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Saturday, July 14, 2012

KAIVAMA folk duo to perform at Algomah Acres Honey Farm July 16

KAIVAMA will perform folk music at Algomah Acres Honey Farm in Greenland Monday, July 16. (Photo courtesy Melissa Hronkin)

GREENLAND, Mich. -- Algomah Acres Honey Farm will host a concert by the folk duo KAIVAMA at 7 p.m. Monday, July 16, at 611 Plank Rd., Greenland, Mich. Tickets are $10 at the door; children under 12 free.

Finnish-American musicians Sara Pajunen and Jonathan Rundman of the folk duo KAIVAMA grew up in Northwoods cultures of long winters, lakeside saunas, rugged terrain, and solitude. The landscapes of their childhoods echo in the music of their new self-titled debut album, released June 7, 2011. Alternately ancient and modern Finnish influences reveal themselves in KAIVAMA's sound: danceable rhythms, joyous melodies, icy whispers, sleek construction, primal drones, and poppy hooks all interplay as Pajunen and Rundman explore the music of their ancestors.

Both were raised in Finnish-immigrant epicenters not far from the shores of Lake Superior. Pajunen’s hometown of Hibbing, Minn., and Rundman’s own Ishpeming, Mich., are famous for vast open-pit iron ore mines. The band’s name reflects this spirit of excavation. "Kaivama" is a Finnish word stemming from kaivaa: to delve or dig.


UPDATED: Celebrate Lake Superior Day: Listen, volunteer, enjoy the Lake!

EDITOR'S UPDATE:  Keweenaw Now received incorrect information on the date of the radio interview listed below. The broadcast of the interview was actually on Sunday, July 7 in preparation for Lake Superior Day. Click here for part 1 of the interview. Click here for part 2 of the interview described below.

HOUGHTON -- On Sunday, July 15, Lake Superior Day, listen to "Copper Country Today" Interview with Michigan Tech Scientists at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. -- a program on "Health of Lake Superior and the new Michigan Tech Great Lakes Research Center": 8 a.m.  Sunday on WCCY 1400 AM; 9 a.m. Sunday on WHKB 102.3FM.
Citizens and visitors are responsible for protecting and maintaining the beauty of Lake Superior's waters, shores and wildlife. Celebrate Lake Superior!

Michigan Tech scientists interviewed: Dr. Marty Auer, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Dr. Noel Urban, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Joan Chadde, Michigan Center for Science and Environmental Outreach.

Topics discussed:
1. How each is involved with Great Lakes or Lake Superior research and education
2. How do scientists assess the health of the Great Lakes? Describe what is sampled and why: oxygen, temperature, light penetration, benthic organisms, plankton.
3. Are all of the Great Lakes healthy?
4. Describe Michigan Tech's new Great Lakes Research Center -- How will it enhance Great Lakes research and education?
5. What can citizens do to protect the Great Lakes?

Lake Superior Day was established by the Lake Superior Binational Forum as an annual day all around the basin to celebrate our connections to the world's largest freshwater lake. Everyone is invited to do something special on (or near) Sunday, July 15, to connect to the natural and human environment in the watershed, such as:
  •   Clean up litter on a beach or pull invasive species.*
  •   Take a photograph of your favorite spot in the Lake Superior basin and email it to They'll share it on their Facebook pages and website.
  •   Attend a special event **
  •   Attend a special church service at a house of worship
  •   Fly a kite, which is a symbol of clean energy. Clean air means clean water.
  •   Bring educational materials to your family picnic, like the Forum's free paper placemat supported by a grant through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Forum members and volunteers have distributed almost 300,000 placemats to about 200 businesses all around the lake this year.
  •   Get on the water! Kayak, sail, canoe, motor boat, personal water craft--whatever vessel you prefer! Or swim in the lake!
Editor's Notes:
** Celebrate Lake Superior Day at Save the Wild UP's WATERPALOOZA in Marquette.
Visit the Lake Superior Binational Forum Web site to learn more about Lake Superior Day and their work.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Volunteers needed to pull invasive knapweed July 14, 18, 19

By Janet Marr, botanist

Janet Marr, left, and volunteers pull invasive knapweed from a hillside area near the breakwater at McLain State Park in July 2011. 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. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

CALUMET -- Volunteers are needed for the Second Annual Spotted Knapweed (SK) Pull anytime between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. TOMORROW, Saturday, July 14, at McLain State Park on the shores of beautiful Lake Superior.

Last summer a group of dedicated  SK pullers focused their removal efforts in one of McLain's low dune areas where SK is crowding out native species. This year we'll continue in the same spot and with persistence we are making a difference!

If you are interested in being a volunteer puller for an hour or two (or just want to observe techniques for removing this invasive species that you may be battling on your own property), please see details below and contact Janet Marr at  906-337-5529 or for more information. By the way, pulling knapweed out of the sands of McLain is sooooo easy compared to many other local sites with more compacted soils.

