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, January 07, 2012

Ski Club to host moon/fire ski Jan. 7 at Maasto Hiihto

HANCOCK -- TONIGHT, Saturday, Jan. 7, Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club will host a moon/fire ski at Maasto Hiihto. It's an easy ski (20-30 minutes) from Tomasi Trailhead to the Triangle where there will be a fire to warm up and socialize. Meet at Tomasi Trailhead (adjacent to the Hancock DPW) at 6:30 p.m. for a guided ski out. For those who know the way, the old trail through Tomasi's fields will be track set; the new trail going along the creek is only rolled and somewhat bumpy. Old skis are advised as we're still at very low snow conditions. Questions, call Arlyn at 487-9229.

Letter: Urgent appeal concerning Flambeau Mine water pollution

The Wisconsin Resources Protection Council (WRPC) is asking you to voice your support for a proposal by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to list an unnamed stream at the Flambeau Mine site (known as "Stream C") as "impaired" due to copper and zinc toxicity. The Flambeau Mine, owned by London-based Rio Tinto, operated near Ladysmith, Wis., from 1993 to 1997. According to company reports, the mine produced 181,000 tons of copper, 3.3 million ounces of silver and 334,000 ounces of gold.

The DNR recently released its proposed 2012 list of "impaired waters" -- a list of lakes, rivers, and streams that are too polluted to meet state water quality standards intended to protect public health and aquatic life. On the list is Stream C, which flows over the southeast corner of the Flambeau Mine site, close to where the ore crusher was located and other mining-related activities took place in the mid-1990s. Toxic levels of copper were discovered in the stream shortly after the mine’s closure, and the pollution continues to this day. The part of the Flambeau Mine site where Stream C is located has not been released from state reclamation requirements.

Water quality data collected by both Flambeau Mining Company (FMC -- the Rio Tinto subsidiary that operated the Flambeau Mine) and the DNR since the early 2000s show that Stream C consistently has had levels of copper (and sometimes zinc) over the concentrations established by the DNR to protect surface waters from "acute toxicity."

Stream C flows in the vicinity of the mine’s former rail spur and across a portion of the mine site that, to date, has failed to be certified by the DNR as being successfully reclaimed by FMC. From there the stream meanders through a wooded area and eventually discharges into the nearby Flambeau River. Stream C is known to receive runoff from areas where mining wastes were stored in the past and where toxic discharges continue to this day. A DNR-designated "reference stream" does not show toxic levels of copper or zinc. Nor do two additional small streams being monitored in the area.

Earlier this year, the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council and Center for Biological Diversity filed a federal Clean Water Act lawsuit against Flambeau Mining Company for its toxic discharges of metals, including copper, iron, and zinc, into Stream C and the Flambeau River; the litigation is ongoing.

In addition, because of the consistently toxic levels of copper (and sometimes zinc) that have been documented in Stream C over the past decade, WRPC petitioned the DNR in late 2010 to consider classifying Stream C as "impaired." The inclusion of Stream C on the Department’s proposed 2012 list of "impaired waters" shows that the DNR listened to us. But it is not a done deal.

We expect Flambeau Mining Company to actively lobby the DNR to take this stream off the impaired waters list proposed by the Department (see press release from FMC -- link can be found below) -- there is a public comment period now underway.

WRPC is appealing to Wisconsin mining activists to submit written comments to the DNR in support of the Department’s proposal to list Stream C as impaired for copper and zinc and to ask that the DNR require Flambeau Mining Company to clean up its mess.

