See our right-hand column for announcements and news briefs. Scroll down the right-hand column to access the Archives -- links to articles posted in the main column since 2007.

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Area providers experiencing shortened COVID-19 waitlists; more vaccines coming soon

BARAGA, GOGEBIC, HOUGHTON, KEWEENAW and ONTONAGON COUNTIES -- As the vaccine supply coming into the area becomes more reliable, providers in the Western Upper Peninsula are seeing a decline in the demand for appointments from those age 65 and older.

"We are beginning to see gaps in our appointment schedules for the 65 and older group," said Kate Beer, Health Officer for the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department (WUPHD). "Providers across the district are struggling to fill clinics at the last minute. If you have held off on scheduling your appointment, now is the time to call."

Residents can visit https://coppercountrystrong.com/vaccine to locate a provider in their area. Those without computer access should call 211 for assistance in scheduling an appointment.

Community partners are also working on a plan to provide mobile vaccinations to those who have difficulty obtaining transportation or are homebound. One option is the newly approved Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

"We have confirmation that at least 700 doses of the new vaccine will be shipped to our area within the next several days. It will be a useful tool in vaccinating homebound residents and those with limited transportation options," continued Beer. "Unlike the other brands currently available, it requires only one dose and is easier to store and handle."

Michigan is currently in Phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccination effort. Phase 1B includes residents age 65 and older and some frontline essential workers. Vaccination opened up this week for workers in the food processing industry. WUPHD anticipates that additional age groups and essential worker categories will be added as early as next week.

For more information on COVID-19 please visit wuphd.org, michigan.gov/coronavirus, or cdc.gov/coronavirus.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

City of Houghton to hold Feb. 24 Public Hearings on rezoning proposals 314, 315; residents express environmental concerns

By Michele Bourdieu

This map outlines the area between Canal Road and the Portage shoreline being considered under proposed Ordinance 314 for rezoning from R-1 (single-family residential) to B-2 (commercial) by the City of Houghton. The Feb. 24 Houghton City Council meeting will include Public Hearings on proposed rezoning ordinances 314 and 315. Click on map for larger version. (Map courtesy City of Houghton)

HOUGHTON -- Local residents continue to question the City of Houghton's proposed rezoning ordinances 314 and 315, intended to change the zoning of an area along Canal Road adjacent to the Portage Waterway from R-1 (single family residential) to B-2 (commercial). The Houghton City Council will hold a public hearing for each of these rezoning proposals at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24, via Zoom. A petition, "Stop Houghton City Ordinance 2020-314 and 315," that now has 775 signatures, will be presented to the Houghton City Council at this hearing.*

Proposed Ordinance 314 is intended to change an area that is part of the Torch Lake Superfund, where hazardous industrial waste, including slag from the former Michigan Smelter, was covered with only 6 inches of soil and vegetation. If the area is rezoned to B-2, large hotels, motels, bars, restaurants and other commercial buildings would be permitted along the shoreline of the Portage Waterway (canal). Area residents have expressed concerns that such large-scale construction would disturb the Superfund cover and release harmful, even cancer-causing contaminants into the water and the air.

This aerial view shows the area of the Michigan Smelter site under the Torch Lake Superfund. The light grey, striped area marks the covered slag tailings. This area appears to include the area proposed for rezoning to B-2 under Ordinance 314. (Screenshot from EPA Fact Sheet, August 2012)

Proposed Ordinance 315 would allow construction of a commercial seaplane base on the Portage Waterway. Residents in both Houghton and Hancock have raised concerned about the noise of the planes taking off and landing several times a day. Safety concerns have been raised because of the proximity of this base to the Hancock Beach and Campground, as well as shoreline residences.

This map and overlay shows potential impacts should proposed Ordinance 315 be adopted to allow the Isle Royale Seaplane Service to operate on the Portage Canal as illustrated. The overlay shows the projected float plane activity area, its proximity to established residential areas and existing recreational silent sports on the canal, which includes part of the Keweenaw Water Trail. (Map courtesy Jennifer Norkol)

This map of the proposed location for the Isle Royale Seaplane Service shows the area to be changed from R-1 to B-2 zoning if Ordinance 315 is adopted. (Map courtesy City of Houghton) 

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Proposed rezoning Ordinance 314 raises environmental concerns

Residents expressed concerns about the proposed Ordinance 314 at the Jan. 26 Public Hearing held by the City of Houghton Planning Commission.

During that Public Hearing, Chris Woodry -- a local homebuilder whose property is located in both the City of Houghton and Adams Township because of its location in the Cole's Creek area, very near the proposed 314 rezoning area -- spoke of his concerns about the environmental impacts of excavating a Superfund site for large-scale commercial construction. He noted the Superfund covers such hazardous contaminants as arsenic, mercury and more that could get into the water and the air.

"I don't see any way you can develop an area like that without disturbing the soil greatly," Woodry said. "This is an issue about the environment -- not just in that immediate vicinity but the federally protected trout stream right next door; Hancock Beach, probably one of the most popular swim beaches definitely in the county if not this part of the Upper Peninsula, directly across; children, fishing, campground, private residences, docks."

In addition to environmental impacts, such commercial construction could lower property values for residents nearby, Woodry added.

"Before something would be rezoned, perhaps a real deed restriction would come about -- about what kind of building could end up there," he said.

Later, in a conversation with Keweenaw Now, Woodry said he is not against shoreline development, as long as it is done thoughtfully and tastefully with consideration for the future of the area.

"I build houses, and I know that you can't build a house, let alone a commercial development, without excavation," Woodry said. "There is no way they could build any commercial building there without large-scale excavation. Statements about development not requiring heavy equipment would be entirely false. How else do you build anything? The bigger the building, the bigger the required excavation. Large scale excavation is required for large buildings, and you must remove dirt that simply has nowhere to go back on the site. It's then hauled away -- and that cannot safely, or legally, happen with Superfund sites. The reason it's a Superfund site is that things were done very poorly in the past, and over a century later we're still paying a price for this."

During the Jan. 26 hearing, Evan Dixon, Houghton resident and attorney, told the Planning Commission he was getting many calls about this rezoning issue. He mentioned the petition, which City Clerk Ann Vollrath said the City had not yet received at that time.*

Dixon also spoke about the EPA Superfund's Record of Decision (ROD) for the Torch Lake Superfund, which dealt with the hazardous waste from historic smelters in the area. The Michigan Smelter, which was located right across Canal Road opposite this (314) area proposed for rezoning, he noted, was cited in the ROD as presenting a cancer risk higher than any other local smelter from the mining era -- "unacceptably high and exceptionally high," producing such contaminants as arsenic, beryllium, chromium and more.**

"Rezoning from R-1 to B-2," Dixon said, "frankly just seems like a very broad stroke. It's like performing brain surgery with a machete -- when you have other options."

Other options could be conditional rezoning or planned unit development, he explained. B-2 is so broad that you lose control over what is done there, while planned unit development offers flexibility and allows you to take into consideration community interest -- the fact that the area is beautiful and the natural beauty is what attracts people.

"What brings revenue to the City of Houghton is tourism," Dixon said.

