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, March 23, 2013

Energy Committee approves Levin-Stabenow bill to preserve 32,000 acres of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Michigan's Sleeping Bear Dunes. (Photo courtesy Sen. Carl Levin's office)

WASHINGTON -- Legislation authored by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and co-sponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., to preserve more than 32,000 acres of Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as wilderness, while providing important access to the lakeshore’s recreational opportunities and cultural resources, achieved an important milestone recently with its unanimous approval by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Introduced in January, the legislation was referred to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee for action. Stabenow, a member of the committee, led the effort to get the committee to consider and pass the bill.

"The lakeshore celebrates nature’s wonders -- the magnificent sand dunes, sweeping vistas, fantastic beaches, and peaceful woodlands and pastures," Levin said. "This bill is vital for protecting natural areas while enabling important access to recreational and cultural resources. I am encouraged the Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved this legislation early this Congress and I hope for swift passage in the Senate."

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., participates in a groundbreaking ceremony for the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, Aug. 12, 2011. (Photo courtesy Sen. Carl Levin's office)*

"Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of the most beautiful places in America, and we must ensure it stays that way," said Stabenow. "Every year, the park attracts 1.2 million hikers, hunters, fishermen, birdwatchers, and other visitors. With the designation of this wilderness land, we are preserving access to the sights, sounds and beauty of the Lakeshore while promoting one of our state's top tourist attractions."

The legislation culminated 13 years of efforts by the local community, the National Park Service and Congress to update the lakeshore’s general management plan and protect the park’s unique natural habitat from harmful development while enabling public access to its beaches, trails and streams. Most of these areas have been managed as wilderness since 1982 when Congress passed a law that required the National Park Service to manage them as such until Congress acts upon a new recommendation.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act was the product of an extensive public engagement process to redefine the areas managed as wilderness within the 71,000-acre lakeshore. The plan reflects a balanced approach to conservation, recreation, and historic preservation; and it has the support of community groups, local government agencies, the National Park Service and environmental and historical preservation groups.

Under the legislation, areas designated as wilderness are undeveloped and possess significant and valuable natural characteristics. Developed county roads and state highways, boat launches and many historical structures are excluded from the wilderness designation to maintain access and recreational opportunities and ensure preservation and interpretation of historical resources.  Hunting, fishing, trail use and camping would continue. Motor boats would still be allowed offshore of the dunes, and allowed to beach in areas adjacent to the wilderness area.

Similar legislation introduced by Levin and co-sponsored by Stabenow in 2011 passed the Senate in December 2012, but the House of Representatives did not take action on the bill.

* Click here to read about the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail.

Algomah Acres Honey House to host "Cabin Fever Concert" Mar. 23

GREENLAND, MICH. -- Algomah Acres Honey House will host its inaugural "Cabin Fever Concert" at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 23, in Greenland, Mich. The featured performers are known as "The Terminal Orchestra."

The Terminal Orchestra will perform TONIGHT, Saturday, Mar. 23, at Algomah Acres Honey House in Greenland, Mich. (Photo courtesy Algomah Acres Honey House)

Conceived in in the Marquette area, with its lush forests, slower-paced lifestyle and noncompetitive atmosphere, composer Jesse DeCaire and The Terminal Orchestra began writing in 2005. What started as a studio outlet for making pastoral movie soundtrack music (for movies that haven’t been made yet) has since ballooned into a live, performing thirteen piece ensemble. Complete with strings and percussion, Jesse DeCaire and The Terminal Orchestra have as much in common with contemporary composers/performers such as Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, Dirty Three and William Basinski as they do with Ennio Morricone and Igor Stravinsky. Their album The Seasons is as chilling and eerie as it is uplifting and triumphant. It was released 22 February 2011. Jay DeHut, formerly of
Ontonagon, is also part of the ensemble.

Two other bands from the Marquette area will be opening the show. The Door Cats are a trio led by Kerry Yost on vocals and guitar. They weave intricate harmonies and perform original songs written by Yost, as well as classic and contemporary folk/alternative music. Yost is accompanied by Rebecca Rucinski on cello, vocals, and guitar, and Marcella Krupski on vocals and auxiliary percussion.

