 Eagle Harbor Art Fair this weekend.

First Friday in Calumet to offer Art Walk, New Chamber Music Concert Aug. 7

Photography by Eric Munch. (Photo © 2015 Eric Munch and courtesy Paige Wiard Gallery)

CALUMET -- First Friday, Aug. 7, in Calumet will offer both the traditional Art Walk, with exhibits and receptions in several galleries, and a New Chamber Music Concert at the Calumet Art Center.

Galerie Bohème: New art by Margo McCafferty

White Shed. Egg tempura painting by Margo McCafferty. (Photo courtesy Galerie Bohème)

Galerie Bohème is pleased to present a series of new Egg Tempera Paintings by Margo McCafferty through Sept. 3, 2015. An opening reception will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on First Friday, Aug. 7.

Galerie Bohème, at 423 Fifth Street, shows regional artists with international acclaim. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. For more information call 906-369-4087.

Paige Wiard Gallery: Two photographers

Photography by Eric Munch. (Photo © 2015 Eric Munch and courtesy Paige Wiard Gallery)

The Paige Wiard Gallery welcomes photographers Eric Munch and Mark Gregg as featured artists for the month of August. Each of these photographers sees the beauty of the Keweenaw in different ways. Eric’s photographs show the natural beauty of the lakes, woods and rivers. Mark’s photographs show the uniqueness of the amazing historic structures of the Keweenaw.

Photography by Mark Gregg. (Photo © Mark Gregg and courtesy Paige Wiard Gallery)

An opening reception will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on August 7. Stop in at 109 Fifth Street, meet the artists and see the Keweenaw in a different way. For more information email paigewiardgallery@gmail.com or call 906-337-5970.

Cross Country Sports: Photography by Steve Brimm

Held over by popular demand for the month of August, Cross Country Sports will be featuring photography by Steve Brimm.

Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada. Photography by Steve Brimm. (Photo © and courtesy Steve Brimm)

Steve has been photographing the wonders around him for over 25 years. His early years found him shooting with film and medium format cameras. Much has changed since those days, which brings us to this exhibit titled "Have iPhone, will travel." Steve's work has been published in Lake Superior Magazine, Midwest Living and more. He has published two books and operates EarthWorks Gallery in Copper Harbor.

An open house with refreshments will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, August 7. Cross Country Sports is at 507 Oak Street.

Omphale Gallery and Restaurant: "Treasures" by jd slack

Sievi Country, pastel by jd slack. (Photo courtesy Omphale Gallery and Restaurant)

At the Omphale Gallery and Restaurant, jd slack is exhibiting a selection of pastels from favorites over the past 15 years. Known for the use of vibrant color, these "treasures" feature images of the Keweenaw, Isle Royale, Europe, and Australia. Also included are contemporary icons and jd slack's well-known houses, windows, and structures. The exhibition can be seen through September.

The Omphale is at 431 Fifth Street. Dinner is served on First Fridays.

Café Rosetta: Artist Jacqueline Williams

Art by Jacqueline Williams, on display at Café Rosetta. (Photo courtesy Café Rosetta)

This month Café Rosetta is featuring art by Jacqueline Williams, who does amazing sketches, pastels and custom order woodburning.

Café Rosetta is at 104 Fifth Street. Call 906-337-5500 for more info.

Calumet Art Center: New Chamber Music Concert

Members of the Calumet Art Center are pleased to be hosting the fifth year of New Chamber Music musicians, who will be performing upstairs in the auditorium.

Accomplished composer and violinist Paul Seitz, assisted by soprano Christine Seitz, composer and violinist Sylvia del Real, violinist/violist Erica Flyte, cellist Pat Quimby, pianist Jon Ensminger, and flautist Bryan Suits will perform recently composed works by participating composers as well as earlier compositions by Bela Bartok, George Gershwin and Henry Purcell that have features in common with the new works

The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday, August 7. An $8.00 donation is suggested. Click here for more information.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Calumet Art Center to host New Chamber Music Concert First Friday, Aug. 7

CALUMET -- Members of the Calumet Art Center are pleased to be hosting the fifth year of New Chamber Music musicians, who will be performing upstairs in the auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on First Friday, Aug. 7

Accomplished composer and violinist Paul Seitz, assisted by soprano Christine Seitz, composer and violinist Sylvia del Real, violinist/violist Erica Flyte, cellist Pat Quimby, pianist Jon Ensminger, and flautist Bryan Suits will perform recently composed works by participating composers as well as earlier compositions by Bela Bartok, George Gershwin and Henry Purcell that have features in common with the new works. An $8 donation is suggested.