He also told the Planning Commissioners that he would like to add to the record of their hearing, in addition to the Superfund ROD, the City of Houghton's own Zoning Ordinance, in particular Chapter 98-772, which states the following: "Consideration shall be given to the location, size, and character of a use to determine if the use will promote public health, safety, and general welfare, and be in harmony with the intent and appropriate and orderly development of the district in which it is situated, and will not be detrimental to the orderly development of adjacent districts."

Concerning public health, the ROD (Record of Decision of the Superfund) is evidence of the risk to public health and, in addition, the water table in the area is quite high. 

"Those heavy metals would be going into the water," Dixon said.

Carol MacLennan, Michigan Tech professor in Social Sciences, who has done social science research on Torch Lake and who is a Houghton resident with a home on the Portage Waterway, stated during the Jan. 26 Planning Commission Public Hearing that she was in agreement with Evan Dixon concerning the Michigan Smelter. She confirmed it was the only smelter in the area listed as having an unacceptable cancer risk. In addition, no development -- neither residential nor commercial -- has occurred on the slag tailings at either the  Hubbell Smelter or the Quincy Smelter sites, she explained.

"This is not a stamp sand site; it's primarily a slag tailings site," MacLennan confirmed.***

Digging deeply at this rezoning site for any kind of commercial development would release heavy metals and the slag fragments, which are capped right now, into the environment and the Portage Waterway, MacLennan added. She suggested consulting with the EPA or EGLE (Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy), noting EPA has deed restrictions on the delisted Torch Lake Superfund sites.****

"Generally no slag or sand can be removed from any site and all open areas created by the owner must be recovered with soil and capped," MacLennan told Keweenaw Now. "Also it is prudent to determine the responsibility by the owners in permitting for construction on Superfund delisted sites, and which permits might have to take the special nature of the site into consideration. A further question is one of what happens to large amounts of sand/slag removed during construction of a large structure and the responsibility of the owner for disposal or re-grading and covering it."

During the Jan. 26 Planning Commission hearing, Kristine Weidner (Jukuri), representing the owners of the 314 property, noted that covenants (deed restrictions) for the Michigan Smelter Superfund property have been in place since about 1995. Private deed restrictions also exist, Weidner said.***** She stated the Isle Royale Sands are a "precedent" as a  zoning situation because of their mixed uses (both R-1 and Industrial).

However, Carol MacLennan added that the Isle Royale Sands, some of which were remediated by the City of Houghton, not the Superfund, are stamp sand and not slag, thus differing in substance from the 314 Superfund area.

A letter of public comment from Carol MacLennan can be found in the Feb. 24 Houghton City Council Agenda Packet, pp. 62-64.

EGLE's Wally Wagaw, Senior Project Manager, Remediation and Redevelopment Division (RRD)/Superfund Section, told Keweenaw Now that, while EPA is the lead agency for Superfund sites, EGLE’s role is solely to inspect and maintain the vegetated cover (cap) at 13 locations, Michigan Smelter being one of them.

"My role as a project Manager is to ensure the integrity of the vegetated cap is properly maintained and kept intact, thereby preventing the materials beneath the cap from being disturbed and released into the air or into the lake," Wagaw said. "If the cap is damaged or breached as a result of construction related activities, it has to be restored to its original condition as per specifications."

In this case the "specifications" are six inches of loam soil and vegetation on top of that.

Nabil Fayoumi, Remedial Project Manager, EPA Region 5, Superfund and Emergency Management Division, said a deed restriction, or covenant, is required for the Michigan Smelter Superfund site to prevent disturbance of the vegetation cap.

"This issue will need to be resolved before redevelopment plans can move forward," Fayoumi explained. "Again, zoning is a local issue. However, once the new zoning is approved, EPA will work with the property owner and the City to make sure that redevelopment plans don’t interfere with the selected remedy at the site."

While neither EPA nor EGLE would try to influence a local zoning decision directly, a section of NREPA (National Resource Environmental Protection Act) directs local government bodies to consult with EGLE before rezoning an area that could pose risks to the environment:

NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION ACT (EXCERPT)
Act 451 of 1994

324.32311 Approval or disapproval of zoning ordinance regulating high risk area, flood risk area, or environmental area.

Sec. 32311.
   An existing zoning ordinance or a zoning ordinance or a modification or amendment to a zoning ordinance that regulates a high-risk area, a flood risk area, or an environmental area shall be submitted to the department for approval or disapproval. The department shall determine if the ordinance, modification, or amendment adequately prevents property damage or prevents damage to an environmental area, a high-risk area, or a flood risk area. If an ordinance, modification, or amendment is disapproved by the department, it shall not have force or effect until modified by the local unit of government and approved by the department.

History: Add. 1995, Act 59, Imd. Eff. May 24, 1995
Popular Name: Act 451
Popular Name: NREPA

© 2020 Legislative Council, State of Michigan

The terms "high risk," "flood risk," and "environmental area," may seem on the surface to apply to the area of the proposed 314 Ordinance because of the hazardous material under the Superfund cover and the high water level of the water table (some of the area was damaged by the 2018 Father's Day Flood). However, EGLE's Water Resources Department cites definitions of these terms that reportedly do not apply to this area proposed for rezoning.

According to EGLE's Ryan McCone, Upper Peninsula District Supervisor, Water Resources Division Resources Unit, "Part 323, Shorelands Protection and Management, of the NREPA only applies regulatory authority over areas of Michigan shoreline that have been designated by the state as high risk erosion areas, environmental areas, or flood risk areas as defined in that statute. For reference, those definitions are available to the public online at Michigan Legislature - Section 324.32301.

"The area in question here is not designated as a high risk erosion area, environmental area, or flood risk area under Part 323. As such, the state has no authority at that site under Part 323."

Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK), a local environmental organization, submitted a public comment for the Feb. 24 hearing on 314. Their letter can be found in the Feb. 24 City Council Agenda Packet, p. 54. 

FOLK states, in part, the following:

"The proposed zoning Ordinance 314 parcel includes part of the Torch Lake Superfund site. It contains mining waste from the former Michigan Smelter, which operated from the early 1900s to 1948. The entire area is in a 100-year flood plain with buried mine waste containing hazardous chemicals, some carcinogenic.

"This toxic site has the potential to be severely disturbed if large structures are built, as deep pilings are needed for a foundation. Exposure of this Superfund site could mean toxic leakage into the canal located near the Houghton and Hancock beach parks....

"We, the citizens of Houghton County, should not forget the horrendous damage caused by the 2018 Father's Day flood and remember that we could experience another unprecedented storm in the future. It is the responsibility of all of us to protect the health of our community, as much as possible, from serious damage like that again.
 
"Therefore, Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK) is concerned about the degradation that commercial excavation and development on this contaminated section could have on the canal and citizens of the area that use the surrounding beaches and ultimately, on Lake Superior. The community and watershed could be better served if this high-risk area was developed for 'low impact activity' on the remediated 314 parcel Superfund site."

Rezoning Standards Worksheet

A Rezoning Standards Worksheet for proposed ordinances 314 and 315, compiled by Houghton residents Mary Fraley and Liz Gerson and Hancock waterfront resident Jen Norkol has been submitted to the Houghton City Council and is also available on line in the Agenda Packet for the Feb. 24 Meeting. (See pp. 38-42 of the packet.) The worksheet lists 17 questions, answers and comments on each of the proposed ordinances, 314 and 315.