Sycamore Smith is the stage name of Marc Smith, a musician from Marquette, Mich. Smith, formerly of The Muldoons, has toured the United States with his comic brand of folk music, complete with derby hat, guitar, and gold-plated resonator kazoo. Smith has built a reputation as an accomplished lyricist. He writes folk songs in an old-fashioned, vaudevillian rural style -- songs about heroes and swindlers where characters including Wolfskin Rosie, Legless Paul, and Bobo have adventures that are at times triumphant and other times melancholic.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and general admission is $5 per person. The former Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic church also houses the Algomah Meadery, a small winery producing honey wines by beekeepers John Hersman and Melissa Hronkin. Sampling of the honey wines will also take place before and during the concert.

The next Honey House event will be "Arts and Starts" farmer’s and artist’s market on May 18, 2013.  For more information call 906-883-3894 or e-mail

Earth Week to offer FOLK presentation Mar. 24, activities for all through Mar. 30

HOUGHTON -- As part of Michigan Tech's Earth Week 2013, March 24-30, Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK) will present a talk, "Are some places too special to mine?" at  7 p.m. Sunday, March 24, in G002 of the Forestry Building.

The presentation will highlight the Trap Hills (with its 40 miles of North Country Trail) of Ontonagon County, the Gratiot Lake area of Keweenaw County, and the Eagle Rock area of Marquette County.

Earth Week activities will also include a screening of the film Baraka and a baked goods potluck at 7 p.m. Monday, March 25, in Forestry's G002; the Outdoor Adventure Program's Build Your Own Terrarium on Tuesday, March 26; Bike to Campus on Wednesday, March 27; Green Trivia Night fundraiser on Thursday, March 28; Outwash Plain Concert at 7 p.m. Friday, March 29, at the Orpheum Theater in Hancock; a Fishing Club Outing Saturday morning, March 30. Also on Saturday: Recycle Your Computer; Cesar Chavez day of service -- seed planting; and Green Comedy with Jeff Wozer Saturday night.

The Pavlis Institute will sponsor a Residence Hall Recycling Competition.

Click here to see a poster with details on these and other activities scheduled for Earth Week.

Earth Week is presented by Michigan Tech's Students for Environmental Sustainability, with participation of other groups on campus.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

From: United in Defense of the Water: Penokee Water Walk Friday, Mar. 22

By Barbara With
Posted March 21, 2013, on United in Defense of the Water
Reprinted with permission

ASHLAND, WIS. -- A Penokee Water Walk will be held, Friday, March 22, beginning at 8 a.m. at Bad River Wake House located just east of the Ashland City Limits.

This will be a 30.2 mile, 1-day Voluntary Journey in honor of International World Water Day 2013, the Misa Ziibii (Mississippi) Water Walk 2013 and local efforts to prevent sulfide mining in Northern Wisconsin.

The People of the Chequamegon Bay Region are Idle No More and will be gathering to collect water from Tyler Forks to walk with it in Ceremony from the Bad River Wake House, to Legendary Waters Resort and Casino in Red Cliff. This journey is to exemplify solidarity for the health and well-being of our home, here in the beautiful Northwoods of Wisconsin.

Tyler Forks River. (Photo © Rebecca Kemble. Reprinted with permission.)

Here is the schedule for anyone wishing to be present for the Prayer at Tyler Forks:
6 a.m. -- Depart Odanah from Chief Blackbird Center
6:45 a.m. -- Arrive at Tyler Forks
7:15 a.m. -- Depart Tyler Forks
8 a.m. -- Arrive at Bad River Wake House to start walking to Red Cliff

In conjunction with the walk, a fundraising effort will be held at the Legendary Waters Convention Center in Red Cliff beginning at 5 p.m. The agenda will include
speakers, discussion, food and refreshments.

Copper Falls (Wis.). (Photo © Rebecca Kemble. Reprinted with permission.)

Since the Water will be prayed for in a Sacred Manner, certain protocols for participation in the walk must be adhered to:

1. All participants in this walk are at all times like the water, a reflection of the beauty of our home. We ask that participants be humble, respectful, determined and focused while they enjoy this walk, especially when carrying the water or staff. DO NOT HARASS, DISRESPECT OR HARM ANY ADVERSARY ALONG THIS PATH. Police protection will be available, if we need them.

2. People of ALL NATIONS are welcome to join the Walk and carry the water and/or staff; PROVIDED they adhere to these Protocols.

3. Be respectful of the water and Eagle Staff. Carry them with self-respect, dignity, and humility as though they are as precious as an infant child.

4. ONLY WOMEN CARRY THE WATER. This is the Women’s responsibility.

5. Women must wear SKIRTS when walking.

6. ALTHOUGH BOTH MEN AND WOMEN MAY CARRY THE EAGLE STAFF, Women on their Moon Time (Menstrual Cycle) must refrain from carrying the staff and water, but they can walk behind the Walkers at any time.