Public comments are due by February 20, 2012, and can be sent via email or regular mail to:

Email: or

Mail: Aaron Larson
Wisconsin DNR
Water Evaluation Section – WT/3
101 S. Webster St.
PO Box 7921
Madison, WI 53707-7921

For more information, please go to:

1. DNR’s impaired waters webpage:
When the page pops up, do the following:
-Click on Search 2012 Current, Proposed, and Restored Impaired Waters
-Next you will be asked to "Enter Water Name or WBIC." Enter the following: "Stream C, trib to Flambeau River" and click "Search"

2. Another listing on DNR’s impaired waters webpage:
When the page pops up, do either or both of the following:
-Click on 2012 Impaired Waters List (Stream C is listed as "Unnamed" on the Excel spreadsheet)
-Or click on View a summary of the data submitted to see detailed information on Stream C

3. Flambeau Mining Company’s press release from 12/11/2011:

4. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article about the proposed impaired waters list, including a paragraph about Flambeau and Stream C:

5. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel front-page article from November 2011 about Flambeau Mine pollution:

6. WRPC website:
-For information on our lawsuit, click on the "Flambeau Mine Lawsuit" tab at the top of the home page. To specifically access the "Notice Letter" filed by WRPC in federal court (which includes data for the polluted discharge to Stream C), click on the third document listed under "Official Correspondence."

Thank You!
Al Gedicks and Laura Gauger

Editor's Note: Keweenaw Now first learned about the Kennecott / Flambeau Mining Company's pollution of Stream C from Laura (Furtman) Gauger's presentation at Protect the Earth 2009. See our Aug. 5, 2009, article, "Protect the Earth 2009: Part 1."

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Galleries, cafés to offer art, music for First Friday in Calumet

CALUMET -- First Friday in Calumet, Jan. 6, will feature art exhibits and activities plus great music -- and dance lessons!

Web Felting Workshop at Copper Country Associated Artists

You would think that if a group of artists were to hold a flower making workshop, it would be a good spring or summertime activity; but the Copper Country Associated Artists' (CCAA) Gallery is offering exactly this type of activity to the public on Friday, Jan. 6. These are going to be warm flowers!

Karena Schmidt, frequent guest to CCAA First Friday workshops, has offered to teach the art of Wet Felting. This is a very traditional method of felting that works particularly well with natural fibers because they have "kinks" or "scales" on them which can bond together to form a cloth. Karena, an experienced fiber artist, is going to show participants how to turn wet wool into beautiful flowers. Other designs can be created as desired, and beads can be incorporated into the pieces. If you have a small towel to work on and use to carry your piece home, you could bring that. The finished product will be dried at home, and then it can be sewed or pinned to a hat or coat as a beautiful embellishment.

This workshop will be held in two sessions -- one at 6:30 p.m. and one at 7:30 p.m. It is free and open to the public. Donations are welcome.

Not only is Karena an experienced felter, she also is a naturalist and a knitter who has recently designed a knitted sweater pattern commemorating the wolf and moose studies at Isle Royale called "Moosing Around." The pattern is available at "Yarns and Threads" in Lake Linden and several gift shops in the area. Proceeds from this purchase are to raise funds for the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Study.*

The Copper Country Associated Artists' Gallery is located at 112 Fifth St. in Calumet.

* Click here to see a photo of Karena with her sweater.
(Photo of felt flowers courtesy Copper Country Associated Artists.)

Ed Gray Gallery to feature new work from gallery artists

During the month of January, the Ed Gray Gallery will feature new work from gallery artists Steve Toornman, Michelle Wegler, Meredith Krell, Georgi Tsenov, Todd Mills, and Todd Springer. The opening reception will take place from 6:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 6, 2012. The show will run until the first Wednesday in February.

The Ed Gray Gallery is located at 109 Fifth Street, Calumet.

Café Rosetta to exhibit "Kabuki" by Melanie Lieb

Just across from Ed's Gallery, the Café Rosetta will celebrate First Friday with "Kabuki," an exhibit of new paintings by Melanie Lieb.

The Café Rosetta will remain open until 8:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6, for the opening reception. Stop in for great coffee, treats and art!

Dance lessons, music by Backroom Boys at Omphale Gallery and Café

The Backroom Boys play a variety of tunes for dancing on this great wood floor at the Omphale Gallery and Café. Musicians are, from left, Oren Tikkanen, Matthew Durocher, Bob Norden, Randy Seppala and John Munson. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

Although many of us have forgotten the old ways, the fact is that Friday, Jan 6, is the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas, as well as the First Friday at the Calumet art galleries in this New Year.