An example is question #8: Is the proposed location an appropriate location for all uses which would be permitted under the requested district?

Answer re 314: UNCERTAIN: This ordinance allows for a wide range of uses -- some compatible with R-1, others NOT compatible. All permitted uses in addition to R-1 include: multiple-family dwellings; group /nursery schools and child care with dorms; professional/admin offices; banks; personal services; retail services; parking lots; food stores and restaurants; medical offices; motels; taverns/other food, beverage service; hotels. (Liz Gerson commented on this list of uses under B-2 during the Jan. 26 Planning Commission hearing, noting the "jump" from R-1 to B-2 is a big one and the public needs to be made aware of the uses B-2 would allow.)

Answer re 315: NO: Seaplane base is not consistent with the intent of B-2 Community Business District (per Sec. 98-95); is not a permitted principal use (Sec. 98-97) nor an allowed Special Land Use (Sec. 98-98). Seaplane base should be zoned I-1 Industrial district where principal permitted uses include transportation and/or terminal facilities, and maintenance activities for vehicles of any kind (Sec. 98-118).

The Worksheet also includes questions on whether the proposed rezoning is compatible with existing property uses (residential) within a half mile of the site, whether it satisfies a need in the community, whether it is compatible with the Master Plan for that area, whether it will increase noise, whether it will increase traffic congestion and create a safety problem, and more. The answers indicate an expected negative effect of the rezoning.

City of Hancock discussion

During the Feb. 3, 2021, regular meeting of the Hancock City Council, Chris Woodry spoke at length about the environmental and health concerns of residents regarding the proposed rezoning ordinances 314 and 315, summarizing the issue for the Hancock Council. He noted residents of Hancock and nearby townships as well as Houghton residents would be impacted by the rezoning and the public is being ignored in spite of residents' opposition.

This aerial view of the Houghton proposed rezoning areas was projected during the Feb. 3, 2021, meeting of the Hancock City Council. The Hancock Beach (upper right corner) is across from the Seaplane Service site proposed for rezoning Ordinance 315. (Screenshot courtesy City of Hancock)

"The public is pretty unanimously opposed," Woodry told the Hancock Councilors. "We were wondering if Hancock would take an official stance to maybe ask Houghton to consider a study for this, for the benefit of the Hancock residents, the safety of the residents."

Woodry, who is a pilot himself, noted the potential impacts on the kayaking business at Hancock Beach, the campground, the boat launch, plans for a water park -- with a seaplane taking off just a few hundred feet away.

In answer to a question from Hancock Councilor and Mayor Pro-tem Will Lytle on the details of the seaplane operation, Woodry estimated the company would have about 25-35 flights a day, coming and going (in season).

Hancock Mayor Paul LaBine, thanked Woodry for his comments and said he looked forward to discussion and some action by the Council on the issue.

However, Will Lytle told Keweenaw Now that despite the fact that the Hancock Council agreed to such a discussion and action, it did not happen.

"At the Feb 3rd Hancock meeting, we agreed to research the situation and discuss/act if need be," Lytle said in a Feb. 19 email. "I wrote a draft resolution, which we attempted to add to the agenda this Wednesday (Feb.17). Unfortunately, 5 voted to leave it off the agenda. So there was no discussion, and no action. I would guess that this is the end for Hancock taking a stance or making a recommendation."

Mentioning the Michigan Smelter Superfund site, Lytle's Draft Resolution (so far not taken up by the Hancock Council) encourages the Houghton City Council to consider the potential impacts of the rezoning proposal and includes the following statements:

"WHEREAS, a 2017 report from Isle Royale National Park (lists) the take-off noise for the common models of seaplanes servicing the island as 80 decibels from 1000-2000 feet away. The residents of Hancock, beachgoers, swimmers in the water, and watercraft would likely be much closer than 1000 ft if seaplane operations take place at this location. There is concern among our residents that the sightline for pilots and noise generated by flights would pose a safety hazard. Michigan State law creates the authority for regulating aeronautical noise per MCL 259.80b , and allows for the Airport Authority Board  to set standards for requiring noise abatement. Please consider consulting with the Airport Authority Board before permitting seaplane operations in this location."

and

"WHEREAS, the City of Hancock encourages the Houghton City Council to be familiar with the types of uses that are allowed under B-2 (community business) zoning, and ensure that they do not present conflicts with the Environmental Protection Agency, Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), or Federal Aviation Administration regulations; to consider an amendment to the zoning of this tract of land that places restrictions on development to mitigate the described risk factors such as:
●    Restrict the depth of excavation on mine slag sites that have been identified be the EPA as containing toxins.
●    Set a fee schedule that specifically addresses costs for construction operations on the site that disrupt and disperse toxins and ensure contractors are insured to the appropriate level.
●    Create a noise ordinance for operating aircraft adjacent from public beaches.
●    Require any business that operates on this site file for a permit to ensure that construction and operations meeting community standards.
●    Set limitations on the height of buildings that can be constructed on this site."

Hancock Councilor Whitney Warstler submitted an email on Jan. 13, 2021, to the Houghton City Council and City Manager Eric Waara, stating concerns of Hancock residents expressed in correspondence received by the Hancock City Council.

Warstler mentions emails from residents concerned about noise pollution from the seaplane business and its impact on people recreating in the water.

"I am also concerned about the safety risks this noise will have on our public beach," Warstler writes. "The seaplane will drown out the voices of parents trying to communicate with their children in the water, and most alarming could make calls for help go unheard."

Warstler also notes the planes may violate Hancock's noise ordinance and impact the campground as well.

"The last concern that has been mentioned is the environmental impact building on a Superfund site could have on its surrounding areas," she adds.

Hancock resident John Slivon, in a comment during the Jan. 26 Houghton Planning Commission hearing, summed up an opinion shared by many residents.

"Rezoning will not change the toxic nature of the site," Slivon said, "and so removing that cap is a no-brainer. It should not be done."

Notes:

* Click here for the Petition, Stop Houghton City Ordinance 2020-314 and 315.

** Click here to view the 1992 EPA Record of Decision for the Torch Lake Superfund. Click on the pdf icon to see or download the whole document. The Michigan Smelter is discussed in OU-III.

*** While the actual content of the Michigan Smelter slag is not known definitely, slag has been found by Michigan Tech researchers to contain heavy metals; and digging into this slag site with only 6 inches of Superfund cover could release contaminants into the water and air.

**** See: "EPA Requesting Property Owners to Add Deed Restrictions."

***** Houghton County deed records show a 1995 deed restriction for a property with legal description matching that of the 314 rezoning proposal and owned by JRG that refers to the Torch Lake Superfund. It is listed as 100MS-00677.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Kalevala Week to celebrate Finnish epic with Art from the Kalevala exhibit, Kalevalathon marathon reading

Kalevala Week will celebrate the Finnish epic poem with the exhibit "Animal Life - Art from the Kalevala" at the Copper Country Community Arts Center and the 3rd annual Kalevalathon, a public reading of the Kalevala. (Image from Kalevala courtesy Finlandia University)

HANCOCK -- The Copper Country Community Arts Center (CCCAC) and the Finlandia University Finnish and Nordic Studies Program are pleased to announce Kalevala Week 2021, a joint program of public events in celebration of Finland’s national epic, Kalevala. The CCCAC’s annual Art of the Kalevala exhibition and the Finnish and Nordic Studies Program’s annual Kalevala reading marathon will highlight the important place Kalevala has in the Copper Country through events that will be offered online and in person.

