Friday, August 16, 2019

Michigan Attorney General Nessel files State reply to Enbridge brief on lame duck legislation creating Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. (Photo courtesy Michigan.gov)

LANSING --  On Aug. 15, 2019, the State of Michigan filed its reply brief to Enbridge’s Aug. 1 brief in Enbridge Energy, et.al. v State of Michigan, et.al. (No. 19-000090-MZ). The Office of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel noted Enbridge "repeatedly mischaracterizes the State Defendants' arguments" and Enbridge's legal arguments "improperly attempt to re-write the title of Act 359, inventing a new, broader object -- providing for 'infrastructure' connecting the peninsulas ...."

The case, originally filed in Court of Claims by Enbridge June 6, 2019, involves the constitutionality of 2018 PA 359 and the creation of the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority. The State argues, as Attorney General Opinion No. 7309 concluded, that the statute creating the Authority is unconstitutional because it violated the Title-Object Clause. The crux of the dispute is that the title of Act 359 -- which was pushed through the Legislature in lame duck at the end of 2018 -- violated that provision of the Michigan Constitution in two ways. First, the title did not provide fair notice to legislators and the public of substance of the bill. Second, it improperly combined two unrelated purposes: the Mackinac Bridge and a proposed "utility tunnel" meant to house a new Enbridge oil pipeline.

The court will determine if it wants to hear oral argument before issuing a decision.

A copy of the State of Michigan’s Reply Brief can be found here.

Please note: Briefing will begin on September 16 in the Attorney General’s separate lawsuit in the Ingham County Circuit Court against Enbridge. That lawsuit seeks a determination that the Line 5 pipelines in the Straits should be decommissioned due to the significant risk of a catastrophic spill from an anchor strike or operational failure.*

*Editor's Note: See our June 29, 2019, article, "Attorney General Nessel takes legal steps to decommission Line 5; Gov. Whitmer seeks to dismiss Enbridge lawsuit."

Monday, August 12, 2019

Federal proposal to de-list gray wolves from Endangered Species List opposed by Attorneys for Animals, Michigan wolf experts, many scientists, Michigan AG Dana Nessel

By Michele Bourdieu

Photo courtesy National Wolfwatcher Coalition.

CANTON, Mich. -- Attorneys for Animals (AFA), a Michigan non-profit, has submitted a response to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposal to de-list gray wolves from the Endangered Species List in all the lower 48 states. 

It was December 2014, when a U. S. District Court ruled to overturn an earlier USFWS decision to strip federal protection for Great Lakes wolves. In 2011 wolves had been left unprotected after being removed from the federal Endangered Species Act. Once again, wolves are in danger.

Strongly opposed to the removal of federal protection for the majestic species, Attorneys for Animals cites the considered opinion that Michigan, one of a handful of states most impacted by the proposed legislation will ignore input from the scientific, natural resource, conservation and animal welfare communities, and disrespect the deafening public outcry from citizens to protect the wolves within its boundaries.

"Of the estimated 1.8 million comments submitted in response to the USFWS proposal, we believe that AFA has an important perspective to offer in opposition to the plan to de-list gray wolves," said Kate Brindle, JD, and board secretary of AFA, who researched and assisted in drafting the AFA response.*

"As a Michigan non-profit of legal professionals and animal advocates, AFA has actively followed legislation for many years," Brindle said. "We have carefully observed the divisive issue of wolf de-listing in Michigan and have taken positions in support of continued federal protection. We therefore are in a unique position to provide a critical assessment of how the de-listing of wolves, followed by a likely opening of this species to a hunt, would affect both Michigan and its gray wolves," Brindle said.

John Vucetich, distinguished professor from Michigan Technological University's School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, expressed agreement with the AFA response.

"In alignment with Attorneys for Animals, I believe that wolves have not met the legal requirements to be delisted," Vucetich said.

Earlier this year, Vucetich led the development of a letter that came to that conclusion. The letter was signed by more than 100 scientists and submitted to the Fish and Wildlife Service.**

Nancy Warren, National Wolfwatcher Coalition director, noted that the wolf is subject to over-utilization for commercial and/or recreational purposes and states lack initiatives that would protect wolves. Wolfwatcher also opposes delisting and has submitted comments to USFWS.

"The threats to wolves have not been sufficiently reduced to allow delisting," Warren told Keweenaw Now. "Delisting will expose wolves to inconsistent and unwieldy state management. State programs seek to reduce wolf populations to levels just above the numerical quota to prevent federal relisting. Research shows these low population levels are not sustainable and will not provide the ecological benefits of a thriving population. Policies governing wolf management in states where delisting has occurred are based on misinformation, fear and hatred -- not peer reviewed scientific data."***

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel recently submitted a comment letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urging it to abandon its flawed proposal to remove the gray wolf from the endangered and threatened wildlife list, saying, "The Service’s strategy to delist the gray wolf seems to be 'if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.'"

This is the 10th attempt to remove the gray wolf from the endangered list by the Service in less than 20 years. The gray wolf species has a population of less than 16,000 nationwide, 11,000 of which are in Alaska.

In its proposal, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fails to analyze whether the gray wolves living in 13 other states -- Washington, Oregon, California, North Dakota, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, and Kansas -- are in danger of extinction. Instead, the Service only asks whether the gray wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin can survive if all the other gray wolves die off.

"That is neither responsible, nor lawful," Nessel said.

The Service’s proposal uses the same flawed methodology the D.C. Circuit Court ruled it could not use to justify delisting the species.

"Simply put, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not adequately accounted for why this species should be removed from the endangered list," Nessel added. "This flawed proposal is the first step toward allowing gray wolves to be hunted to near extinction once again."****

In support of its position, AFA also submitted a Timeline of Efforts to Protect Wolves in Michigan, from late 2011 through late 2016. A summary of the Timeline indicates the following:
• The Michigan legislature passed four different bills, all with the purpose of authorizing a wolf hunt. Of the four,
two were overturned by a clear majority of Michigan voters in November 2014 after successful referendum campaigns against the wolf hunt. One was held unconstitutional by Michigan courts in 2016. One, still on the books awaiting de-listing decision, was made referendum-proof by adding appropriation language.
• A wolf hunt was held in 2013, killing 22 wolves; further hunts have been halted by the 2014 federal court decision overturning the 2011 agency action to de-list the wolves.
• Investigative reports expose deceptive methods used to promote and justify a wolf hunt in Michigan, including
false, exaggerated "scare stories" about wolves; irresponsible, criminally negligent ranching methods behind a claim that wolves were destroying livestock; and destruction of public comments by government officials.

Notes:

* AFA’s comment is available on the federal regulations.gov website here.
 
** Click here for details on the scientists' letter to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. See also our July 29, 2017, Keweenaw Now article, "Michigan Tech Professor John Vucetich testifies before Senate Committee: S. 1514 would weaken Endangered Species Act, strip wolves of protection."