Paul Seitz, violist, is a composer of opera and music for instrumental and vocal ensembles large and small. He has performed in many United States venues, including The Kennedy Center Millennium Stage and the Pine Mountain Music Festival. He has also played in performance venues in Slovenia, Italy, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Spain and Brazil. (Keweenaw Now file photo courtesy Paul Seitz)

Prior to the concert enrich your senses with a visit to the Heritage Rose Garden in the yard just outside the Art Center.  Many pink and red roses are a'bloom and fragrant, and a host of other garden favorites are blooming blithely through the whims of Copper Country summer weather.

Inside the studio and galleries, located downstairs, take an opportunity to visit with Art Center members, see handsome twined rugs made of re-purposed wool garments and blankets, woven wool rugs warped on functional antique looms, two galleries featuring the extraordinary pottery of Ed Gray, including a new collection of beautifully glazed mugs that cradle within cupped hands.

Calumet Art Center student's twining project. (Keweenaw Now file photo courtesy Calumet Art Center)

New to the studio are hand-thrown plates and bowls of Jacob Thill, who will be demonstrating his clay throwing techniques at the potter's wheel. Jacob is earning a degree in Mechanical Engineering and satisfies that yearning to meld science and art in the enriching environment of the Art Center.  Paintings of artist Erik Iverson, bowls made of hand-pounded copper, jewelry made of Lake Superior stone set in copper wire, clay vessels depicting dragonflies, beaver, and turtle are all on display and available for sale. You may also sign up for upcoming classes on clay, weaving, jewelry and mitten felting and inquire about making use of studio space.

The Calumet Art Center is at 57055 Fifth Street.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Guest article: The Political Project of MCRC v. EPA, Part 3: Sunlight and Skullduggery

By Louis V. Galdieri
Posted on Louis V. Galdieri's blog on Aug. 3, 2015
Third in a Series


When it comes to parceling out the land, water and future of the Lake Superior region to the highest bidders, few have matched the auctionary zeal demonstrated a couple of years ago by David Dill, a member of Minnesota’s House of Representatives. In the debate over the proposed Boundary Waters Land Exchange, Dill was among those urging that the state should exchange School Trust Lands in the Boundary Waters area for 30,000 acres of Superior National Forest.* Since by law Minnesota would be bound "to secure maximum long-term economic return" from lands thus acquired, Dill proclaimed, "we should mine, log, and lease the hell out of that land."**

Dill understood this much: if there is hell to be found in Superior National Forest, there is probably no better way to bring it out.

The unanswered question in Minnesota and throughout the Lake Superior region is not, however, theological: it’s whether extractive industries and the developments they bring will actually deliver "long-term" economic benefit for the region, and not just a short-term spurt or boom, or another period of destructive plunder followed by long-term decline. That is not just a question up for debate by economists and other experts; it is, at root, a political question.

As I’ve suggested in my first two posts in this series, the complaint filed by the Marquette County Road Commission against the EPA is part and parcel of an effort to shut this question down, or exclude it from public consideration.*** This complaint is only incidentally about a haul road. It’s part of a political offensive that aims to stifle debate and hand the future of the region over to unseen powers. Those powers lurk under legal cover of the dark 501c4 "public welfare" organization funding the MCRC’s lawsuit against the EPA. ... Click here to read the rest of this article on Louis V. Galdieri's blog.

Inset photo: Louis V. Galdieri. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

Author's Notes:
* See School Trust Land Exchange. See also Mar. 7, 2012, MPR News article, "Disagreement threatens to derail plan to swap school trust lands."
** Read about this law here.
*** See: "The Political Project of MCRC v. EPA, Part 1" and "The Political Project of MCRC v. EPA, Part 2."

Editor's Note:
Guest author Louis V. Galdieri is a filmmaker based in New York City. He and fellow filmmaker Ken Ross visited Houghton, Mich., in October 2013 and screened their documentary 1913 Massacre, about the Italian Hall tragedy. Since then he has posted several articles on his blog about present-day mining issues in the Upper Peninsula. This is an excerpt from the third in a series of articles Galdieri is writing on the Marquette County Road Commission (MCRC) lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concerning County Road 595.