CCCAC presents "Animal Life - Art from the Kalevala" through Feb. 27

"Tuonelan Joutsen/Swan of Tuonela" by Anita Jain. Nuno felting, free machine stitching. "Swan was believed to be related to humans, and considered holy. Swans, and in particular Swan of Tuonela was believed to be able to communicate between the dead and the living. Anyone who killed a swan could expect to be killed himself," artist Jain writes. (Photo courtesy Copper Country Community Arts Center)

The Copper Country Community Arts Center is presenting "Animal Life - Art from the Kalevala," an annual invitational exhibition celebrating Finland’s epic poem, through Feb. 27. The Kalevala is a 19th century work of poetry compiled by Elias Lönnrot from Finnish and Karelian oral folklore and mythology. It is regarded as the national epic poem of Finland and is one of the most significant works of Finnish literature.

Local artists participating with work related to animals in the Kalevala include: Clare Zuraw, Karen Tembruell, Fredi Taddeucci, Steve Niemi, Clyde Mikkola, Madhura Mehendale, Bonnie Loukus, Joyce Koskenmaki, Angela Kilpela, Jeanne Houle Peters, Lindsey Heiden, Tammy Gajewski, Terri Frew, Bob Dawson, and Cynthia Coté. Also exhibiting are David Kronberg from Cheboygan, MI, and Anita Jain from Minneapolis, MN. The exhibition will run through Feb. 27, 2021. It is also available for viewing on the CCCAC’s website.

"The Broken Knife Revenge" by Angela Kilpela. Acrylic on wood. (Photo courtesy Copper Country Community Arts Center)

The online exhibit also includes a list of runes from the Kalevala, since artists were asked to include the rune that inspired their piece.

The CCCAC exhibition also displays figurines and utilitarian items carved from wood and birch bark baskets, shoes, and vessels on loan from the Finnish American Heritage Center Archives at Finlandia University.

A virtual reception will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 23, with a gallery talk titled "Animals in Kalevala and Finnish Folklore," by Kalevala scholar Dr. Hilary-Joy Virtanen from Finlandia University. Everyone is welcome. The reception link is available at www.coppercountryarts.com.

For more information on the exhibition and reception, contact CCCAC Director Cynthia Coté at (906) 482-2333.

Finlandia's Finnish and Nordic Studies to hold 3rd Annual Kalevalathon.

The Kalevalathon will be an online marathon reading of the Kalevala from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25. The Kalevalathon invites members of the public to participate as readers of individual runes. Readers will need to have their own copy of Kalevala to read from, in any language or translation. The Crawford English translation of Kalevala is freely available at projectruneberg.org; many public libraries also have the epic available for checkout.

Join the event for as long or as short a duration as you like at: https://zoom.us/j/98971269326?pwd=V0IyZkcxb0taZUoveTZMTGN0aXpaZz09

Passcode: 600201

If you are interested in reading one of the runes, indicate your interest by typing your name into the chat function of Zoom after entering the meeting. Readers will be placed in line on a first-come, first-served basis. This event will also livestream via YouTube. All times are in the Eastern Time Zone and all events are free and open to the public.

For more information on the Kalevalathon, contact Professor Hilary Virtanen at (906) 487-7514.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Michigan Senators Stabenow, Peters issue statements on Impeachment Article Vote

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters released statements after voting to convict on the article of impeachment against Donald Trump.

Senator Debbie Stabenow: 

"While the U.S. Senate did not achieve the two-thirds vote necessary to convict former President Donald Trump, this will go down in history as the largest bipartisan vote ever to hold a President accountable for High Crimes and Misdemeanors under our Constitution.

"Former President Donald Trump spent months pushing a big lie -- that the November election was stolen from him. He inspired, encouraged, and incited a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in order to stop the certification of the Electoral College vote. And then he did nothing to stop the violence, which caused massive injury and loss of life.

"This wasn’t just an attack on a building. It was an attack on all of the people who work there. It was an attack on our form of government. It was an attack on our Constitution. It was an attack on We the People.

"This bipartisan vote sent an important message: In America, no President is above the law. And inciting violence against the government is illegal and dangerous.

"Now, as a nation, we must move forward. We must do everything we can to bring down the temperature of our debates, find common ground on issues we care about, and reduce the divide in our families and communities. And we must continue to strive for accountability and justice. Our democracy demands no less."

Senator Gary Peters:

"As an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and as a U.S. Senator, I took an oath to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution. After carefully listening to all the evidence presented in this trial, it is overwhelmingly clear that Donald Trump violated his oath of office by inciting a violent, deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol and our democracy.

"The facts show that Trump intentionally promoted false conspiracies -- including here in Michigan -- that provoked an assault on the peaceful transfer of power. The bipartisan vote to hold Trump accountable in both the House and the Senate reflects the gravity of his misconduct.

"My focus remains on the challenges that the Senate must address -- first and foremost is the need for a robust COVID relief package that addresses the health and economic crisis Michigan is facing. We must provide more support to help struggling families and small businesses, speed up vaccine distribution, give resources to help schools safely reopen and help communities on the frontlines, so they are not forced to lay off health professionals, teachers, firefighters and law enforcement officers."

The final vote today, Saturday, Feb. 13, was 57 guilty to 43 not guilty, with 7 Republican Senators joining all the Democratic Senators to convict. However that was 10 votes short of the two thirds majority required for conviction.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Guest article: Propane Availability in Michigan -– Ready for Change

By UP Propane Research Team*

Propane supply to the Upper Peninsula has been a flashpoint in the debate about Line 5, a 67-year-old, Canadian-owned oil pipeline running along the bottomlands of the Straits of Mackinac. The public deserves to have a realistic, clear understanding of whether the U.P. will have an adequate propane supply, or available alternatives, following the planned shut-down of Line 5 in May 2021.

The pipeline owner argues Line 5 is an irreplaceable source of propane for U.P. homes, but is it? Since the propane industry is unregulated, the best we can do is follow what they say. The propane industry has consistently said, both in the news and during UP Energy Task Force (UPETF) meetings, that they have enough supply. On Friday, Feb. 12, the U.P. Clean Energy Conference Series (www.upcleanenergy.org) will host propane retailers on this question.**

86 Potential Sources near Michigan

The Rapid River facility has provided propane for 25 years.  But it is by no means the only location. This map, prepared by Public Sector Consultants, shows the 86 potential sources of propane that can be reached by rail or truck "within close proximity to Michigan" according to the report published by the UPETF in April 2020.

Click on map for larger version. (Map courtesy UP Energy Task Force.)