"Madame Julie at the Omphale Gallery and Café at the top of 5th Street is celebrating by bringing in Maestro Chuck Hill from Keweenaw Social Dance to give dance lessons at 6 p.m., and the Backroom Boys will be playing swing and old jazz from 7 until 9," says musician Oren Tikkanen.

Julie DePaul Johnson, co-owner of the Omphale Gallery and Café, prepares not only real espresso coffee but great gourmet dishes as well. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

Twelfth Night is a traditional time for revelry and is also the beginning of the Carnival season that runs through Mardi Gras. Dust off your beads and feathers, put on your dance shoes, and come on down.

The Omphale is also exhibiting lovely oil paintings by Ann Cameron McDonald from Jan. 6 through Jan. 29.

Public hearing on Wis. mining law to be Jan. 11 in Hurley; Ashland hearing cancelled

HURLEY, Wis. -- The Wisconsin Assembly Jobs Committee has announced it will hold an official public hearing on the proposed mining bill, Assembly Bill 426, beginning at 10 a.m. next Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, at the Hurley Inn in Hurley, Wis.

Wisconsin State Rep. Janet Bewley and State Senator Bob Jauch have CANCELLED the public hearing on proposed Wisconsin mining bill AB 426 that had been scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012, in the Ashland High School Auditorium in Ashland, Wis.

Despite what some local newspapers say, THE SATURDAY MEETING HAS BEEN CANCELLED. Rep. Bewley will be at the Ashland site on Saturday to tell people that the meeting will not be held so that people who did not get the notice and show up are not further confused.

An article today, Jan. 5, 2012, in the Ironwood Daily Globe, says, "It's the second public hearing on AB 426, which speeds up permitting and eases environmental standards for iron mines. The first was held last month in West Allis, about 300 miles away from Iron County. Jauch and Bewley both criticized the Jobs committee and its chair, Rep. Mary Williams, R-Medford, for only scheduling one public hearing far away from the proposed mine site. The Jobs committee held an informational hearing in Hurley in October."

The Daily Globe also states that Assembly Bill 426 "is intended to help the Gogebic Taconite company start a mine on the border of Ashland and Iron counties."*

* Editor's Notes: Visit the Web site Save the Water's Edge for links to information about this Dec. 14, 2011, proposed AB 426. See especially the Dec. 19, 2011, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article, "Legislators worked with Gogebic Taconite on mining bill." See also The Nature Conservancy's summary of this bill.

Click here to read our Nov. 19, 2011, article, "Updated: Penokee iron mining proposal threatens Bad River watershed," on the proposed Gogebic Taconite mine.

New Slide Show: December Art in Calumet

"A Winter's Passing," by Kayo Miwa, one of several artists featured at Calumet's Vertin Gallery in December. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

CALUMET -- Keweenaw Now's latest slide show offers some photos of art events and exhibits in Calumet during December 2011.

See the new slide show in the upper right corner of this page and click on any photo. Above the large photo click on the title of the slide show; then, at the top left, click slide show. Links to previous slide shows can be found below our Blog Archive in the right-hand column.

You can also click here to go directly to the new slide show.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Finlandia to offer community enrichment classes

HANCOCK -- The Finlandia University Finnish American Heritage Center (FAHC) will host the following community enrichment classes starting the week of January 9, 2012. All classes meet for 10-weeks and cost $50 per person.

Introductory Finnish Language: Mondays, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Instructed by Liisa Manninen.

Intermediate Finnish Language: Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Instructed by Anna Leppänen.

Advanced Finnish Language: Tuesdays, 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Instructed by Hannu Leppänen.

To register, call Hilary Virtanen, FAHC programming coordinator, at 906-487-7505.

