Friday, February 05, 2016

Oil and Water Don't Mix: More time needed to examine proposals on future of Enbridge Line 5 in Mackinac Straits

[Editor's Update: The deadline for comments on the documents mentioned below has been extended to Feb. 16, 2016. Click here for info.]

A coalition of community groups, organizations and businesses concerned with the threat of Enbridge Energy Partner’s Line 5 through the Straits of Mackinac has criticized the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Attorney General’s office for giving the public less than a week to examine crucial documents that will be used to decide the future of the controversial oil pipeline. The Oil and Water Don’t Mix coalition is asking the state to extend the time for public comment from 5 days ending today, Feb. 5, to 30 days.

The Oil and Water Don’t Mix coalition has made it possible for the public to comment by using a form on their Web site.*

At issue are more than 20 pages of documents called "Independent Risk Analysis" and "Independent Alternatives Analysis" for the Straits pipelines, which Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and the MDEQ announced Monday, Feb. 1, along with a deadline of today, Friday, for public comment. The documents will be used in the hiring of consultants to undertake the studies and examine alternatives to Line 5 in the Straits.

Guy Meadows, director of Michigan Tech University's Great Lakes Research Center and adjunct professor in geological and mining engineering and sciences, who is a Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board member, told Keweenaw Now the advisory board began considering these documents last October.

"The advisory board began considering the Independent Risk and Alternatives studies last October with members providing valuable and thoughtful input to the process," Meadows said today. "Similar input from the public is also sought and encouraged."**

However, several citizen groups have objected to the short notice given to the public -- with only five days to comment. 

"You can’t claim to want the public engaged or that you are being transparent and then turn around and give folks just five days to respond to proposals critical to the future of the Great Lakes," said David Holtz, Chair of the Michigan Sierra Club Executive Committee. "These documents will determine what is on the table and what isn’t when it comes to decisions about the future of Line 5. Enbridge and other insiders have had these documents for many weeks. We think the public should have the same opportunity as the oil industry to weigh in on them."

Sierra Club is one of 24 organizations that have endorsed the Oil and Water Don’t Mix coalition’s goal of ending the flow of oil through the Straits and keeping oil out of the Great Lakes.The coalition also has the support of more than 200 businesses and 15 local governments.

"What happens with these documents will affect the lakes for generations to come, and Michiganders deserve a fair chance to have their say," said Lynna Kaucheck, Senior Midwest Organizer for Food and Water Watch. "The health of our Great Lakes hinges on decisions about Line 5."

The citizens groups say the state’s draft documents fall short in key areas, including the following:
  • Too little attention is paid to public health. Short- and long-term human health impacts from exposure to airborne chemicals released during oil spill recovery must be examined as well as the affects of an oil spill on drinking water sources.
  • The proposed analysis of the economic impacts of an oil spill fall short of being comprehensive. Any economic impact assessment must include impacts on Great Lakes waters, aquatic and wildlife resources, drinking water supplies on the U.S. and Canadian sides, tourism, shipping, sports and commercial and recreational fishing, and tribal fishing rights. An economic impact analysis that fails to even consider the Great Lakes as a public trust resource is not credible.
  • There must be a detailed section based on a credible worst-case scenario of a Line 5 pipeline rupture that examines methodologies used by other high-hazard industries and includes assessing the cumulative impacts of small, undetected leaks.
The Oil and Water Don’t Mix coalition has called on the state to immediately halt the flow of oil through the Straits while a state Pipeline Safety Advisory Board examines alternatives, which is expected to take months if not years to complete.

Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW (For Love of Water), said the need to eliminate the Line 5 risk to the Great Lakes is urgent.

"It seems the state is trying to rush these documents through because they rightly recognize the urgency of dealing with the Line 5 threat," Kirkwood said. "That’s why we think it’s prudent to stop the flow of oil through the Straits now and undertake a thorough, comprehensive review of permanent alternatives. Short-changing that by cutting out the public’s role isn’t likely to lead to a good outcome for the people of Michigan."

Kate Madigan of the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) adds MEC favors the alternative of decommissioning Line 5.

"Michigan’s future is reliant on the health of the Great Lakes, and the state’s primary responsibility here is to protect the Great Lakes, our public health, drinking water supplies and economy from a catastrophic oil spill."

* Click here to comment immediately to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and the MDEQ using the form from Oil and Water Don't Mix.

** Click here to learn about the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board.

Editor's Note: Unfortunately we only learned of this 5-day comment period today, Feb. 5. It was announced by Attorney General Bill Schuette's office on Feb. 1.

Inset Photo: Oil and Water Don't Mix sign held at Sept. 6, 2015, protest near Mackinac Bridge against Enbridge's Line 5 under the Straits. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Winter Carnival 2016 snow statue winners announced


Visitors admire Phi Kappa Tau's winning snow statue titled "Welcoming Immigration to This Great Nation" -- with scenes of New York City, including the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge as viewed by immigrants arriving in the harbor. The Hancock fraternity regained their first-place victory -- the eighth in the last nine years. (Photos by Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated.)