7. Once the Water is in motion, IT CANNOT GO BACKWARDS AND IT CANNOT STOP. Be sure to gauge your pace at stop lights to continue moving.

8. With the exception of Elders, the walkers will change every 10-20 minutes.

9. An offering of Asema (Tobacco) will be given at every bridged waterway along the route.

10. Weather conditions are expected to be in the 30s; wear appropriate clothing, especially comfortable shoes with good soles and SUNSCREEN.

11. Hydrate often, but remember, we will only have access to restrooms at certain points along the route. Also, BRING ENERGY SNACKS.

12. It is preferred, but not necessary, that when the Eagle Staff and Water is being passed to the next set of Walkers, the words: "NINGA-IJI-CHI-GAY-NIBI-ONJI" are said by
both the carriers and the recipients. It means: "I DO THIS FOR THE WATER." This phrase may also be said in English.


ANYONE WISHING TO PARTICIPATE OR HELP WITH THE CHEQUAMEGON WATER WALK 2013 can contact the following people: Edith Leoso, (715) 292-8286 or; Georgianne Olin, (715) 682-7127 ext. 1440.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Michigan Tech's Center for Water and Society to host research displays for World Water Day Mar. 21

HOUGHTON -- Thursday, March 21, is World Water Day. That day, Michigan Tech's Center for Water and Society has invited researchers from the University's Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) to present a showcase of their research at 5:15 pm in Room 202 of the GLRC.

A view of the entrance to Michigan Tech's Great Lakes Research Center. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

The Center for Water and Society is also sponsoring a World Water Day poster session featuring student research. Posters will be on display on the first floor of the GLRC from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, March 21; and the students will be at their posters to discuss their research from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Drop by the GLRC on Thursday afternoon for the student research posters, the faculty presentations or both.

Finlandia nursing students to host spaghetti dinner to benefit Omega House Mar. 23

HANCOCK -- The Finlandia University Student Nurses Association will host a spaghetti dinner fundraiser from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 23, at Saints Peter and Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, Houghton.

Proceeds from the dinner and an on-site raffle will benefit the Omega House hospice of Houghton.

Tickets are $8 for adults, $4 for children ages 5 to 10. Tickets may be purchased in advance or at the door. Carry out will be available.

Saints Peter and Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church is located at 1010 Madeline St., Houghton, south of Shelden Ave. behind Sears.

For advance tickets or more information, contact Finlandia nursing student Lena Wascher at 906-390-3754 or, or any Finlandia nursing student.

Conservation District to host Annual Meeting Mar. 21

HOUGHTON -- The Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District (HKCD) is hosting its 61st Annual Meeting from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 21, at the MTU Lakeshore Center (former UPPCO building), 600 E. Lakeshore Drive, Houghton.

The meeting will include an election to fill one HKCD Board position.

A Pizza Potluck Buffet will be followed by a special presentation by Chad Kotke, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, on "Preserving Our Past, Restoring Our Future in the Eagle River Watershed."

A Silent Auction will also be held. Everyone is Welcome. RSVP  Appreciated!

For more information call Sue Haralson at 906-482-0214.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 Call Senators today to oppose Keystone Pipeline; videos of Feb. 17 Climate Rally in D.C.

From, with videos of the Feb. 17, 2013, Forward on Climate Rally in Washington, D.C. (Videos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

More than 40,000 participants in the Feb. 17, 2013, Forward on Climate Rally march to the White House to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline and call attention to climate change. (Videos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

OAKLAND, CALIF. -- Climate change activists around the country are rallying this week at Senate offices demanding that their senators vote against Keystone XL. This week the Senate is expected to vote on measures that would undermine President Obama’s authority to review the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

TODAY, Tuesday, March 19, is a national call-in day with groups like The Sierra Club, Moveon, Credo, NRDC, and others directing citizens to call their senators.*

Bill McKibben, founder, speaks to a crowd of more than 40,000 at the Feb. 17, 2013, Forward on Climate Rally in Washington, D.C. Supporters of the climate movement oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline that would carry oil from the Tar Sands in Alberta Canada through the U.S., endangering the environment. (Videos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Large rallies are happening now in Virginia, Colorado, and Minnesota, with activists saying that the export pipeline is not in the national interest and that their senators cannot be climate champions while supporting KXL. Virginia activists in particular are furious at Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), for voicing public support for the the project after voting against the pipeline last year.

