Monday, July 17, 2017

Public comment period for Eagle East mining permit amendment extended to July 20

MARQUETTE -- The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Oil, Gas, and Minerals Division (OGMD) has extended the closing date of the public comment period for the Eagle East Mining Permit Amendment request to 5 p.m. July 20, 2017. Mail your comments to: DEQ Eagle East Permit Amendment, OGMD, 1504 W. Washington St, Marquette, MI 49855; or E-mail comments to: DEQ-Mining-Comments@michigan.gov, with "Eagle East Permit Amendment" as the subject.

The Mining Action Group (formerly Save the Wild U.P. and now part of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, or UPEC) says Lundin Mining’s requested amendment of the Eagle Mine permit would require building more than 8 kilometers of new tunnels to reach a totally different orebody, "Eagle East."

"Eagle East is a new orebody located beyond the previously permitted project boundary for the Eagle Mine," the Mining Action Group states on their Web site. This major expansion could have serious environmental impacts that were never considered under the original permit. More mining will mean more tailings, more dewatering, and increased risk of contamination."

DEQ officials have stated they are reviewing the application amendment just as they would an application for a new permit. They held a public hearing on Eagle East on June 8, 2017. The original deadline for comments was July 6, 2017. It has been extended to Wednesday, July 20.

Click here to read the application amendment.

Click here to read the Mining Action Group's questions concerning Eagle East.

See also: "Questions on Eagle East: DEQ to hold public meeting June 8."

More details coming soon.

MDEQ to hold public hearing on anchor supports for Line 5 pipelines July 25

LANSING -- The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is currently accepting comments on a permit application from Enbridge Energy, Inc., to install up to 22 anchor support structures into the Lake Michigan lake bed for the Line 5 pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac between Emmet and Mackinac counties.

The MDEQ will hold a public hearing on the permit application from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, July 25, 2017, at Little Bear East Arena and Community Center (275 Marquette Street, St. Ignace, MI 49781). The public will have the opportunity to provide comment on the record about the permit application submitted under authority of Part 325, Great Lakes Submerged Lands, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended.

Comments are also being accepted on the MDEQ MiWaters website at https://miwaters.deq.state.mi.us/miwaters/#/external/publicnotice/search. Enter 2RD-DFDK-Y35G into the Application Number box and select Search. Then select View and the Add Comment tab.  Written comments may also be delivered to the hearing or mailed to the MDEQ Gaylord Field Office at 2100 West M-32, Gaylord, MI 49735.

Additional information about the permit application is available at www.michigan.gov/pipelineanchors. This permit application public comment period will close at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 4, 2017.

This public hearing precedes the Public Feedback Session beginning at 6 p.m. on the Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems, Inc., draft Alternatives Analysis for the Straits Pipeline report also at Little Bear East Arena and Community Center. While both events involve the Line 5 pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac, the public hearing is specific to the permit application for anchor supports.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Hancock City Council hears citizens' views on White Street -- one-way or two-way issue

By Michele Bourdieu

One of three public hearings held by the Hancock City Council on June 21, 2017, concerned the question of whether Hancock's White Street, changed to one-way going uphill from downtown Hancock to US 41 in 2014, should remain one-way or be returned to two-way. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

HANCOCK -- Concerned local residents filled the Council Chambers of Hancock City Hall on June 21, 2017, for a public hearing concerning the future status of White Street -- whether it should remain one-way going uphill from downtown Hancock to US 41or be returned to its previous two-way status. In 2014, the City of Hancock made the street one-way going uphill, chiefly because of safety concerns.*

Now that the re-paving of White Street is complete, the traffic lines painted this week indicate the one-way system is still in place, with bike lanes marked on both sides of the street (Cyclists can go both up and down the street) and one lane for vehicles going uphill from Hancock to US 41 (North Lincoln Ave.). A second blinking light has been added at the White Street - US 41 corner, where the street widens to allow both left and right turns onto the highway

This photo, taken on July 13, 2017, shows the double turning lanes at the top of White St. and a second blinking light added, improving safety for cars turning in either direction onto US 41. So far the bike symbols have not been painted in the lanes, but vehicles going uphill need to be aware that cyclists may be going either up or down the hill in the bike lanes. (Keweenaw Now photo taken July 13, 2017)

Bill Marlor, City of Hancock Department of Public Works (DPW) director and an active cyclist, said he prefers keeping White Street one-way going up the hill for the safety of all the user groups -- pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

"As a two-way street, the road isn't designed for the volume of traffic," he said. "The overwhelming majority of the users of White Street are people who live somewhere else and use White Street as a short cut -- regardless of whether it's one-way or two-way. If you need to improve the street, the City of Hancock would have to pay for it. The more use it gets the more expensive it is to replace it."

Marlor told Keweenaw Now yesterday that new bike symbols and signing will soon be added to the bike lanes on both sides of White Street.

Signs at the top of White Street, near the intersection with US 41, warn motorists of the one-way upbound street. Soon painted symbols and additional signs will be put in place to mark the bike lanes on both sides of the street. (Keweenaw Now photo taken July 12, 2017)

"We're trying to do something with painting at the intersections to make it safer for motorists coming up the hill and for the cyclists -- particularly at Finn and Ryan streets," Marlor said.

Residents express opposing views on White Street status 

Hancock residents who spoke at the June 21 hearing and those who sent written comments expressed views on both sides of the issue. Many who spoke for keeping White Street one-way were concerned about safety issues, especially in winter, and the needs of pedestrians and cyclists as well as motorists. A bike lane going downhill was added in 2016.** Those who spoke for returning White Street to two-way mentioned convenience in reaching their homes or downtown Hancock; effects on Quincy Street businesses; and problems with increased traffic on side streets such as Scott Street, sometimes used as an alternate route from US 41.

Representing the Hancock Bike and Pedestrian Committee, Deborah Mann, a member of the Hancock Planning Commission, reminded the City Council and others present at the hearing that Hancock's Complete Streets ordinance and the Non-Motorized Transportation plan require the City  to consider accommodating the needs of all roadway users of the roadways, including pedestrians and cyclists in addition to motorists -- as well as ADA (American Disability Act) compliance.

Hancock Planning Commission member Deborah Mann, representing the Hancock Bike and Pedestrian Committee, addresses the Hancock City Council during the public hearing on White Street on June 21, 2017. At right is Ron Blau, Ward I counselor. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

Mann noted that, while returning to two-way traffic would result in a short cut for drivers coming from US 41, the increased traffic from cars going both up and down White Street would increase the risk of contact injury to pedestrians walking along White Street.