Propane retailer Kristopher Bowman, also a member of the UP Energy Task Force, commented on available supplies during the January 2021 UP Energy Task Force meeting: "The retailers in the UP have diverse sources and plenty of supply."

Rail is both a way to transport propane and to store it for up to a month. Derek Dalling, executive director of Michigan Propane Gas Association, noted in a Bridge Magazine article that two of his organization’s members are adding rail to their facilities in the Upper Peninsula. This action is a pre-emptive move by the industry to ensure access to supply. In addition, the UPETF Propane Recommendations included conducting an analysis of all of the UP rail options for propane. Supported by state funding, Michigan Tech researchers will issue this report in 2021.

Lesson learned from 2013-14 Polar Vortex -- Store more product in Michigan

The UPETF Propane Recommendations state, "With more than nine million gallons of customer storage, and 1.5 million gallons of commercial storage in the Upper Peninsula, simply having all residential and commercial tanks filled at the beginning of the heating season would significantly increase the Upper Peninsula’s reserve margins and buffer it against potential disruptions."

During the August 2019 UP Energy Task Force meeting, Dalling acknowledged past problems: "We do not want to have a repeat of [the shortage of propane] during [polar vortex] in the 2013-14 winter." He reported that propane retailers have worked together to provide product during shortages to meet customer needs:
"Since that time, …we stress, more than ever, to our [Michigan Propane Gas Association] members about keeping adequate supply [and] making sure they stress to their customers about ordering in advance. …prebuying and preplanning is absolutely a necessity and is something that the industry has stressed. The Michigan industry is very proud of the fact we learned our lesson from that vortex and have not had a repeat, not even close. It is very much in our minds that we don’t have that happen again."

At the following UPETF meeting, a representative from the company that owns the oil and natural gas liquids flowing in Line 5, High Plains Marketing, presented an overview of the propane industry in North America and his company’s role as a wholesaler. His presentation showed the almost doubling in storage capacity in Michigan following the 2013-14 vortex, from 2,000,000 million barrels to almost 4,000,000.

The weekly data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows this trend very clearly.  The Winter Propane Market Update is published every Wednesday October to March.  Michigan’s supply is well above the five-year average so far in 2021. The UPETF recommendations also cover consumer protection, energy efficiency and financial assistance programs that would support those reliant on propane as the supply system changes. Multiple actors have stated that they are ready for what comes next, after Line 5. It's time to gain clarity by acknowledging the facts presented by the industry.

Notes:

* The UP Propane Research Team are UP residents who among them have attended every UP Energy Task Force meeting. Several of them use propane daily: Gene Champagne, Marge Forslin, Rosemary Grier, Mary Pelton-Cooper, Horst Schmidt and Jeff Towner.

** See Keweenaw Now's right column for announcement on the Feb. 12 UP Clean Energy Conference.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

EGLE approves some permits for Enbridge tunnel project; tribal, environmental groups challenge EGLE decision

By Michele Bourdieu

This map shows the location of the existing Line 5 dual pipelines -- dotted lines to the west of the Mackinac Bridge (at right, in red) between St. Ignace and Mackinaw City, Michigan. Enbridge hopes to replace the 67-year-old Line 5 with a pipeline inside a tunnel under the lakebed of the Straits. (Image courtesy US Army Corps of Engineers)

LANSING -- The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) announced on Jan. 29, 2021, that it has approved Enbridge Energy’s application for certain permits required to build a utility tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac.

If constructed, the tunnel would house a proposed replacement for the 67-year-old Line 5 dual petroleum products pipelines currently lying on lakebed. EGLE’s review of the permit applications concluded that the proposed construction of a tunnel beneath the lakebed can be done in compliance with the state environmental laws that EGLE administers.

However, that "conclusion" is questioned and challenged by several Native American tribes, whose fishing rights under treaties could be jeopardized by construction of such a tunnel and/or by the continued danger of a potential oil spill from the ageing pipeline should it be left in place while the tunnel is being constructed during what has been estimated as five to 10 years.

Environmental groups that have been opposing the Line 5 pipeline for years join with the tribal groups in challenging EGLE's recent permit approvals.

EGLE's announcement of their approval of Enbridge's permit applications even states the following: "EGLE acknowledged public concerns about the existing oil pipeline and affirmed the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR's) conclusion that the current pipeline violates the Public Trust Doctrine and poses an unacceptable risk to the Great Lakes."*

EGLE does not state whether that "unacceptable risk" can be eliminated while Enbridge supposedly builds a tunnel, for which they still do not even have a completed design. Meanwhile the US Army Corps of Engineers is still reviewing permit applications from Enbridge, and the Michigan Public Service Commission must also make a decision on Enbridge's April 2020 application (Case No. U-20763) for siting approval under Act 16 of 1929 to replace and relocate the segment of Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac into a new tunnel it proposes to build under the lakebed. (Following MPSC's order establishing a contested case hearing process to evaluate the application, Enbridge in September 2020 filed a motion seeking to limit the scope of the case. On Dec. 9, 2020, MPSC, ordered that Governor Whitmer's revocation of the easement for Line 5 requires remanding Enbridge’s motion to limit the scope of the case for a rehearing, stating that clarity on the scope of the case is of critical importance to the proceeding.)**

According to EGLE, the permit approvals follow a nine-month review period and cover Enbridge’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Wastewater Permit (NPDES), bottomlands, and wetlands permit applications.***

EGLE states that their review "confirmed that the proposed tunneling project would have minimal impact on water quality in the Great Lakes and would not affect protected public uses of Michigan’s water resources."

Prior to making its permitting decision, EGLE held four public information sessions, four public hearings and four tribal consultations. EGLE’s decision making also included input from the State Historic Preservation Office and a report from an independent civil engineering firm specializing in complex tunneling projects. EGLE also reviewed more than 2,600 comments from the public on the permit applications and devoted more than 2,000 staff-hours to its consideration.

"Although this proposed tunnel project has illuminated numerous related policy issues, the basis for our decision is required to be limited to compliance with the relevant environmental statutes created by our legislature," said EGLE director Liesl Clark. "Our review showed construction of the proposed tunnel could comply with state environmental laws. We have issued permits designed to ensure that if a tunnel is constructed, it will be in strict compliance with relevant statutes and adhere to stringent protections against impacts to the Great Lakes."

Tribal groups challenge EGLE's decision on permits

On Jan. 30, speaking for CORA, the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, which includes five tribal groups with fishing rights under the 1836 Treaty, Mike Ripley, a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and CORA environmental coordinator, told Keweenaw Now, "We still have a lot of concerns about this tunnel going forward and we are very much opposed to the tunnel and the continued operation of Line 5." 

This map shows the ceded areas of Michigan and 3 Great Lakes under the 1836 Treaty, which guaranteed fishing and hunting rights to the tribes. (Map courtesy Mike Ripley)

The Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority (CORA) gathers all 1836 Treaty fishing tribes under its mantle, including these:
    Bay Mills Indian Community
    Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians
    Little River Band of Ottawa Indians
    Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians
    Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

Ripley noted several gaps in what EGLE has approved.

"They haven't ordered an EIS (Environmental Impact Study) for the whole pipeline and the tunnel," he said. "There is not even a finalized design for the wastewater treatment plant that they're proposing. Also the design for actually drilling the tunnel through the bedrock has not been finalized. Enbridge doesn't have a final design for the tunnel, and EGLE seems to be O.K. with that."

