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, April 21, 2012

Pilgrim River Watershed Advisory Council to hold meeting Apr. 23

HOUGHTON -- The Pilgrim River Watershed Advisory Council (PRWAC) will hold its Fourth Meeting at 5 p.m. Monday, April 23, at the Michigan Tech Lakeshore Center Community Room, 600 East Lakeshore Dr., Houghton (former UPPCO building). The public is invited to attend.

The Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District (HKCD) received a Michigan Coastal Zone Management/DEQ/NOAA grant to prepare a Pilgrim River Watershed Management Plan.  A Watershed Management Plan includes a fact-based assessment of water quality, the fishery, habitats, land uses, road and stream crossings, any impairments and other factors impacting water quality of the river and surrounding land. This factual information along with community input will be used to develop a plan with voluntary recommendations to help the community understand and manage a healthy watershed. PRWAC Meetings provide a public forum for constituents of the Pilgrim River Watershed to provide input. Michigan Tech S-STEM students and Keweenaw Land Trust will help facilitate this session. 

Thimbleberry Band to play old-time dance music at Finnish American Heritage Center Apr. 21

HANCOCK -- The Finnish American Heritage Center will host an Earth Day dance by the Thimbleberry Band from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, April 21. Honoring outgoing band members Coleman and Matt, this event will feature old-time Copper Country dance music -- polkas, waltzes, schottisches, tangos, fiddle tunes and more from the band’s Finnish, French-Canadian, Slovenian, Croatian, and Irish roots. Admission is $5 with proceeds to benefit FinnFest USA 2013. All ages are welcome. Children free. For more information, please call 487-7505.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Photos: Big Bay residents attend Rio Tinto AGM in London

By Michele Bourdieu, with information from
Photos by Sallie Dean Shatz

Carla Champagne, right, of Concerned Citizens of Big Bay, Mich., and Cynthia Pryor, second from right, of the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve join demonstrators outside Rio Tinto's Annual General Meeting on Apr. 19, 2012, in London, England. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photo © 2012 by Sallie Dean Shatz of Reprinted with permission.)

LONDON, UK -- Cynthia Pryor of the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve and Carla Champagne of Concerned Citizens of Big Bay, Mich., attended Rio Tinto's Annual General Meeting (AGM) in London, England, on Thursday, April 19, 2012, to present their concerns about Rio Tinto/Kennecott's air quality application for their Eagle Mine near Big Bay.

Cynthia Pryor, right, displays her protest sign during a demonstration outside Rio Tinto's Annual General Meeting on Apr. 19, 2012, in London, England. (Photo © 2012 by Sallie Dean Shatz of Reprinted with permission.)

Pryor and Champagne attended the AGM to ask the Rio Tinto Board of Directors and their shareholders for a comprehensive air quality program to be installed in the region that will be regulated by the DEQ (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality), monitored by DEQ-approved third party scientists and all costs paid for by Kennecott. At present there are no air monitors either at the Eagle Mine or anywhere near Big Bay. Rio Tinto / Kennecott’s new Air Quality application asks to remove the air filter controls from the Main Vent Air Raise, which will be used as the only exhaust for all the underground mine workings.

Rio Tinto filed their new Air Quality permit March 20, 2012 and the DEQ Air Quality Division is currently evaluating it. Public hearings for this application have been requested for Big Bay and Lansing.*

Demonstrators display a banner saying, "Rio Tinto Poison Profits Poison PR." See to read about three women -- an activist from Mongolia, a mother from Utah and an ex-member of the US Olympic bobsled team -- who attended the Rio Tinto AGM to highlight the devastating impact that Rio Tinto-operated mines, which are providing the medals for the 2012 games, are having on their respective countries. (Photo © 2012 by Sallie Dean Shatz of Reprinted with permission.)