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)

 Location:  McLain State Park, half-way (more or less) between Calumet and Hancock on M-203; drive into park (tell folks at the park entrance that you're a knapweed pulling volunteer and you will not need to pay to enter the Park); hang a left and drive down to the end of the road (where the bathing beach is); park at the far end of the parking area to the left. It's only about a 1-2 minute walk to the pulling site. In case you're not able to get there right at 10 a.m. the area of the pull is to the left (west) of the swimming beach near the metal walls lining the canal.

Please bring:  garden gloves if you have a favorite pair (we'll have dollar store specials if you need a pair). Spotted knapweed has a substance that is an irritant and gloves, long sleeve shirts, and long pants should be worn. You might want to bring a hat/sunscreen, if it's a toasty/sunny day. Jumping in the Lake is always an option to cool off! By the way, the park store is now re-opened with Ice Cream....We'll have cold bottled water and goodies available free to pullers.

Tools:  We'll have an assortment of tools you may borrow (pulling works fine on many plants, but others will need a little nudge with a tool before pulling). Feel free to bring your favorite knapweed tackling tool as well. The smaller the blade the better (that'll help assure less disturbance to the ground and exposure of seeds from the seedbank).

PLEASE NOTE:  Spotted knapweed work days are also scheduled at Sand Point campground just north of Baraga on July 18 and 19 from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.  People are welcome to pull for an hour or two. Contact Evelyn or Karen at 906-524-5757 ext. 11 or 23 for more information before July 18 and call Karen at 201-1808 on July 18 and 19.

Habitat restoration at Sand Point in Baraga. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Be sure to visit the 35 acres of habitat restoration at the Sand Point stamp sand brownfield site where stamp sand has been capped and covered with plantings of nearly 50 species of native grasses, herbs, shrubs, and trees benefiting a variety of wildlife.

If you know of someone (or someones) who may be interested in joining in the fun at McLain State Park and/or Sand Point, please let them know the details.
The Backroom Boys will play a variety of dance tunes at the Copper Island Beach Club on Saturday, July 14. Musicians are, from left, standing, Oren Tikkanen, John Munson and Bob Norden and, seated, Randy Seppala. Not pictured is Belinda on Bass, who recently joined the group. (Photo courtesy Backroom Boys)

HANCOCK -- The Backroom Boys (with Belinda on Bass) will be playing old jazz and swing for your dancing and listening from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, July 14, at the Copper Island Beach Club (CIBC) down on the beautiful Hancock waterfront (bottom of Tezcuco Street).

"Captain Mary K., the skipper at CIBC, told us that if the weather was good, she would put us on the patio this time," says musician Oren Tikkanen. "Come on down for some good times!"

Editor's Note: And celebrate Bastille Day!

Candidate Scott Dianda to meet public at July 16 fundraiser reception in Houghton

CALUMET­ -- A fundraiser reception will be held for Scott Dianda, Democratic candidate for the Michigan House of Representatives 110th District seat from 4:30 p.m. until 7 p.m.on Monday, July 16, at the Shelden Grill, 820 Shelden Avenue, Houghton, MI. The event is open to the public with a suggested donation of $25.

A variety of hot and cold foods will be available with a cash bar. Persons planning to attend should RSVP by calling 906-228-8196 or by e-mailing

"I would like to invite friends, supporters and interested voters to come and visit with me about the issues of concern across the 110th District. My special thanks to the Houghton County Democratic Party for their endorsement," said Dianda.

Rhythm 203 to perform at "Music on the Menu" TODAY, July 13

Rhythm 203, from left, Sue Ellen Kingsley, Phyllis Fredendall and Norm Kendall will perform at "Music on the Menu" at noon TODAY, Friday, July 13, outside Portage Library. Here they are pictured at Churning Rapids on July 4, 2012. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library invites everyone to bring a lunch and enjoy "Music on the Menu," an outdoor series of events held on the dock outside the library.

Rhythm 203 will perform an eclectic mix of folk, country, bluegrass, pop, and blues from noon to 1 p.m. on Friday, July 13. Songs feature the three-part vocal harmonies of Sue Ellen Kingsley, Norm Kendall, and Phyllis Fredendall.

Everyone is invited to eat, relax, and enjoy the lunch hour while listening to some great music. In the event of bad weather, the program will be held in the community room.

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

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Gina Nicholas, Maria Sliva win Heart and Hands awards

HANCOCK -- The Heart and Hands of the Keweenaw Award went to two winners this year: Gina Nicholas received the adult award, and Maria Sliva won the youth award.

Gina Nicholas, right, and Maria Sliva display the Heart and Hands sculpture after their awards were announced at the Churning Rapids Horsetail Scramble July 4, 2012, event. At left is host Terry Kinzel, whose late parents' estate funds the annual award through the Heart and Hands Society, founded in 1998. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

The intent of the award is to provide recognition to a person who has given of her or his heart and hands in the service of peace, justice, or the environment -- a person who might otherwise not be recognized. The cash awards, thanks to a small endowment from the estate of Martha and Floyd Kinzel, are given to a local non-profit organization chosen by each winner.