*** See comments from Wolfwatcher here. See also our 2013 article on Nancy Warren's presentation "Co-existing with Wolves": "Video report: Presentation on wolves offers facts, petition signing opportunity."

**** A copy of Attorney General Nessel's comment letter can be read here.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa sues Enbridge to remove Line 5

This map includes Enbridge pipelines affecting the watersheds of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Note that Line 5 passes through the Bad River Reservation in Wisconsin (upper left corner) and then proceeds through Michigan's Upper Peninsula, under the Straits of Mackinac and on through Michigan's Lower Peninsula to Sarnia, Ontario. Click on map for larger version. (Map courtesy Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative)

Posted as press release July 23, 2019, on Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative

ODANAH, Wis. -- The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa filed suit against Enbridge on July 23, 2019, to force the decommissioning and removal of the Line 5 pipeline, which runs across 12 miles of sensitive habitat in the Bad River Reservation. This litigation follows a failed multi-year mediation process with the company and is necessary to force the Canadian-owned company to comply with its legal obligations to decommission and remove the 66-year-old pipeline from the Bad River watershed. Enbridge has continued to operate the pipeline for six years since easements allowing it to maintain the Reservation right-of-way expired in 2013, and this present action seeks to bring the company’s unauthorized presence to an end.

This map shows the location of the Bad River Reservation, where Line 5 crosses through 12 miles of sensitive habitat. (Map courtesy Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa)

The Bad River Reservation is located on the south shore of Lake Superior and includes vast wetlands interlaced with a network of rivers and streams, including the Kakagon River, the White River, and the Bad River. Those rivers give way to the Kakagon and Bad River sloughs, which are complex freshwater estuaries stewarded by the Band and internationally recognized as some of the most sensitive freshwater estuarine ecosystems on earth. They provide refuge for threatened and endangered species, support critical treaty fisheries, contain some of the last remaining wild rice beds on the Great Lakes, and supply healthful, traditional sustenance to Bad River Band members who continue to fish, hunt, and gather in these lands and waters, as they have for centuries.*

The Band passed a resolution in January of 2017 declaring that, in light of the threat posed by Line 5 to precious watershed resources, it would not consent to new easements for Line 5 across parcels of tribally-owned land. Since then, the Band has been collecting and reviewing environmental, water, and pipeline data to further assess the danger posed by the pipeline. While a significant threat of ruptures and leaks exists for the entire stretch of Line 5’s path across the Reservation, there is a looming disaster just east of where Line 5 presently crosses the Bad River. There, the river channel is migrating towards the pipeline at an alarming rate due to bank erosion: while the distance between the riverbank and the pipeline was 320 feet at this location in 1963, it now stands at only 28 feet, and the river is threatening to carve a new channel directly across the pipeline route.

This April 2019 video clip shows how Enbridge's Line 5 passes through the Bad River Reservation at the Bad River Bend. Click on YouTube icon for larger screen. (Drone footage © David Joe Bates and courtesy Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative)**

The river will inevitably expose the pipeline, subjecting it to stresses that it was not designed to withstand and making a rupture all but certain. Other than the decommissioning of the pipeline on the Reservation, the only options for avoiding such a disaster involve either the drilling of a new pipeline or armoring the banks of the Bad River. Neither is acceptable to the Band, as both carry their own significant risks and would involve further alteration and damage to watershed resources. More on these issues can be viewed here.

The Bad River Band has carefully reviewed alternatives to Line 5, and understands that the majority of the product on the line is for export and that ready substitutes are available for the few services Line 5 actually provides to the region. Given these realities and the threat posed to the Bad River watershed and coastal wetlands and to Lake Superior, which together serve as the lifeblood not only for the Band but for many neighboring communities, the Bad River Tribal Council cannot allow the community to shoulder the significant and unacceptable risk associated with a foreign company’s aging pipeline.

Bad River Tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins Jr. agrees with the Council’s decision.

"No amount of compensation is worth risking Wenji-Bimaadiziyaang -- an Ojibwe word that literally means 'From where we get life,'" Wiggins said. "It’s time to end the imminent threat the company is presenting to our people, our rivers, and Gichi-Gami (Lake Superior). It’s not only an infringement of our sovereignty, but a burden felt by our people having to engage in the perpetual chase for the next pipeline rupture. It’s time to stop the flow of oil immediately."

The Bad River Tribal Council would like for its constituents and local community members to know that the Tribe has weighed all options, and filing suit against Enbridge represents the best and last route for successfully decommissioning an enormous threat to the local watershed and environment.***

Bad River Tribal Council Member Dylan Bizhikiins Jennings explains, "The tribe has commenced litigation because we must stop the operation of line 5 in order to protect current and future generations from a potential catastrophe. We will not allow a foreign energy company to endanger our lifeway. As Anishinaabe, it’s really quite simple to us, 'Giishpin ganawendamang iw nibi, giga-ganawenimigomin -- If we take care of the water, it will continue to take care of us.'"

With over 7,000 members, the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians is located on an 125,000-acre reservation in an area within Ashland and Iron Counties on the south shore of Gichi-Gami (Lake Superior). The Ojibwe people have a long and rich heritage throughout the Great Lakes region prior to European contact and through to today. Treaties signed by eleven Ojibwe Tribes ceded millions of acres throughout the region, including what is currently the upper one third of the State of Wisconsin, but retained the rights to hunt, fish, and gather in the ceded territories, both on and off of their reservation land.****

Inset photo: Bad River Tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins Jr.
(Photo courtesy Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative)

Notes:

* Click here for the Complaint in this lawsuit.

** See another drone video of this area by David Joe Bates in our June 29, 2019, article, "Attorney General Nessel takes legal steps to decommission Line 5; Gov. Whitmer seeks to dismiss Enbridge lawsuit."

*** Click here for additional information about Line 5.

**** Learn more about the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians online at http://www.badriver-nsn.gov/.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Celebrate Lake Superior Day in Copper Harbor July 21

COPPER HARBOR -- Celebrate the beauty and bounty of Lake Superior in Copper Harbor! Thanks to Copper Harbor community volunteers, along with the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative, the 7th annual Lake Superior Day Festival will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 21, in Copper Harbor.

Here are some special activities to be held at the 6th Street Dock along the Copper Harbor Boardwalk (near Isle Royale Queen boat dock):
  • Fish stew (Kalamojakka), homemade pies, rieska (Finnish flatbread), and more at a community picnic ($5 donation suggested).
  • Canoe races and kayak demonstrations
  • Interactive art (paint the model freighter!)
  • Presentation on Lake Superior’s geoheritage by Dr. Erika Vye from Michigan Tech’s Center for Science and Environmental Outreach
  • Celebration of the beauty of Lake Superior with photographer George Bailey
  • Log rolling demonstration from 3 p.m. - 4 p.m. by the Michigan Tech Log Rolling Club.
A canoe race offers excitement at a previous Lake Superior Day celebration in Eagle Harbor. (Keweenaw Now file photo)
From 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. a special highlight is the opportunity for festival attendees to find out how scientists study the Great Lakes by taking a 40-minute scientific excursion in the harbor aboard Michigan Tech’s research vessel the Agassiz. These excursions will be led by chief scientist Kenny Larsen (PhD student in Environmental Engineering at Michigan Tech). The excursions are offered as part of the Ride the Waves Program funded by a grant from General Motors.