Talking Neighbors: new work by Susan Barber to open Aug. 6 in Kerredge Gallery

Oriole 3. Sculpture by Susan Barber. (Photos courtesy Copper Country Community Arts Center)

HANCOCK -- The Copper Country Community Arts Council presents its exhibition in the Kerredge Gallery, Talking Neighbors: new work by Susan Barber. The exhibition is filled with clay sculptures of birds vibrantly painted to include their forest surroundings.

Susan Barber earned her B.F.A. in ceramic sculpture, a B.S. in Education, Art and Biology (K-12), and an M.A. in Ceramic Sculpture from Central Michigan University.

After a career of teaching art, photography, and biology in a small rural school district, she and her husband of 36 years moved to a small plot of woods near Sturgeon Bay in Northern Michigan and built a clay studio. Living close to woodland birds in the dense forest, she was inspired to start sculpting once again.

 Susan Barber in her studio.

"I've always loved listening to the birds and the leaves rustling in the wind," Barber says. "When I started working with clay again after 15 years I decided to make something I was familiar with and also to see if I remembered how to work with clay. Feeling great about living in this little patch of woods in northern Michigan, I decided to make the birds that share these woods. It is like a jungle with a huge array of languages shouting, pecking, hooting, squawking, chirping, and whistling -- an utter symphony of sounds. I always wonder what they are saying. Hence, Talking Neighbors. This body of work is my first attempt to rekindle that love of petting clay into life after years of absence."

The public is invited to see the new art and meet the artist at an opening reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, August 6. The exhibit will be on display through August 29.

This program is supported by a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Copper Country Community Arts Center is located at 126 Quincy Street in Hancock. For more information call (906) 482-2333 or visit the website, www.coppercountryarts.com.

Two Keweenaw state parks picked for best campground in Lake Superior Magazine’s 2015 ‘Best of the Lake’ readers' poll

From Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Cover of September 2015 issue of Lake Superior Magazine. (Image courtesy Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

MARQUETTE -- Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, located just west of Copper Harbor in Keweenaw County, and F.J. McLain State Park near Hancock in Houghton County, recently were voted first- and second-place winners, respectively, for Michigan shore "best campground" by the readers of Lake Superior Magazine.*

More than 650 print magazine readers, website followers and fans of establishments around the Lake Superior shoreline voted in the poll. The results, which included 101 total winners, were published in the September 2015 issue of the magazine, which is now on sale.

"We are very proud of our park and our efforts at customer service," said Bonnie Harrer, Michigan Department of Natural Resources' office support at Fort Wilkins Historic State Park.

Kids and parents enjoy a warm Saturday afternoon at the playground at Fort Wilkins Historic State Park. (Photos courtesy Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources unless otherwise indicated)

Fort Wilkins supervisor Wayne Burnett agreed, crediting the efforts of park employees and others to make Fort Wilkins a popular U.P. destination.

"Our people here do a tremendous job," Burnett said.

Winners were determined in several categories ranging from best weekend destination, beach and pizza to best park, burger and gift shop. Winners were named in each of the categories for Lake Superior’s four shores in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ontario, Canada.

"The 'Best of the Lake' has been around in some form or another since 1989," said Konnie LeMay, Lake Superior Magazine editor, in Duluth, Minnesota. "It started as '10 Best Lake Experiences.' Our formal 'Best of the Lake' list, voted on by readers, was first published in 1994."

LeMay said the magazine does not feature the same categories every year and it has been a while since they’ve included campgrounds.

This year, the campgrounds at Fort Wilkins took the No. 1 spot for the first time since the contest began. F.J. McLain State Park won a first-place award for "best park" in 2012. This year’s best park honor went to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and runner-up was Isle Royale National Park, whose gateway community is Copper Harbor.

A view of Lake Superior and Copper Harbor, which was honored as "best weekend destination" in Lake Superior Magazine’s "Best of the Lake" readers' poll this year. Fort Wilkins is just a short drive from Copper Harbor, and Isle Royale National Park can be reached by boat from either Copper Harbor or Houghton, Mich.

"We are very fortunate to have the support of the Fort Wilkins Natural History Association that funds the activities at the fort," Harrer said. "But it is our hardworking, fort-loving workers that make the visit for our customers comfortable and a wonderful experience."

This year, Fort Wilkins offered 45 evening programs, a new record. Park staff is proud of its service to the public and how many people volunteered to organize and staff the evening programs.