Gina Nicholas: her gift of environmental stewardship

Gina Nicholas has had a significant impact on environmental stewardship in the Copper Country through both innovation and leadership of key area environmental organizations, including the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District, the Gratiot Lake Conservancy, Stewards of Bete Grise, and the management boards for both the Eagle River and the Pilgrim River watersheds.

After earning a degree in mathematics from the University of Denver and an MBA from Boston College (1980), Nicholas worked with business consulting firms in Chicago. In 1991 she founded her own business consulting firm -- Wildland Company, Inc. Beginning in 1997, she concurrently entered the field of land management with the Nicholas North Company that held orchards, cash grain, timber and vacant land in the Midwest.

Since migrating to her hereditary Lizzadro family roots in the Keweenaw, Nicholas has applied her valuable business consultant skills to local environmental needs on a pro bono basis.

Gina Nicholas and Chuck Brumleve, both residents of Bete Grise, pull invasive spotted knapweed plants along the Gay-Lac LaBelle Road at the Bete Grise Preserve in September 2011. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

In 1997 she helped to found the Gratiot Lake Conservancy that she served as secretary-treasurer and as a volunteer manager for forestry, natural science and historic preservation projects near Gratiot Lake. From 2003 until present she has been a board member of the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District, serving as its chairperson since 2008, working with other local environmental groups to help create the 1,800-acre Bete Grise Preserve, the Brockway Mountain overlook, the Pilgrim River Watershed Management Plan, stamp sand stabilization projects at the former Central and Cliff Mine sites, monitoring of the emerald ash borer, and removal of invasive species. She worked with her family to establish the Lizzadro Preserves in Keweenaw County.

Also in 2003, Nicholas founded the non-profit Keweenaw Community Forest Company (KCFC) that she serves as CEO and President. KCFC conducts sustainable forestry management and research, sponsors graduate and undergraduate research projects with Michigan Tech, and manages more than 4,000 acres of forestlands for timber, conservation and recreation. These efforts were honored by the MTU School of Forestry and Environmental Science with its 2010 Honor Academy.

Maria Sliva: Making a difference in the lives of others

Maria Sliva, winner of the Heart and Hands of the Keweenaw Youth Award, is a student at Houghton High School. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Maria Sliva will be senior at Houghton High School next year, but she has been working since she was a young girl on a project of her own invention to help women and families lift themselves from unimaginable poverty and deprivation. Maria began visiting Reynosa, Mexico, across the border from McAllen, Texas when she was in 4th grade, on mission trips with her parents, Dennis and Mikki Sliva and older brother Tim. The Sliva's went to one of Reynosa's extremely poor colonias (neighborhoods) to help Copper Country residents Alice and Eldon Kinnunen with their Friends of Christ mission to build houses and donate food, furniture, clothing and bicycles to the residents.

When Maria was in 6th grade, she made friends with Mexican girls by showing them how to weave friendship bracelets. The next year, Maria talked to Alice and together they made plans to bring more supplies for bracelets and teach high school girls to make them. Maria taught the girls while using the little Spanish she knew, and soon they were busy making hundreds of bracelets. Maria brought them back to Houghton and sold them to friends and at her family's stores. She sent all the money with Alice and Eldon back to help families in the Colonia.

But Maria decided of her own accord that what these families needed most was self-reliance and skills that could help them provide for their children. So Maria brought more materials each year for bracelets, and taught more women to make paper beads cut from rolled up newspaper that could be fashioned into necklaces and sold in the States. More than $3,000 has gone from Maria to the women of the colonia over the past few years, with some women making several hundred dollars a year. One of Maria's Mexican friends was able to complete high school by paying the tuition with her earnings from the crafts and now aspires to be the first person from the colonia to attend college.

Maria has not been able to visit Reynosa for two years due to the violence of narco-trafficking along the Texas-Mexico border; but, as she sells the handmade items in the Keweenaw, she tells the story of the poverty of Mexico through her words, photos and videos and explains how a few dollars from this country can have a big impact on people living in such hardship. 

Maria has also taken initiative here at home to help others. Since she was 11 years old, Maria has been presenting story-time programs to young children at the Portage Lake District Library -- selecting the books, themes and crafts, planning everything by herself. Maria is a special young person who looks beyond herself and thinks about how she can make a difference for others.

Editor's Note: Visit the Heart and Hands Web site to learn more about winners of the award and other nominees.

Stand for the Land: Kennecott haul road decision postponed

From Stand for the Land
Posted July 12, 2012

MARQUETTE -- The Marquette County Road Commission (MCRC), taking advantage of a new law that requires the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to extend a permit processing period at the request of the applicant, has set a decision deadline for October 1 of this year.*  If desired, the Road Commission may extend the time frame for review of the CR 595/haul road proposal to a year from the date the DEQ deemed the application to be administratively complete, which would be mid-January, 2013.