Zanaa Jurmed, the Director of the Center for Citizens’ Alliance in Mongolia; Cherise Udell, the founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air; and Alexandra Allred, who trained for and made the U.S. women's bobsled team in 1994, attended the Rio Tinto AGM to protest environmental damage and cover-ups by Rio Tinto, which is supplying the gold for Olympic medals. Jurmed and Udell also participated in the launch of the Greenwash Gold 2012 campaign targeting Rio Tinto as well as BP and the Dow Chemical Company for greenwashing to hide environmental damage. The campaign invites the public to vote for the company covering up the most environmental destruction and devastating the most communities while pretending to be a good corporate citizen by sponsoring the Olympic games.**

The Greenwash Gold group is followed by Utah Moms for Clean Air, who also attended the Rio Tinto AGM to protest impacts of air pollution from the Bingham Canyon Mine near Salt Lake City. (Photo © 2012 by Sallie Dean Shatz of Reprinted with permission.)

In Salt Lake City, Utah, Rio Tinto plc operates the world’s largest open pit copper, molybdenum and gold mine. It will provide 99 per cent of the metals for the Olympics. The remaining 1 per cent will come from Rio Tinto’s mine in development in the south Gobi desert in Mongolia. In Utah, Rio Tinto’s Bingham Canyon mine has been linked to large numbers of premature deaths as a result of the air pollution it has been linked to, while in Mongolia the mine is linked to controversial water depletion in a desert area.

A protestor against Rio Tinto's uranium mining joins the demonstration outside the company's AGM in London. (Photo © 2012 by Sallie Dean Shatz of Reprinted with permission.)

Rio Tinto's Ranger Uranium Mine in Australia is routinely spilling radioactive water into the surrounding area and is opposed by Aboriginal communities.

The Dow Chemical Company has a long, sordid, history of environmental crimes spanning many decades. It produced Agent Orange to be sprayed upon innocent Vietnamese people; it developed napalm into a lethal weapon of mass destruction; it has bribed officials in order to register banned, dangerous pesticides; and it has regularly poisoned the rivers and the air around its factories.

Dow is also connected to the 1984 Bhopal Gas disaster and the ongoing medical catastrophe -- and the separate issue of toxic pollution that sees, to this day, thousands of people drinking water heavily contaminated with highly dangerous chemicals.***

BP, aside from the Deep Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, is one of the most unsustainable companies on the planet; yet its brand is all over the Olympics. Incredibly, it has landed the prestigious title of "Sustainability Partner" while it is bankrolling educational and cultural initiatives, providing fuel for the Games, and sponsoring many athletes.

BP is entirely focused on extracting every last fossil fuel it can get its hands on, including tar sands, the most destructive industrial project on the planet. Extracting oil from tar sands, besides contributing a huge amount of carbon emissions to climate change, also destroys swathes of boreal forest, uses huge amounts of fresh water, and causes soaring rates of illness in local communities.****

This video from asks for your vote against Rio Tinto. (Posted here under Creative Commons permission.)

* See "Two Big Bay residents to address air quality concerns at Rio Tinto London meeting Apr. 19."
Click here to read the Kennecott application on the DEQ website. Also click here to read more about Rio Tinto from Greenwash Gold.

** Click here to read and see videos about the Greenwash Gold campaign and vote for the company covering up the most environmental destruction and devastating the most communities while pretending to be a good corporate citizen by sponsoring the Olympic games.

*** Read more about Dow Chemical Company.

**** Read more about BP.

Khana Khazana to serve cuisine from four countries Apr. 20

The Apr. 20 Khana Khazana menu will feature cuisine from four countries. Click on image for larger version. (Image courtesy Khana Khazana)

HOUGHTON --The final Khana Khazana (food treasure) of the semester will feature dishes from four countries today, Friday, April 20, at Michigan Tech's Memorial Union Food Court.

Here is the fare: Chinese fried noodles; South Korean ggoji jun-ham -- green onion, imitation crab stick, potato, sweet potato and egg, fried and on a skewer; Japanese handmade sushi roll with vegetables, shrimp and salmon; and a Finnish dessert of berry ice cream with crunchy oatmeal cookies.

The weekly lunch is cooked and served by international students.

A full meal costs $6 and includes a free beverage. Individual entrees are available for $2 each. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Khana Khazana is a collaborative effort of international students and Michigan Tech Dining Services.