"The street is narrow for two lanes and the sidewalk is used frequently by pedestrians," Mann said. "It is a main corridor to Pat’s IGA from the south side of Highway 41. With two way traffic returning to White Street, intersections in the 100 and 200 blocks of Quincy Street, would become even more treacherous for pedestrians. The majority of residents at the Scott Building are elderly, and crossing with present traffic is difficult now but much improved from what it was three years ago."

Jerry Wuorenmaa, Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region (WUPPDR) executive director, who commented as a resident rather than with the "hat" of his position, said he agreed with Mann that White Street should be one-way, especially for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

Pete Rynes, a resident of White Street, also spoke about safety issues.

Pete Rynes, who lives on White Street, says he has seen accidents on White Street, the railing bent, cars passing other cars -- and has heard cars going 50-60 m.p.h. on White Street at night. Click on YouTube icon for larger view. (Videos by Keweenaw Now)

"It's a short cut people use," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, what White Street has become is the unofficial highway."

Rynes said he did an experiment driving both the long route and the short cut on White Street and found the difference was only 50 seconds. He questioned whether that 50 seconds is worth the risks of increased traffic should the street be returned to two-way.

Susan Burack, a resident of the Scott Building, noted that the City of Hancock maintains White Street with residents' taxes, while US 41 is maintained by the State of Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).

Susan Burack asks the Hancock City Council members to consider both the past and the future in making a decision on whether White St. should be one-way or two-way.

Tom Vichich, who said he found the one-way on White Street inconvenient and admitted he did not know why the street was changed to one-way in 2014, asked the council members to consider two questions when looking for a solution: What is the real problem? and What are the unintended consequences of that solution?

During the public hearing, Tom Vichich comments on the inconvenience, for him, of having White Street one-way.

Becky Bruin-Slot, who lives in east Hancock, said she would like White Street to be returned to two-way for the convenience of getting to her house.

Bill Deephouse, who lives on Lake Avenue in Hancock, said he believed making White Street one-way was, and is still, a bad decision.

"Having White Street available for both up-bound and down-bound traffic allows cars coming from the north on US-41 to bypass the longer route past Santori’s Corner," Deephouse said. "They are able to either get to downtown Hancock faster or get back on US-41 and continue to Houghton and MTU. This is a big convenience and time saver for many. It seems to me that this change to eliminate down-bound traffic has had a negative effect on businesses in Hancock as well."

Hancock resident Bill Deephouse reads his comments to the Hancock City Council during the public hearing on White Street. Deephouse said he opposes the one-way system on White Street because of inconvenience.

Deephouse also noted the congestion on Hancock Street makes it difficult, even dangerous, to cross this street, especially during morning and evening rush hour traffic.

"Those of us living south of Hancock Street (US-41) have to cross this street to get to our homes on Water Street, Lake Avenue and some of the apartments on the east end of Lake Avenue," Deephouse said. "There are several businesses on the west end of Water Street as well as Finlandia’s Jutila Center. All of these people have to cross Hancock Street and most use the Dakota Street crossing."

Allyson Jabusch of Hancock questioned the need for a short cut when safety is at stake.

Noting the safety issues created by increased traffic in Hancock, Allyson Jabusch rejects the argument that people need White Street as a short cut.

Hans Lechner, who lives on the corner of Scott and Elm streets, gave his reasons for returning White Street to two-way.

Hans Lechner speaks about the increased traffic on Scott Street since White Street has been one-way.

Another resident of White Street, Robert Stites, a Hancock police officer, said making White Street one-way has saved at least 40 accidents. He said he hopes the Council will decide to keep White Street one-way "purely for safety."

Hancock police officer Robert Stites, a resident of White Street, warns that returning White Street to two-way will increase the number of accidents.

Barbara Bouwkamp, who lives on Wright Street, said having White Street one-way has allowed her to exit her parking space. She said she hopes the City will keep the street one-way.

Barbara Bouwkamp speaks about both safety and drainage issues on White Street.

"It's unsafe to be two-way," Bouwkamp said.

She also mentioned some drainage issues -- concerns about storm water under the street.

Bill Marlor told Keweenaw Now the DPW is addressing the drainage with additional storm sewer improvements on White Street.

Terry Munson, who has a rental property on Wright Street with parking on White Street, expressed his concern for the safety of pedestrians, especially in winter, when the sidewalk width is very narrow. He also mentioned that cars tend to accelerate going up the hill, endangering pedestrians.

Terry Munson speaks about safety issues on White Street.

"I'm in favor of keeping White Street one-way," Munson said. "I don't care if it's up or down -- for safety reasons mainly."

If the decision is to keep White Street one way, the 25 m.p.h. speed limit needs to be enforced, Munson added. 

Dorothy Jamison of Roosevelt Street said the speed limits are not enforced on side streets. She said she would like to see White Street returned to two-way because of the increased traffic, going too fast, on her street as well as on other side streets, which are not designed for this kind of traffic.

Dorothy Jamison, who lives on Roosevelt Street, notes the increased traffic and speeding past her house since White Street has been one-way.

Elm Street resident Kayla Holmstrom gave several examples of increased traffic on her street and other side streets in her neighborhood, especially at 7:30 a.m. and after school. She said she didn't know why White Street became one-way, but she would like to see it return to two-way traffic to relieve the congestion on side streets.

Elm Street resident Kayla Holmstrom describes problems with increased traffic in her neighborhood and expresses her wish to have White Street returned to two-way traffic.

Susanne Boxer, a resident of Navy Street, asked the City Council members to consider funding a professional study of the city street traffic before making any decision on White Street. Jason Somnerville of Quincy Township also asked the Council to take more time and investigate more options -- possibly even preventing traffic from going up and down White Street at all.

Hancock resident Susanne Boxer and Jason Somnerville of Quincy Township ask the Council to take more time before making a decision. Boxer suggests a professional street study and Somnerville says more options should be considered.

Hancock Council members discuss White Street issues

During the regular Council meeting following the public hearing on White Street, Hancock City Council members discussed reasons for White Street issues and possible solutions.

Ron Blau, Ward I councilor, said he believed the people should decide whether to keep White Street one-way or return it to two-way. He said he would like to see it come to a vote or millage.

"There's no denying there's a problem," Blau said. "That's why the public is here."

Hancock Mayor Lisa McKenzie noted that White Street isn't built to carry the amount of traffic that returning to two-way would entail.

Paul LaBine, Ward III councilor, said he would like to have a traffic study done to see if the two-way is feasible.

Dan Seguin, Ward II councilor, who lives on Elm Street, said he thought at first that the one-way was inconvenient but became accustomed to it and appreciates the need for safety, although he would prefer it to be two-way.

Ted Belej, Mayor Pro-Tem and councilor at large, said the one-way change was for safety and then for the construction. It is hard to make any decision now because of the ongoing construction on Hancock streets, he added.