Visitors board Michigan Tech's Research Vessel Agassiz for an educational excursion during a previous Lake Superior Day celebration. Checking names of passengers (who reserved seats in advance) is Lloyd Wescoat, third from right, Copper Harbor resident and education programming advisor for Michigan Tech's Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative program. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

The Agassiz will depart every 45 minutes from the Isle Royale Queen dock beginning at 1 p.m. Participants must be at least 7 years old, and children must be accompanied by an adult. All participants should wear closed-toe shoes. Space is limited. Interested participants may pre-register for a scientific excursion aboard the Agassiz by calling (906) 487-3341 or email Lloyd Wescoat at lwescoat@mtu.edu. You may also register online using this link.

For more information about the event, contact lead organizer, Don Kilpela, Captain of the Isle Royale Queen, at (906) 289-4735.

Lake Superior Day is celebrated throughout the Lake Superior basin on or close to the 3rd Sunday in July in many communities around Lake Superior. The event highlights the special connections people have to this unique world treasure. All residents who live, work, play, and worship around the lake are invited to organize events in their communities or take action in their homes, at their places of employment or in community groups to help protect Lake Superior.

To learn more about Lake Superior Day events around the lake, visit https://www.lakesuperior.com/topics/lake_superior_day/. Or learn more about the Great Lakes by visiting EPA’s website at: http://www.epa.gov/greatlakes .

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

"Lights for Liberty" vigil participants protest against inhumane detention camps

By Michele Bourdieu
With photos by Miriam Pickens. 

Local residents concerned about the inhumane conditions faced by migrants -- especially those in detention camps on the U.S. southern border -- hold a "Lights for Liberty" vigil on Friday, July 12, 2019. The vigil was part of a worldwide human rights protest. (Photos © and courtesy Miriam Pickens)

HOUGHTON -- About 43 concerned citizens gathered for a "Lights for Liberty" vigil at the miner statue in Houghton on Friday, July 12, in solidarity with thousands holding vigils across the country to protest the dehumanizing conditions of detention centers for migrants on the U.S. southern border.

The July 12, 2019, Lights for Liberty vigils held from Maine to California, and internationally as well, were a response to a call for action by a group "dedicated to human rights and the fundamental principle behind democracy that all human beings have a right to life, liberty and dignity."*

"Here in the Copper Country, we participated in this vigil to help show our support for the principles that children do not belong in cages and that families belong together," said Valorie Troesch, a member of the Houghton County Democratic Party, which organized the local vigil. "We would hope that these values would be universal and non-partisan. We gathered quietly -- no march -- with candles and signs to demonstrate our united opposition to what is happening to immigrants and refugees on our southern border."

Organizer William Keith noted similar vigils were held in Marquette and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

William Keith, left, organizer of the Houghton vigil, displays a sign in support of diversity. Chatting at right are participants Tom Hiltunen (dark shirt) and Jim Pickens.

"So many people turned out to protest such a distant injustice because this particular cruelty shocks the conscience: children getting sick and dying in cages, adults who dared to dream of opportunity or safety in the land of hope finding only imprisonment and hate," Keith said. "There's so much this Administration has done that people of good will opposed, but this -- this is something to make the blood boil. Showing up to be present and bear witness is the least we can do, the first thing: we can tell everyone that this cruelty is not being perpetrated with our consent. The next thing to do is turn our refusal of assent into energy to stop the madness. It's a long time until November of 2020, but along the way we will do everything in our power."

Paul Mitchell, right, a volunteer with the Houghton County Democratic Party, joins another vigil participant to display a meaningful sign.

Janeen Stephenson of Houghton shared with Keweenaw Now her reason for joining the vigil.

"The way my country is treating human beings who are asylum seekers at our southern border is horrifying," Stephenson said. "We came together to express our concern and were uplifted by the honks and thumbs up of many people walking and driving by."

Janeen Stephenson of Houghton, right, and Cynthia Drake of Ripley display their Lights for Liberty candles during the vigil.

Cynthia Drake of Ripley said she participated in the Houghton vigil because she had attended a presentation by a group of Quaker youth from Milwaukee who had taken a trip to Washington, D.C., last fall after researching what was going on with ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement). These high school students talked to people in D.C. who were creating policy. Drake said she was very moved by what the youth had learned.

"The conditions already at the time they were there were just atrocious, and things were being covered up," Drake noted. "I don't know what the solutions are."

Drake said she went to the vigil knowing that the first thing we have to do is stop these conditions that treat people inhumanely.

"I do want to know what the next conversation is," Drake added. "What do we do about this situation that's better? What's an alternative that's better? And I hope that those of us who go to these vigils and these protests can think further into that and find doable solutions."

A very young vigil participant displays her sign, "No human is illegal."

Keith added this vigil is only the beginning and, as Drake also pointed out, more actions are necessary.

"It's a simple question," Keith noted. "You're either made furious by seeing the plight of scared children and refugees, or you're not. If you're as shocked and angry as we are, you're going to seek ways to fix it. This was the barest start."

* Click here to learn more about "Lights for Liberty."

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Detention Camps to be held July 12 in Houghton

Image courtesy Lights for Liberty.

HOUGHTON -- From 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. local time on Friday, July 12, 2019, Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Detention Camps will bring thousands of people to locations across the country to protest the inhumane conditions faced by migrants. In Houghton, the gathering will be at the miner statue on Shelden Avenue (on triangle where College Ave. meets Shelden and Montezuma) -- which honors immigrants who came to settle and build their part of America.

The Houghton County Democratic Party is organizing the vigil, but all are welcome and there will be no candidate-related activity. You can make a sign if you wish; electric candles will be available or you may bring your own. The vigil will open and close with brief calls to action; but otherwise participants will simply be present and silent, although quiet interaction with curious passersby is encouraged. Parking is available across the street at the Keweenaw Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.

Lights for Liberty is a coalition of people dedicated to human rights and the fundamental principle behind democracy that all human beings have a right to life, liberty and dignity. They are partnering with international, national, regional and local communities and organizations who believe that these fundamental rights are not negotiable and who are willing to protect them.

Monday, July 08, 2019

EGLE’s UP Energy Task Force to offer Web, phone access for July 9 organizational meeting


MARQUETTE -- The first meeting of the UP Energy Task Force, established by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Executive Order 2019-14 as an advisory body within the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), will be accessible via webinar and telephone access.