During the Feb. 17 Forward on Climate Rally, just before the march from the National Mall to the White House, the Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Hip Hop Caucus President and CEO, introduces Van Jones, president of Rebuild the Dream. Jones addresses President Obama directly, asking him to deny permitting of the Keystone XL Pipeline (a vote on this is expected in the Senate this week).

"If you understand climate science,  there’s no way you can support this pipeline," said Jason Kowalski, policy director for "We know that this pipeline is a boondoggle -- it will spill, most of the oil is for export, and it will make climate change worse. Anyone who tells you the opposite isn’t being straight with you or doesn’t know the facts."

Indeed studies show that Keystone will dramatically increase the development of the tar sands, known to be among the largest pools of carbon on the planet. A recent study from Pembina Institute showed that if approved, Keystone XL alone would require tar sands production to increase by 36 percent.

More than 1,500 people have been arrested protesting the pipeline, and in February over 40,000 people gathered on the National Mall to tell President Obama to reject it. In 2011, over 800,000 people called into the Senate to reject a similar measure.

First Nations representatives from communities affected by the Tar Sands oil development and Native Americans opposed to the Keystone Pipeline dance, sing and drum at the head of the Forward on Climate march to the White House on Feb. 17, 2013. At the head of the march are also Bill McKibben, founder, and Van Jones, president of Rebuild the Dream.**

Activists are also rallying outside almost all of President Obama and Secretary Kerry’s public events. Last week scores of climate activists greeted the president at events in Washington and outside Chicago.

Editor's Notes:

* You can call Sen. Carl Levin's Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-6221 and leave a message or speak with a representative about the Keystone XL Pipeline. Call Sen. Debbie Stabenow at (202) 224-4822.

** Click here to see a video (9 minutes) of speaker Crystal Lameman of Beaver Lake Cree First Nations in Canada to hear her report on the Tar Sands at the Forward on Climate Rally. The video also includes Native American leaders from Oklahoma and Louisiana.

Click here to see a video of Maria T. Cardona, Latinovations Founder and Dewey Square Group Principal, speaking on the effects of climate change on Latino populations.

Click here for Allan Baker's brief interview with Minnesota State Rep. Frank Hornstein, who was riding on the train to Washington for the Rally, with a group of concerned Minnesotans.

See also Keweenaw Now's Feb. 25, 2013, article, "Keystone Pipeline protest: over 40,000 people in freezing cold," by Shirley Galbraith, with photos by Allan Baker.

Superior Watershed Partnership to seek public input at meetings on monitoring Rio Tinto mine, Humboldt Mill, transport routes

MARQUETTE -- Please join the Superior Watershed Partnership for an update regarding their Community Environmental Monitoring Program (CEMP) on-going, independent assessment of the Rio Tinto Mine, Humboldt Mill and transportation routes.

Monitoring includes verification of Rio Tinto's permit requirements for groundwater, surface water, wildlife, plant life as well as additional monitoring of other potential impacts including air quality.

Members of the public, community organizations, tribes and others are encouraged to attend to learn more about the program, ask questions and provide recommendations for additional monitoring.

CEMP Community Meetings are hosted by SWP and independent of the forums held by Rio Tinto. You can also provide feedback by calling the SWP at (906)228-6095 ext.20 or on-line at

Here is the Community Meetings Schedule:

Tuesday, March 19, 7 p.m. - 8 p.m. Humboldt Township Hall -- 244 CR FAF, Champion
Thursday, March 21, 7 p.m. - 8 p.m. Powell Township School -- 101 Deutsch Ave, Big Bay
Tuesday, March 26, 7 p.m. - 8 p.m. Baraga Best Western Hotel -- 900 US41, Baraga
Thursday, March 28, 7:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.* Lakeview Arena – 401 E. Fair Ave, Marquette

* Note time change from original posting.
Community meetings are held quarterly to report to the public and seek additional input.

Michigan Tech to host Annual Pride Week, African Night, Healthy Eating Workshop

HOUGHTON -- Michigan Tech's 15th annual Pride Week is March 18-23. Events as diverse as the community they celebrate are planned. They range from a film to a conversation with a sexologist, a speaker who will talk about being black and gay in America, swing and salsa dance lessons, and the 13th annual Drag Show.

All events are free (unless otherwise noted), and all are open to the public.

For the full schedule of events, see Annual Pride Week.

For more information about Pride Week, contact Renee Wells,, 7-2920.