CORA believes the Army Corps needs to demand that Enbridge conduct an EIS under NEPA (National Environmental Protection Act), Ripley added.

"We think an EIS is more than warranted. It should be required for the tunnel and the entire pipeline," Ripley said. "They (EGLE) are only looking at a small portion, not the big picture."

Ripley also noted the concern about the deep center part of the site projected for the tunnel to cross the Straits.

"In the middle it looks like they're going through sand and sediment," he said. "We're saying that it's far from a done deal that this tunnel will be constructed."

Ripley added his own personal opinion of EGLE's decision making.

"I think this is a systemic problem with EGLE as a regulatory agency -- that the laws require them to approve permits and give every opportunity to the applicant rather than protecting the environment," he said.

Ripley gave several reasons for this problem with EGLE, including the following:

-- Michigan laws give them inadequate time to review applications.
-- They're understaffed.
-- They have no experts on drilling tunnels. They depend on Enbridge.

Andrea Pierce, citizen of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (LTBB) and Chair of the Anishinaabek Caucus, questioned EGLE's justification of this permit approval when the People of Michigan and the State of Michigan are both in litigation against Enbridge.

"The fact that Michigan has to sue Enbridge due to the repeated violations of the easement should be a reason that the permitting should have stopped," Pierce noted. "EGLE is charged with protecting the Great Lakes, they are ignoring the Sacred cultural site that we have discovered at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. Michigan needs to perform a cultural study of the Straits of Mackinac, which evidently has not been done, if tribal citizens and Citizens of Michigan can find this site with sidescan sonar and a Jiimaan."****

This photo shows a potential cultural site observed with side-scan sonar in late summer 2020. Note circle of stones that may have been placed in this arrangement about 10,000 years ago, near the end of the Ice Age, when the area would have been above water. (Photo courtesy Terri Wilkerson) 

Paddlers "practice" with the ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) and the Jiimaan (community canoe) used for exploring an area just west of Line 5 in September 2020. Their video captured at least one submerged cultural site -- revealing a stone circle (photo above) consistent with other underwater and terrestrial finds near Grand Traverse Bay, the Alpena-Amberley Ridge in Lake Huron and on Beaver Island. (Photo courtesy Terri Wilkerson)

Pierce added the state has been negligent in not bringing the 12 tribes adequately on board with discussions on cultural impacts of the tunnel project. The tribes have issued resolutions against Line 5 and the tunnel. An example is a resolution by her tribe, LTBB, to protect the Sacred Cultural Site discovered at the Straits of Mackinac.

"We need to protect tribal history and culture," Pierce said. "EGLE has failed as bad as MDEQ. How many public comments were ignored this time? With Nestlé MDEQ ignored 80,000 Michigan citizens and gave our water away. How many Michigan citizens were ignored this time?" 

In a letter to EGLE, the Bay Mills Indian Community and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians pointed out red flags associated with Enbridge's tunnel project that EGLE must not ignore:

"Enbridge and other tunnel supporters have readily acknowledged that the existing dual pipelines that run along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac in the Great Lakes pose a substantial risk to the environment. Yet, the Tunnel Project proposal -- on its own terms -- allows at least five more years of the continued operation of the risky pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac. In addition, Enbridge has a known poor track record of pipeline safety. An oil spill in the Straits would devastate fisheries relied on by Bay Mills, Little River Band, and many others. On top of these known concerns, information has recently been uncovered that reveals that (1) Enbridge submitted incorrect or misleading application materials to EGLE and other agencies, and (2) previously undisclosed archaeological findings in the Straits of Mackinac necessitate further study and analysis to understand the Project’s potential impact. EGLE cannot ignore these warning signs and proceed with a review of a deeply flawed project when its own name and mission require it to protect the Great Lakes and its inhabitants."

Tribal attorneys question EGLE's permitting decision

Debbie Chizewer, Earthjustice managing attorney, representing Bay Mills Indian Community, said, "EGLE’s permitting lacked the rigor needed for such a massive project involving the precious Great Lakes. On behalf of Bay Mills Indian Community, we will continue to urge the Army Corps of Engineers to undertake a more comprehensive and rigorous review. Before this tunnel project proceeds, the Corps must critically evaluate the environmental and cultural and archaeological site impacts relied on by tribal nations and other communities across the region."  

Chizewer noted the wetlands permit is a Joint Permit Application. The Army Corps’ process under the Clean Water Act is separate and should take several more weeks/months. The Army Corps is undertaking multiple processes -- consultation with SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office) and tribes over cultural and archaeological resources under the National Historic Preservation Act (Section 106), consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act (Section 7), and preparation of an analysis of environmental impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Those processes should entail public comment periods.

"The agency's decision to grant these permits is deeply troubling considering Enbridge did not provide the baseline information required to obtain such permits," Chizewer added. "The tunnel construction and the ongoing operation of the Line 5 pipeline will have devastating impacts all along its path throughout the Great Lakes, including within the treaty-protected Straits of Mackinac. We will continue to advocate before the Public Service Commission and Army Corps of Engineers to bring attention to the dangers posed by this project and seek denial of the remaining permits needed."

Whitney Gravelle, tribal attorney for the Bay Mills Indian Community, said it is "heartbreaking" that Tribal Nations are not surprised by the state agency's continued failure to consider treaty rights.

"Although EGLE’s decision is disappointing, it is even more heartbreaking to say that this type of 'rubber stamp' approval without considering tribal treaty rights is something Tribal Nations are accustomed to," Gravelle said. "When Governor Whitmer revoked the easement for the dual pipelines, Indigenous people across the Great Lakes were celebratory, but cautious. It’s becoming apparent that this administration views the tunnel project as the compromise. In fact, the tunnel project will not only harm tribal resources and the Great Lakes, but EGLE never considered alternatives that would be less harmful."

Gravelle noted the need to see this permitting from the Indigenous perspective of acting for future generations.

"Our people -- the Anishinaabe -- have a teaching that any decision we make today must take into consideration a sustainable world for the next seven generations," Gravelle explained. "It reminds us to understand that the decisions we make are not limited by the immediate concerns of today, but instead have implications long after we are gone. EGLE’s decision (on Jan. 29) approving the permits demonstrates they did not think of the next seven generations, let alone the people of Michigan today who will be harmed by the Tunnel Project."

David Gover, staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund, pointed out that, in this permitting process, the State of Michigan has failed to honor an Accord on tribal consultation.

"Governor Whitmer’s administration entered into a Government-to-Government Accord supporting tribal consultation with the twelve Tribal Nations in the State of Michigan," Gover stated. "This Accord included a commitment by the State to share information, participate in meaningful communication and robust collaboration with Tribal Nations. The tribal consultation initiated by EGLE has been wholly inadequate throughout this entire permit process since the beginning. It is even more disappointing that EGLE would approve the permits knowing they have not shared all relevant information with Tribal Nations, who have a treaty-vested interest in the waters of the Great Lakes, nor received adequate feedback from Tribal Nations regarding their concerns with the Tunnel Project."