The meeting is set for 1 p.m. (EDT) on Tuesday, July 9, at the Northern Center, Ballroom III, 1401 Presque Isle Avenue, Marquette, Michigan, on the campus of Northern Michigan University. The meeting will be open to the public.

On June 7, 2019, Gov. Whitmer signed Executive Order 2019-14, creating the UP Energy Task Force, which will do the following: assess the UP’s overall energy needs and how they are currently being met; identify and evaluate potential changes in energy supply and distribution; and formulate alternative solutions to meet the UP’s energy needs -- including alternatives to the current distribution of propane through Line 5, which poses an unacceptable threat to the Great Lakes.*

The Task Force plans to schedule multiple listening sessions across the Upper Peninsula this fall specifically for the purpose of receiving public input. The dates and locations for the listening sessions and other meetings will be made available after the July 9 organizational meeting.

To join the webinar, go to: NMU.zoom.us/j/928433717. To join the meeting by telephone, dial 646-558-8656 or 669-900-6833; use the webinar ID: 928 433 717.

To stay up to date on other EGLE news, follow michigan.gov/MIEnvironment.

* Editor's Note: See "Gov. Whitmer signs executive order creating UP Energy Task Force."

To view Executive Order 2019-14, click here.

To view the names of persons appointed to the UP Energy Task Force, click here

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Attorney General Nessel takes legal steps to decommission Line 5; Gov. Whitmer seeks to dismiss Enbridge lawsuit

By Michele Bourdieu

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. (Photo courtesy Michigan.gov)

LANSING -- In a one-two legal punch, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel not only responded to the Enbridge lawsuit filed against the state earlier this month, but simultaneously took the first step to decommission the 66-year-old dual pipelines that run through the Straits of Mackinac by filing a lawsuit in Ingham County Circuit Court.

Meanwhile Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced her responses to Enbridge's failure to negotiate on tunnel construction and her goal of decommissioning Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac.

The Attorney General filed her lawsuit on June 27, 2019, the same day she filed a motion to dismiss Enbridge’s lawsuit filed in the Court of Claims on June 6 seeking to enforce agreements made in the last months of the Snyder administration that purported to authorize Enbridge to build a tunnel and continue operating Line 5.

"I have consistently stated that Enbridge’s pipelines in the Straits need to be shut down as soon as possible because they present an unacceptable risk to the Great Lakes," said Nessel.  "Governor Whitmer tried her best to reach an agreement that would remove the pipelines from the Straits on an expedited basis, but Enbridge walked away from negotiations and instead filed a lawsuit against the state. Once that occurred, there was no need for further delay."

Nessel’s lawsuit asks the Ingham County Circuit Court to find that Enbridge’s continued operation of the Straits Pipelines under the easement granted by the State in 1953 violates the public trust doctrine, is a common law public nuisance, and violates the Michigan Environmental Protection Act because it is likely to cause pollution impairment and destruction of water and other natural resources.

The Enbridge Line 5 Pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. (File photo courtesy National Wildlife Federation)

The Attorney General’s lawsuit identifies a potential anchor strike as the most significant risk to Line 5. In 2017, the State’s contractor, Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems, Inc., identified an anchor strike as the most "dominant threat" to Line 5.

"The location of the pipelines -- which carry millions of gallons of oil each day and lie exposed in open water at the bottom of the Straits -- combines great ecological sensitivity with exceptional vulnerability to anchor strikes," said Nessel. "This situation with Line 5 differs from other bodies of water where pipelines exist because the currents in the Straits of Mackinac are complex, variable, and remarkably fast and strong."

Nessel also noted the serious danger of anchor strikes, such as the one that occurred in 2018.*

"The continued operation of Line 5 presents an extraordinary, unreasonable threat to the public because of the very real risk of further anchor strikes, the inherent risks of pipeline operations, and the foreseeable, catastrophic effects if an oil spill occurs at the Straits," Nessel added. "We were extraordinarily lucky that we did not experience a complete rupture of Line 5 because, if we did, we would be cleaning up the Great Lakes and our shorelines for the rest of our lives, and the lives of our children as well."

In fact, an April 2018 anchor dragging incident -- which ripped through several inches-thick steel cables -- brought that threat home in a very real way. Although Line 5 was damaged -- not ruptured -- in that incident because the anchor hit a section lying directly on the bottomlands, if the anchor had dragged across the bottom of the Straits in an area where Line 5 is elevated, the likely result would have been a complete rupture of Line 5.

Nessel’s lawsuit seeks an order from the Court to shut down and decommission the Straits pipelines as soon as possible after a reasonable notice period to allow orderly adjustments by affected parties.

The Attorney General also filed a motion for summary disposition in the Court of Claims on June 27. That motion argues that PA 359 (2018), which would have created a new Straits Corridor Authority, is unconstitutional, and the agreements that purported to give Enbridge the right to build a tunnel and continue operating Line 5 in the Straits for the estimated seven to ten years it would take to build the tunnel are invalid.

This is consistent with Nessel’s first formal opinion as Attorney General determining that PA 359 -- rammed through in a chaotic lame duck session at the end of the Snyder administration -- was unconstitutional. Her office then notified all state agencies -- including the Straits Corridor Authority -- that PA 359 and any agreements relying on the statute, were unenforceable.

"The debate over Line 5 has been raging for over five years," said Nessel. "Real-world events have shown me we can’t wait another five to ten years for Enbridge to build a tunnel. We cannot prevent accidental or emergency anchor deployments in one of the busiest shipping channels in the Great Lakes.  And it only takes one such incident to cause an environmental and economic catastrophe. That is a risk no one should be willing to take."

Nessel also explained these steps to decommission Line 5 in a video statement. In this statement she notes that she and Gov. Whitmer are both committed to protecting the waters of the Great Lakes from a potential disaster.

"We have dual responsibilities and we are working on parallel tracks," Nessel said in the video statement. "I'm doing everything I can on the legal front, and she's doing everything she can on the administrative front."

Nessel also mentioned in the video the governor's "Task Force to ensure the energy needs of our UP residents are met in an affordable and reliable way."**

Governor Whitmer responds to Line 5 legal filings

Tiffany Brown, press secretary for Governor Whitmer, issued a statement on June 27, commenting on the legal filings regarding Line 5.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. (Photo courtesy Michigan.gov)

"The governor’s primary goal has always been and remains to get the Line 5 dual pipelines out of the Straits of Mackinac as soon as possible. The risk of a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes, and the harm that would follow to Michigan’s economy, tourism, and our way of life, is far too great to allow the pipelines to continue to operate indefinitely," the statement said.

The statement also explains that the governor's action follows her attempted negotiations with Enbridge:

"The governor has never viewed litigation as the best solution to this problem, and for this reason she entered negotiations with Enbridge about the possible construction of a tunnel. Her reasonable requirement has been that the dual pipelines through the Straits cease operation at a date certain, after allowing for a period of transition. Enbridge, however, has insisted that it be allowed to run oil through the Great Lakes indefinitely. Rather than negotiating, Enbridge walked away and filed a lawsuit. Today, Governor Whitmer filed her response asking the court to dismiss Enbridge’s lawsuit."

