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.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Eagle Rock distress flag hung in observance of Independence Day

MARQUETTE --Stand For the Land reported they received word today, July 3, that an American flag was hung upside-down from a jack pine on Eagle Rock in observance of the Fourth of July and in response to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s recent decision to let Rio Tinto-Kennecott, a foreign corporation, decide for itself that it doesn’t need required permits to take over public land. Read more on
Photo: An American flag is hung upside-down on Eagle Rock, an Ojibwa sacred site, to symbolize distress. Eagle Rock, located on leased public land, is now fenced off by Kennecott Eagle Minerals for mining operations. Click on photo for larger version. (Photo courtesy Stand For the Land)

Editor's Note: See "A hot day at Eagle Rock -- before arrests of campers" for more on the distress flag.

Friday, July 02, 2010

EPA: Federal permit not required for Kennecott wastewater infiltration system

"Ore body 150 feet down" is the title of this photo of the Salmon Trout River, which flows above the site of Kennecott Minerals' proposed sulfide mine near Marquette. The River contains a rare population of Coaster Brook Trout. (File photo © 2007 Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve and courtesy Reprinted with permission.)

By Michele Bourdieu

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A letter from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) -- dated July 1, 2010, and addressed to Jonathan Cherry of Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company (a subsidiary of Rio Tinto) -- states that the EPA agrees with Kennecott that a federal Underground Injection Control (UIC) permit is not required under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act for a Treated Wastewater Infiltration System (TWIS) to be constructed at the Kennecott Eagle Mine, a sulfide mine for nickel and copper in Marquette County, Michigan, located only 10 miles from Lake Superior.

The letter states, in part, as follows: "We have reviewed the revised plans for construction of the TWIS and agree that a permit is not required under the federal UIC program for the infiltration system as currently designed. Based upon our review of the modified TWIS design, the lateral perforated piping that constitutes the fluid distribution system is above ground and is thus not a subsurface system. If there are further changes to the design of this unit, we will have to reconsider whether federal UIC requirements apply. ..."

Keepers of the Water, a local group opposed to Kennecott's sulfide mine, issued a press release today, July 2, noting the decision comes three months after Rio Tinto unilaterally announced that it did not need to obtain the federal permit, after making minor adjustments to its plan to dispose of roughly 180 million gallons of treated wastewater every year on the Yellow Dog Plains, an area that houses some of the most sensitive drinking water aquifers in the continental United States.

"Regardless of the EPA’s recent decision, for over two months Rio Tinto engaged in illegal activity that violated the terms of their land lease with the State of Michigan and state law regulating sulfide mining," said Teresa Bertossi, an organizer with Keepers of the Water. "Without legal authority to begin construction work, Rio Tinto bulldozed the entire mine site around Eagle Rock, fenced off public land and squandered taxpayer resources to get three people arrested for being on that public land; Rio Tinto’s lease with the state should have been revoked in April, when they first started bulldozing."

Eagle Rock, a sacred site to the Ojibwa people, located on State land leased by Kennecott for its sulfide mine, was fenced off in mid-June 2010, after mining opponents camping and praying here were arrested for trespassing. (File photo courtesy Stand for the Land)

In response to the EPA letter, Kennecott issued a July 1 statement on its Web site, saying, "Today’s determination by EPA that a federal permit -- separate from a comparable state permit issued previously to Kennecott -- is not required of Kennecott for its system to return clean, safe water from mine operations back to the environment provides clarification important for the community as mine facility construction proceeds."

In its letter to Kennecott, the EPA affirms its authority to address possible contamination from the TWIS that may endanger underground drinking water sources, regardless of design or permits.

"We understand that discharges from the TWIS are subject to a State permit that includes monitoring and response requirements," the EPA letter says. "We will continue to coordinate with the State to determine whether any federal response action with respect to the TWIS is necessary."

The EPA letter adds an acknowledgement of "significant community and tribal interests involved in the Kennecott Eagle Minerals Project," and encourages Kennecott to continue dialogue with the local community and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC).

The author of the letter, Peter S. Silva, EPA assistant administrator for Water, concludes, "It is EPA's expectation that Kennecott will follow through on efforts to consider all viewpoints, and consider any appropriate environmentally beneficial changes to the Project."*

Kennecott's statement adds, "Kennecott takes seriously our obligation to comply with all laws and regulations pertaining to our activities, and we understand that the community must have confidence that they are being properly applied and strictly followed."*

Opponents of the mine insist, however, that Kennecott has already broken the law and that the Eagle Project threatens the environment.

"Michigan regulators apparently felt comfortable with letting Rio Tinto decide, on its own, what laws it needs to follow," said Bertossi. "Rio Tinto and Michigan regulators need to be held accountable in federal court for willfully breaking the law."

In addition, a lawsuit against Kennecott continues, according to National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Attorney Michelle Halley.

Joining NWF in the suit are the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and the Huron Mountain Club -- all of whom claim the project does not meet legal requirements for protecting the environment.

Opponents of the mine also fear the mine's ceiling could collapse beneath the Salmon Trout River, a Lake Superior tributary home to the rare coaster brook trout. Serious pollution of this and other waterways in the region could occur from Acid Mine Drainage (AMD).