Michigan Tech Nordic Ski Club to offer ski lessons

HOUGHTON -- The Michigan Tech Nordic Ski Club will again be teaching cross-country ski lessons this winter. This is the 8th year the club is offering instruction to the campus and community. Skiers can choose from skate or classic technique. The lessons will be taught at the beginner, novice or intermediate level, based on the skier's ability. Details about lessons and prices are available at

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

U.S. Rep. Benishek meets, greets constituents in Mohawk

U.S. Congressman Dan Benishek fields questions from constituents during his Dec. 29, 2011, "Meet 'n Greet" event at Slim's Café in Mohawk. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

By Michele Bourdieu

MOHAWK -- First District Congressman Dan Benishek (R-Iron County) traveled to Mohawk last week to field constituents' questions and hear their concerns on issues ranging from health care to forests to Social Security and taxes.

Addressing a small crowd last Thursday morning, Dec. 29, in Slim's Café, Benishek gave a short introduction, noting his recent work has consisted of reading the legislation, trying to get spending under control and trying to vote on issues that affect Michigan, especially those issues that his constituents in the First District (the Upper Peninsula and parts of northern Michigan) would want him to vote on.

Benishek said his office, in this past year, has received 69,000 comments -- letters, emails and phone calls -- from constituents.

"We really have tried to answer them individually," he said.

In addition, his office received 1800 requests on federal issues such as veterans' benefits, post office questions, etc.

Michigan First District Congressman Dan Benishek greets constituents during a visit to Mohawk, Mich., on Dec. 29, 2011. (Videos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Brent Lekvin of Houghton asked Benishek what has been the most surprising thing to happen to him as a newcomer to Congress.

"The multitude of issues," Benishek replied. "The amount of reading involved and getting up to speed on these issues."

A comment from one constituent concerned the Republicans' blocking of bills in the present Congress.

"This Congress has been the least productive in history," the person said. "It seems that every bill that comes through has a poison pill put into it."

As an example of a "poison pill," he mentioned the Keystone XL Pipeline for Tar Sands Oil, added to the recent tax bill.

This constituent explained what he meant by "poison pill": "These bills go through and they have a whole bunch of stuff in them that doesn't have anything to do with the actual issue," he said. "I think it's on purpose."

Benishek accused the Senate of inaction.

"There's 28 bills that we passed that are sitting in the Senate (not acted on)," Benishek said. "It's frustrating when the Senate doesn't act."

Benishek noted the Senate decided to go on vacation for Christmas, preventing the finalizing of bills such as the budget and holding up projects that depend on the budget.

"Part of the problem is we don't have a budget," he said. "When we're funding the government two months at a time it's difficult to get these long-term expenditures into the budget."

One constituent, noting the open-ended character of the budget process, asked if there was ever a plan to put a cap on spending to avoid the government's huge deficit.

Benishek mentioned the Ryan budget, which was a plan to eliminate the debt over 40 years, without raising taxes, like a mortgage; however, the issue is complicated by the fact that people hesitate to make cuts in the "mandatory spending" -- Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- and by the fact that the U.S. borrows so much money from China.

Dr. Samuel Lockwood of Lake Linden asked Benishek if he could help with a grant for the Village of Lake Linden to fund a farmers' market and a gluten-free kitchen. The grant would provide federal funding through the State of Michigan's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Farm to Food program. The grant would allow the Old School Baking Company, based in the E-Center (former St. Joseph School) Building in Lake Linden, to develop a completely gluten-free kitchen for producing a wide array of gluten-free products.

Dr. Samuel Lockwood seeks Benishek's help in acquiring Farm to Food grant funds for the Village of Lake Linden. The federal funds, through the state program, would finance a farmers' market and a gluten-free kitchen. (Photo by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

According to Ed Fisher, Village of Lake Linden president, "The grant has been favorably received, but the funds are not available at the moment."

Benishek said he would try to help, as long as the grant exists.

Despite the frustration with the budget, Benishek indicated he is opposed to rushing legislation.

"To have disagreement and argument -- that's a good thing," he said, "so that we don't move too fast."

Benishek said he believed Obama's health care reform bill was passed too fast, without enough argument, before people understood what was in it.

"Now they're understanding that it's not making our health care any cheaper. It's making things more expensive," Benishek noted.

A woman who said she was on Medicare disagreed.