In addition, Gov. Whitmer has asked the Department of Natural Resources for a review of Enbridge's compliance with the 1953 Easement, which allowed Enbridge to operate Line 5's dual pipelines under the Great Lakes.

"Possible violations of the easement are just one of several grounds by which the state could seek to shut down the pipelines, some of which the attorney general has already invoked today," the statement concluded. 

Groups laud Nessel's, Whitmer's actions to begin Line 5 shutdown

Oil and Water Don't Mix, an environmental group opposing Line 5, stated their support of the actions taken by Attorney General Nessel and Governor Whitmer.

"The Attorney General’s strong and necessary stand vigorously defends Michigan’s Constitution, our environmental laws, and is aimed at protecting the Great Lakes. Gov. Whitmer's directive to the Department of Natural Resources to examine Enbridge's compliance with the state's 1953 easement agreement for Line 5 will confirm what is already on the public record: a pattern and practice of easement violations by Enbridge," the group stated on their Web site. "The attorney general’s March legal opinion clearly established that the legislation passed in lame duck last year was unconstitutional; and her actions today (June 27) seeking a court-ordered end to Enbridge's Line 5 operations in the Straits of Mackinac have the strong support of Michigan’s environmental community, civic groups and Michigan’s tribes with Treaty Rights in the Straits of Mackinac."

Sean McBrearty, Oil and Water Don't Mix coordinator, said, "Line 5 is wrong for the Great Lakes, wrong for Michigan, wrong for the rule of law and wrong for future generations who must deal with the impact of dirty fuels on an overheating climate."***

FLOW (For Love of Water) also commended Attorney General Nessel’s and Governor Whitmer’s legal actions against Enbridge to protect public waters located in arguably the worst possible place in the Great Lakes for an oil spill to happen.

"Attorney General Nessel returns Michigan and the protection of its citizens, taxpayers, and the Great Lakes to the rule of law," said Jim Olson, president and founder of FLOW. "Governor Whitmer’s action on behalf of the state to nullify the lame-duck tunnel agreements also returns Michigan to the rule of law. They should be thanked. No, they should be applauded."****

Democratic Caucuses support of Nessel, Whitmer in opposing Line 5 

The Michigan Democratic Party's Anishinaabek Caucus issued a press release on June 27, 2019, praising Attorney General Nessel for her legal filings and urging Governor Whitmer to join the Attorney General's lawsuit against Enbridge.

Andrea Pierce, chair of the Michigan Democratic Party's Anishinaabek Caucus, carries the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians tribal flag at Governor Whitmer's inauguration in January 2019. The photo is included with the Caucus's recent press release as a reminder that the 12 tribes of Michigan are here and are part of the decisions. (Photo courtesy Anishinaabek Caucus)

"Enbridge's continued exploratory work for the tunnel and operation of Line 5 are in violation of the Treaty rights of federally recognized tribes of Michigan," the Caucus stated, referring to their May 24, 2019, Position Statement.

In that Position Statement, the Caucus stated, "In accordance with the Tribal Treaties recognized under the United States Constitution and in solidarity with the position of the Twelve Tribes of Michigan as stewards of the land and water, the Anishinaabek Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party enjoins the Governor and the State of Michigan to shut down Line 5 immediately to eliminate catastrophic risks to water and land, and to abandon plans for a tunnel which would perpetuate existing risks to our resources."

That Position Statement also asked Michigan officials to reverse damage from burning fossil fuels, not to create opportunities to expand their use, and to include Michigan tribes in their decision making. The Caucus noted that treaties guarantee not only fishing rights but the right to habitat for the fish, which is threatened by the operation of unsafe pipelines.

"We applaud and celebrate Dana's stand as it is what she promised during her campaign and also at the Pipe Out Paddle Up Flotilla, when she came to Mackinaw City and met tribal leadership, environmental groups and citizens that are concerned about Enbridge's Line 5," said Andrea Pierce, Anishinaabek Caucus chair.

During the 2017 Pipe Out Paddle Up Flotilla in Mackinaw City, Dana Nessel, then a candidate for Michigan Attorney General, stated why she was running for that office and why she would shut down Line 5 if elected. (File video by Keweenaw Now)

The June 27 press release from the Anishinaabek Caucus also mentions dangers cited in the "Independent Risk Analysis for the Straits Pipelines" -- a study led by Guy Meadows, director of Michigan Tech's Great Lakes Research Center, and other faculty from Michigan Tech and including researchers from other universities and other scientific experts.

The Caucus notes, "As long as Line 5 operates, Michigan's water, wildlife, and people remain at risk. The report 'Independent Risk Analysis for the Straits Pipelines' (September 15, 2018) reveals that 2.4M gallons of crude would damage 60,000 acres of unique habitat affecting businesses personal property, and municipal water supplies. Since 1968 there has been more than 1.1M gallons of crude spilled from Line 5 inland, hence acknowledgement of a Line 5 spill in the Straits is real. Degradation of supports, mussel encrustation, deformities of the pipe, and an anchor strike have been reported."

The Anishinaabek Caucus notes that in their view Line 5 is not needed for bringing propane to the Upper Peninsula. They point out that, in addition to the fact that the volume of propane provided through Line 5 is only 0.25 percent, which could be trucked to the UP, the propane argument for Line 5 ignores good union green jobs.

"Developing renewable energy in the Upper Peninsula could be Michigan's beginning in green energy independence," the Anishinaabek Caucus states.

The Michigan Democratic Party Environmental Caucus. also issued a statement in support of Nessel and Whitmer as environmental leaders, calling their June 27 announcements "the shot heard 'round the world as we move closer to decommissioning the credible threat of a Line 5 rupture in the Straits of Mackinac."

According to the Environmental Caucus, "News of Attorney General Nessel’s actions is confirmation of her dedication to to the protection of our water, the adjacent waterways and the Straits of Mackinac themselves."

Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa threatened by Line 5 impacts to watershed

While several Native American groups concerned about the water and treaty rights have been protesting for several years against the Line 5 pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac, less attention has been focused on the part of Line 5 that passes through the reservation of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians -- impacting rivers, streams and wetlands and posing a threat to an area of northwestern Wisconsin that has recently experienced severe floods.