Main Street Calumet Apr. 21 Market cancelled

CALUMET -- The Main Street Calumet Market has been cancelled for this Saturday, April 21, 2012, and will resume its regular schedule next Saturday, April 28, 2012.

The market is normally held every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the first Friday of each month from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Portage Library to host 3 events for young and old Apr. 20, 21

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library will host a Community Poetry Reading on Friday, Apr. 20, and two events on Saturday, Apr. 21: Dairy Goat Storytime and Stamp Collecting.

The Portage Lake District Library invites everyone to gather around the library’s fireplace for a Community Poetry Reading from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Apr. 20. Lovers of poetry can read their own poems or poems written by others, or simply enjoy listening to others read.

The Portage Lake District Library will have a real Toggenburg Alpine mix mother goat and her three-week-old baby kids at Storytime at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Apr. 21.

Katie Searl and her children -- Anna, Fisher, Myrica, and Lain Rajdl -- will talk about how to take care of goats. They will also explain the truth about what goats eat, describe what goats do all day, and give examples of how kid goats like to play. Children will be able to pet the goats.

There will be samples of certified goat milk, yogurt, and cheese to eat. Children will also read stories about goats and make a project to take home.

The Portage Lake District Library will host the Stamp Collecting group from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 21. The group will meet at the table at the back of the library.

Beginner and experienced stamp collectors as well as those who are curious about stamp collecting are welcome. People who want help organizing their loose stamps are invited to bring them to this meeting.

Library programs are free and open to all. For more information please call the library at 482-4570 or visit

Lake Superior Mining News: Federal Agencies criticize Rio Tinto’s new mine hauling plan (County Road 595)

By Gabriel Caplett
Posted on Lake Superior Mining News

MARQUETTE -- The Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have issued strong criticisms of "County Road 595," a revamped Woodland Road. The road was originally pursued by Rio Tinto through Woodland Road LLC; Rio Tinto is now having the Marquette County Road Commission pursue permits for its mine hauling road. It is now up to the EPA to object to the project, permit it, or require conditions before approval. Click on the three links below for information from the two federal agencies and the road commission.

Read the Army Corps’ comments, sent Mar. 29, 2012, to Peter Swenson, US EPA, Chicago.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s comments, sent Apr. 5, 2012, to Ms. Melanie Haveman, US EPA, Chicago.

The Marquette County Road Commission’s Apr. 5, 2012, response to the Army Corps’ comments.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hancock Tori to hold meeting Apr. 24

HANCOCK -- A meeting for all those interested in Hancock's Tori market -- sellers, customers and friends -- will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Apr. 24, at Studio Pizza in Hancock, across from the Tori location on Quincy Street.

The Tori will open on Saturday, June 2, this year. Hours will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays.

If you can attend the meeting Tuesday, please email Sandy Soring at or call her at 337-1391.

Green Film Series to present documentary on climate-change solutions Apr. 19

HOUGHTON -- The Green Film Series continues on Thursday, April 19, with Carbon Nation, a documentary about climate-change solutions. The film portrays how tackling climate change can boost the economy; increase national and energy security; and promote a healthy, clean environment.

The film is free; the suggested donation is $3. The showing will be followed by coffee, tea, dessert and an audience discussion facilitated by Prof. Sarah Green, Michigan Tech Chemistry Department chair.

The session, which will begin at 7 p.m., will be in the Atrium and G002 of Hesterberg Hall in the Forestry building.

The Green Film Series is sponsored by the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative, Keweenaw Land Trust, Michigan Tech's Center for Water and Society and the Keweenaw Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

The series is partially funded with a grant from the League of Women Voters of the Copper Country, the Friends of the Land of Keweenaw and the UP Environmental Coalition.

Updated: Public comments on Brockway Mountain tower location to be allowed at Keweenaw County Board meeting Apr. 18

By Michele Bourdieu

KEWEENAW COUNTY -- The Keweenaw County Board of Commissioners Chair says he will allow public comment on the Brockway Mountain cell phone tower issue at the Board's monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m. TONIGHT, Wednesday, Apr. 18, at the Courthouse in Eagle River, despite the fact that the Board has already made a decision on the issue. The agenda for tonight's meeting includes an item titled "Open Meeting Compliance."