"I'm not sure you can say the health care bill was rushed through," she said. "I saw dialogue for over a year (on C-SPAN) and discussion and efforts to work on it. Maybe there's a different perspective, but I feel that the health bill overall is a good thing and would help control costs in this country."

Noting how some young people in this area have to work two jobs and still don't have health care, she said she feels Obama's bill is good for the 99 percent.

"They already cut $500 billion out of Medicare to pay for Mr. Obama's health care," Benishek said.* (See note below.)

He added he believed Obama's health care bill would be a problem for small hospitals in the Upper Peninsula.

Benishek discusses his views on health care reform. A constituent argues that Medicare has been much better for her than private insurance.

Rev. Robert Langseth expressed concern about federal forests and taxing companies that extract natural resources that belong to the local community. He said Minnesota's law on taxing taconite mining companies so that some of the profits stay in the local community should be a model.

Benishek talks about streamlining the process of timber sales in federal forests.

Constituents asked Benishek about the future of Social Security as a trust fund, some challenging the idea of privatizing it. First, a young person asked if someone now age 29 can look forward to receiving Social Security at retirement. Next, a senior citizen now on Social Security spoke about defending it.

Congressman Benishek fields constituents' questions on Social Security.

One constituent expressed her belief that taxing the wealthy is not the same as taxing high-income earners, who use their money to create jobs. Benishek noted the wealthy pay most of the taxes in this country.

"Forty-five percent of Americans don't pay income tax," he added.

Benishek expresses his opposition to raising taxes on business owners.

A question on whether the budget has ever dropped in the time of war led Benishek to a criticism of present defense spending -- not only for the war in Afghanistan, but for supporting troops in Germany and other countries that he feels should be paying for their own defense. He said he was against the U.S. spending defense money in Libya and favors withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.

"I went to Afghanistan. I don't think it's a winnable war," Benishek said. "I think we should be out of there."

Benishek also noted he was against "the whole Libya thing." He said he voted against the recent defense appropriations bill.

Dan Schulz of Houghton, an electrical engineering student at Michigan State University, asked Benishek what advice he would give to a college student today.

"I wanted to live in the U.P. That's why I went to med school," Benishek said. "My Dad was killed in a mine. My mother was a widow when I grew up. I stayed in school."

Benishek also noted he believed the military is a good opportunity for young people.

"When you get out you have a lot of options," he said.

Benishek agreed with a constituent that the fact that General Electric paid no taxes was unconscionable.

"I would rather not raise anybody's taxes," Benishek said. "You send money to that hole in Washington and you don't know what they're going to do with it."

Benishek said he's a Republican because he's a fiscal conservative. He ran for Congress, he said, because of the deficit problem. He believes every part of the federal government should be cut.

"I think I vote the way the majority of the people in the district want me to vote," he said.

In fact, Benishek sends out frequent email newsletters telling constituents about current actions in the House of Representatives. He also sends flyers listing a number of issues and asking constituents to check their priorities -- Social Security, jobs, economy, health care, etc. Keweenaw Now asked the Congressman why this list never includes environmental protection as a possible priority.

"You can write it in!" he said.

When asked if environmental protection is a priority for him, considering the potential mining development now going on in the Upper Peninsula, near Lake Superior, Benishek said he believes safety is certainly important but there should be a balance between environment and jobs. He said he has visited Rio Tinto / Kennecott's Eagle Mine near Big Bay and is convinced it is being done safely with protection for the water.

Former Keweenaw County Commissioner Don Keith of Eagle Harbor was positive about the Congressman's presentation.

"Generally I support Mr. Benishek," Keith said. "I do have a concern about his forestry proposal. I just want to be sure that we maintain a high level of stewardship."

Vance Lekvin of Houghton, a student of business and economics at Ripon College in Wisconsin, said he had a good impression of Benishek.

"I think he has the right ideas," Vance noted. "I think he's using common sense. I like the fact that he's trying to represent his constituents as well as he can."