John Haeussler, councilor at large, who recently returned to the Council to occupy the seat left vacant by Mary Tuisku, who passed away recently, noted from his previous terms as councilor that the reason White Street is an issue now is that previous Councils ignored it.

John Haeussler, who served on the Hancock City Council previously, was welcomed back during the June 21, 2017, meeting as he returned to fill the seat left vacant by the recent death of long-term Hancock Councilor Mary Tuisku. 

"Philosophically White Street doesn't make sense," Haeussler said. "We're left with a situation where our tax base is paying people outside of our tax base (the cut-through traffic) to circumvent our city and our businesses."

Haeussler said White Street is not being used mostly by Hancock residents. He said his biggest disappointment with the one-way change was the increase in uphill traffic -- cars going uphill on White Street as a cut-through only and missing the business section. The ideal solution, he added, would be to limit the city streets to "local traffic only." He said the city has a responsibility to residents to use their taxes wisely and a responsibility to business owners and residents to keep traffic on the trunk lines as much as possible.

Haessler concluded from the hearing (admitting this is an oversimplification) that what he heard from people who preferred two-way was that it was a matter of convenience and from those wanting to keep it one-way that it was a matter of safety. And his view was that "safety trumps convenience."

Notes:

* See our June 22, 2014, article, "Hancock City Council approves one-way street changes."

** See our Aug. 30, 2016, article, "Hancock bike lane on White St. allows cyclists to ride against one-way motorized traffic."

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Local residents share concerns about Great Lakes at "All Hands on Deck" event

By Michele Bourdieu

Gathered in Houghton's Kestner Park on July 3, 2017, local participants in the "All Hands On Deck" event celebrated around the Great Lakes hold up blue marbles representing the Earth seen from outer space. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- About 35 local residents gathered at Houghton's Kestner Park near the Keweenaw Waterway to raise awareness of the need to protect the Great Lakes and keep them healthy. Many wore blue and all were given blue marbles to hold high or share with another to symbolize their gratitude for clean water.*

Co-organizers Horst Schmidt of Tamarack City and Susan Burack of Hancock invited those who wished to express their ideas or feelings about the Great Lakes to speak spontaneously to the group.

The speakers' reasons for honoring the Great Lakes, which contain about 20 percent of the world's fresh water, ranged from love of fishing to enjoyment of beaches and concern for clean water. Some mentioned threats to the water, including mining and oil industries, plastics, invasive species and the potential diversion of fresh water to states suffering from heat and drought due to climate change.

Peter Ekstrom of Houghton speaks about fish recovery in Lake Superior and why he likes living here. Holding up a symbolic blue marble, David Owens of Ann Arbor and Eagle Harbor speaks about protecting the Great Lakes. Nine-year-old Lewis Vendlinski of Houghton says he loves swimming in the Great Lakes. (Videos by Keweenaw Now)

David Owens, a seasonal resident of Ann Arbor and Eagle Harbor, who distributed blue marbles to the group, said the Blue Marbles Project was started by marine biologist Wallace Nichols, who was inspired by the blue marble image of Earth captured by the crew of Apollo 17. Nichols started the Blue Marbles Project in 2009. He has since shared blue marbles with millions of people around the world. The marbles celebrate the Planet Earth and carry the message that water is life.

Nichols asks people to hold their marble up at arm’s length, ponder it for a second, and realize what Earth looks like from a million miles away -- small and blue, because it is a water planet. He hopes people will realize the importance of water for life and how what we do on our small planet matters and has a ripple effect. People are then asked to give the marble away to someone as a token of gratitude.*

David Owens speaks about the symbolism of the blue marbles he brought for the group to share with others. At right is Horst Schmidt, president of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC) and co-organizer, with Susan Burack, of the local event. Similar events were held on July 3 in locations in all the Great Lakes states and in Canada.

"Nichols has given out thousands of blue marbles that have traveled all over the world," Owens said.

Ruth Mohr, Owens' wife, spoke about the threat of Enbridge's Line 5 Pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

Ruth Mohr of Ann Arbor and Eagle Harbor speaks about the potential risk to clean water posed by the 64-year-old Line 5 Pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.**

The subject of plastics polluting the lakes, rivers and oceans on a large scale led Miriam Pickens of Hancock and Cathy Campbell-Olszewski of Houghton to talk about recycling and re-use as well as conserving water -- ways everyone can take action to protect the water.

Miriam Pickens (at right) and Cathy Campbell-Olszewski encourage the audience to recycle, re-use, reduce garbage and participate in cleanups. Both Hancock and Houghton now have curbside recycling.

Co-organizer Burack had another suggestion for taking action: "I would like everybody to stop buying bottled water," Burack said.

Susan Burack of Hancock, co-organizer of the event, asks participants to stop buying bottled water.

"The anti-bottled water movement is strong in lower Michigan," said Barbara McTaggart of Houghton. "One place, Central Michigan University, no longer sells bottled water because students have brought up that issue."

Barbara McTaggart speaks about the anti-bottled water movement downstate. McTaggart, who works on Isle Royale as a ranger, said she attended this event because "we need to have strong relationships with geographic locations we love."

Owens noted also that a good reason not to buy bottled water is the fact that Nestlé drains aquifers for it all over the world, including southwest Michigan, where he and his wife live in the winter.

"We don't buy anything made by Nestlé, and we suggest you do the same," Owens said.

Allyson Jabusch of Hancock said young Lewis Vendlinski's comment on wanting to swim in clean water at the beach brought back her childhood memory of a very polluted Lake Erie beach near Toledo, Ohio.

Allyson Jabusch of Hancock recounts a childhood memory of Lake Erie pollution.

"We have to pay attention to what the government is doing or not doing," Jabusch said.
 
Debra Mues of Ahmeek spoke about a lake with dead fish that recovered thanks to efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Organizers Burack and Schmidt followed up by leading the audience in chants for the EPA and clean water.

Debra Mues of Ahmeek shares her feelings about moving from the West to the Keweenaw and Lake Superior.

Mike Gage of Ahmeek, husband of Debra Mues, talked about his love of paddling the rivers in the U.P. and his concerns about threats to clean water.

Mike Gage of Ahmeek speaks and sings about the many rivers in the U.P. he has paddled and his concerns for the Lake Superior watershed.

Joanne Thomas of Allouez said water is the reason she prefers the Keweenaw to Iowa, where she lived previously.

"Having lived part-time in southeast Iowa back in the 80s and 90s (to be affiliated with Maharishi University), I could not endure the barren terrain any longer," Thomas said. "No body of water. Finally remained here permanently, as Lake Superior is the best body of water to be near. We must remain vigilant to keep it a 'fresh' lake!"

Participants in the July 3, 2017, "All Hands On Deck" event link hands in solidarity to demonstrate their shared concerns for the water of the Great Lakes.