"If somebody wants to comment on (this issue), we'll save time at the end of the meeting (3 minutes per comment) when they can have their say," Ernest Mooney, Keweenaw County Board chair, told Keweenaw Now on Tuesday, Apr. 17. "But the Board is not going to re-hear this. The decision's been made, and we're standing by our decision."

Mooney noted the reason the area lacks cell phone service is that Brockway Mountain blocks the signal -- thus the location for a tower that will be higher than the mountain.

This image from the Friends of Brockway Mountain Facebook page includes this comment: "On a USGS topo map the red dot/cross is the proposed Brockway Tower location. This tower and its lights at night will be obvious from Copper Harbor, Keweenaw Mtn Lodge, Lake Medora, Brockway summit, US 41, and..... forever." Click on image for larger version. (Image courtesy Friends of Brockway Mountain)

A group of citizens concerned about the fact that public comments on this issue were not allowed at the Board's February meeting is suing Keweenaw County on the basis of the Michigan Open Meetings Act.

The Keweenaw County Board of Commissioners voted in December 2011 to approve building a cell phone tower (one of three towers approved for Keweenaw County) on Brockway Mountain -- an important flyway for migrating birds and a tourist attraction for the birders who like to watch and count them. Since that Board decision, a group of concerned citizens called the Friends of Brockway Mountain, along with other interested residents and visitors, have protested the location for the tower. Many even signed a petition against the location.

Mooney said he is aware of the birders' concerns, but he believes birds will get used to this type of tower and fly around it just as they would fly around a tree.

"They're free-standing towers. There are no guy wires on them," Mooney explained. "Birds can fly around them. Birds aren't idiots. They're pretty smart."

This osprey is typical of birds observed from Brockway Mountain, which is also a site for the Keweenaw Raptor Survey. (Photo © and courtesy Michael Shupe Photography. See more photos at

Update: Joseph Youngman, who works on the Keweenaw Raptor Survey, sent Keweenaw Now an update saying, "I can't see that a tower placed near the east end of the Brockway ridge would disrupt the raptor survey. Nor would it harm many raptors. It almost certainly would harm many passerine (warblers, sparrows, thrushes, etc.) birds however. The death toll on passerines from towers is well documented."

Alex Protzel, a Copper Harbor resident and landowner, who is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the county, said he was "disappointed" that the Board did not allow public comment at the February meeting.*

"I think that many many people -- people who live here, people who visit here -- all seem to be appalled at the thought of a cell phone tower on Brockway Mountain Drive," Protzel said. "I'm happy to see that so many people are against it. I feel there's a better plan for accomplishing the same goal of providing cell phone service to this area."

Protzel and others opposed to the potential Brockway location of the tower say they are not against having cell phone service and recognize the need for it as far as safety, communications and emergency services are concerned.

"I would love to have it. Cell phone service would increase my quality of life," Protzel said. "Tourists come up here and have to scramble to find a pay phone. That's not good."

Copper Harbor has only one pay phone -- at Zik's Bar, he noted.

Residents hope to propose alternative tower locations

Protzel said he wanted to comment at the February Board meeting in order to suggest some other options for the tower location. One would be redevelopment of the currently existing communications tower at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge (Both the Lodge and the tower are owned by Keweenaw County). Since this tower is only 120 ft. high, it would have to be modified.

Another solution is to follow up on the new bill (HB 5342) that would allow co-location of cell phone equipment on State of Michigan towers, Protzel noted.**

"My main goal is just to send the tower company back to the drawing board to look at other options, because their present location is detrimental to the character of the area," he added.

On Tuesday, Apr. 17, Protzel told Keweenaw Now he has some new information from a radio engineer who ran some recent tests that showed substantial coverage potential from locations other than the Brockway location. These include a possible site on the west side of East Bluff as well as the State of Michigan police tower.

Protzel described the site on the west side of East Bluff as "absolutely superior to the Brockway location."