African Night is Saturday, March 23

The African Students Organization will host African Night from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, March 23, in the MUB Ballroom. The event will feature authentic food, dance, music, theater, and a fashion show. Cost is $8 for students and $12 for faculty/staff/general public.

Healthy Eating Workshop

The Women’s Programming Committee and HOWL are hosting a "Healthy Eating on a Budget" workshop from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 28, in MUB Ballroom B. The workshop will cover affordable meals and snacks and will feature food you can try. We need a head count so we know how much food to prepare. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to Renee Wells at by Friday, March 22.

Finlandia to host "Conflict and Cruelty" discussion March 19

[Editor's Note: This event has been cancelled because of weather.)

HANCOCK -- Finlandia University will host a panel discussion, titled "Conflict and Cruelty," at 4:15 p.m. on Tuesday, March 19, at the Finlandia University Chapel of St Matthew, Hancock.

The panel discussion is part of the university's spring 2013 author series and is presented in conjunction with the Finlandia course, Write on the Edge (ENG 203). Mark Lounibos, assistant professor of English at Finlandia University, will moderate the panel discussion.

Lounibos says that each of four panelists will briefly examine a historical incident of oppression, injustice, persecution, and violence from across the globe. This will be followed by an opportunity for audience discussion.

"The presentations by these scholars of history and literature will consider not only the historical records, but how these incidents have been interpreted and received," Lounibos notes.

The panelists are Paul Schue, associate professor of history at Northland College; Bill Knoblauch, assistant professor of history at Finlandia University; Bob Johnson, professor of rhetoric, composition and technical communications at Michigan Technological University; and Lauri Anderson, professor of English at Finlandia University.

For more information, please contact Mark Lounibos at 906-487-7336 or

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Concerned citizens, groups oppose Rio Tinto's modified air permit for Eagle Mine

By Michele Bourdieu

MARQUETTE -- Snow and icy roads on March 12, 2013, prevented many concerned citizens from attending the MDEQ (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) public hearing on Rio Tinto's Permit to Install (PTI) application for Rio Tinto Eagle Mine LLC’s proposed modifications to their nickel and copper mining facility near Big Bay, Mich. The modifications include eliminating on-site ore crushing, adding an enclosed aggregate storage building, and eliminating the fabric filter dust collector, along with other changes.

Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve says air quality concerns dominated hearing comments

The Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve (YDWP) reported recently that about 60 people attended the hearing, held at Northern Michigan University, and nearly all who spoke during the comment and question and answer sessions were opposed to the permit modifications, especially because of concerns about air quality.

View of the Salmon Trout River. Rio Tinto is drilling toward an ore body of copper and nickel located under this trout stream. The Main Ventilation Air Raise is located very close to the river. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

In an article on their Web site posted March 13, 2012, YDWP states, "Although public questions were well articulated and based on the documents provided, the panel was not able to answer all questions satisfactorily. The experts evaded questions related to water stating they were not water quality experts. One main topic of discussion was the proposed plan to eliminate the fabric filter dust collector or Bag House on the MVAR (Main Ventilation Air Raise). In other words, the main vent for all underground operations will not have a filter at all if this permit is approved by the DEQ."*

MDEQ: Fabric filter for mine exhaust not required

The MDEQ fact sheet on this application states the following:
"Any emissions produced by underground activities would be vented through the MVAR (Main Ventilation Air Raise). Components of mine exhaust would be mine heater combustion products and particulate generated by vehicle travel; drilling; blasting; underground ore and development rock handling; and backfill material handling.

"The original air permit for the Eagle Project required a fabric filter system to be used on the MVAR. Note that this fabric filter was not required in order for the emissions from the MVAR to meet state and federal standards. Rio Tinto agreed to install a fabric filter as a result of comments received during the public comment period.

"Rio Tinto submitted PTI application 50-06B proposing no fabric filter on the MVAR exhaust. The MVAR emission estimate for this application does not include a fabric filter but does account for the design changes (elimination of underground screening, rock breaking, and the ore pass) and dust suppression systems, such as water sprays, that will be used to reduce emissions from underground ore and development rock handling. As noted in the modeling discussion, the emissions from the MVAR meet all state and federal requirements without a fabric filter. It should also be noted that the wet conditions in the mine are not expected to be conducive to generating significant amounts of particulate emissions."**

Concerned citizens request air filter, question modeling

Comments from concerned citizens -- some who attended the hearing and others who were unable to attend but sent written comments -- indicate considerable dissatisfaction, not only with the attitude of MDEQ officials, but also with Rio Tinto's plan to eliminate the fabric filter dust collector they had included in their previous (2007) permit in response to public comments and with Rio Tinto/MDEQ dependence on questionable modeling as a basis for modifications to the project.