Native, non-Native concerned citizens oppose tunnel permits

The Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC) recently held an online discussion, "All Pipelines Considered," on the numerous planned and existing fossil fuel pipelines in the Upper Midwest and Great Plains, including Line 5, with Dr. Phil Bellfy, State Chair of the Keep Our Lakes Great Ballot Committee that circulated a petition to shut down Enbridge’s Line 5. Bellfy is also Professor Emeritus of American Indian Studies, Michigan State University, and an enrolled member of the White Earth Band of Minnesota Chippewa. Recently he and other American Indians submitted a "Rule 19 Joinder" petition to the federal court dealing with the Enbridge v. Whitmer case over the future of Line 5.

This map of Enbridge's pipeline route, part of Phil Bellfy's UPEC presentation on pipelines, shows how Line 5 -- from Superior, Wis., to Sarnia, Ontario -- is a shortcut for Enbridge to transport fossil fuels from Canada through the Upper and Lower peninsulas of Michigan and back to Canada. (Map courtesy Phil Bellfy)

During the UPEC discussion, Bellfy said a catastrophic spill would destroy the Native Americans' fishery.

"Without any fish to catch, Treaty rights are destroyed," he noted.

This map, one of the slides in Phil Bellfy's presentation, shows sensitive areas where Line 5 (red line) crosses lakes and streams that would be impacted by an oil spill. (Map courtesy Phil Bellfy) 

Those Treaty rights have an estimated $10 billion value for the tribes, while Enbridge has only about $40 million in insurance and no obligation to make up the difference, he explained.

"They (Enbridge) are woefully underinsured," Bellfy said.

Following EGLE's Jan. 29 announcement of the tunnel permit approvals, Bellfy told Keweenaw Now he believes those permits should be denied.

"I was struck by (EGLE's) statement that the tunnel project 'could' comply with state environmental laws," Bellfy said. "That doesn't seem like a strong argument for granting the permits; in fact, it sounds like a strong argument for denying the permits. Deny the permits, and fight it out in court."

Bellfy also commented on the tunnel, which would take five or more years to complete.

"If the twin pipelines in the Straits should be put into a tunnel due to safety concerns, the entire Line 5 must be replaced at the same time," he said.

Lisa Patrell -- co-founder of Washtenaw 350, an environmental conservation organization, and an active member of the Michigan Anishinaabek Caucus -- asks whether EGLE's decision reflects pressure from Canada, since Enbridge is a Canadian company transporting Canadian oil through Michigan and back to Canada (see map above).

"EGLE has passed the buck onto MPSC (Michigan Public Service Commission)," Patrell said. "To claim that EGLE performed a review is a misnomer; to claim environmental standards have been upheld is twisting in the wind. I am concerned that the decision was strong-armed at a federal level after receiving direct pressure from Canada. Michigan is not a Canadian colony; Michigan is not responsible for the fuel needs of Ontario. Truly, if Line 5 was that critical to Ontario then where is reciprocity? I have not read that Canada is underwriting catastrophic recovery costs. It is already known that Canada is disrespectful of First Nation Rights; clearly the United States intends to do better, given that Biden (recently) established an Environmental Justice office within the DOJ (Department of Justice), or is that as much of sham as EGLE?"

Environmental groups challenge EGLE permits, note climate impacts

Oil and Water Don't Mix, a group of organizations and citizens across Michigan who are working to keep oil out of the Great Lakes and spur a transition to a clean energy economy, has criticized EGLE's permit approvals and invites citizens to sign a "No Oil Tunnel" petition to Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan legislature and a Petition to President Biden to Support the Line 5 Shutdown.

"Michigan’s environmental regulators -- the people whose job it is to protect the Great Lakes -- should have said 'no' to new oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac for the next 99 years," said Sean McBrearty, Oil and Water Don't Mix campaign coordinator. "Instead, they did an end-run around environmental laws, best practices for tunnel construction design, and common sense and said 'yes' to Enbridge."

McBrearty also criticized the "conditions" included in the permit approvals for Enbridge.

"The conditions the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) put in its water and resources tunnel permits are mostly Band-Aids that fall far short of addressing the fact that Enbridge will be allowed to discharge an average of 1.4 million gallons of wastewater into the Great Lakes, proceed with a questionable tunnel designed on the cheap and allow Enbridge to transport 23 million gallons of Canadian oil mostly for export to Canada for the next 99 years," McBrearty said. "Moreover, EGLE’s 'finding' in their permit decision that the existing Line 5 pipeline is an unreasonable risk begs the question of why EGLE would allow any oil pipelines to continue operating in the Straits of Mackinac. As an independent tunnel expert has pointed out, the idea that Enbridge’s tunnel design is without risk to the Great Lakes is a false narrative driven by Enbridge, one apparently adopted now by EGLE."*****

McBrearty added Oil and Water Don't Mix remains hopeful that the Army Corps of Engineers and the Michigan Public Service Commission will take their permitting responsibility to protect the Great Lakes more seriously than EGLE has.

The Michigan Climate Action Network (MiCAN) has teamed up with Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) to intervene in the oil tunnel permits at EGLE, the Michigan Public Service Commission, and the Army Corps of Engineers to make sure the climate impacts of this tunnel are fully considered.

"While we are disappointed with the decision, EGLE’s actions (on Jan. 29) are not the end of the story," said Margrethe Kearney, Senior Attorney at ELPC. "The Resource Permit indicated that the tunnel is still subject to the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act, requiring Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources to affirmatively find that the tunnel project is consistent with that Act."

MiCAN Director Kate Madigan said, "EGLE’s approval of permits to build an oil pipeline to operate for 99 years is starkly out of touch with the realities of the climate crisis, and undermines our state’s efforts to lead on climate."

MiCAN is also calling on President Biden to use the power of the federal government to prevent the construction of the pipeline tunnel. They urge concerned citizens to sign the petition at Oil and Water Don't Mix.

To keep the public informed, EGLE has partnered with the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) and the Michigan Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority on the state’s Line 5 in Michigan website. Information on this project, permit documents and other supporting materials are available there.

Notes:

* Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the DNR notified Enbridge in November 2020 that the 1953 easement allowing it to operate dual pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac to transport petroleum and other products is being revoked and terminated. The Notice of Revocation and Termination of the 1953 Easement requires Enbridge to cease operations of the dual pipelines in the Straits by May 12, 2021. See our Nov. 13, 2020, article, "Governor Whitmer, DNR take action to revoke Enbridge easement, shut down Line 5 dual pipelines through Straits of Mackinac; AG Nessel files new lawsuit."

**  Click here for the MPSC explanation of Enbridge's application for siting approval for Line 5 and the tunnel.

***  Permits were issued allowing wastewater discharge to Great Lakes waters under the state’s Water Resources Protection law (Part 31 or NPDES permit); and for work within wetlands under the state’s Wetlands Protection Act (Part 303) and under Great Lakes Submerged Lands (Part 325) of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, Public Act 451 of 1994, as amended (NREPA).