HOUGHTON -- For the eighth time in the last nine years, Phi Kappa Tau captured the top prize in the month-long statue division for Michigan Tech's 2016 Winter Carnival. The winning entry, constructed outside their house in Hancock, is "Welcoming Immigration to This Great Nation."

As depicted by Phi Kappa Tau's winning creation, New York's Statue of Liberty welcomes immigrants arriving in the harbor. The Empire State Building towers over the New York skyline in the background, and Brooklyn Bridge is at right.

Second place went to last year's winner, Tau Kappa Epsilon, for "Freedom's Price in Show and Ice."

Students put finishing touches on Tau Kappa Epsilon's snow statue titled "Freedom's Price in Show and Ice," which won second place in the month-long statue division. (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

Third place was Delta Sigma Phi, "Wyoming's Beauty Shown in a Snow Blown Yellowstone."

Sigma Phi Epsilon captured fourth  place with "Dreams of California-cation" and the Army ROTC took fifth place with "Where Gold Bars are Made."

All-Nighter winners

In the All-Nighter competition, St. Albert the Great University Parish took first place with "Covered By Ice and Snow to MARYland We Will Go."

St. Albert the Great University Parish won first place in the All Nighter competition. (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

Lutheran Campus Ministry captured second with "One Nation, One People." In third place is Hyrule with "A Tech Student's Plan of Attack Would Have Prevented the Crack."  Fourth place was captured by First Year Experience-Wads "Remembering Those Who Pulled Their Weight, While Defending Our Great 50 States." And in fifth place was Concordia Student Ministries with "But For Those Who Hope in the Lord Will Renew Their Strength, They Will Soar on Wings Like Eagles."

The snow statue winners, along with the overall Winter Carnival winners will be honored at the awards ceremony at 9 p.m. Saturday in the Memorial Union Ballroom.

More photos of Phi Kappa Tau first-place winner:

The Brooklyn Bridge, with its "decorative slushed rope," is described as "an engineering marvel built by the hands of New York immigrants."

A book records the number of immigrants from each of several countries arriving after a two-week voyage across the Atlantic.

Another view of the Statue of Liberty, with Ellis Island to the left.

Visit the Winter Carnival Web site for more winners and photos.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Reflection Gallery to host Nostalgic Optimism, paintings by Georgi Tsenov, Feb. 4 - March 6

Poster announcing Nostalgic Optimism, paintings by Georgi Tsenov. (Poster courtesy Finlandia University)

HANCOCK -- Finlandia University's Reflection Gallery in the Jutila Center, Hancock, will host an opening reception for the exhibit Nostalgic Optimism, paintings by Georgi Tsenov, at noon on Thursday, Feb. 4. The artist will be present and refreshments will be served. The exhibit continues through March 6, 2016.

Artist Georgi Tsenov is a Bulgarian painter/educator living and working in the United States since 2009. He currently resides in Hancock. Tsenov holds a Master of Arts degree from Sofia University in Bulgaria. He has held solo exhibitions throughout Bulgaria, and the upper Midwest region of the U.S.

Nostalgic Optimism will showcase 33 of Tsenov’s paintings spanning four years of studio work. The work on display includes landscape and still life paintings, all employing heavy stylization and arbitrary color palettes. The collection of works draws on Tsenov’s formal training, while employing a sense of rebellion toward the medium.

"My life in this nation has been the culmination of a lifelong journey and the fulfillment of my youthful dreams," Tsenov writes in his artist's statement. "My creativity has been inspired by my exploration of the northern Midwest. I am energized by the charm of the many small towns, rows of quaint houses, and beautiful harbors, ports, and marinas I have encountered. I was fascinated by my discovery of the local Native American culture. And perhaps above all, getting to know the local people has been my great pleasure. In short, this has been the long journey of a contemporary Eastern European artist. Otherwise stated, the wonderful discovery of America in forms and color. Particularly exciting for me is to share my discoveries through my art with the American viewer."

The Jutila Center is located at 200 Michigan Street, Hancock. Call (906) 487-7375 for more information.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Winter Carnival 2016 begins with snow statue theme of 50 states

Winter Carnival 2016 logo courtesy Blue Key Honor Society.

HOUGHTON -- It’s Winter Carnival time! Student organizations at Michigan Technological University are perched on scaffolding under lights, working deep into the night on their gigantic snow statues, a month-long effort.

The theme this year is "As snow accumulates at alarming rates, we show our love for the 50 states." Statues are expected to reflect that theme.

Winter Carnival, sponsored by the Blue Key Honor Society, officially starts on Wednesday, Feb. 3, and runs through Saturday, Feb. 6, although some activities have already begun, including ice bowling at the Dee Stadium and curling at the Calumet Drill House.