The 450-ft high State of Michigan police tower is located on the eastern side of East Bluff, a few miles east of Copper Harbor, and is used by local law enforcement and fire departments for radio communications.

Keweenaw County Sheriff Ron Lahti said the Sheriff's Department would love to see cell phone coverage in the area, especially since people can't even call 911.

"I wouldn't have the expertise to comment on the best location, but I would like to see cell phone service in that area to assist us in responses to emergency situations," Sheriff Lahti said.

Copper Harbor business owner Peg Kauppi, who is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said the Friends of Brockway Mountain have been doing research about alternatives to the Brockway Mountain location.

"There is no doubt that we need service because of the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the area. But our group feels strongly that there is a good way to do this and it doesn't involve destroying the view of Brockway," Kauppi said. "We're just heartsick that people would even CONSIDER desecrating Brockway."

Kauppi noted the mountain will stand in the way of the west side of the town of Copper Harbor.

This photo, taken from a lookout point on Brockway Mountain Drive, looking east, offers a view of the town of Copper Harbor, the harbor at left and Lake Fanny Hooe at right. The cell tower location would be about 3/4 of a mile west of this lookout point. (File photo by Keweenaw Now)

"From what we understand, the Brockway tower would not give coverage to the west end of the Harbor," Kauppi said. "We are looking into the probability that the police tower (at East Bluff) would."

Kauppi said the Friends of Brockway group heard from people with technical expertise that the State Police tower has better coverage for Copper Harbor than a tower on Brockway would have. She also noted another possibility is that a private land owner on East Bluff has said he would be willing to put a tower there.

"Our group is also interested in this as an alternative. We went to the (February) meeting with excitement that we could offer something besides our general disapproval of their (the County Board's) decision. We wanted to ask them if they could notify the cell tower people that they had other ideas."

Kauppi described that February meeting as a "surreal experience" watching people denied the right to comment on this issue.

"The chair actually used his gavel and said he didn't want any more dead bird stories. Our group made it clear we weren't interested in dead bird stories either and that we had new information that would possibly benefit the county/residents. Mr. Mooney told us very loud and clear that he wouldn't hear anything on the cell tower issue. I definitely intended to speak that night," Kauppi said. "This (lawsuit) is not about money -- we want no financial gain. We want acknowledgment that our rights were trampled and that this will not continue in the future."

County officials approved tower locations in December 2011

Keweenaw County Commissioner and Vice-Chair Don Piche said the reason people weren't allowed to comment on the tower issue at the February meeting is that it wasn't an issue at that meeting, since it had been voted on in December.***

"If you want to talk about something that's not going on at the meeting you have to put yourself on the agenda," Piche explained.

Although Board Chair Mooney said he would allow public comments on this issue at tonight's meeting, he noted the Board is going to adopt a change to the meeting bylaws to include the requirement of putting oneself on the agenda to comment on anything not pending before the Board.

Keweenaw County Clerk Julie Carlson explained people would have to request being on the agenda by the Friday preceding any Wednesday meeting.

Piche noted also that the residents and business owners in Grant Township had expressed much support for the cell phone tower and were "even in support of having it on Brockway."

County Commissioner Frank Stubenrauch said, speaking for himself and not for the County Board, that he would be willing to listen to alternatives to the Brockway site.

"I'm willing to listen to alternatives they have if there are any logical and affordable ones," Stubenrauch told Keweenaw Now recently. "No decision is 'inscribed in stone.'"

Stubenrauch (who was absent from the December 2011 meeting because of illness) noted the Board's position was that the County had followed procedures religiously, holding public hearings on the issue and following the zoning ordinance protocol.

Lawsuit claims Open Meetings Act violation

The lawsuit against the County Board, however, is only "an action to compel compliance and enjoin further noncompliance with the Michigan Open Meetings Act (OMA), MCL 15.261 et seq," according to their Complaint, which also states, "The defendant's refusal to allow plaintiffs to address the Board was in direct violation of Section 3 of the Open Meetings Act, MCL 15.263(5)."

