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, October 01, 2011

Rio Tinto blasts into Michigan sacred site

From Stand for the Land
Posted Sept. 28, 2011

EAGLE ROCK -- On September 14, Circuit Court Judge Paula Manderfield refused a request by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and other petitioners to delay underground work at the Eagle Mine site in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

By doing so, she cleared the way for Kennecott Eagle Minerals, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, to blast through the base of an outcropping known to Anishinaabe peoples as Eagle Rock, or Migi Zii Wa Sin, to gain access to a copper-nickel ore body that lies some 2400 feet away, beneath the Salmon Trout River. The portal structure went up several days before the hearing, showing Kennecott’s confidence in a courtroom decision favorable to their interests. ... Click here to read the rest of this article and comments on Stand for the Land.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Updated: Volunteers help rid local beaches of invasive knapweed; presentation on invasives to be Sept. 29

By Michele Bourdieu

Botanist Janet Marr, left, helped McLain State Park with a project recently funded by the UP Resource Conservation and Development Council -- removing invasive spotted knapweed from areas of the Park in order to protect the beach from its spread. Here she is pictured with volunteers who helped collect these bags full of the invasive plant on July 30, 2011: from left, Marr; Jason Oyadomari, Finlandia University biology professor; Steve Albee of Hancock; Michigan Tech forestry student Alex Mehne; Chuck Mehne, Alex's Dad,visiting from Kalamazoo; and Lee Verberkmoes, McLain State Park superintendent. Marr will join Erik Lilleskov, research ecologist for the U.S. Forest Service, in a presentation on invasive species Thursday, Sept. 29, at Michigan Tech. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photos by Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated.)

HOUGHTON -- Janet Marr, contract botanist for the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District, will join Erik Lilleskov, research ecologist for the U.S. Forest Service, in presenting "Invasive Species as Agents of Global Change," from 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 29, in Noblet 143 of Michigan Tech's Forestry building.

The presentation -- free and open to the public -- will offer the opportunity to
  • Explore the global impact of altered ecosystems
  • Find out about invasive species in the Copper Country
  • Learn how to identify invasive plants of the Western U.P. which threaten the biodiversity of the Keweenaw.
  • Discover how you can help control their spread and protect our native plants.
This event is sponsored by the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative, Michigan Tech Center for Water and Society, Keweenaw Land Trust and the Keweenaw Unitarian Fellowship.

Photos: Pulling Knapweed at McLain State Park

Volunteers assist Botanist Janet Marr, center, in pulling invasive spotted knapweed at McLain State Park on July 30, 2011.

Janet Marr, left, and volunteers pull invasive knapweed from a hillside area near the breakwater at McLain State Park. In the foreground, second from right, is Lee Verberkmoes, McLain State Park superintendent, who worked with Marr in securing funding from the UP Resource Conservation and Development Council for spotted knapweed mapping, control/removal, and restoration in this popular Lake Superior lakeshore park.

Alex Mehne, left, Michigan Tech forestry student active in the Botany Club, invited his Dad, Chuck Mehne, who was visiting from Kalamazoo, to join the group of volunteers at the McLain State Park knapweed pull on July 30, 2011 -- a father-and-son shared effort for a Saturday morning in the Keweenaw! Alex also assisted Janet Marr with her garlic mustard removal campaigns in area neighborhoods this summer.

Steve Albee of Hancock helps Janet Marr carry a bag of knapweed up the hill to be disposed of by McLain State Park. Note protective gloves volunteers like Alex Mehne, at left, are wearing. "Spotted knapweed has a substance that is an irritant, and gloves, long sleeve shirts, and long pants should be worn," Marr advises.

Spotted knapweed on the beach at McLain State Park. This invasive plant loves dry areas and must be pulled straight up to remove the roots. It also grows along roadsides all around the Keweenaw and spreads rapidly. (Photo © and courtesy Janet Marr)

The restoration aspect of the McLain State Park knapweed removal project will include planting more of this protective dunegrass. (Photo © and courtesy Janet Marr)

Picnic and knapweed pull at Bete Grise Preserve

Members of the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District and the Stewards of Bete Grise Preserve met for a knapweed pull, picnic and presentation by Janet Marr on Aug. 1, 2011, at the Bete Grise Preserve. They collected several bags full of the invasive plant, growing mostly along the Gay-Lac LaBelle Road. Pictured here, from left, are volunteers Evan McDonald, Chuck Brumleve, Gina Nicholas, Mark Klemp, Sue Haralson (in front of Mark), Anton Pintar, Paul and Anita Campbell, Joanne Thomas and Nick Wilson. The event was also sponsored by the Rapid Response Invasive Plant Intervention Team of the UP (RRIP-IT-UP) and organized by Sue Haralson, Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District administrator.