This map shows a North American pipeline system including Line 5 (bright red line) -- which carries oil from Superior, Wis, to refineries at Sarnia, Ontario. Line 5 uses the Straits of Mackinac as a short cut, jeopardizing Great Lakes waters and nearby lands, including the Bad River reservation in northwestern Wisconsin. Click on map for larger version. (Map courtesy Oil and Water Don't Mix)

This aerial drone video by Bad River member David Joe Bates illustrates potential failure of Line 5, which crosses the Bad River only 15.5 miles from Lake Superior:

This video, taken from a drone during a high water event in April 2019, shows how a portion of Line 5 pipeline passing through the Bad River Band's reservation, not far from where the Bad River empties into Lake Superior, could pose a serious threat to the watershed should there be an oil spill. Click on YouTube icon for a larger screen. (Video © and courtesy David Joe Bates)

On June 20, 2019, just a week before the actions of Michigan's Attorney General and Governor, the Bad River Band held a public event with a presentation by Naomi Tillison, their Natural Resources director, outlining the impending disaster from Enbridge Line 5 at the Bad River Meander. Click here for a video of her informative presentation.*****

Editor's Notes:

* See our June 5, 2019, article, "Michigan AG Nessel: Safety Board Report on Line 5 Anchor Strike means operating Line 5 'incredibly dangerous.'"

** Click here to watch Nessel's video on YouTube. Concerning the Task Force, see "Gov. Whitmer signs executive order creating UP Energy Task Force."

*** See Oil and Water Don't Mix for their complete statement.

**** Click here for more from FLOW.

***** For background on the easements that allowed Line 5 to pass through the Bad River reservation, click here for the introduction to the June 20 by Mike Wiggins, Jr., Bad River tribal chair.

Friday, June 21, 2019

UPDATED: EGLE to hold Consolidated Public Hearing on three permits for Back 40 Mine June 25; public comment deadlines announced

By Michele Bourdieu, with information from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE)

This map shows location of the proposed Back 40 Mine, near the Menominee River. The additional land in light green and the access corridor from the east are among the changes in the proposed Amendment to the Part 632 Mining Permit. A Consolidated Public Hearing will be held on Tuesday, June 25, to take comments on three permit applications for this mining project. Click on map for larger version. (Images courtesy Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, or EGLE)

[UPDATE: The June 25 Public Hearing will be livestreamed by Indian Country Today at 5:30 p.m. CDT (6:30 p.m. EDT). Click here to watch it.]

LANSING -- The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) (formerly Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) will hold a Consolidated Public Hearing on the Aquila Back Forty Mine Project from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. (CDT) on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, at Stephenson High School Gymnasium, W526 Division Street, Stephenson, Michigan 49887. Aquila  Resources, Inc., is proposing to develop an open pit polymetallic gold, zinc, and copper mine and associated beneficiation and storage facilities.

On June 17 and June 18 EGLE held a Webinar with information on the three permit applications to be considered at the June 25 Hearing. A video recording of the Webinar presentations is now available on YouTube here.

The purpose of the hearing is to take official public comments on three different Aquila applications:

1) Application for permit HNK-5X9D-9HC0S under Part 315, Dam Safety of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended (NREPA), by Mr. David Anderson, Aquila Resources, Inc. The applicant proposes to construct two regulated dams -- a Tailings Management Facility (TMF) and a Contact Water Basin (CWB) -- in association with the Back Forty Project mine.

Here the Tailings Management Facility (TMF) is outlined in the center of the map. The Contact Water Basin (CWB) is the section below the lower left corner of the TMF. Click on image for a larger version. The pit, to the left of the TMF, is only about 150 feet from the Menominee River.

The proposed TMF would have a height of 118 feet and an impoundment area of 124 acres. The size of the TMF has been compared to 100 football fields.*

This diagram of the proposed TMF shows how it would be constructed in stages. Click on image for larger version.

The Contact Water Basin would have a height of 27 feet and an impoundment area of 40 acres.

The Dam Safety hearing will be held pursuant to Section 324.31511.3 of Part 315 of the NREPA. The Part 315 application is available for review on EGLE’s Web site at:  https://miwaters.deq.state.mi.us/, or at the EGLE, Water Resource Division, Marquette District Office, 1504 West Washington Street, Marquette, MI, 49855, or by calling 517- 284-5567. The Dam Safety Part 315 public hearing record will remain open for ten days after the public hearing date, closing on Friday, July 5. Written comments on this Dam Safety permit must be received at the above address or at https://miwaters.deq.state.mi.us/ by July 5, 2019.

2)  The proposed conditional approval of Permit to Install (PTI) Application Number 205-15A under Part 55 of NREPA. It has been preliminarily determined that the installation and operation of the mining and ore processing facility will not violate any of EGLE's rules nor the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. EGLE's Air Quality Division (AQD) will accept comments on this proposed action until July 23, 2019. Send AQD PTI written comments to Ms. Annette Switzer, Permit Section Manager, EGLE, AQD, P.O. Box 30260, Lansing, Michigan, 48909-7760. Comments may also be submitted from this webpage: http://www.deq.state.mi.us/aps/cwerp.shtml (After consulting the documents listed, click on "Submit Comment" under the Aquila Resources Inc., PTI Application No. 205-15A listing). All statements received by July 23, 2019, will be considered by the decision maker prior to final permit action.

Copies of PTI related documents are also available on the AQD webpage; at the Marquette District Office, 1504 West Washington Street, Marquette, MI 49855; at the AQD Central Office, 525 West Allegan Street, Lansing, MI 48933; at the Menominee County Public Library, S319 Railroad St, Stephenson, MI 49887; or you may request a copy be mailed to you by calling 517-284-6793. The PTI application and related correspondence are on the website at http://www.deq.state.mi.us/aps/AppsOfInterest.shtml.

3) The proposed decision to grant, with conditions, a request submitted by Aquila Resources Inc. to amend Mining Permit MP 01 2016, issued under Part 632, Nonferrous Metallic Mineral Mining (Part 632), of the NREPA. The Oil, Gas, and Minerals Division (OGMD) will accept comments on this proposed decision until July 23, 2019. Send Part 632 Mining Permit Amendment proposed decision written comments to Back Forty Project, EGLE/OGMD, 1504 West Washington Street, Marquette, MI 49855, or E-mail to EGLE-Mining-Comments@michigan.gov with "Back Forty Mining Permit" as the subject. Comments applicable to the proposed  decision received by 5 p.m. July 23, 2019, will be considered prior to making a final decision.**

During the informational Webinar, Melanie Humphrey, geologist, Oil, Gas and Minerals Division Upper Peninsula district, noted the proposed amendment would increase the mine footprint from 865 acres to 1,087 acres, due to changes in storage. Another change is the additional option for access via an Eastern Corridor (see map above). The amended permit would also include minor modifications to processing circuits and updates to the Mining Plan, Treatment and Containment Plan, Environmental Monitoring Plan, Contingency Plan, Reclamation Plan, Financial Assurance estimates, and Environmental Impact Assessment.

View the May 20, 2019, Proposed Decision on Aquila's Mining Permit Amendment Application here.