"All these things add up to why we feel we can brag about our beautiful and very vibrant park and we are thankful that the people who read Lake Superior Magazine voted us No. 1 in the 'Best of the Lake' contest," Harrer said.

A visitor takes a leisurely stroll with his dog through the east campground at Fort Wilkins Historic State Park.

Fort Wilkins Historic State Park is situated on 698 acres along the shores of Lake Fanny Hooe, a short distance across U.S. 41 from Lake Superior. The park has an east and west campground with a total of 159 campsites, a mini-cabin, a camper-cabin and a group-use area with four rustic sites.

Fort Wilkins was built in 1844 and today remains a well-preserved example of Army life during the mid-19th century. The site includes 24 buildings, half of which are original structures. The Copper Harbor Lighthouse, built in 1866, also is part of the park.

F.J. McLain State Park is located on 443 acres – between Hancock and Calumet – and has 90 campsites and cabins with electricity and without. The park is named for former Houghton County Road Commission Chairman Fredrick J. McLain who worked to have the property designated as a state park in the early 1800s.

"McLain State Park is honored to be voted as one of the best campgrounds on the lake in Lake Superior Magazine," said McLain State Park unit supervisor Jamie Metheringham. "The park is well-known to its visitors to have a superior sunset and spectacular view of the great lake."

Campers who have visited F.J. McLain State Park for many years enjoy a July day reading and relaxing at the park. The park welcomes campers with tents or recreational vehicles and includes a public beach just a short bike ride or walk from the campground. 

Overall, the Keweenaw Peninsula fared very well in this year’s Michigan contest voting by Lake Superior Magazine readers.

Additional first-place Copper Country nods included Copper Harbor as the "best weekend destination," the vista at Brockway Mountain as the "best scenic overlook," Fitzgerald’s Restaurant (Eagle River Inn) in Eagle River was voted the "best restaurant," with the Harbor Haus in Copper Harbor voted runner-up while the Michigan House Café and Red Jacket Brewing Co. in Calumet hit the top spot for "best burger."
An interpretive sign at a lookout point along Brockway Mountain Drive.

For more information on Michigan state parks, visit www.michigan.gov/stateparks. To check camping availability and make reservations, visit www.midnrreservations.com/. For more information on Lake Superior Magazine, visit www.LakeSuperior.com.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

* Click here to learn more about Fort Wilkins Historic State Park. See a map of F. J. McLain State Park here.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Citizens question DEQ's wastewater discharge permit for Eagle Mine's Humboldt Mill; deadline for comments is Aug. 3

By Michele Bourdieu

This aerial view shows the outfalls of discharge from the Humboldt Pit (Eagle Mine's Humboldt Tailings Disposal Facility) and the proposed (pink) flow path through wetlands and the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River. 1 = Outfall 001; 2 = Outfall 002; 3 = (proposed) Outfall 003; 4 = Humboldt Wetland Mitigation Bank, Phase 1 South; 5 = Humboldt Tailings Disposal Facility (pit); * = asterisks indicate Middle Branch of the Escanaba River. (Photo courtesy Save the Wild U.P.)

MARQUETTE -- Eagle Mine's Humboldt Mill near Champion, Mich. -- the facility Eagle uses to process ore from the mine near Big Bay into separate nickel and copper concentrates -- is a subject of controversy because of environmental concerns over the permitting process that allows treated or untreated wastewater from the mill to be discharged into wetlands and the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River (MBER).

This photo shows the Humboldt Mill, where Lundin Mining Co., now owner of the Eagle Mine, processes ore from the mine into nickel and copper concentrates. The wastewater from the mill goes into the Humboldt Tailings Disposal Facility (HTDF), aka, the Humboldt Pit (upper left of photo) and then through a water treatment plant (if necessary) and to two Outfalls, with a third Outfall proposed, that lead through wetlands to the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River (see above map). (File photo courtesy Eagle Mine)

While the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) claims the outfalls from the Humboldt Tailings Disposal Facility (HTDF), aka, the Humboldt Pit, carry the discharge, totaling up to 1.4 million gallons per day, through wetlands (classified as warm water) before reaching the river, Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) claims at least one of the outfalls, Outfall 002, empties directly into the river, a cold-water trout stream; and, most recently, SWUP questions the path of the discharge from the newly proposed Outfall 003 -- through a wetland mitigation bank and into the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River.

SWUP is a grassroots environmental nonprofit based in Marquette and dedicated to protecting the wild lands and freshwater resources of the Upper Peninsula.