The Complaint cites Section 3 of the OMA, which states, "A person shall be permitted to address a meeting of a public body under rules established and recorded by the public body. The legislature or a house of the legislature may provide by rule that the right to address may be limited to prescribed times at hearings and committee meetings only." [MCL 15.263(5)]****

The Complaint also states the following: "The only rule provided by the Board for such meetings is that citizens stand, state their name and limit their comments to three minutes. There is no restriction as to content and any such restriction would clearly violate Section 3 of the OMA."

According to Protzel, the Open Meetings Act does not allow a public body to restrict content in the way the Keweenaw County Board restricted it at its February meeting.

"As long as the content is germaine to the county, I think it should be allowed," Protzel said.

Another plaintiff in the lawsuit, Frank Fiala, agreed an issue doesn't have to be on the agenda to speak to it. He noted Chairman Mooney, at the February meeting, had asked Protzel the nature of his comment before he began to speak.

"Under the Public Meetings Act, the chairman cannot predetermine who is going to speak or what they're going to speak on," Fiala said. "We attended the Board of Commissioners meeting in February with the intent of expressing our views on the proposed location of the cell phone tower on Brockway Mountain," Fiala said. "The indication was clear by the demeanor of the chairman that he was not going to allow any comment whatsoever on that issue, and so therefore we all got up and left."

Fiala, a former Keweenaw National Historical Park superintendent, said he joined Friends of Brockway Mountain because of his interest in birds and also in the history of the area.

"I'm interested in watching the birds fly. I have a background in raptor research," Fiala said.

He also noted his concern about the historical importance of Brockway Mountain and its connection to the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, which is a historic resource since it was built by the WPA during the Depression years.

This photo, with a cell phone tower imposed, shows how the tower on Brockway would affect the view from U.S. 41 going into Copper Harbor from the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. (Photo courtesy Chris Schmidt) Click here to see a slide show with more photos of the Brockway viewshed vs. the proposed cell phone tower.

In this case the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has to approve the cell phone tower. Fiala said he doesn't think the consultants for the cell phone tower company, who are working with the county, are aware of the historical resources involved. Any time federal permits or funding are involved, the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process, which includes the State Historical Preservation Office, is involved. In this case, Michigan State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) Section 106 Consultation Guidelines for Cellular Communications Projects should be observed.

Section 106 states the following:

"While acknowledging that the APE (Area of Potential Effects) is dependent upon the circumstances of the project, the SHPO recommends the following APE boundaries for cellular communications projects in Michigan:
1. For construction of new towers or increasing the height of an existing tower (either through colocation or through an addition to the actual tower)
· 0.5 mile radius for structures up to 150 feet
· 1 mile radius for structures 151-250 feet
· 1.5 mile radius for structures 251-350 feet
· 2 mile radius for structures 351-450 feet
· Exceptionally tall towers (450 feet or more) will have an accordingly larger APE.
Topography, vegetation, non-historic development, and the character of any historic properties in the area can affect the size of the APE. Michigan has a fairly flat topography, making tall structures visible for a great distance. Structures placed on higher elevations will also have increased visibility. Such factors may justify increasing the APE regardless of tower height."*****

According to Protzel, "The first phase of the SHPO review in January has prompted the tower company to revise their initial plans of the 220 foot Brockway tower (with lights) to a 199 foot tower with no lights. Any tower under 200 feet is not required to have lighting per FCC regulations. That doesn't mean it won't have lights, but I believe they are scaling back the tower design, as the pressure mounts from various entities. I cannot confirm why the tower height was changed from 220 to 199, but I am inferring this from various conversations. While it is encouraging to see the wheels of analysis in motion beyond our local area, I hope that various historical and environmental reviews will find that the Brockway cell tower location is ultimately a poor location."

Protzel noted also this tower would be visible from the lake, lakeshore, Fort Wilkins, the Copper Harbor Lighthouse, and Brockway Mountain Drive. It would also loom over the newly acquired Hunter's Point (phase 2) land acquisition. (Click here for an aerial shot of that acquisition.)

Fiala added, "We're not against cell phone coverage in Copper Harbor, but it has to be done in a way that doesn't denigrate the natural environment."