Co-organizer Horst Schmidt said he was satisfied with the turnout for the event.

"I'm glad that we have people that would come out in the holiday season to celebrate the fact that we do have clean water here," Schmidt said.

* Click here to learn about the Blue Marbles Project.

** See Keweenaw Now's right-hand column to learn about the new 45-day Public Comment period on the Draft Line 5 Alternatives Report. It opened on July 6, 2017. Also the third annual Pipe Out Paddle protest against Line 5 will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, in Mackinaw City. Bring your kayak AND MEET AT: Nicolet and Huron Streets, Mackinac Lighthouse Park, Mackinac City, Mich., 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. RSVP E-mail: allhandsondeckgreatlakes@gmail.com.  See details on the Facebook event page.

Friday, July 07, 2017

First Friday Art Walk in Calumet July 7 offers new exhibits, receptions, music, more ...

Keeping the Peace, by Kathleen Conover, is part of the July exhibit on birds at the Paige Wiard Gallery in Calumet. (Photo courtesy Paige Wiard Gallery)

CALUMET -- Join the First Friday Art Walk in Calumet tonight, July 7, and enjoy opening receptions, art activities and music in the galleries.

Paige Wiard Gallery: Birds

Birds are the source of limitless creative inspiration that connect us to the rhythms of life. Their migrations mark the shifting seasons, their music heralds each dawn, and their shoreline searches highlight the flow of the tides. As we aspire to sing, soar, and preen like them adorned in brilliance attire, avian art inspires in many ways. For the month of July talented artists from throughout Michigan celebrate avian marvels through fresh interpretation in original painting, photographs and sculptures. The public is invited to an opening reception from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Paige Wiard Gallery, 109 5th St., on First Friday, July 7. For more information call 337-5970 or email paigewiardgallery@gmail.com.

Calumet Art Center: Art works by Lyn and Mark Reed; Sandstone Piecemakers Quilt Guild

Artists Lyn and Mark Reed will exhibit their work during First Friday, July 7, at the Calumet Art Center. (Photo courtesy Calumet Art Center)

Visit the Calumet Art Center from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Friday, July 7. Demonstrations and more. See an exhibit of clay artwork by Lyn and Mark Reed, who have been married for forty years. Both are recently retired from teaching in K-12 schools in northern Minnesota. Lyn is an Australian who received her degree in Art Education from Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane and a Masters in Art from U of W-Superior. Lyn has pursued ceramics throughout her teaching career and is now continuing her endeavor at Calumet Art Center. Mark received his degree in biology and education from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. He has recently pursued ceramics as an outlet for his interest in fishing and is continuing his ceramics training at the Calumet Art Center.

Interested in quilting? Already an avid quilter or just want to learn more? The Sandstone Piecemakers Quilt Guild members will be upstairs in the Calumet Art Center’s Performance Hall each First Friday restoring the beautiful quilt that was donated to the center. They invite beginners and experienced quilters to help out. For more information, please call (906) 934-2228 or visit www.calumetartcenter.com .
 
Hahn Hammered Copper: Celebrating 8 years!

Stop in at Hahn Hammered Copper this First Friday, July 7, for a glimpse of what’s old -- the Hahns' own hand-hammered art copper, vintage copper items, fine old photographs, architectural tidbits, salvaged and re-purposed items, odd objects, and more! Not only are they celebrating First Friday, but they are also celebrating 8 years of being in business in Beautiful Downtown Calumet! Stop in for a treat and a glimpse of the past this First Friday at Hahn Hammered Copper!

Supernova Yoga, Gallery and Gifts: "Keweenaw Blossoms"

Supernova Yoga, Gallery and Gifts, 213 Sixth St., invites the public to the opening reception for their July exhibit, "Keweenaw Blossoms," from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, July 7. Enjoy live music and refreshments. The July exhibit features a series of photographs by Natalie Pruett, a photographer who resides in Flint, Michigan. The centerpiece of the series reflects the sublime beauty of the Keweenaw wilderness in bloom. Her photography captures life, light, and beauty through images of the natural world. A native of Flint, Natalie frequents the Keweenaw for inspiration, family connection and enjoyment. For more info visit https://www.dosupernovayoga.com/

Galerie Bohème: "Now and Zen" by Kerri Corser

Art by Kerri Corser is the July exhibit at Galerie Bohème in Calumet. (Photo courtesy Galerie Bohème)

Galerie Bohème, 423 5th Street, will host the exhibit "Now and Zen" by Kerri Corser, with an opening reception from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, July 7. With these paintings Kerri takes inspiration from selected elements used to develop the Zen garden -- the many elements that are purposely selected and precisely placed to guide the traveler through a garden journey. The exhibit continues through Aug. 1. Hours are 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information contact Tom Rudd at (906) 369-4087.

Café Rosetta: Art by Jill Isaacson

Café Rosetta is exhibiting art by Jill Isaacson. (Photo courtesy Café Rosetta) 

Café Rosetta, 104 Fifth St., welcomes Jill Isaacson and her art! Inspired by her travels, Jill paints nature scenes in acrylics. A former Minnesota resident, she is now enjoying the U.P.! Usual business hours for first Friday: open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
 
Copper Country Associated Artists: MINIATURE MARVELS -- OPEN COMMUNITY EXHIBIT

Copper Country Associated Artists (CCAA) will host an open community exhibit, MINIATURE MARVELS, through July. (Photo courtesy CCAA)

The Copper Country Associated Artists' Gallery will host an OPEN COMMUNITY EXHIBIT for the month of July -- MINIATURE MARVELS with local artists exhibiting their artwork of 5x7 or smaller -- a must-see exhibit! Stop in for the Opening Artist Reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. this Friday, July 7, while enjoying a walk about Calumet. Some of the artists will be around to explain their artwork for the gallery exhibit. Please vote for the "Viewers Choice Award." If you can not attend the 1st Friday event, the exhibit continues through July, so you can still stop in to view the art and do some shopping.

Vertin Gallery: Week of sales

Some of the many treasures found at The Vertin Gallery in Calumet. (Photo courtesy The Vertin Gallery)

The Vertin Gallery, 220 Sixth St., will be open during the First Friday Art Walk July 7. It's Red, White, and Oooh time at The Vertin! Come on by for this great week of sales on all the dreamy treasures for your home and gifts for you and your loved ones. The Vertin  specializes in Fine Art, Vintage, Retro, Mid-Century Modern, Antiques, Industrial, Re-purposed, Farm Style, and Hand-Crafted items.

Cross Country Sports: Let the Good Times Roll: Art of KRG

Cross Country Sports, 507 Oak St., will host Let the Good Times Roll: Art of KRG (Keweenaw Roller Girls) -- an eclectic and colorful show featuring vibrant poster art and design by Katie Jo Wright, Jonathan Soper and Terri Frew. Further roller derby related art will also be presented from artists Melissa Williamson, Sam Flora, and Joe Mac. Select items will be available for purchase.