Although Engineer-Manager Jim Iwanicki of the MCRC has said there is no agreement with Rio Tinto for funding construction of CR 595, Eagle Mine president Adam Burley stated in an April 2011 letter that they wished to amend their agreement with the Road Commission by committing to pay for 595, adding that they would reconsider if construction had not commenced prior to May 2013.  Since there are no other identified funding sources, lack of support from Rio Tinto would leave the County with a $60-$80 million dollar tab that they couldn’t pay, effectively tabling the project. ...  Click here to read the complete article by Catherine Parker. 

* Click here to read about this new law.

Celebrate Lake Superior Day July 15 at Save the Wild UP's WATERPALOOZA

MARQUETTE -- Save the Wild UP (SWUP) is celebrating Lake Superior Day with a WATERPALOOZA Water Festival from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday, July 15, at Mattson Lower Harbor Park in Marquette. Enjoy food, live music and water-related activities while learning the importance of protecting our most beautiful and vital natural resource.

This community water celebration is designed to engage folks in the stewardship of the Great Lakes, the global freshwater crisis and the cultivation of a vibrant and sustainable local culture. This family-oriented, community-centered program will feature Michigan musicians, food and beverages, workshops, visual art, children’s activities (including a WATERSLIDE), as well as connections to campaigns and projects protecting our water locally and/or addressing global water challenges.

Artist Rosa Musket of Save the Wild UP enjoys a Marquette view of Lake Superior. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Vendors interested in tabling their water-related information or activities can contact the SWUP office by calling 906-228-4444. A generous space is available for $20 per vendor.

Volunteers are needed to help with booths. If you can volunteer for a few hours, please call 906-228-4444 or e-mail

Save the Wild UP welcomes office manager/outreach coordinator Heidi Gould, working to continue SWUP’s mission of public awareness and education to protect the Upper Peninsula from unsustainable development, degradation and dangerous contamination.

Office hours are posted for Tuesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Visit Heidi in the little green office at  413 N. Third Street, or visit

UPDATED: Trae McMaken, -- fiddler, singer, storyteller -- to perform in Chassell July 12

CHASSELL -- Trae McMaken will perform in concert at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 12, at the Chassell Heritage Center (2nd Street, Chassell) offering songs, fiddle tunes and stories highlighting our area’s French-Canadian heritage, featuring Oren Tikkanen on guitar.

Free – Donations Appreciated!

Beaver Island News on the 'Net says:
- "Trae McMaken astounded the audience."
- "A terrific fiddler and singer he definitely is!"

For more information, contact Dave Bezotte at or 482-4956.

UPDATE: Fiddling and Storytelling Workshops by Trae McMaken July 13 at the Chassell Heritage Center

Fiddling: 11 a.m. - Noon, $10 -- The workshop will cover 1-3 French Canadian tunes along with ornamentation, bowings, and other stylistics of French Canadian and Québécois fiddling. Important aspects of French fiddling include crooked tunes, lifting and bouncing the bow, ways of bowing triplets, and more. Discussion of podorhythmie (foot percussion) can also be included if students desire.

Storytelling: 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m., $20 -- Want to learn how to tell historical, personal, or traditional stories? Taking a storytelling workshop could help improve your ability to communicate through storytelling whether you are a performer, an educator, a counselor, a pastor, or simply like to share life with others. This two-hour workshop will focus on simple, straightforward ways to tell stories more effectively and provide a chance for practice and reflection. Preregistration is not required. For more information, contact Dave Bezotte at 482-4956 or

Having grown up on the Michigan-Ontario border, Trae imbibed varied styles of fiddle playing including Irish, Scottish, Québécois, Ontario Old Time, and Michigan Old Time.  As a storyteller, Trae's conversational style brings a depth and appreciation to musical performance or can stand alone as an entertaining and educational experience of the old art of the raconteur.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sondheim’s "A Little Night Music" concludes Pine Mountain Music Festival’s 22nd Season

Guest artists for A Little Night Music are, from left, Lucy Thrasher as Desiree Armfeldt, Paul Truckey as Fredrick, and Luretta Bybee as Madame Armfeldt. (Photos courtesy Pine Mountain Music Festival)

HANCOCK -- Stephen Sondheim’s enduring and touching musical theatre masterpiece, A Little Night Music, will be concluding Pine Mountain Music Festival’s 22nd season at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 13, and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, July 15, at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts in Houghton. There is also a reception before both performances -- at 6:30 p.m. July 13 and at 2 p.m. July 15 in the gallery of the Rozsa Center, where wine, cheese, and sweets will be served.

A Little Night Music continues where Così fan tutte left off. With a sweeping, lush score ("Send in the Clowns," "A Weekend in the Country") and a plot that cleverly weaves together stories of love, intrigue, and heartache, Sondheim continues our exploration of love. Based on Ingmar Bergman's film Smiles of a Summer Night, A Little Night Music is set in a weekend country house in turn-of-the-century Sweden. This witty and romantic story with music set in 3/4 time is the perfect midsummer musical. A middle-aged lawyer, an 18-year-old bride, a sardonic old woman, the somber brooding son of the middle-aged lawyer, a former actress lover, the military lover of the former actress lover, the manic depressive wife of the military lover of the former actress lover, and a maid all end up spending a weekend together in a country estate. Wit, romance, heartache, and, finally, reconciliation ensue.