Application materials may be reviewed at the Menominee County Public Library, S319 Railroad St, Stephenson, MI 49887, the EGLE Marquette District Office, or on the EGLE Mining website here

For  more  information on this Part 632 Mining Permit Amendment Application contact the EGLE, OGMD, Melanie  Humphrey, Gwinn  Field  Office, 906-250-7564, humphreym@michigan.gov; or Mark Snow, Permitting and Technical Services Section Manager, 517-230-8233, snowm@michigan.gov.

According to James Ostrowski, Supervisor, EGLE Training and Outreach Unit, the June 25 Consolidated Public Hearing will not be preceded by a question-answer session as some hearings have been in the past.

"There will not be a public information session with Q and A on June 25," Ostrowski told Keweenaw Now. "The hearing in Stephenson on June 25 will just be a hearing, meaning staff will be there to take official comment but will not respond to comments. There will be staff available to answer questions one-on-one throughout the evening."

He noted also that staff who presented at the Webinar can be contacted with questions related to the permits they discussed. They are the following:

Melanie Humphrey, Geologist, Oil, Gas, and Minerals Division, who spoke on the Mining Permit Amendment proposed decision, at 906-250-7564 or HumphreyM@Michigan.gov

Andrew Drury, Air Quality Division, who spoke on the Permit to Install application, at 517-284-6792 or DruryA@Michigan.gov

Lucas Trumble, P.E., Dam Safety Program, who spoke on the Part 315 Dam Safety permit, at 517-420-8923 or TrumbleL@michigan.gov.

Hearing participants will be asked to fill out an attendance card and indicate intent to speak before entering the hearing area. Following opening remarks at the start of the hearing, participants will be called to speak in the order of cards received. Speaker presentations will be limited to three minutes. Written comments will also be accepted at the hearing.

The hearing will not be a legal proceeding, witnesses will not  be sworn, and there will be no cross examination. During the hearing, EGLE technical staff will be available outside  the hearing room to answer questions regarding EGLE’s reviews and proposed actions. Individuals needing accommodations for effective participation at the hearing should contact Tina Coluccio, 906-228-4524 in advance of the hearing date to request mobility, visual, hearing, or other assistance.

June 25 Water Ceremony, Outside Action to precede hearing

On June 25, in advance of the Consolidated Public Hearing, concerned community members are invited to attend a Water Ceremony and Outside Action at 3 p.m., followed by a Press Conference at 4 p.m. at Stephenson High School.

Poster from Save the Menominee River - Stop the Back 40 Mine Facebook page.

Editor's Notes:

* See a recent Opinion article published in the Detroit News: "New mine could harm Menominee watershed," by Al Gedicks, emeritus professor of environmental sociology at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse and executive secretary of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, and Eric Hansen, an outdoor writer and commentator and author of Hiking Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

** A Public Hearing on Aquila's request for the Mining Permit Amendment was held on Jan. 9, 2019, followed by a public comment period and by the May 20 Proposed Decision. See our Jan. 23, 2019, article, with videos, on the Jan. 9 hearing, "Environmental groups, Menominee Nation, community residents oppose Back 40 mining permit amendment, seek technical expertise."

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Pine Mountain Music Festival to bring concerts to six UP communities June 17-30

The Bergonzi Trio will perform classical concerts in Houghton, Marquette and Iron Mountain during this year's  Pine Mountain Music Festival. (Photos courtesy Pine Mountain Music Festival)

HOUGHTON -- The Pine Mountain Music Festival (PMMF) is proud to announce an exciting season -- June 17-30, 2019. This year's festival marks the 29th year of bringing Classical and World Music to the communities of Houghton, Hancock, Calumet, Marquette, Iron Mountain and Crystal Falls.

The classical foundation of PMMF for years has been the Bergonzi String Quartet. This year they return as a trio: Scott Flavin and Ross Harbaugh are joined by the young piano virtuoso Lindsay Garritson. The new group is guaranteed to delight! Beethoven’s Archduke Trio is being prepared for this season by special request. They will perform Beethoven's Archduke Trio on June 19 in Marquette, on June 21 in Iron Mountain, and on June 22 at the Rozsa in Houghton. Don't miss this long standing tradition. The Bergonzi Trio will be presenting Free Family Concerts in libraries in all three towns in the afternoon.

The festival kicks off Monday, June 17, in Iron Mountain when Moira Smiley and Jefferson Hamer present a one of a kind concert.

Singer Moira Smiley will perform with guitarist and singer Jefferson Hamer in Calumet, Marquette and Iron Mountain.

Moira Smiley creates and performs new work for voices while Jefferson Hamer, a gifted guitarist and singer, weaves gorgeous instrumental lines with close harmonies. Jefferson astounds as singer/songwriter and as an interpreter of Child ballads and, when he plugs in, as a dynamic rocker.

Jefferson Hamer, guitarist and singer. (Photo © Joe Singh and courtesy Pine Mountain Music Festival)

Moira and Jefferson will also be in Marquette Tuesday, June 18, and at the Calumet Theatre Wednesday, June 19. Jefferson will do a special solo concert at the Crystal Theatre, Crystal Falls, on Thursday, June 20.

The next troupe, "Trust me, will rock your world," explained the Head of Music, Stony Brook, NYU, enthusiastically. They are Miles Masicotte, Hristina Blagoeva, and Giovanni Perez. Miles, originally a jazz pianist turned classical pianist, with his wife, Hristina, a Bulgarian flute player,
are paired with Giovanni Perez, a show-stopping flutist.

They will be at the Calumet Theatre Wednesday, June 26.

"It will be something really exciting, original and classic," PMMF Director Douglas Day anticipates.

Perhaps the most notable new dimension comes from the inclusion of the UPStarts -- young performers from across the U.P., joining Miles Massicotte and Giovanni Perez, both from New York, who will act as mentor professionals to the UPStarts.

This year's UPStarts are (clockwise from above left) Eric Banitt, piano; Benjamin Merte, bass; Kalee Hernendez, piano; Karen Albert, mezzo-soprano; and Benjamin Zindler, trombone. 

PMMF will present the group of eight dynamic young performers in a single show opening as the finale of Marquette’s Artweek celebrations, in the Presque Isle Bandshell, Friday, June 28. Free to all thanks to Travel Marquette and the Arts and Culture Office of Marquette. The group will perform June 29 in Kingsford's First Presbyterian Church and June 30 at the Rozsa in Houghton.

Of special note to opera fans, UPStart soprano, Liz Grugin will join Karen Albert in Delibes’ Duo des fleurs / Sous le dôme épais from Lakmé. Arias from Rossini and Bizet echo 29 years of PMMF opera.*

You may purchase tickets at the door for all events. Calumet and Crystal Theatres order at pmmf.org/tickets. All other shows order through Michigan Tech's Ticketing Service: (887)746-3999 or through pmmf.org/tickets, all concerts are at 7:30. Check the web site (pmmf.org) for the Children's Concert time in your area.

Through the $129 Family Pass, the Festival hopes to draw the next generation into a love of classical music through live performances. The Pass covers the whole family for all shows. Our patrons make up the difference by including a gift with their orders.