Much like KRG themselves, this art is unique and individual -- a true sight to behold. Visit Cross Country Sports from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. July 7. In conjuction with First Friday Festivities, artists, KRG league members and friends will be present at the opening to discuss the works and local roller derby opportunities. 

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Portage Library, Community Arts Center to host Butterfly Talks by Miriam Pickens

Butterfly near Maasto Hiihto Trails. (Photo © and courtesy Miriam Pickens)

HOUGHTON-HANCOCK -- Miriam Pickens, artist and photographer, will offer two presentations on butterflies this week --  on Thursday, July 6, at the Portage Lake District Library in Houghton and on Saturday, July 8, at the Copper Country Community Arts Center in Hancock.

Portage Lake District Library: "Butterflies, Skippers and Their Place in the Lepidopteran World"

The Portage Lake District Library will host Miriam Pickens for an evening learning about species of butterflies that live in the Keweenaw at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 6.

Pickens’ slide show presentation, "Butterflies, Skippers and Their Place in the Lepidopteran World," will feature species of butterflies that are likely to visit local gardens and fields. Participants will learn butterfly basics that include how butterflies differ from moths, what kinds of flowers butterflies feed on, and more. There will be time for questions from the audience following the presentation. Signed copies of her recently published book, Butterflies of the Maasto Hiihto Trails, Hancock, MI, will also be available for sale. The event is free and open to the public.

Copper Country Community Arts Center: Photographing Butterflies of the Maasto Hiihto Trails

At the Community Arts Center's Second Saturday Coffee Talk at 11 a.m. on Saturday, July 8, Miriam Pickens will share stories and discuss her adventures butterflying in the Keweenaw. She has self-published a book on these insects, and her photographs are sold as cards and 8X10 prints. She also uses her butterfly photos as inspiration for painting on pottery. Learn about the local butterflies, and get some pointers on photographing them successfully.

Coffee Talks take place at the Copper Country Community Arts Center, 126 Quincy Street in Hancock. Coffee talks with artists are free and informal. Coffee is provided by KC Bonkers Toys and Coffee. Please call the Arts Center at 482-2333 if you’d like to attend.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Join "All Hands On Deck" event July 3 in Houghton to help raise awareness of Great Lakes protection

HOUGHTON -- "All Hands On Deck" is a gathering at Kestner Park in Houghton from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Monday, July 3, to raise awareness of the need to protect the Great Lakes and keep them healthy. All are invited. Boats are encouraged to congregate in front of the park by 10 a.m. Local weather predictions promise it to be a sunny day.

This event will take place on the shore and on the water with boats linking along the shorelines in communities in every Great Lakes state and Canada. In the UP, there will be gatherings in Marquette, Menominee, and Drummond Island as well as on the Portage.

"Wearing blue is encouraged," said Horst Schmidt, co-organizer, with Susan Burack, of the Houghton event. "What is important is being there and linking with others. People are welcome to bring posters voicing their support for the Great Lakes, ongoing funding for removal of legacy pollution and maintaining a healthy lake ecosystem."*

Boaters may wish to bring a blue marble to share or a blue pennant to wave during this event of solidarity for the Great Lakes.

Participants in the All Hands On Deck events are invited to link hands on the beach and link boats on the water along the shorelines in communities in every Great Lakes state and Canada. (Poster courtesy All Hands on Deck Facebook page)

All Hands On Deck represents common ground that extends beyond political and geographical boundaries. Water unifies us all. In every area, the Great Lakes are essential to the environment, economy, and everyone’s way of life. The event is a way to come together in a unique, unified expression of concern on behalf of a precious resource that needs continuing attention and support -- funding, regulations, and research -- to sustain long-term vitality.

"What is the Keweenaw without water?" asks local co-organizer Susan Burack of Hancock. "All of us who live here need to show our support for protecting our part of the Great Lakes. We, on the south coast of the greatest lake, join together with people around Ontario, New York, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan for our part."

Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario together are the largest surface freshwater system on Earth; only the Polar icecaps contain more water. The Great Lakes contain 84 percent of North America’s surface fresh water, and 21 percent of all the surface fresh water in the world. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Great Lakes are "a dominant part of the physical and cultural heritage of North America."

This event, which is taking place in more than 50 communities, is the brainchild of Charlevoix, Michigan, resident Kimberly Simon, who conceived of All Hands on Deck in response to proposed cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

*For more information click here or email Horst Schmidt at horsthear@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

State terminates independent contractor analyzing Line 5 risks; environmentalists call for Line 5 shutdown, transparency

By Michele Bourdieu, with information from the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality and Oil and Water Don't Mix 

Displaying their "Shut Down Line 5" banner, Native and non-Native kayakers protest against Enbridge's 63-year-old pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac during the Sept. 3, 2016, Pipe Out Paddle event in Mackinaw City, Mich. At right is the south end of the Mackinac Bridge. (Keweenaw Now file photo © and courtesy Miguel Levy)

LANSING -- The State of Michigan terminated on June 21, 2017, a contract with Det Norske Veritas, Inc. (DNV GL), the firm preparing a risk analysis report on the Line 5 pipeline below the Straits of Mackinac. Because of a conflict of interest, the contract was terminated prior to the draft report being delivered to the state’s project team.

The environmental group Oil and Water Don't Mix, along with the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club and FLOW - For Love of Water, reacted to the decision immediately. Oil and Water Don't Mix stated, also on June 21, that this conflict of interest amplifies the need to shut down the Line 5 pipelines once and for all. The groups are calling on state leaders to inform the public and disclose all details of the DNV GL draft study.

Sign displayed during the Sept. 6, 2015, protest against Line 5 at the Mackinac Bridge. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

Within the past month, the state’s project team became aware that an employee who had worked on the risk analysis at DNV GL subsequently worked on another project for Enbridge Energy Co., Inc., which owns the Line 5 pipeline, while the risk analysis was being completed. This is a violation of conflict of interest prohibitions contained in the contract.

"We took the initiative to terminate the contract based on our commitment to the complete integrity and transparency of this report. Ultimately the state will have to decide how to proceed with Line 5 and we can’t do that if there is any doubt regarding the nature of the information," said C. Heidi Grether, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) director.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette noted the risk analysis was supposed to be independent according to the contract with DNV GL.

"The evaluations of Line 5 were supposed to be independent, not tainted by outside opinions or information, but that’s not what happened. Instead, our trust was violated and we now find ourselves without a key piece needed to fully evaluate the financial risks associated with the pipeline that runs through our Great Lakes. This is unacceptable," Schuette said. "Terminating the contract is the only option we have to maintain the integrity of the risk analysis."

Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW - For Love Of Water, called on Attorney General Schuette to shut down Line 5.

"This study was tainted by huge conflicts of interest and a complete lack of transparency from the state, all with Line 5 continuing to pose a clear danger to our Great Lakes, our economy, and our way of life," Kirkwood said. "In addition to a full and complete disclosure of the facts regarding this cancellation, we demand that Attorney General Schuette starts acting like the lead attorney for the people of Michigan, who elected him to protect us and the Great Lakes, and shut down Line 5 without delay."
Inset photo: Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW, is pictured here at the June 13, 2016, meeting of the Michigan Pipeline Safety Board, where she spoke about Line 5 pipeline violations -- including the absence of supports, the curvature, wall thickness, and the degradation of the pipe, as well as the low-value insurance policy on the structure. (Keweenaw Now file photo © and courtesy Diane Miller)

DNV GL was hired by the state in 2016 following an extensive request for proposal process including review and selection by a team with diverse technical backgrounds. The contract requires that DNV GL employees working on the risk assessment maintain complete independence from any other project involving Enbridge during the term and length of the contract.

David Holtz, chair of Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and campaign coordinator for Oil and Water Don’t Mix, called for transparency from the State of Michigan.

"Citizens groups have been sounding the alarm bells for months about the massive conflicts of interest between Big Oil companies and the departments that are charged with regulating them, and this cancellation raises more questions than it answers," said Holtz. "The State of Michigan owes all citizens a full account of how and why this study was allowed to continue, even in light of the massive conflicts of interest. Michiganders deserve answers."* (See below for link to petition on Enbridge permit application to install 22 anchor supports on the Line 5 pipelines -- deadline June 29.)

Inset photo: David Holtz, chair of Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and campaign coordinator for Oil and Water Don’t Mix, addresses the Michigan Pipeline Safety Board during their June 13, 2016, meeting. He asked that the state not compromise the risk and alternative analyses by having them funded by Enbridge. (Keweenaw Now file photo © and courtesy Diane Miller)

Valerie Brader, executive director of the Michigan Agency for Energy, said DNV GL violated state requirements and that led to the state's decision to terminate the contract.

"The State put strict rules in place that required both contractors to avoid any appearance of impropriety," Brader noted. "We are disappointed that those requirements were not followed by DNV GL, as that rendered the work essentially unusable to us."

At the same time it hired DNV GL, the state also hired a separate firm, Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems, Inc., to prepare an alternative analysis report on the Line 5 pipeline.

Public meeting, feedback sessions on Line 5 risk analysis to be held in July

Dynamic Risk Assessment System’s draft report is proceeding and will be delivered to the state project team by the end of this month. Their draft alternative analysis will be posted on the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline website, www.mipetroleumpipelines.com, for public review and comment by the end of the month.

"Public discussion of the alternatives analysis will help inform next steps regarding the risk analysis on Line 5," said Keith Creagh, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "Fundamental to the state’s actions is a shared commitment to protecting our Great Lakes."

Representatives from Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems will present their findings to the public at an open informational meeting beginning at 5 p.m. on Thursday, July 6, 2017, at Holt High School, Margaret Livensparger Theater, 5885 Holt Road, Holt, Michigan, 48842.

Later in July, the state will hold three public feedback sessions on the report, including one in the Upper Peninsula:

-- At 8 a.m. Monday, July 24, 2017: Holt High School (same location as the meeting above).

-- At 6 p.m. Monday, July 24, 2017: Northwestern Michigan College - Hagerty Center, 715 East Front Street, Traverse City, Michigan, 49686.

-- At 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 25, 2017: Little Bear East Arena, 275 Marquette St, St Ignace, MI 49781.

Steve Casey, Michigan DEQ Upper Peninsula District Supervisor, Water Resources Division, Marquette office, told Keweenaw Now he would be attending the July 25 meeting in St. Ignace.

The State of Michigan commissioned the two independent contractors to complete risk and alternative analyses on the Line 5 pipeline following a recommendation in the 2015 Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force Report.**

Notes:

* Click here to learn about Oil and Water Don't Mix and the many groups working with them to protect the Great Lakes from the danger of aging pipelines, especially Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac. You can join Oil and Water Don't Mix in submitting comments and requesting a public hearing on Enbridge's current permit application to install 22 anchor supports on the Line 5 pipelines in the Mackinac Straits by signing the petition to the Michigan DEQ here. The deadline for these comments is June 29, 2017

** Click here for the 2015 Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force Report.

Editor's Note: See Keweenaw Now's June 19, 2016, article, "Citizens express concerns about Enbridge Line 5 at Michigan Pipeline Safety Board meeting," by Diane Miller.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Local Finns to host Juhannus Mid-Summer Festival in Askel, Hancock, Toivola, Bruce Crossing June 23-25

Juhannus poster courtesy Finlandia University.

HANCOCK -- The Finns of the Copper Country will host the Juhannus Mid-Summer Festival June 23, 24 and 25 -- a celebration of Finnishness and community -- featuring live music, Finnish food, an expanded Tori market, a music camp, plays, dances, a traveling sauna and more. Juhannus '17 is a celebration of the Finnish American presence in the Copper Country in the context of the Republic of Finland's Centennial.

Events will take place in four communities: Askel, Hancock, Toivola and Bruce Crossing. All are welcome.

Here is the schedule:*

Friday, June 23: Annual Hanka Heritage Day (moved from August to June) will take place at the Hanka Finnish Homestead Museum in Askel: Celebrating Finnish farm life
        1 p.m. - 5 p.m. -- Museum open with docents, enactors and farm animals
        1 p.m. - 5 p.m. -- The Traveling Sauna (Finland 100 USA)
        1-p.m. - 5 p.m. -- Live music performance: Ameriikan Poijat and others
        1 p.m. - 5 p.m. -- Representatives from the World’s Largest Greeting Card project on site, collecting signatures
        1 p.m.- 3 p.m. -- Finnish Folk Music Camp class: Arto Järvelä at the caretaker’s cottage
        1 p.m. - 3 p.m. -- Finnish American log buildings lecture by Frank Eld at the horse barn
        3 p.m. -- Flag raising, with remarks by Finland’s Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi
        4 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. -- Kivajat Dancers perform
        5 p.m. - 8 p.m. -- Dance on site with a traditional Finnish tanssilava (outdoor dance floor)

Saturday, June 24 -- Finnish American Heritage Center/Finlandia University, Hancock:
Celebrating bonds between Finland and the U.S. -- Old and New
       9 a.m. -10:30 a.m. -- "Topics in Modern Finnish Genealogy" by Greg Isola – Chapel of St. Matthew
       Midsummer pole (Juhannussalko) dedication
      10 a.m. - 4 p.m. -- The Traveling Sauna
      10 a.m. - 4 p.m. -- Outdoor Tori (Quincy Green), including Tori + art fair, and indoor Finnish Tori (Finnish American Heritage Center’s Martha Wiljanen Hall)
      10 a.m. - 4 p.m. -- Representatives from the World’s Largest Greeting Card project on site, collecting signatures
     11 a.m. -- Flag raising, and remarks from Ambassador Kauppi
     11 a.m. - 1 p.m. -- Music by Ameriikan Poijat and others w/ short performance by Kivajat Dancers
     1 p.m. - 3 p.m. -- Finnish Folk Music Camp class, Chapel, upstairs: Arto Järvelä
     1 p.m. - 3 p.m. -- "A History of the Quincy Hill Scandinavian Church," by Greg Isola, Chapel, downstairs
    4 p.m. -- Tammy Santti-Kero art reception, Community Arts Center. See right-hand column.