Public comment on the modified NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System) permit can be received up to Aug. 3, 2015.*

MDEQ announces NPDES permit modification

On July 2, 2015, the MDEQ released a draft wastewater discharge permit modification for Eagle Mine’s Humboldt Mill. On April 7, 2015, the MDEQ had issued the mill an NPDES permit which included a requirement for a hydrological study to determine the best location and discharge strategy to protect the integrity of downstream wetlands. That requirement originated after a Jan. 13, 2015, public meeting where attendees expressed concern about potential impacts to wetland hydrology.

"The permit that we issued on April 7 required Eagle to do a study to monitor the impact of the Humboldt Pit discharge on water levels in wetlands between the Humboldt Pit and the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River," said Steve Casey, MDEQ Water Division Upper Peninsula District supervisor. "Part of the study was to evaluate establishing a new outfall at the location of the post-closure water release. That location is 530 feet west of the original outfall (of the permit). In order to best conduct that study they've requested a modification of their permit so they can discharge at the post-closure location now."

The MDEQ processed Eagle's request, and the draft permit contains the same limitations on flows and water quality as the April 7 permit. The only change to the permit is to add a new outfall location -- Outfall 003.

This is stated in the Public Notice for the permit (NPDES Permit No. MI0058649) as follows:

"The draft permit includes the following modifications to the previously-issued permit: 
A new Outfall 003 has been added, which will authorize the discharge of wastewaters (identical to Outfalls 001 and 002) through a pipeline to the wetland contiguous to the Middle Branch Escanaba River. Outfall 003 has been proposed in accordance with the original permit’s requirements in Part I.A.4.b. The new outfall (003) will share the flow restrictions with Outfalls 001 and 002, as outlined in Part I.A.1 and Part I.A.1.j, and does not authorize any additional flow. Upon modification, this permit will supersede Certificate of Coverage No. MIS210034, issued August 15, 2012."

"The discharge goes to the same wetland complex," Casey explained. "It's the location where the Humboldt Pit discharged after it filled up 40 years ago."

SWUP concerned about Outfalls 002 and 003

In a letter to EPA (the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) dated May 6, 2015, SWUP petitioned the EPA to veto the NPDES permit issued on April 7 by the MDEQ, acting under delegated authority from EPA Region 5, on the basis that inadequacies of the permit violate the Clean Water Act.

"In response to public comment, the MDEQ made changes to the original draft permit brought forward by Eagle Mine but failed to resolve numerous and serious issues related to a new outfall (Outfall 002) discharging wastewater which degrades water quality in the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River," the letter states.


The letter questions the location of Outfall 002, which, SWUP claims, "was not studied during the Humboldt Mill EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment), and remains unassessed."

This aerial photo, taken July 9, 2015, shows the location of Outfall 002 -- marked by a yellow X in the center of the photo. Click on photo for larger version. (Photo © and courtesy Jeremiah Eagle Eye)

In response to public comments made before the April 7 permit, MDEQ defined the location of Outfall 002 as follows: "The pipeline for Outfall 002 will discharge to an area upgradient of the wetland adjacent to the Middle Branch Escanaba River (MBER). Flow dissipation will be accomplished in an approximately 40-foot length rip-rap apron, which slopes down to the wetland fringe to promote a slow, gradual entry of water into the wetland. This design also intended to allow some natural infiltration into the sandy outfall and to limit or eliminate transport of sediment into and through the wetland. The distance from the wetland fringe to the bank of MBER is about 150 feet depending on stage of the river."*

In the letter to EPA, SWUP further questions MDEQ's calling the discharge receiving water a wetland:

"Temporarily setting aside critical concerns about preemptive construction and flawed design of Outfall 002, it is simply a gross manipulation to call Outfall 002 a 'wetland discharge' in order to utilize warm-water aquatic values and wetland hardness and pH values, thus allowing higher parameter limits for heavy metals in effluent discharge. Discharges from Outfall 002 into the riverbed receive no ameliorating or assimilating benefit, as would occur in a true wetland; it is an error of fact and judgement to term Outfall 002 either a 'wetland discharge' or a 'warm-water wetland' discharge. During our most recent visit to Outfall 002, in mid-April 2015, discharges from Outfall 002 were observed flowing directly into and merging with river currents."