Gina Nicholas and Chuck Brumleve, both residents of Bete Grise, pull spotted knapweed plants along the Gay-Lac LaBelle Road at the Bete Grise Preserve.

After a potluck picnic at the Bete Grise Preserve beach, volunteers listen as Botanist Janet Marr demonstrates the best way to loosen the roots of invasive knapweed with a narrow tool. "The smaller the blade the better (that'll help assure less disturbance to the ground and exposure of seeds from the seedbank)," Marr explains. At far left is Cynthia McDonald (not pictured above), who also joined the group.

Janet Marr displays a sample of Centaurea (a relative of spotted knapweed) during her presentation at Bete Grise.

Despite the attractive flowers, this plant, Hypericum perforatum (commonly called St. John's wort), is also invasive.

Janet Marr displays some Hypochaeris radicata, also known as a false dandelion, or hairy cat's ear.

Learn more about these invasive plants and what you can do to help protect the ecology of the Keweenaw from their spread by attending the presentation by Janet Marr and Erik Lilleskov from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, in Noblet 143 of Michigan Tech's Forestry building.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Michigan Tech to dedicate new solar energy research center Sept. 28

By Marcia Goodrich, senior writer

HOUGHTON -- The Keweenaw Research Center (KRC) will dedicate Michigan Technological University’s first facility devoted to solar energy research at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 28.

The Michigan Tech Solar Photovoltaic Research Facility includes an array of solar panels and an advanced energy-monitoring system at KRC’s Engineering Design Building, near the Houghton County Memorial Airport. The two-kilowatt system will generate enough energy to charge all of the electric snowmobiles competing in the SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge, held at KRC every March.

But this photovoltaic system isn’t just about saving money on the electric bill.

"The new facility will be used primarily to advance solar-energy research and education," said KRC Director Jay Meldrum....

Click here to read the rest of this article by Marcia Goodrich on the Michigan Tech News.

Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club Board to meet Sept. 28

HANCOCK -- The Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club (KNSC) Board will be holding a meeting at 7 p.m. this Wednesday, Sept. 28, at the Hancock Chalet at the Fair Grounds. Members and the public are welcome. Questions? Email KNSC President Jay Green at or call 906-487-5411.

Working People's Rally to be held Sept. 27 in Marquette

MARQUETTE -- A Working People's Rally will be held from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 27, in front of the U.S. Post Office in Marquette. All are invited to join the rally with this theme: "Mr. Casperson, why are you picking on teachers and not creating jobs for Michigan's economy?"

The Post Office is at 202 W. Washington Street, #1, Marquette.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Wind turbine saves electricity for local organic farmers

By Michele Bourdieu

Installed last May 2011 and connected to the Ontonagon County REA (Rural Electrification Association), this wind turbine is already saving organic farmers Sue Raker and Fred Galloway many kilowatt hours of electricity for both present and future use on their property near Calumet. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

CALUMET -- Just about two miles from Lake Superior near Calumet, on a Keweenaw farm well positioned for winds, owners Suzanna Raker and Fred Galloway watched with anticipation last May 2011 as engineers raised a wind tower and turbine that not only would generate electricity for their home and farming needs but would earn them kilowatt hour credits with the Ontonagon County REA (Rural Electrification Association) grid for the future.

While the farm is already equipped with several solar panels that feed batteries for the house and for farm use, such as electric fences to protect beehives, the wind turbine is expected to provide even greater savings in electricity costs.

These 16 solar panels feed batteries to provide electricity for the house and farm needs. Smaller solar panels on the farm are used for other uses on the property, such as the sauna and electric fencing.

"I'm pretty excited about it," Galloway said. "Combined with the solar, it should pretty much do away with our electric bill."

Since the installation of the turbine last May, the good news is just that.

"We don't have a power bill. Every month we have a credit," Raker said recently. "We're producing 350-400 kw hours a month, with a credit of about 50 kw hours per month.

Christopher Stahl, president of Lake Effect Energy Corporation -- based in Harbor Springs, Mich. -- was present on the property during the installation of the 120-foot-high wind turbine, Model ARE 110 built by the Xzeres Company.* Lake Effect delivered the wind turbine, installed it and interconnected it with the REA.

Stahl said several factors must be studied during the wind site resource assessment to determine the height of the tower.

Christopher Stahl, president of Lake Effect Energy Corporation, left, chats with organic farm co-owner Fred Galloway during the installation of the wind turbine on the property last May. Co-owner Sue Raker is in the background.

"Height is a very important factor because of turbulence," Stahl said. "The machine has to be in a clear air stream."

Stahl predicted this would be a great project with excellent output because of the location.

He said the first step in doing the assessment is to study the soil conditions to see how many pounds per square foot the soil can hold.