Saturday, June 24 -- Agate Beach, Toivola: Celebrating the ancient traditions of Juhannus and the 125th anniversary of the community’s settlement
        1 p.m. -- Registration for Toivola homecoming participants
        1:30 p.m. -- Welcome by 125th anniversary celebration committee
        2:30 p.m. -- Original play "Stories of Oar" by Kris Kyrö
        3:30 p.m. -- Group photo of Toivola 125th anniversary participants
        4 p.m. -- Log building preservation lecture by Frank Eld at Agate Beach Hall
        4 p.m. -- Supper w/food vendors
        6 p.m. -- Raising of Finnish and American flags; greetings by Ambassador Kauppi
        6 p.m. - 10 p.m. -- Traveling Sauna on site
        6 p.m. - 10 p.m. -- Representatives from the World’s Largest Greeting Card project on site, collecting signatures
        6:15 p.m. -- Original play "Stories of Oar" by Kris Kyrö
        7 p.m. - 10 p.m. -- Dance with Ameriikan Poijat and others (Kivajat to perform during intermissions)
        9 p.m. -- Lighting of the Juhannus kokko

Sunday, June 25 -- Settlers’ Co-Op Centennial, Bruce Crossing: Celebrating Finnish American Co-operatives
        1 p.m. - 4 p.m. -- Live music at Settlers' Co-op
        1 p.m. - 6 p.m. -- Traveling Sauna on site
        1 p.m. - 6 p.m. -- Representatives from the World’s Largest Greeting Card project on site, collecting signatures
        3 p.m. -- Kivajat performance
        3:30 p.m. -- Dedication of Heritage Wall
        4 p.m. -- World premiere of Kristin Ojaniemi’s documentary of the Settlers’ Co-Op at VFW Hall
        6 p.m. -- Dance at VFW Hall

* All events subject to change.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Hancock City Council to hold Public Hearing including White Street preceding June 21 meeting

These one-way signs at the corner of White Street and U.S. 41 in Hancock are intended to warn motorists the street is for upbound traffic only, with the exception of bicycles. The bike lane (lower left in photo) was added last summer to allow cyclists to ride downhill on White Street. (June 19, 2017, photo by Keweenaw Now)

HANCOCK -- The question of whether White Street in Hancock should continue to be one-way going uphill from downtown Hancock to U.S. 41, according to the City Council decision in 2014, or return to a two-way street will be discussed at a Public Hearing at 7:30 p.m. this Wednesday, June 21, preceding the monthly City Council meeting in the Council Chambers, 399 Quincy Street, Hancock.

The no-right-turn sign (upper left in photo) above U.S. 41 warns northbound traffic not to turn down White Street now that it is one way. (June 19, 2017, photo by Keweenaw Now)

Three years ago, in 2014, the Hancock City Council approved making White Street from Reservation Street to N. Lincoln Dr. (US 41) one-way upbound only. The Council made its decision after several residents supported the one-way upbound for safety reasons.*

Prior to the 2014 decision, White Street had 24-hour vehicle counts of 2,339 downbound and 3,356 upbound for a total of 5,694 vehicles. In 2015, the 24-hour vehicle count on the upbound lane was 4,825 -- an increase of 43 percent over the prior upbound lane count. The City estimates that if White Street was reopened to two-way traffic, there would be a 24-hour vehicle count of between 7,325 and 8,000 vehicles. Another addition to White Street is the bike lane marked for downbound bicycles, which are allowed despite the one-way upbound for vehicle traffic.**

This photo, taken in 2014 at the corner of White Street and US 41, shows traffic barrels and barriers that were set up to prevent cars from turning downhill on White Street, which is now one-way going up from downtown Hancock. Cars going up the hill, like those pictured here, can still turn left or right on US 41 (North Lincoln Ave.). Eventually motorists got used to the one-way street, and improved signs replaced the barriers. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

Oral and written comments are welcomed.

The Council will discuss and consider White Street options during the New Business part of the meeting.

In addition to the question on White Street, these two issues will also be a part of the Public Hearing:
  • Public Hearing on FY 17/18 Fiscal Year Budget with $7,958,150 in revenue and $7,441,347 in expenses.
  • MEDC Grant # MSC-215003-CDF Close out grant for Vollwerth’s Expansion Grant.
The Council will also welcome John Haeussler as At-Large City Council member for a term ending in November 2018.

Editor's Notes:

* See our June 22, 2014, article, "Hancock City Council approves one-way street changes."

** See our Aug. 30, 2016, article, "Hancock bike lane on White St. allows cyclists to ride against one-way motorized traffic."

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Portage Lake District Library to host Houghton County Democratic Party workshop on running for local office June 19

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library will host the Houghton County Democratic Party from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday, June 19, for "A Primer on Running for Local Office: Getting You to 'Yes.'"

This workshop will be lead by Valorie Troesch and will address the truths and myths about what it takes to run for local office. Participants will learn what the local elective and appointed positions are and what qualifications are required for each position, how to get on the ballot, how to prepare to run for local office, how to run a winning campaign, and what resources are available to support candidates. People who have run for local office, including Troesch, will share their experiences.

Valorie Troesch waves to supporters during a local parade last summer, when she first ran for Houghton County Commissioner. Troesch, an active member of the Houghton County Democratic Party, said she may run for this same office again. She plans to share her experiences with citizens interested in running for local office at a workshop on Monday, June 19, at the Portage Lake District Library. (Keweenaw Now file photo courtesy Valorie Troesch)

"We Democrats work hard to advocate for values and policies that reflect who we are and that promise better lives for the people in our community," Troesch commented. "Too often, however, local elective offices go unchallenged by Democrats because the prospect of running for office is so daunting. If you have ever considered putting your hat in the ring, this workshop is for you!"

There is no cost to attend, and light refreshments will be served. Those who are interested in participating may contact Troesch at houghtondems@gmail.com.