* Click here for the PMMF Schedule.

Inset photos: Miles Masicotte, Hristina Blagoeva, and Giovanni Perez. 

Western UP Tribal, County residents asked to take short survey to assist Hazard Mitigation Plans

HOUGHTON -- Hazard mitigation is any action taken before, during or after a disaster to eliminate or reduce the risk to human life and property from natural, technological, or human-related hazards. The Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region (WUPPDR) has been recently contracted by Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) and the six western counties in the Upper Peninsula to update and draft the five-year hazard mitigation plans.

In addition to guiding mitigation for KBIC and the counties, the plans will ensure their communities are eligible for certain grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Members of the public can have a voice in the planning effort by taking a short survey. Online responses are preferred and can be provided at the survey links below. The paper survey is available at the city and township halls, county clerk’s office, and public libraries.

Please take the 5-minute survey regarding hazards in your community by July 12, 2019. To access the online survey, click on the link below for the region that you live in.

The survey links are as follows:

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KBICHazMitPublicInput

Baraga:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BaragaHazMitPublicInput

Houghton:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HoCoHazMitPublicInput

Keweenaw:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KewCoHazMitPublic

Gogebic:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GogebicHazMitPublicInput

Iron:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/IronHazMitPublicInput

Ontonagon:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/OntoHazMitPublicInput

The information you provide will help WPPDR and county and tribal officials better understand local hazard concerns and can lead to mitigation activities that should help lessen the impact of future hazard events in your community. All responses will be kept confidential.

For more information or for a paper survey contact:
Rachael Pressley, rpressley@wuppdr.org
WUPPDR Project Coordinator
1-906-482-7205, ext. 116.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Deploying High-frequency Radar in the Straits of Mackinac

High-frequency radar towers, like the pilot tower shown here near Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinac City, Michigan, create maps of an entire area rather than providing only a single point of data. (Photo © Nathan Shaiyen and courtesy Michigan Tech University)

By Kelley Christensen, Michigan Tech Science and Technology Publications Writer
Posted June 10, 2019, on Michigan Tech News
Reprinted here in part with permission


As Great Lakes water levels rise to record heights, remotely monitoring currents and waves grows in importance.

The currents of the Straits of Mackinac are known for their volatility; they have for millennia pushed the birch bark canoes of Native Americans and voyageurs alike off course and forced lake freighters aground.

The currents are also part of the complex lake system that links Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. Monitoring currents and waves in the Straits -- and throughout the Great Lakes -- is of great interest to scientists, municipal managers, the shipping industry, environmentalists and government agencies.

In late May, Lorelle Meadows, dean of the Pavlis Honors College at Michigan Technological University and oceanographer by training, and Guy Meadows, director of Michigan Tech's Great Lakes Research Center, conducted the first test of a high-frequency radar system specifically tuned for use in the Great Lakes. 

Inset photo: Lorelle Meadows and Guy Meadows received a grant from the Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS) to bring a pilot high-frequency radar project to Michigan. (Photo © Nathan Shaiyen and courtesy Michigan Tech University)

Great Lakes Geometry

High-frequency radar is a shore-based remote sensing system used to measure currents offshore by sending a low-power electromagnetic pulse over the water. The electromagnetic wave interacts with marine surface waves, which scatter the radar signal. By measuring the magnetic pulse bounces from marine waves back to the radar tower, researchers are able to map the speed and direction of the underlying currents. ... Click here to read the rest of this article and see a video about this research on the Michigan Tech News.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Gov. Whitmer signs executive order creating UP Energy Task Force

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. (Photo courtesy Michigan.gov)

LANSING -- On June 7, 2019, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order that creates the UP Energy Task Force, which will do the following: assess the UP’s overall energy needs and how they are currently being met; identify and evaluate potential changes in energy supply and distribution; and formulate alternative solutions to meet the UP’s energy needs -- including alternatives to the current distribution of propane through Line 5, which poses an unacceptable threat to The Great Lakes.

"Our jobs, economy, and public health depend on the preservation of The Great Lakes, which literally define us as a state," said Whitmer. "Enbridge has a disappointing safety record in Michigan, and the dual pipelines that run through the Straits of Mackinac create an unacceptable risk of an oil spill by anchor strike or other means. Such an event would be catastrophic for The Great Lakes and our economy, and would send energy costs skyrocketing for UP families. This task force will help make recommendations that ensure the UP's energy needs are met in a manner that is reliable, affordable, and environmentally sound."

UP residents are currently incurring some of the highest electricity rates in the nation. Implementing real energy solutions will begin to rein in these high rates and provide relief to hardworking UP residents.

Moreover, about 25 percent of UP residents use propane for home heating, and much of that propane is delivered through the Line 5 pipeline. The future of Line 5, however, is uncertain.  As a report this week from the National Transportation Safety Board made abundantly clear, only by happenstance did Michigan avoid a catastrophic oil spill in The Great Lakes just last year, when a 12,000 pound anchor inadvertently dragged across the bottomlands of the Straits of Mackinac struck Line 5.* The unacceptable threat posed by the continued operation of the pipelines through the Straits, as well as the lack of an established back-up propane distribution system were Line 5 to malfunction, make developing alternative solutions a priority.

Attorney General Dana Nessel commented in support of Gov. Whitmer's Executive Order establishing the U.P. Energy Task Force.

"I commend Gov. Whitmer for taking a proactive approach to ensuring our UP residents have a long-term solution that reins in the exorbitant energy costs they face each day," Nessel said. "Enbridge has made clear its primary focus is its bottom line. And while the Governor and I work in tandem to decommission Line 5 as quickly as possible to protect our Great Lakes and the health and safety of our residents, her task force is a necessary step to ensure we meet the energy needs of all our state’s residents for generations to come."

Executive Order 2019-14 establishes the UP Energy Task Force, which will address the significant energy challenges that UP residents are facing. This task force will look for alternative, long-term solutions to rein in UP energy rates in regions facing the highest costs and identify alternatives to meeting the UP’s current propane-supply needs. The UP Energy Task Force is charged to do the following:
  • Be an advisory body to the governor within the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).
  • Consist of at least 13 voting members appointed by the governor, all of whom must be Michigan residents and possess relevant expertise.
  • Formulate solutions for meeting the UP’s energy needs, with a focus on security, reliability, affordability, and environmental soundness.
  •  Complete a final report in two stages. First, by submitting a propane plan to the governor by March 31, 2020, which will focus on alternative means to supply propane in the event of a Line 5 shut down. Second, by submitting the remainder of its report by March 31, 2021. 
This executive order will be effective immediately upon filing.

To view the full executive order click here.

Inset photo: Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

* Editor's Note: See our June 5, 2019, article, "Michigan AG Nessel: Safety Board Report on Line 5 Anchor Strike means operating Line 5 'incredibly dangerous.'"