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (Part 31/NPDES) permit is a final action by EGLE. But the 303/325 permit is a proposed counter-signed permit and is not yet final since EGLE has drafted conditions for Enbridge to consider. The permit is not final until Enbridge agrees to the conditions and signs the permit, at which point EGLE would sign the permit to make it final. Parties who disagree with the final permit decisions may file a petition for a contested case hearing.

**** See "Ancient underwater tribal cultural site discovered in Mackinac Straits near Line 5."

***** See examples of these permit conditions on EGLE's FAQ, pages 2-3.

Friday, February 05, 2021

Phi Kappa Tau wins Winter Carnival Statue Competition

Phi Kappa Tau fraternity in Hancock again wins first place in Michigan Tech's Winter Carnival snow statue competition! Their statue, "Futurama," was designed for this year's theme, "Our Favorite Cartoons for Snowy Afternoons." Click on photo for larger version. (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

By Mark Wilcox, News Writer, Michigan Tech University Marketing and Communications

Posted Feb. 4, 2021, on Michigan Tech News
Reprinted in part with permission.

HOUGHTON -- Despite restrictions put into place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, entries in the month-long snow statue competition in MTU's Winter Carnival exceeded last year's.

For the fourth time in the last five years, Phi Kappa Tau is the overall winner of the month-long snow statue competition in Michigan Technological University’s Winter Carnival. This year’s theme is "Our Favorite Cartoons for Snowy Afternoons." Phi Kappa Tau’s statue, "Futurama," is located outside the fraternity’s house in Hancock. The statue also won the men’s division.

This photo shows some details in the Phi Kappa Tau scene from Futurama, an animated workplace sitcom about a Planet Express delivery company. A crew is loading four cryogenic tanks for interplanetary travel away from the lingering 2020 dangers on earth. (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

There were three divisions in the month-long competition -- men, women and co-ed. Prizes were awarded to the top three statues in each division. The top three scores among all the statues were placed in the overall month-long category.

Second place in the overall category went to Alpha Gamma Delta and Sigma Tau Gamma for "Steamboat Willie and Mickey Mouse." The fraternity/sorority team also took first place in the co-ed division. Third place overall was awarded to Tau Kappa Epsilon for "Looney Toons." Click here for the rest of this article on Winter Carnival winners.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

14th Annual Barneløpet children's ski race postponed to Feb. 21; new grooming machine acquired for Maasto Hiihto trails

Kids take off for a race during one of the annual Barneløpet ski events at Maasto Hiihto. This year's Barneløpet has been postponed to Sunday, Feb. 21, because of weather predicted for this weekend. (Photo © Keith Meyers and courtesy Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club)

HANCOCK --  Families with young children and teenaged skiers will once again make a colorful sight on the hills surrounding the Hancock Driving Park for the start of the 14th Annual Barneløpet* on Sunday February 21. Originally scheduled for this Sunday, Feb. 7, the annual children's ski event at the Maasto Hiihto ski trails has been postponed to Feb. 21 due to expectations of dangerous wind chills. 

Co-sponsors of the event are Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club (KNSC), Sons of Norway Ulseth Lodge 5-670, the City of Hancock, Steve Zutter of Edward Jones and the Portage Health Foundation. Registration is at the Four Seasons Chalet beginning at 1 p.m. on the day of the race (Feb. 21). Races start at 2 p.m. at the Maasto Hiihto cross country ski trails on the north side of the Hancock Driving Park.

The Barneløpet, a Norwegian word meaning "the children’s race," is open to youth ages 3 through 17 and their families. The event is hosted by Sons of Norway, KNSC, and the City of Hancock.

"This is a special day for youth and their families to spend some time skiing and having fun together," says Wayne Stordahl, longtime member of the local chapter of Sons of Norway and KNSC board. "Cross country skiing is a popular family activity in Norway and we want to encourage that here, too."

Parents are encouraged to ski with their children during the Barneløpet. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

Stordahl adds that another reason for hosting the Barneløpet is to spotlight the great cross country trails in Hancock. He says that the KNSC maintains over 26 kilometers of "striding" ski trails, with grooming services from the City of Hancock.

Four courses will be groomed for the event. Relatively easy one-, two-, and four-kilometer courses will be open, as well as a more difficult six-kilometer course, which includes a descent into the Swedetown Creek gorge, though the traditional trail has been rerouted due to flood damage closures. Skiers can "stride" any of the four courses based on ability.

All youth who finish their course will be awarded a colorful Norwegian Olympic-style enameled medallion. Due to the pandemic the Chalet is closed this season though portolets will be on site.

A Barneløpet registration form can be downloaded at https://keweenawnordic.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Barne-registration_2021_V3.pdf

If possible, please bring a completed registration form with you to the event.

UPDATE: Skis for younger skiers without skis can be reserved by calling 482-0292 no later than Feb. 17th.

For additional information, contact Wayne Stordahl at 906-482-0292 or John Diebel: john.diebel@sbcglobal.net

*Pronunciation guide: Barneløpet = BAR-nuh-lop-it 

KNSC acquires new grooming machine for Maasto Hiihto 

To help keep the reputation of the Copper Country as a world class destination for cross country skiing, the Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club (KNSC) has acquired a new grooming machine through a funding partnership with the City of Hancock’s Recreation Millage Fund, Portage Health Foundation’s Small Grant Program and Community Foundation of the UP’s Upper Peninsula Sustainable Forest and Wildlife Fund.

The new grooming machine acquired by the Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club is pictured here on the Maasto Hiihto cross country trails in Hancock. (Photo courtesy Michael Babcock, Portage Health Foundation) 

Planning for the replacement of the all-terrain utility vehicle used for trail grooming and off-season maintenance on the Maasto Hiihto ski trails in Hancock began late last winter as the previous machine was beginning to show its age.

"Reliability and operator safety are key considerations as most grooming is done in the pre-dawn hours, often in some pretty heavy weather and remote areas without cell service," said John Diebel, KNSC treasurer.

John Diebel, KNSC treasurer, is pictured here with the new grooming machine. (Photo courtesy Michael Babcock, Portage Health Foundation) 

Financing of the machine was not easy but made possible by a number of community players with an interest in maintaining quality ski trails for outdoor recreation and community health during long and snowy Keweenaw winters. The City of Hancock through its Recreation Millage Fund provided $8,750; Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club $8,709; the Portage Health Foundation $3,000; and the UP Sustainable Forest and Wildlife Fund $1,500. The balance of $35,000 for the machine and track pods came from the sale of the old machine jointly owned by the City and KNSC.

Colin Pekkala, experienced head groomer for Maasto Hiihto, operates the new grooming machine in just about any weather. (Photo courtesy Michael Babcock, Portage Health Foundation)

Diebel, who also serves on the Hancock Recreation Commission, also noted, "Through this cooperative effort the City acquired a $35,000 asset for $8,750 -- which is a very effective way to leverage the Recreation Millage Fund."

Ski, snowshoe and snow bike trails have played an even more important part in community health than usual this winter as various restrictions brought on by the pandemic have greatly increased the demand for outside activities that can be performed safely. Sales of annual passes to local ski trails are surging, Diebel reports.

The new machine was delivered in mid-September, wired for equipment control, had the track pods installed and went into service in early December on the Hancock trails.

Learn more about the Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club at their Web site here: https://keweenawnordic.org/.