In ice bowling, students curl up in giant plastic shells, while other students hurl them across the ice at oversized duckpins. Curling, of course, has nothing to do with hair. It is the Scottish sport of heaving a round stone down a lane of ice while teammates sweep furiously ahead of the stone with brooms, to help direct its movement and increase its speed.

At 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3, All-Nighter overnight statue building begins. The Alumni Association will serve hot chocolate from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Alumni House. Campus will be lit and lively all night, with karaoke from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. and classic Winter Carnival snacks like chili and deep-fried Twinkies.

Thursday morning, Feb. 4, all statue building ends and judges make the rounds. with results announced later that afternoon. The raucous Beards Competition, with outrageous skits as well as impressive facial hair, is at 1 p.m. in Rm. 135 of Fisher Hall. A bit more sophisticated brand of humor is on tap at 7 p.m. in the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts, with the Stage Review Show. The show features witty, elaborate skits centered on this year's Winter Carnival theme. Stand-up comedian Jeff Scheen is the emcee.

Winter Carnival Sports will feature Women's and Men's Basketball against Ferris State, at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. respectively Thursday in the wood gym and Broomball from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the outdoor broomball courts on campus.

For music lovers, the Brothers of Mu Beta Psi are sponsoring a Jazz Concert from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday at the Orpheum Theater in Hancock. The concert features Northern Standard Time and AstroSax with proceeds benefiting the John MacInnes Student Scholarship for students that have shown interest and participate in musical organizations at Michigan Tech. See the Orpheum Theater facebook page for details.

Friday and Saturday, Feb. 5 and 6, will offer outdoor activities ranging from snow volleyball to horsedrawn sleigh rides to downhill skiing, snowboarding and more. Click here for the full schedule.

Update: Parking on campus
  • Lots 5, 9, and pay lot 27 will be open at 4 p.m. on Wednesday and will remain open through Sunday. You may park in these lots without a permit.
  • Lot 11 will open at 4 p.m. on Friday and will remain open through Sunday.
  • Overnight parking is in Lot 9 next to the Rozsa Center.
  • All lots open Saturday - Sunday, with the exception of Resident Lots 4, 17, 17E, 10.
  • Free parking at all metered areas begins Wednesday night.
The Transportation Services shuttle will run according to the regular schedule, along with weekday hours extended to 10 p.m. A Saturday shuttle will run from 1 p.m. - 10 p.m. Please note that the MTU shuttle buses are not equipped to handle children.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Michigan Tech Professor co-authors Great Lakes Water Diversion Report

By Jennifer Donovan, Michigan Tech Director of News and Media Relations
Posted on Tech Today Jan. 28, 2016
Reprinted with permission

Michigan Tech Professor Alex Mayer, Great Lakes and water resources expert and former director of Michigan Tech's Center for Water and Society, consulted with the International Joint Commission (IJC) and co-authored a report and recommendations on Great Lakes water diversion. The IJC recently adopted and released the report.

The IJC is an independent bi-national organization responsible for monitoring the boundary waters between the US and Canada and Great Lakes water quality.

"Our charge was to make a 10-year review of how well the Great Lakes, the contributing watersheds, and groundwater resources are protected against diversions or overuse, in light of policy changes and climate change," Mayer said.

Mayer's co-author was Ralph Pentland, a former federal water resources manager in the Canadian government.

In the report, the IJC says, "What is described in this report is for the most part a good news story. The policy gaps identified by the IJC in 2000 have been largely filled. No new inter-basin or intra-basin diversions which would have significant negative impacts on the ecological integrity of the Great Lakes have been approved, the growth in consumptive use appears to have been at least temporarily arrested, and institutional arrangements, such as the Regional Body, are in place to continue those positive trends. But both ongoing management vigilance and additional scientific advances will be required to maintain that positive momentum."

Mayer's recommendations include the following:

(1) We should explore the idea of holding water in the Great Lakes basin in public trust; that is, the citizens of the Great Lakes should own the water.

(2) Since we don't have a good idea yet about how climate change will affect Great Lakes flows, water volumes and water levels, we should take a flexible approach to managing water in the Great Lakes.

(3) We don't have a very good idea about how much water is consumed in the basin. Although water consumption in the Great Lakes is relatively small today, we need to get a handle on these numbers now, in anticipation that these numbers may rise in the future.

(4) We recommended a broad-based collaboration to fix the region's decaying water infrastructure, which at least indirectly relates to the Flint water crisis.

"The focus of the report on protecting the Great Lakes against diversions is very relevant now since the city of Waukesha, Wisconsin, has applied for an exemption to the Great Lakes Compact's ban diversion, to draw Lake Michigan water for its city water supply," Mayer noted. "The Waukesha application is seen as a big test of the Compact."

(Inset photo of Alex Mayer courtesy Michigan Tech University)

Click here to see the IJC news release about the new report.

Click here for the new IJC report.