* The minutes for the Board of Commissioners' Feb. 15, 2012, meeting state the following: "Time was allowed for public comment but the Board did not accept comment on the proposed cell phone tower as the decision was made at all local levels of government already and the issue was not up for discussion at this meeting nor was it on the agenda." Click here for those minutes.

** See House Bill 5342.

*** See the minutes of the Dec. 20, 2011, Keweenaw County Planning Commission public hearing and meeting for details on the towers (Brockway is one of three locations for cell phone towers). The minutes seem to indicate more supporters than opponents of the Brockway tower location. Both Ed Kisiel, Eagle Harbor Township Supervisor, and Evan McDonald, Keweenaw Land Trust executive director, spoke in opposition to the Brockway tower location. Three special use permits were approved for the towers, including the one at the Brockway location.

The Dec. 21 Keweenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting minutes record the Board's vote on the special use permits for the towers: "Motion by Mooney supported by Piche to follow the recommendation of the Planning Commission to approve the three Special Use Permits applied for by SBA Towers III, LLC for towers at the following locations: 14107 Brockway Mountain Drive, 12396 US 41 near Lake Medora and at 9779 US 41 near Delaware. Board polled. Ayes: Mooney, Piche, Rajala, Eckloff. Nayes: None. Motion carried." (Commissioner Frank Stubenrauch was absent from this meeting because of illness.)

At the Dec. 22, 2011, meeting of the Keweenaw County Zoning Board of Appeals, a public hearing was held to consider a request by SBA Towers III LLC and Verizon Wireless for a fall zone variance for the Brockway tower. Both Eagle Harbor Township Supervisor Ed Kisiel and Keweenaw Land Trust Executive Director Evan McDonald again expressed opposition. After a 3 - 2 vote approval of the variance by the ZBA, Kisiel asked to go on record as saying, "You are in violation of the ordinance article 19.2 a and b and 19.6 rules for granting a variance." (The Keweenaw County Zoning Ordinance is available on the Eagle Harbor Township Web site under Document Archive.)

**** Click here for text of the Michigan Open Meetings Act.

***** Click here for the Section 106 Guidelines.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Michigan LCV: What the U.P. Mining Boom Means for Michigan

Rio Tinto / Kennecott Eagle Mine near Big Bay, Mich. At right is Eagle Rock, a sacred Ojibwe site, under which the mining company is blasting an entry to the mine. (Photo © Jeremiah Eagle Eye and courtesy Reprinted with permission.)

By Michigan League of Conservation Voters
Posted April 16, 2012 on Michigan LCV "Political Week in Review"

The Great Lakes Echo had an article today on the resurgence of mining in the Upper Peninsula, detailing both the economic factors driving it and the environmental concerns over it. The Kennecott Eagle Rock mine is especially troublesome, creating numerous environmental concerns over its development. First, it will create a heavily-trafficked new road through "previously untouched forest and wetland areas," rather than using existing road. Second, it will be dug out right beneath the headwaters of the Salmon Trout River, the spawning grounds for the rare coaster brook trout. Finally, and perhaps most astonishing in its disregard to local tradition, the tunnel opening was literally blown out of a sacred Ojibwe spiritual site.*

As has happened before with sulfide mines across the country, the greatest fear is that sulfide waste may leak into the watershed or that the mine's roof could collapse underneath the river's headwaters.

Four groups are suing to stop the mine: the National Wildlife Federation, the Huron Mountain Club, the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. Their case was dismissed in November, but they appealed to the Court of Appeals in December. How courts interpret and apply Michigan environmental laws are central to how cases like these are decided. For that reason, we'll launch our new Green Gavels accountability tool in the next few weeks so that ordinary citizens can understand the impact that the Michigan Supreme Court -- whose decisions bind all other Michigan courts -- has on the ability of citizens to prevent environmental harm to our state.**

Holding our elected officials accountable on how well they protect our environment is what Michigan LCV does. For those who aren't as aware of the important work we do, though, please check out our cool new video. If you enjoy it as much as we do, please forward it to five friends. Share it on Facebook, Twitter, and Google. The more people that pitch in to let policy makers know they are being held accountable, the better we can all protect the places in Michigan that we all love. (Incidentally, the first fifteen seconds are on that very subject).***

* Read this article, "More U.P. mining in Michigan’s U.P. worries enviros," on the Great Lakes Echo.