Featured guest artists are internationally known singer Luretta Bybee as Madame Armfeldt; Festival Resident Opera Artist Director Lucy Thrasher as Desiree Armfeldt; and Marquette’s own Paul Truckey as Fredrick. Also performing are the Festival’s six Resident Opera Artists who will be joined by three more.

Tickets for A Little Night Music are $20, $30, and $40; students and children are $10 and $15. Visit Michigan Tech Ticketing Services (Michigan Tech Student Development Complex) or call 877-746-3999. Tickets are also available at the door. Tickets for the reception are $15.

This production is supported by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.

MIchigan League of Conservation Voters: Political Week in Review

From Michigan League of Conservation Voters:
Posted July 9, 2012

530,000. That is the amount of signatures submitted to state election officials on Friday to place the 25 percent by 2025 Renewable Energy Standard on the November ballot. The public support for this initiative is so overwhelming, the campaign blew past the required 322,000 signatures. This means we are now entering the next phase of the campaign. Brace yourselves, because the momentum will only continue to build from here!

Click here to read more in the Michigan League of Conservation Voters Political Week in Review.

Dance Zone in Marquette offers July dance activities

MARQUETTE -- The Dance Zone in Marquette is offering a variety of dance activity in the next few weeks.

Basic Ballroom Dance Lessons continue at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays -- July 12, 19 and August 2. This is a good chance to hone your basic skills in the slower dances, mainly waltz and foxtrot. The group may move on to other styles depending on the skills of the students in the class.  $20 per couple for the entire class.

ZUMBA, the Latin exercise routine that really gets you moving -- 6 p.m. - 6:45 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Looking forward:  Blueberry Dance Festival July 24-28, with Blue Champagne playing a dance on Saturday, July 28.

The Dance Zone is at 1113 Lincoln Avenue (Corner of Lincoln and College Avenues) in Marquette. Call 906-236-1457 or for more information.

See also for more details.

Please bring clean shoes to protect the dance floor.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Portage Library Wellness Series to feature self-help massage techniques July 12

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library will host its monthly program in the Natural Health and Wellness series from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 12.

Professional Massage Therapist Angel Janssen will present "Self Help Massage Class or Fun with Pool Noodles." Participants will learn simple techniques to reduce pain, speed healing, and increase flexibility. These techniques can be done on the floor or on a bed. For this class participants will be working on the floor. Those who are unable to do this can watch and learn what to do at home.

Everyone is asked to bring a pool noodle and a yoga mat or blanket to lie on and wear comfortable clothes. The pool noodle will be cut and two people can use it.

Janssen is a licensed and nationally certified massage therapist in practice for over 20 years in Wisconsin, Arizona, and Michigan. She is a master level LaStone Therapist, a Reflexologist, and a 2nd Degree Reiki Practitioner. The focus of her massage practice is health maintenance, stress reduction, and pain relief with advanced training in aromatherapy, massage for people living with cancer, as well as massage for the medically frail. Janssen is the proprietor of Synergy Massage and Wellness.

The Natural Health and Wellness series is held on the second Thursday of each month. All library programs are free, and everyone is welcome. For more information, please call the library at 482-4570 or visit

MDEQ public hearing on Orvana Copperwood mine: Part 2

By Michele Bourdieu

At the June 28, 2012, public hearing comment session on air and water quality permits for the Orvana Resources Copperwood mining project, Steve Casey, right, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Water Resources Division district supervisor of the Upper Peninsula District Office, invites members of the audience to present their comments for the record. Seated with Casey are, from left, Vince Hellwig, MDEQ Air Quality Division decision maker for the Part 55 permit, and James Caron, Water Resources Division decision maker for the Parts 301 and 303 permit. The hearing was held at Gogebic Community College in Ironwood. (Photos by Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated.)

IRONWOOD, MICH. -- Statements of support from several local officials and local residents for Orvana Resources' Copperwood mining project (for a copper and silver mine located very close to Lake Superior in Gogebic County) dominated the officially recorded portion of the June 28, 2012, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality hearing on the company's air and water quality permit application. However, some local residents and members of environmental groups continued to challenge the company's plan to store tailings (mining waste) 14 storeys above ground rather than following the industry best practice of backfilling the tailings (returning them to the mine openings). Their concerns also included an eagle's nest near Lake Superior, about a half mile from the mine site, and the nearly 60 acres of wetlands and approximately 13,672 feet of streams to be impacted by the project.

During a break between the question-answer session and the formal hearing for recorded public comments, MDEQ's Steve Casey, right, chats with Margaret Comfort of Save the Wild UP, left, and Rich Sloat of Iron County, Mich., about their environmental concerns. MDEQ staff were available for individual questions outside the formal hearing.* (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

In addition, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), in a letter to the MDEQ, is submitting a list of concerns about the potential copper and silver mine's impacts on the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, whose west entrance, along with the Presque Isle River and its mouth at Lake Superior, are located very close to the mine site. The projected tailings pile may also be a concern for the view shed from the Park.