*Editor's Note: clarifies this $500 billion as cost saving for the future, not cuts to the present Medicare budget or benefits: "Whatever you want to call them, it's a $500 billion reduction in the growth of future spending over 10 years, not a slashing of the current Medicare budget or benefits. It's true that those who get their coverage through Medicare Advantage's private plans (about 22 percent of Medicare enrollees) would see fewer add-on benefits; the bill aims to reduce the heftier payments made by the government to Medicare Advantage plans, compared with regular fee-for-service Medicare. The Democrats' bill also boosts certain benefits: It makes preventive care free and closes the 'doughnut hole,' a current gap in prescription drug coverage for seniors." [See, 3/19/10]

UPEC article: County Road 595 puts Mulligan Valley at risk

MARQUETTE -- Jon Saari of UPEC (Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition) writes about a wild, roadless area near Mulligan Creek in Marquette County, "dotted by lakes and streams and patches of old-growth forest," which, despite a conservation easement of protection, could be at risk if the Mulligan Truck Trail for nearby logging should be used for the proposed new County Road 595, destined to be a haul road for the Kennecott Mine. Saari gives the history of the Great Kashube Project of the 1980s, a plan to protect 3,000 acres in this area, which never came to fruition. To read this interesting article, click here and go to pp. 4-5 of the UPEC Winter 2011 Newsletter.

Monday, January 02, 2012

From Tech Today: Register now for Community Programs

HOUGHTON -- It's time to register for Michigan Tech Community Programs. Dollar Days are an excellent and inexpensive way to try out some great activities. You can try out a class for just $2.

Michigan Tech Community Programs will offer Dollar Days Jan. 9-15 for the following classes:

* Beginner Line Dance
* Belly Dance for Fitness
* Introduction to Clogging
* Flirty Girl Fitness (Dance Aerobics)
* Just Spin
* Kickboxing
* Ultimate Conditioning
* Yoga for Fitness
* Zumba

Registration for the first spring session of Community Programs will begin Wednesday, Jan. 4. Click here for the Spring Session 1 Brochure. Class sizes are limited.

You may register in person at SDC Ticketing Operations, by calling 487-2073, or online at Community Programs. If you are taking advantage of any discounts, such as TechFit, SDC Membership, or sibling discounts, please register at Ticketing Operations.

Jada Gullstrand, manager, recreational programs, may be contacted at 487-2975 or if you have any questions or concerns that need to be addressed personally.

Visit the Community Programs Web site for more details.

If you would like to be added to the mail or email list for community programs, please contact the Recreation Department at 487-2975 or email

Music tonight in Hancock, Calumet

HANCOCK, CALUMET -- The Ramada Inn in Hancock and the Omphale Café and Gallery in Calumet will host music events TONIGHT, Monday, Jan. 2.

Steven Q. Jones Esquire III and Robert J. Hiltunen II cordially invite you to take a leisurely stroll along with them into the mirky waters from 9 p.m. to midnight tonight, Jan. 2, at the Ramada in Hancock! Also there will be jazz guitars played. Two Tacet.

Greg Wright offers an open invitation to a drum circle at 6 p.m. tonight, Jan. 2, at the Omphale Café and Gallery, north end of 5th Street in Calumet.

"Extra drums provided, but bring 'em if you have 'em," Wright says.

You can become a fan of Keweenaw Music at and join the interactive postings there.

Portage Library continues Food for Fines program through January

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library is continuing its Food for Fines program through the month of January. Patrons can pay up to $10 in overdue fines by bringing non-perishable food items to the library. The food will be donated to local food pantries.

Patrons are encouraged to bring small, individual-sized portions for recipients of Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly programs. Large family-size packages and canned goods will be donated to the Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul. Foods that have reached the expiration date or are close to it will not be accepted.

The Food for Fines program is for overdue fines only and does not include money owed to the library for lost or damaged materials.

Those who wish to contribute food yet have no library fines are welcome to do so. All donations will be immensely appreciated.

The library staff thanks everyone who is participating in the Food for Fines program. For more information, please call the library at 482-4570 or visit