All library events and programs are free and everyone is welcome. For more information please call the library at 482-4570.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Local "Die-In" opposes House American Health Care Act; June 14 is Stop TrumpCare Senate Call-In Day

By Michele Bourdieu

At their "Die-In" event on May 13, 2017, local opponents of the Republican House of Representatives' American Health Care Act of 2017, gather at Veteran's Park in Houghton to protest Michigan 1st District Rep. Jack Bergman's "yes" vote for the May 4 passage of the bill, H.R. 1628, which proposes to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and "defund" Planned Parenthood. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- On May 13, 2017, about a week after Republicans in the US House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) of 2017 (H.R. 1628) to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (aka ACA or Obamacare), about 75 local concerned citizens gathered in Veteran's Park in Houghton and stretched out on the grass in a symbolic "Die-In" to protest the proposed law that would deprive millions of health insurance they now receive through the Affordable Care Act.

Participants in the May 13 "Die-In" display tombstone-shaped signs protesting aspects of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed by the Republican House -- including projections that 24 million people would lose health care coverage nationally. Over 40,000 in Rep. Jack Bergman's Michigan District 1 could lose coverage under the AHCA.

Now, a month later, Republicans in the US Senate are preparing their own version of the bill "behind closed doors," in the hope of passing a bill before July 4th, according to a June 12, 2017, article in USA Today, which notes concerns of some Republicans and strong opposition from Democrats because of the lack of transparency in preparation of the bill.*

The Indivisible Movement, one of the hosts of the May 13 "Die-In" has declared today, June 14, 2017, Stop #TrumpCare Senate Call-In Day. Indivisible asks concerned citizens to call their senators today and tell them to reject TrumpCare and their closed-room deal to take health care away from millions of people.**

At the "Die-in" speakers and other participants noted reasons for their strong opposition to the American Health Care Act passed by the House.

Matt Seigel of Houghton offered an introduction.

"We're here today in response to a threat to the lives and health of thousands of people in Michigan and across the country, a threat aided by the actions of our own Congressional Representative, Jack Bergman, for the primary purpose of further enriching the wealthiest Americans while unnecessarily hurting the most vulnerable among us," said Seigel. "Jack Bergman voted to take health care away from millions of ordinary, working Americans so that he could give a huge tax cut to the richest and most secure among us, the very people who need the least, but take the most."

Seigel noted also that the AHCA lets states opt out of coverage for pregnancy, maternity and newborn care. It would also roll back protections for people with pre-existing conditions, including cancer, asthma, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, Alzheimer's and more.***

Two high school students from Houghton -- Ganna Omar and Daphne Maki -- were among the youngest participants in the "Die-in."

Daphne Maki, left, and Ganna Omar, both of Houghton, display their sign of concern for those with pre-existing conditions, who could lose health care coverage under the American Health Care Act passed by the Republican House.

"I'm 16, but I would have a pre-existing condition under this bill," said Maki. "I'm here for myself and my future, but also the future of others who would be negatively affected as well."

Omar, a high school freshman, said, "I'm very fortunate to have insurance and not be affected by this bill, but I feel strongly about voicing the need to protest other Americans' health care."

Signs at the "Die-in" show strong opposition to the House Republicans' American Health Care Act (AHCA).

One of the speakers, Marika Seigel, co-organizer of the "Die-in," shared a testimonial from her brother, who had four different types of cancer that totaled $100,000 in medical bills after surgery.

"Luckily, about a year earlier I had enrolled the Affordable Care Act," her brother said. "As a part time woodworker and teacher, I had no health benefits. I found a plan that was reasonably priced, and in the end saved me tens of thousands of dollars. Even after a large price reduction given by the hospital due to my income level, it's likely I would have had to declare bankruptcy without the coverage I had under the Affordable Care Act. It is not a perfect bill, but it encouraged me to get insured after going about 6 years without medical insurance if any kind. Luckily I now have a job with benefits, but the ACA helped me when I needed it."

More signs at the "Die-in" reflect concerns about cancer and other serious illnesses that require good coverage.

Valorie Troesch, co-organizer of the "Die-In" event and active member of the Houghton County Democratic Party, spoke about the experience of her niece, who suffered from stage 4 melanoma before the ACA and had no health insurance. Troesch recounted how she accompanied her niece to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and helped her pay for tests, but she still lacked the thousands it would cost for surgeries and treatment.

"No one who hasn't been there can understand how it feels to hear a doctor tell a 30-year-old mother with a 10-month-old baby at home that she has 3-6 months to live without treatment," Troesch said. "Her only option for health insurance coverage was Medicaid -- and, to qualify, she had to separate from her husband (who had lost his job). So that is what she did. She received the care she needed and today is in full remission. But the stress of separation destroyed her marriage so she still paid a very high price."

Troesch reminded the audience that the United States is the only developed country in the world without universal health care, while Rep. Bergman, as a retired general, has the very best health care money can buy -- paid for by us, the taxpayers.

Valorie Troesch, right, addresses participants in the "Die-in." She told a story about how lack of health insurance affected her niece's life. Pictured with megaphone is Matt Seigel.

Cynthia Drake spoke about her own personal experience as a single parent and business owner without health insurance until the ACA came along.

"Before the ACA was created, I did not have health insurance for over a year when I left 'regular employment' to build my own business," Drake said. "I could not afford to buy insurance and so I went without it. The ACA has allowed me to have health insurance again, and now I can build my business and support my family as a single parent while having health care so that I do not have to worry about emergencies which might arise in my health -- and I get preventative health care to maintain my health. Without the ACA I still wouldn't have insurance -- and I think I represent many people."

Anne Newcombe of the Keweenaw People's Movement, said she believed the "Die-In" action showed people are not taking health care lightly.

"I guarantee that for every person that was out there (at Veteran's Park) there are 20 more that think the same thing," she said.

Bill Binroth of Chassell spoke about his own experience of family loss.

"I recently lost a grand-nephew due to a lack of healthcare coverage in a misunderstanding with his employer," Binroth said.

Today Binroth added his concerns about the potential Senate bill.

"What's going on in the Senate right now is of major concern," Binroth told Keweenaw Now. "From the leaks that have come out, it sounds like their bill is not much better than that of the House of Representatives, i.e., leaving millions without healthcare coverage. We're anxiously awaiting what might be in store for the American people."

In addition to Indivisible, the "Die-In" was also hosted by the Houghton County Democratic Party and Houghton/Keweenaw Forward Action Michigan.


** Click here to learn about the Indivisible June action plan to stop TrumpCare in the Senate.

*** For details on the AHCA see the May 4, 2017, New York Times article, "What’s in the AHCA: The Major Provisions of the Republican Health Bill."  For a Library of Congress summary of the bill, click here.