Following an unofficial question-answer period, a larger crowd filled the Gogebic Community College gymnasium in Ironwood for the recorded comment portion of the hearing. Questions were not answered formally during this portion, but MDEQ staff could be requested to answer questions outside the hearing room. *

A large crowd filled the gymnasium at Gogebic Community College on June 28, 2012, for the public comment portion of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality public hearing on air and water quality permits for Orvana Resources' Copperwood mining project. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Steve Casey, MDEQ Water Resources Division district supervisor of the Upper Peninsula District Office, opened this part of the hearing with a review of the information about the project being considered under Parts 55 (air quality), 301 (inland lakes and streams) and 303 (wetlands) of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451 as amended, as stated in the MDEQ public notices on the Orvana permit application. In his introduction, he noted especially that the MDEQ decision is not to be based on whether there is widespread support for or opposition to the project, but on whether it meets the standards required by the statutes.

Steve Casey announces the purpose of the recorded, comment part of the June 28, 2012, MDEQ hearing on the Part 55 (air quality) permit and the Part 301 (inland lakes and streams) and Part 303 (wetlands) permit for Orvana Resources' Copperwood mining project. This is an excerpt from Casey's introduction. Click here to watch a a longer version (about 4 and a half minutes) of his introduction. (Video clips by Keweenaw Now)

The project, located northwest of Camp 7 Grade and County Road 519, will include an access road, mine entrance, mill, tailings basin and related structures.

As stated in the MDEQ Public Notice of May 18, 2012, "The mine will be a room and pillar mine with material being removed using the drill and blast mining method. Ore will be processed on site before being sent off site for smelting. Tailings will be disposed on site and aboveground."**

MDNR cites concerns about impacts to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

The project location is directly to the west and southwest of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park -- a prime Upper Peninsula tourist attraction offering waterfalls, camping, hiking, boating, fishing, both downhill and cross country skiing, spectacular views of the landscape and Lake Superior -- and more. It is Michigan's largest state park (nearly 60,000 acres) and one of the largest wilderness areas in the Midwest.

The Lake of the Clouds -- one of the most scenic views in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. The view to the right of the photo (west and south) could be impeded by the proposed 14-storey-high tailings pile. According to Orvana's Alternative Analysis in their permit application, the Tailings Disposal Facility (TDF) and mill site will not be visible from this overlook, but a small clearing and the tops of the TDF dikes may be visible above the trees. Park aesthetics is one of the concerns mentioned by DNR staff in their communication with the DEQ. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

"The Park has been working with the DEQ to address some of the Park's concerns," Debbie Munson Badini, Michigan Department of Natural Resources deputy public information officer (Marquette office), told Keweenaw Now in a recent telephone interview. "At this point it seems most of those concerns (of the Parks and Recreation Commission and Park staff) have been addressed in the way the permits are written for the mine, and we'll continue to work with the DEQ on any concerns that we have."

Munson Badini outlined those concerns as follows:
  • the aesthetics of the Park
  • potential light pollution from the mine
  • potential noise pollution
  • potential impacts to water quality and quantity
The Presque Isle River heads over Manabezho Falls on its way to Lake Superior -- on the west side of Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, very near the Orvana mine site to the west.

"Part of the formal process is that we detail these concerns in writing so that they're entered as part of the official record," she said.

The DNR comments are not part of the public comment process but are written in an official letter through an inter-agency process. Munson Badini said she expected the letter to be completed and sent to the DEQ in the next week.

Margaret Comfort of Save the Wild UP, who recently visited the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and hiked near the the mouth of the Presque Isle River and Lake Superior, spoke at the hearing about her own experience growing up downstate in a community affected by water pollution and her concerns about Upper Peninsula water resources. She describes her experience seeing an eagle's nest and a family of eagles (near Presque Isle campground) a half mile from Namebinag Creek -- which is the proposed wastewater outlet for the Orvana Copperwood mine.

During the comment portion of the June 28, 2012, MDEQ public hearing on the Orvana Copperwood mining project, Margaret Comfort of Save the Wild UP speaks about seeing an eagle's nest and some members of the eagle family while she was hiking near the mouth of the Presque Isle River, not far from the proposed mine site. After the hearing Comfort said she learned the actual distance of the nest from the proposed Copperwood mine site is about a half mile. 

This photo shows the eagle's nest observed recently near Namebinag Creek -- which is the proposed wastewater outlet for the Orvana Copperwood mine. (Photo © and courtesy Margaret Comfort)

Copperwood project supported, challenged at hearing

One of the first comments at the hearing was from Jeff King of King and McGregor Environmental, the agent for Orvana's application for the Parts 301 and 303 permit. In this video clip, Jeff King's statements on wetland mitigation are challenged by local resident Rich Sloat, who says, "You can't create wetlands ..."

Jeff King of King and McGregor Environmental, agent for Orvana, speaks about mitigation to restore or replace the nearly 60 acres of wetland to be impacted by the project. Rich Sloat, Iron County resident, challenges the idea of "creating" wetlands and speaks about the public's right to clean water.