"That determines the size of our foundation," he explained.

For this tower a six-foot deep hole was excavated. A pad of concrete 14-ft square is part of the foundation.

Stahl brought a crew of five to do the installation of the tower last spring.

Three of the Lake Effect Energy crew members work on attaching the blade to the wind tower during installation in May 2011. Pictured here are, from right, Pete Cummings, Lake Effect vice-president; Zach Luhellier, a recent Northern Michigan University graduate; and Sam Simonetta (a former Michigan Tech student), mechanical engineer and senior certified site assessor.

They were Pete Cummings, vice-president; Chuck Dobry, a steel expert and certified welder who used to build bridges; Ryan Johnston, structural engineer; Zach Luhellier, a recent Northern Michigan University graduate; and Sam Simonetta (a former Michigan Tech student), mechanical engineer and senior certified site assessor.

"If you do solar electric or if you do wind, you're dealing with water, electricity, batteries -- you're going to have certain responsibilities," Raker said. "To be effective and safe, they require engineering."

Raker expressed confidence in Simonetta's professional skills.

"Sam is experienced and reliable," she said. "He's been a proponent of wind for a long time. Sam has used wind power on his own property east of Marquette for over 10 years."

Simonetta has been able to apply his engineering background from Michigan Tech.

"I do all the secondary engineering -- all the component layouts and all the auto-CAD (Computer Automated Design)," he said. "Pete Cummings does the majority of the construction."

Installing the wind turbine

The Lake Effect crew members prepare to raise the wind turbine, attached to a crane, on the Galloway-Raker farm near Calumet in May 2011. Crane operator Mike Nelson (left, background, in dark shirt) is from Midway Rentals in Negaunee, Mich.

Here is a video, taken from a safe distance, showing the tower and turbine being lifted by the crane. The length of the video is the time it took to raise it -- about 2 and a half minutes:

The wind turbine is lifted by the crane to a vertical position. (Video clip by Keweenaw Now)

Fred Galloway, at right, observes as the Lake Effect crew members secure the base of the wind tower.

Once the base is secured, Sam Simonetta climbs the tower to unhook it from the crane.

After skilfully unhooking the tower from the crane, Simonetta descends safely to the ground.

The Color Purple

Stahl noted the purple color of the blades is meant to discourage birds, but is not really required or necessary on machines less than 20 kw; and this is a 2.7 kw "point of use" system (i.e., a system used at the location where it is installed).

However, Raker said she insisted on the purple color.

"In the E.U. and U.K., two separate studies, conducted over eight years, found that the color purple discouraged insects, bats and birds," Raker noted.

She said the extra cost for the purple color is worth it for the birds and insects.

"Our farm is a certified organic farm. On an organic farm everything fits together. It's synergistic," Raker explained.

The couple's house, built in Baraga County in 1895, is an example of recycling the old and making it energy efficient. Virtually everything -- from the hardwood floors to the trim on the doors -- is made from recycled materials.

The well insulated farmhouse has a foundation made from stones that were all collected from rock piles on (this) property. The windows have heat mirrors that block UV rays, but allow heat to come through in the winter -- aided by an overhang from the roof.

"We took it apart and brought it here, log by log, numbered the logs and put it back up," Raker said. "We super-insulated it."

In addition to the special heat mirrors on the windows, Raker said, they used special insulating panels on the roof and insulated the walls with rigid insulation and a non-deteriorating vapor barrier.

The farm also has a small windmill on a field for aerating the pond and pumping water. It acts as an air compressor. A greenhouse is heated with passive solar tubes.

This greenhouse on the property is heated by passive solar energy: The blue Kal-Wal tubes at right absorb solar heat and release it slowly and evenly.

Raker anticipates that having more wind energy with the turbine will especially help in the winter when the farm uses more electricity and there is less sunlight for the solar panels.

The total cost of the wind turbine and tower was $51,000, Raker noted. One fourth of that was a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Energy Access Program (REAP).

"These grants are designed for small rural businesses and farms," Raker said. "We used the Organic Valley Cooperative grant system available to all producing members of the cooperative. We've been in that co-op as grower members since 2006."

A guaranteed loan from the USDA Farm Service Agency covers the other three fourths of the cost.

Raker, who is a veteran, said the Veterans Administration is now backing solar for veterans' homes under certain conditions.**

When asked about the motivation for adding wind energy to the farm, Raker said, "We just do it because we want to do it and it's the right thing to do and it works."

* Click here to read about Lake Effect Energy Corporation of Michigan. Click here to read about the Xzeres Wind Company.

** For information on solar loans for Veterans, see or call a veterans benefits counselor in Iron Mountain at 906-774-3300 and hit O for operator.