When excavated, if sulfide ore or the tailings piles are exposed to water and air a chemical reaction can create sulfuric acid. Precipitation can cause sulfuric acid to drain from the mine site as AMD, which can enter water resources and thereby harm people, plants, animals and metal and concrete structures. AMD also dissolves heavy metals (lead, zinc, copper, and mercury), allowing them to enter groundwater and surface water.

There has never been a metallic sulfide mine that has not polluted water resources where water was present.*

*Editor's Notes:
The full text of the EPA letter can be found on Stand for the Land.

More information on Acid Mine Drainage can be found on

Kennecott's statement in response to the EPA letter can be found on their Web site.

Ed Gray Gallery to host exhibit by two artists July 2 - Aug. 4; Calumet Art Center to offer First Friday tours

CALUMET -- The Ed Gray Gallery will present a two-person exhibit for July 2 - Aug. 4, 2010: Watermedia / Collage by Fredi Taddeucci and Wood Sculpture by Mark Mitchell.

An Opening Reception will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. TONIGHT, Friday, July 2. Refreshments will be served. The Gallery is at 109 Fifth Street, Calumet.

Also on this First Friday, the Calumet Art Center will offer refreshments, self guided tours and demonstrations. The Calumet Art Center is at 57055 Fifth Street, Calumet.

Historic Christ Episcopal Church open First Fridays

Christ Episcopal Church, built in 1893, is a historic church in Calumet Michigan. It will be open for tours on First Fridays from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. The church is located at 57031 Fifth Street. Take US 41 to Red Jacket Road, turn west and go approximately 2 1/2 blocks. Turn left at the Heritage Art Center and Christ Church is the brown Church next door to the Calumet Art Center. Refreshments will be available.

Visit the Calumet Art Center Web site for information on upcoming art classes and on the Art Immersion Camp -- Youth Camp. Youth camp workshops will be held at the Center from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. beginning Tuesday, July 5, and will continue every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for six weeks.

Stupak statement on EPA's Kennecott decision

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Following the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision Thursday that a federal underground injection control (UIC) permit is not required for Kennecott Minerals Company to move forward with a proposed sulfide mine in Marquette County, U.S. Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Menominee) issued the following statement:

"I appreciate the prompt action by the EPA in determining whether a federal permit is needed for the Kennecott project, as well as the agency’s timely decision on this matter.

Although EPA has determined a federal permit is not necessary, I encourage Kennecott to continue working to address the concerns of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and other organizations on this project.

With it now clear that the federal government does not have jurisdiction in permitting the mine, it is imperative that the state of Michigan re-evaluate its sulfide mining law to ensure every precaution is being taken to ensure sulfide mining is done safely in Michigan.

We are seeing today in the Gulf of Mexico why it is so important that we have effective enforcement of environmental and safety regulations and adequate financial protections in place to ensure taxpayers are not responsible for cleaning up any pollution that does occur. As plans for this sulfide mine move forward it is my hope that Kennecott and the state of Michigan will heed these lessons and take every precaution possible to keep our workers safe and protect our precious natural resources."

Bergonzi Quartet, Suzuki members to present children's concert July 2 in Portage Library

HOUGHTON -- The Bergonzi String Quartet of the Pine Mountain Music Festival will perform Pamela McConnell's version of Peter and the Wolf in a children's concert at 1 p.m. TODAY, Friday, July 2, at the Portage Lake District Library.

Children are invited to come dressed as characters in the performance: Peter, Grandfather, Bird, Miss Duck, Cat, Hunters (no guns, please), and Wolf.

Eva Nemiroff of Houghton, a Suzuki violin student, practices in the Portage Lake District Library during the June 12 opening of the library's summer reading program. Suzuki students and instructors will perform in the library following a children's concert by the Bergonzi String Quartet July 2. Behind Eva is a poster display of Copper Country Suzuki Association activities. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Following the performance, students and instructors from the Copper Country Suzuki Association will present a short performance in conjunction with the Bergonzi Quartet's children's concert. Afterwards, children will be able to take part in an instrument "petting zoo" and learn about the stringed instruments and try them out.

Adults are welcome to attend this concert if they bring at least one child. There is no admission and all are welcome to attend.

For more information, please call the library at 482-4570.

The Bergonzi String Quartet will also perform at 7:30 p.m. tonight, Friday, July 2, at the Rozsa Center. Visit for more information on the Pine Mountain Music Festival.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Keweenaw Chain Drive Festival attracts large biking community

By Kate Flynn

HANCOCK --The annual Portage Health Keweenaw Chain Drive Festival was held on Saturday, June 19, under partly cloudy skies. About 300 bikers started off at the Franklin Square Inn in Houghton around 10 a.m., crossed the Portage Lift Bridge and completed either a 16- or 32-mile cross-country race on the the Maasto Hiihto/ Churning Rapids trail system in Hancock.