Michelle Halley, attorney for the National Wildlife Federation, also commented on negative impacts to streams and wetlands, noting the proposed mine also needs to meet federal standards. She notes the Tailings Disposal Facility (TDF) could be made to have a smaller footprint and offers evidence that Orvana has not done enough study on the possibility of backfilling the mine according to present industry standards.

Michelle Halley, National Wildlife Federation attorney, comments on water issues and the Tailings Disposal Facility in Orvana's permit application.

A representative of Golder Associates, the agent for Orvana's water treatment permit and the designer of their water treatment plant for the Copperwood site, expressed confidence in Orvana's commitment to regulatory compliance. He noted recycling of water would reduce discharges and reverse osmosis would help them meet mercury limitations. (Click here for the video of his comments.)

Michael Besonen, a local resident who lives very near the border of Wisconsin, said he is 100 percent in favor of the Copperwood mine. He was in agreement with some signs residents displayed at the meeting to express their opposition to Native Americans not in favor of the mine.

"I'm saying if there's going to be no mine, then there should be no casino," explained Besonen, who identified himself as a Tea Party member.

He said some residents plan to boycott Native-American-owned casinos if the tribes oppose the mine.

"We have natural resources we are not taking advantage of," Besonen said.

Butch Stone of the Bad River Tribe spoke about the 1854 treaty that gave the Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) people the right to hunt, fish and gather on ceded territory (which includes the land where the mine is proposed to be built.)

"My concern is about the impacts of the mine on wildlife, plant life and water," Stone said. "Who's going to be responsible for the collateral damage?" (Click here for a video clip with Stone's comments.)

Jessica Koski, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) mining technical assistant, said KBIC's primary concern is the Tailings Disposal Facility and its potential impacts to streams, wetlands and Lake Superior -- impacts that could be avoided by backfilling the tailings according to widespread industry standards.

Jessica Koski, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community mining technical assistant, comments on the need to avoid potential environmental impacts, such as the current plan for the Tailings Disposal Facility, and on the need for long-term jobs for the community rather than short-term mining jobs.

Koski and Chuck Brumleve, KBIC's environmental mining specialist, sent formal comments on Copperwood's impacts on wetlands (Part 303) and streams (Part 301) to the MDEQ on July 8, 2012. Here is an excerpt from that KBIC Mining Technical Review Team letter:

"We believe that the proposed permanent surface disposal of approximately 32.2 million tons of mine tailings on site would lead to unacceptable destruction and degradation of water and aquatic resources:
  • The TDF's footprint would equal 346 acres.
  • It would directly fill in about 52 acres of wetland, making up almost 90 percent of the total wetland impact associated with the project.
  • It would directly fill in approximately 13,672 feet of streams -- an increase of 5,672 feet from Orvana's original mine permit application.
  • It would be located only about one and a half miles from Lake Superior.
  • It would pose a significant long-term perpetual care risk to area streams and wetlands, and Lake Superior.
"The TDF is predicted to release between 24-62 million gallons of leachate into the environment per year. Much of this excess tailings water is likely to migrate to the northwest corner, the lowest point of the TDF called the 'decant sump.' The tailings leachate -- consisting of heavy metals and other contaminants including sulfate, arsenic, cadmium, copper, iron, lead, mercury, selenium, and zinc -- is predicted by Orvana to exceed water quality standards without treatment. After mining ceases and the Waste Water Treatment Plant is decommissioned, these heavy metals and other contaminants may leach into area soils, creeks and waters of Lake Superior."***

Map of proposed Copperwood Project
Map of the proposed Orvana mine, from their permit application. (Map courtesy Jessica Koski)

After the hearing, Koski gave Keweenaw Now her impressions of the comments from the audience.

"Essentially, my observation, based on the most recent Orvana hearing, is that the local people are very hopeful and trusting," Koski wrote in a recent email. "Hopeful for an economic boom to bring their young ones back home. Wholeheartedly trusting that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will do its job to protect their health and environment. However, so many of the individuals and local community leaders who spoke at the hearing seemed uninformed of the project beyond promises made to them directly by the mining company. In my opinion, the majority of the local community is oppressed in a way that they may not realize. They are caught in a framework in which they believe they are dependent upon an outside foreign company and the exploitation of their resources as the only way to save their community and provide job opportunities. The Copperwood project proposes an estimated 13-year mine life. The impacts to the environment, other pillars of sustainable economic development, and the next generation of grandchildren may last much longer into the future."

Steve Garske of Marenisco, Mich., also commented on the TDF, noting Orvana should be able to do it right, i.e., backfill the tailings. He also noted if the tailings were backfilled and not stored on land, that piece of land could then probably be restored to a forest. (See video clips of his questions on the tailings in our Part 1 article.)*

Comments from local government representatives at the hearing were very supportive of the Orvana Copperwood project but lacked any specific mention of environmental concerns related to either the air quality or the water quality statutes. An example is the full endorsement of the project by John Cox, Wakefield Township supervisor, who  expressed full confidence in Orvana to produce an environmentally sound project, including a water treatment plant, a supply of water to local communities, and copper that could be used for a future wind energy project.