Outfall 002 is pictured here, with discharge from the Humboldt Pit appearing to flow into the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River. Technically, it is described as passing through wetlands, depending on the seasonal flow of the river. (May 2015 photo © and courtesy Jeremiah Eagle Eye)

Kristen Mariuzza, Eagle Mine manager for Environment, Health and Safety, replying to questions from Keweenaw Now, said, "Outfall 001 and Outfall 002 both discharge to wetlands that are contiguous to the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River. Outfall 002 discharges to the wetland that is located several hundred feet from the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River."

Mariuzza also said the discharge is coming from the Humboldt Water Treatment Plant.

"Tailings from the Mill are sub-aqueously disposed in the pit and process water is treated by the water treatment plant before being recycled to the environment," she explained.

Kristen Mariuzza, Eagle Mine manager for Environment, Health and Safety, replies to questions from Big Bay residents, including Gene Champagne, right, during the May 19, 2015, Eagle Mine community meeting in Big Bay. The meeting allowed the public to meet individually with Eagle Mine staff members and ask about their concerns. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Save the Wild U.P. also questions the purpose of Outfall 003 and challenges the April 7 NPDES permit for several reasons, noting their concerns expressed at the Jan. 13, 2015, public hearing have not been sufficiently addressed, even though the MDEQ public notice on Outfall 003 states it is in response to hydrology concerns expressed at that public hearing.

SWUP questions discharge through Humboldt Wetland Mitigation Bank

In a July 23 press release, SWUP cites some public concerns that have not been addressed by the modified permit.

"Citizens remain deeply critical of the MDEQ’s previous permitting decision, allowing degradation of the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River. We asked EPA Region 5 to veto that NPDES permit, in fact, because it was so deeply flawed," said SWUP President Kathleen Heideman. "Now they’re already revising it. Adding a third discharge point does not address citizen concerns about environmental degradation. The pollution remains unchanged. MDEQ is supposed to be protecting the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River as a coldwater trout stream."

According to Casey, though, the NPDES permit limits protect both the wetlands and the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River.

"Limits listed in the permit -- for both metals and other pollutants -- are protective of both wetlands and the cold-water river," Casey told Keweenaw Now in a phone conversation on July 15. "We put a hydrological study requirement in the permit to be sure Eagle's discharge protects the hydrological integrity of downstream wetlands -- both natural and created."

The "created" wetlands are those of the Humboldt Wetland Mitigation Bank north of U.S. 41. According to Casey, Outfall 002 is intended to alleviate concerns of this Wetland Mitigation Bank, owned by A. Lindberg and Sons. Originally the groundwater under the created wetlands was too high. It would back up if too much water was being pumped from the original Outfall, Casey explained. The revised permit limits total discharge from the Humboldt Pit to 1.4 million gallons per day.

"If the water in the pit meets all the limits in the permit, they can discharge a total of 1.4 million gallons per day divided among the three outfalls without using the water treatment plant," Casey said. (The water treatment plant -- using an ultra filtration method -- is only required if the water in the pit exceeds permit limits.)

However, the path of the wastewater is still troubling to SWUP. They claim the addition of Outfall 003 would divert a portion of the mill’s wastewater to a new location, dumping it into a poor-quality cattail wetland adjacent to the Humboldt Pit, a site already polluted by historic mine tailings discharge. From there, the wastewater will flow north, passing underneath US-41 through a culvert before entering the Humboldt Wetland Mitigation Bank property, en route to the Escanaba river.

"Wetland mitigation banks are supposed to replace functional wetlands destroyed by development. Owners of such banks are given credit for restoring functional wetlands. I find it incredible that this mitigation bank will be allowed to receive wastewater from the Humboldt Mill," said Gail Griffith, emeritus professor of chemistry at Northern Michigan University and SWUP board member.

SWUP finds MDEQ's statement that Outfalls 001 and 003 "discharge to the same wetland" to be oversimplified since the route taken by the wastewater will be strikingly different.

"Wastewaters discharged from Outfall 003 would enter the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River at a location at least a mile upstream from Outfall 001 (See above SWUP map). In short, Eagle Mine’s total environmental footprint is expanding again," said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s interim director.


Heideman adds she finds the discharge into the Humboldt Wetland Mitigation Bank very unusual.