** Read about Michigan LCV's Green Gavels.

*** Click here to see the Michigan LCV's new video on YouTube.

Click here to read more articles on the Michigan LCV's latest "Political Week in Review."

Editor's Note: Thanks to Michigan LCV's Ryan Werder for sharing these articles with Keweenaw Now.

Sen. Levin: Senate Floor Statement on the Paying a Fair Share Act

Posted April 16, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC -- Mr. President, one of the unfortunate characteristics of the American economy for the last few decades has been the rising gap between upper and middle-income Americans. Increasingly, those in the upper echelons of income and wealth have seen their fortunes rise, while the vast majority of Americans have coped with stagnant income and increasing insecurity. In recent decades, most families have had to cope with a reduced ability to afford the things middle-class Americans once took for granted -- a comfortable home, college educations for the kids, and a secure retirement. At the same time, incomes have risen remarkably for those at the very top of the income scale. Today, by some measures, income inequality is greater in our country than at any time since just before the Great Depression.

This should worry us all. It should worry us because a way of life has become endangered. That way of life -- one in which, if you work hard, play by the rules and plan for the future, you and your family will prosper -- came to be known as the "American way." But increasingly, the American way has been replaced by one in which the very wealthy do well while everyone else struggles. Instead of all boats rising together, it is the yachts that have risen -- good economy or bad -- while all the other boats have been stuck in place and taking on water.

Today we have a chance to begin the work of closing that income gap between the wealthiest Americans and the middle class. We can, by adopting this motion to proceed, begin the debate on how best to address the worrisome and growing gap. But that debate cannot begin unless our colleagues on the Republican side agree to allow it to begin....

Click here to read the rest of Sen. Levin's Senate Floor Statement.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Two Big Bay residents to address air quality concerns at Rio Tinto London meeting Apr. 19

BIG BAY, MICH. -- Two Upper Peninsula women are traveling to London, England, to attend the Rio Tinto Annual General Meeting taking place April 19, 2012.

Carla Champagne of the grassroots citizens group Concerned Citizens of Big Bay and Cynthia Pryor of the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve plan on attending the Rio Tinto AGM meeting for two reasons: 1) the lack of air monitors at or near Rio Tinto / Kennecott's Eagle Mine and 2) Rio Tinto / Kennecott's intention to remove air filter controls from the Main Vent Air Raise of the Eagle Mine.

"Air Quality is of prime importance to the people and community of Big Bay," states Carla Champagne. "We are directly downwind; and no one -- including Kennecott and the DEQ (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) -- knows what is currently in the air coming from this mine, or, even more importantly, what will be coming from the mine once they are in full operation. There are no air monitors either at the mine or anywhere near Big Bay. We will be asking the Rio Tinto Board of Directors and their shareholders for a comprehensive air quality program to be installed in the region -- a program that will be regulated by the DEQ, monitored by DEQ-approved third party scientists -- and all costs paid for by Kennecott."

Cynthia Pryor considers this meeting an opportunity to express outrage at Kennecott’s new Air Quality application to remove the air filter controls from the Main Vent Air Raise, which will be used as the only exhaust for all the underground mine workings of the Eagle Mine.

"This 65-foot high stack sits within 150 feet of the Salmon Trout River," Pryor said. "We worked hard to get the air filter included as part of Kennecott’s original Air Quality permit as they intended the mine exhaust to be vented directly to the air. Now, they are back pedaling and want this air filter to be removed. We are vehemently opposed to such a notion, and we wish to make this clear to the Rio Tinto Board."

Rio Tinto filed their new Air Quality permit March 20, 2012; and the DEQ Air Quality Division is currently evaluating it. Public hearings for this application have been requested for Big Bay and Lansing. The application is on the DEQ website at