Wakefield Township Supervisor John Cox, accompanied by two of his township trustees and the township clerk, expresses full confidence in Orvana's Copperwood project and the company's promises to protect the environment. 

Randy Scott, engineer for the Gogebic Range Water Authority, spoke about the need for jobs in the local communities, echoing a belief expressed by several residents that the Copperwood mine will help fill that need.

"This is a big deal for this community," Scott said. "There's been a recession (here) since I was a kid in the '50s."

Randy Scott, engineer for the Gogebic Range Water Authority, speaks about the need for jobs in the local community and expresses support for the Orvana Copperwood mine.

Scott told Keweenaw Now that the Gogebic Range Water Authority will be withdrawing 5.5 million gallons of water a day from Lake Superior to supply several communities and the mine. Orvana will use 500,000 gallons of that total per day for the mine. It will supply the cities of Wakefield and Bessemer and the townships of Ironwood, Bessemer and Wakefield, he added. Click here for a video clip with Scott's comments.

Jean Verbos, Gogebic Range Water Authority administrator, said the Authority has received a withdrawal permit to take the water out of Lake Superior.

John Garske, president of Coleman Engineering, expressed his company's support for Orvana and confidence in their environmental practices. He also noted appreciation for Orvana's funding of local events and hiring local businesses. Click here for a video clip with Garske's comments.

Toward the end of the hearing, two local residents expressed different perspectives on the project. The audience applauded for one speaker despite the MDEQ officials' request that they not do so during the meeting.

John Runtamaki comments on why he believes the local residents who support Orvana care about the environment. Rich Sloat gives some reasons to look more carefully at the long-term economic effects and the cost of cleanup after mining.

Jim Caron, MDEQ decision maker for the Parts 301 inland lakes and streams and 303 wetlands permit, told Keweenaw Now Orvana's application includes a two-to-one wetland mitigation plan. He noted many of the wetlands are in relatively close proximity to the Tailings Disposal Facility.

"At this point we've got to be objective, just collecting the information," Caron said.

Editor's Notes:
* This is the second of a two-article series on the June 28, 2012, MDEQ public hearing. Click here to read Part 1: "MDEQ hearing on Orvana Copperwood air, water quality permits: Part 1, Questions."

** Click here to read the Public Notice listing stream and wetland impacts of the Copperwood project.

*** Click here to read the letter from KBIC's Mining Technical Review Team on the stream and wetland impacts of the proposed Orvana Copperwood project.

See other video clips of comments from the June 28, 2012, hearing by visiting our Keweenaw News YouTube channel.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Portage Library to host property tax seminar, visit by Gov. Snyder reps July 11

HOUGHTON -- Portage Lake District Library will host two events on Wednesday, July 11: a free property tax seminar and a question-answer session with representatives from Gov. Rick Snyder's office.

A free seminar about new property tax laws will be offered from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the library.

Robert C. Anderson and Stewart R. Hakola of the Elder Law Firm of Anderson Associates, P.C., in Marquette will present three new changes to property tax laws in Michigan. They will discuss 1) the state’s new Estate Recovery program, which targets the homes of nursing home patients who have passed away, 2) the state’s new policy targeting jointly-owned camps, cottages, and recreational land, and 3) the Michigan Supreme Court’s newly established opportunity to pass real estate on to your loved ones without uncapping the property taxes.

This seminar is free and open to all. For more information please call the library at 482-4570 or visit

From 3:15 p.m. to 5 p.m. representatives from Governor Rick Snyder’s office will answer questions and take comments from the public at the library. Everyone is welcome.

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

Portage Library Isle Royale for Kids series to feature loons July 10

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library will host Isle Royale National Park rangers Katie Donovan and Lori Honrath as they continue their summer series of weekly naturalist programs for children.

From 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, July 10, kids will learn about loons and their songs. Participants will watch a slide show of loons on Isle Royale, and they will listen to recordings of loon calls. Kids will also hear a story, do a craft, and learn what they can do to protect Michigan loons and their habitat.

The Isle Royale for Kids summer series is suitable for children of all ages.

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

Keweenaw Heritage Center Musical Monday series to host Finn Fest 2013 preview TONIGHT

CALUMET -- The Keweenaw Heritage Center at St. Anne's will host a preview of Finn Fest 2013 at 7 p.m. TONIGHT, July 9, as part of their Musical Mondays series.
The evening will include the following:
  • A Finnish dance performance by the children's "Kivajat Dancers" group
  • Musical selections by Kantele Ensemble "Ilon Kaiku."
  • Finnish comedy with the Nyt Naura sisters
  • More Finnish tunes with Bill White on accordion and Randy Seppala on bones/spoons.
  • Finnish bakery for sale, as well as Finn Fest 2013 merchandise
Hilary Virtanen will share information update on Finn Fest 2013 and all the exciting events being planned.