Participants in the 2010 Portage Health Keweenaw Chain Drive Festival whiz past spectators after crossing the Portage Lift Bridge from Houghton to Hancock. The Chain Drive Festival is held annually in conjunction with Bridge Fest -- this year celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Lift Bridge. (Photos © 2010 Kate Flynn)

Terry Kinzel, a local biker and member of the Red Jacket Racing team, participated in the race and also helped with some of the cleanup afterwards. He openly admits that he is not very competitive, but still enjoys taking advantage of what the event has to offer.

"It was a wonderful day," he said. "It’s a very neat event."

Kinzel also explained that the event relies heavily on human power to make it a success. While the event’s organizers, Christine Young and Lori Hausworth, did the majority of the preparation work, Kinzel’s cycling team also contributed volunteers.

"It requires scores of volunteers," he added. "Red Jacket always helps out. We go over all the trails, flags and markings and help with the cleanup."

The overall first-place winner of the 32-mile race was 32-year-old Brian Matter of Sheboygan, Wis. Pete Karinen, 14, of Painesdale, Mich., received first place in the 16-mile race. Sara Kylander-Johnson, 38, of Duluth, Minn.,won first place in the 32-mile Women’s Expert division, while Kate McCloud won first in the 32-mile Women’s Age Group division. Parker McColl, age 15, and his father, Doug McColl, 55, of Oconomowoc, Wis., won first place in the 16 and Under Father-and-Youth Team 16-mile division, while Adam Tripp, 28, of Hudson, Wis. and his father, Russ Tripp, 57, of Spooner, Wis., won first place in the 17 and Over Father-and-Youth Team 16-mile division.*

The Junior Chain Drive was held Saturday afternoon, June 19, at the Portage Health campus, using a single-track trail in a wooded area east of the hospital. This event includes timed races for youth ages 8-13 and non-timed races for those age 7 and under.

The 7-and-under age group lines up for the Junior Chain Drive. They completed a 0.5 mile race.

The Chain Drive Festival is held traditionally on Father's Day weekend, in conjunction with Bridge Fest activities.

"It’s a pretty big deal," Kinzel said of the festival. "There’s a pretty active biking community in the area, and almost everybody that can rides it."

*For complete results of the Chain Drive races, visit

Editor's Note: Guest reporter Kate Flynn is a student at Beloit College. She is doing an internship in journalistic writing for Keweenaw Now and for the L'Anse Sentinel this summer.

Create recycled art at Keweenaw Krayons June 30, July 1

MOHAWK -- Kids.... (and parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles) grab your empty gallon water jugs if you have some and come to Keweenaw Krayons in Mohawk from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, June 30, and Thursday, July 1, and learn how to make a GARDEN SCARECROW. (Some water jugs will be available at Keweenaw Krayons for those who need them.)

Also try your hand at other recycled art projects with Margaret Gerhard, Wisconsin's Queen of Recycled Art. Gerhard, a teacher and lifetime recycler, received the 2007 Helfenstein (Helping Stone) Soup Council Environmental Hero Award.*

FREE demos ... and a chance to work on Keweenaw Krayons' Garden Scarecrow. Bring $5 if you want to make a scarecrow for your own garden.

Bartering, Scholarships and Family Discounts available. Pre-registration appreciated! Call 337-4706 or email

Check out the summer schedule at

This program is funded in part through the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, Copper Country Community Arts Council and the Denise Marth Memorial Grant through the Superior Child Abuse Prevention Council.

* Click here to read about Margaret Gerhard's award and her accomplishments for saving the planet.
HANCOCK---State Senate Candidate Mike Lahti announced on Tuesday, June 29, that the Michigan AFL-CIO has endorsed him for the 38th State Senate seat. The Michigan State AFL-CIO represents over 600,000 members of 59 different worker groups across Michigan.

"My mother was a school teacher and my father was a mechanic and heavy equipment sales person, so I understand how hard middle class families work to make ends meet and provide a good life for their children," said Lahti. "I am honored to receive the endorsement of the Michigan AFL-CIO, and I will continue to work hard to protect our workers and jobs while also fighting to create new jobs and help growing industries expand in the Upper Peninsula."

The AFL-CIO was formed in 1955 and now represents over 11 million members across the country. The organization works to improve the lives of working families and bring economic and social justice to our communities. Through the Michigan AFL-CIO, workers have a voice in their workplace, in their government and in the larger global economy.

"Mike Lahti has a strong record of service to Michigan citizens in the Upper Peninsula and is our choice to be the next State Senator for the 38th District," said Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney. "All unions agree, Mike understands what it means to work hard, and he is the best person to continue the fight for working families. He knows how to make sure they have good jobs, fair wages, affordable health care, and a secure retirement."

Mike Lahti is a lifelong resident of Hancock and currently serves in the Michigan House of Representatives representing the 110th House District, which covers the Western Upper Peninsula. As a leader, a business owner and a jobs-provider, he works daily on issues that affect workers and their families. Mike Lahti has been a small business owner and job creator for more than 40 years and continues to invest in our community. Mike has rehabilitated properties and opened businesses in Hancock, and he still owns and operates the State Farm Insurance Agency that he first started in 1968.

For more information on Mike Lahti’s State Senate Campaign visit his Web site at