"I spoke to a staffer from Michigan’s Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, someone familiar with NPDES permitting requirements and regulations concerning wetlands preservation, and they could not think of another situation in which a wetland mitigation bank would be allowed to intentionally receive wastewater discharges from a mine’s tailings facility," Heideman said. "Mitigation banks are required to be protected from contaminants, reviewed for biological integrity, and maintained in perpetuity. Anything less would be contrary to the administrative code which governs wetland mitigation banking."

Marquette attorney Jana Mathieu noted, "Humboldt Mill’s NPDES permit authorizes discharges that will, in the short term, degrade water quality in the Escanaba watershed. But it would be manifestly unreasonable, and clearly contrary to Michigan law, for the MDEQ to allow these industrial wastewaters to enter a state-registered wetland mitigation bank."


Poster of Humboldt Mill processing on display at the May 19, 2015, Eagle Mine community meeting held in Big Bay. The right lower photo shows part of the Humboldt Pit (Humboldt Tailings Disposal Facility) The middle of the three photos above shows equipment for separating the nickel and copper. "We sink the nickel and float the copper," said Jeff Murray, mill site manager. Murray also noted the water is recycled as much as possible, with some water coming from the pit. The final, dried nickel and copper concentrates are shipped to Canada by rail for further processing. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Steve Garske, botanist and SWUP board member, also questioned the quality of the wetland mitigation bank.

"I can't believe the laws (regulating wetland mitigation banks) intended for the landowner to dig out sand and gravel for commercial sale; let the hole fill with water -- including contaminated water seeping from an old tailings basin and wastewater discharges from the processing of copper-nickel-sulfide ore at Humboldt Mill; let whatever aggressive, weedy invasive plants that are around move in; put up 'no trespassing' signs; and call it wetland mitigation. Is anybody monitoring this? Something's gotta be wrong."

Save the Wild U.P. requested a site visit to review the Humboldt Wetland Mitigation Bank, but has received no response from the bank’s sponsor, A. Lindberg and Sons, who designed the proposed Outfall 003; MDEQ’s Water Resources Division declined to facilitate the site visit, according to SWUP. **


Since January, no public hearing has been scheduled for the NPDES permit. SWUP encourages concerned citizens to submit written comments, or request a public hearing for further review of this proposed permit modification and related environmental impacts.*

"Mine permitting keeps getting streamlined for the benefit of industry, while concerned citizens find the process time-consuming and opaque," Maxwell added. "Before the ink is dry on a permit, it is being revised, with additional loopholes and leniencies inserted. It is up to concerned citizens to follow every revision, ask questions, and loudly demand that due process be followed."

After taking a June 19 public tour of the Humboldt Mill, Horst Schmidt, a resident of Tamarack City, said he had questions about the water in the pit that weren't answered.


"Although Lundin runs an efficient operation, they are dumping the tailings into the old Humboldt open mine pit which is now a lake," Schmidt said. "Unless it's sealed, how can we know what is leaching through fractures into the aquifer? When the staff or Dan Blondeau, Lundin's local PR man, are asked questions beyond the soft ones, one gets non sequiturs from them about operational details."

According to Eagle Mine's Mariuzza, "The purpose of Outfall 003 is two-fold: first, it meets the permit requirement to establish an outfall at the post closure water release location; and, second, it allows for better water distribution and ensures the historical viability of the entire wetland is maintained."

After several calls to EPA Region 5, Keweenaw Now received this reply concerning the petition from SWUP: "EPA is in the process of reviewing a proposed modification to a state permit issued to the Humboldt Mill tailing disposal facility in Champion, Michigan. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality proposed the modification on July 2. EPA has received the petition from Save the Wild UP relating to this permit modification and it is being reviewed."

Mariuzza said she believed EPA did comment on the NPDES permit but she did not have details of those comments.

Asked whether Lundin is working on the hydrology study, Mariuzza said, "A work plan for the hydrologic study was submitted to the MDEQ in late May. The actual study will commence in late summer/early fall. The study will include determining impacts of discharges from Outfall 001 and Outfall 003, if approved for construction."***

Notes:

* Click here to access the permit, a fact sheet and the DEQ's responsiveness summary (responses to earlier comments). New comments can be sent to Samuel Snow at snows2@michigan.gov before midnight, Aug. 3, 2015.


** Click here for the full SWUP press release. Keweenaw Now left messages for A. Lindberg and Sons, but did not receive a reply for this article.

*** Replies to Keweenaw Now's questions to Kristen Mariuzza were relayed to us by Dan Blondeau, Eagle Mine senior advisor in Communications and Media Relations.