Jeffery Loman, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) tribal member, attended the hearing and spoke during both the question-answer period and the official public comment period. Here are some observations he shared with Keweenaw Now:

"I would like to thank the MDEQ for their question and answer session and public hearing. The conversations at these events were telling in that it is obvious that MDEQ's executive management has allowed or otherwise indicated to its staff that it's appropriate for their technical staff to regulate Rio Tinto as Rio Tinto sees fit. The technical staff, and not senior management, ran these public meetings and answered 98 percent of all questions. This is a sign of ill-informed and possibly even weak leadership. The technical staff demonstrated their lack of experience in mining operations and even a fundamental misunderstanding of Michigan law. Statements like 'there aren't many baghouse filter systems being used at mines' and 'it is Rio Tinto's ore and we relied entirely on Rio Tinto to decide what chemical analysis to perform and their laboratory results and other data' are extremely troubling. MDEQ will experience endless challenges and increasing distrust unless it changes this dynamic and starts telling Rio Tinto what to do instead of the other way around."

Big Bay resident Carla Champagne of Concerned Citizens of Big Bay also addressed MDEQ officials at the hearing. She shared the following notes for her comments with Keweenaw Now:

"This permit to install is completely inadequate as to the protection of the air of Marquette County," Champagne says. "The MVAR is the major source of mine emissions. These emissions will be created by vehicle travel, drilling, blasting, ore and development rock handling, backfill material handling, and mine heaters. No testing of those emissions will be done until production reaches 1660 tons per day or 12 months. Then only the emission rate will be tested."

Champagne adds that anything could be spewing out the the MVAR at 50 mph for a whole year and residents would have no way of knowing what was coming out.

"All figures saying the metals and sulfides are below criteria are based on modeling," Champagne notes. "Modeling at this mine has already proven to be wrong. The sulfate levels in part of the TDRSA (Temporary Development Rock Storage Area) have been three times the predicted levels. Did modeling show there would be arsenic in the drinking water? What about the fact that Rio Tinto is going to be asking for changes in one of their water permits because of higher than expected levels of some contaminants? Was that a modeling error also?"

This Temporary Development Rock Storage Area (TDRSA) is for all rock removed from the Eagle Mine underground that is not considered ore. The facility features a multi-layered liner, leak detection system and sump pump to collect water which will be treated by the water treatment plant. All development rock is to be returned underground as fill. (August 2012 file photo by Keweenaw Now)

Noting that fugitive dust was a problem at Rio Tinto/Kennecott's Flambeau mine and other sulfide mines, Champagne says, "The dust suppression systems suggested in this permit need more explanation other than just spraying things down with water and paving some roads. Is the water they are going to be using for this spraying the arsenic- contaminated well water? Are they going to be spraying that 8.6 acres of uncovered storage piles?"

Like Loman, Champagne told MDEQ officials they should be telling Rio Tinto what to do, not the reverse.

"You need to require this company to prove their modeling numbers are accurate with real data. A filter on the MVAR is one way. If there are better ways, great, require Rio Tinto to use them. Relying on modeling when real data can be obtained is unacceptable when dealing with this type of historically toxic mining," Champagne says. "They will monitor the air at that mine site and/or coming out of the MVAR if you require them to. The reasons for the promise Rio Tinto made to put a filter on the MVAR have not changed significantly enough for them to break that promise."

Catherine Parker of Marquette, who also spoke at the March 12 hearing, addressed both MDEQ and Rio Tinto in her comments, noting that Michigan's Part 632 mining law requires the applicant to demonstrate that its operation will work and will not pollute the environment.

"Kennecott (Rio Tinto's subsidiary) agreed to install a filter system in their mine ventilation stack in response to public concern about particulate matter emissions, but they could not demonstrate that it would work as planned," Parker said. "Humid, corrosive air exiting at gale force was more than their baghouse could handle, and they knew it. I suggest they re-design it."

Parker asked, "Does Rio Tinto have detailed information about the chemistry of the rocks they’re working with, and if so, have they shared it?  Elevated sulfate levels in the TDRSA last July, and more recently, arsenic in the drinking water, demonstrate that things do not always go according to their plans."

Parker, like others who criticized the modeling, gave this example: "Another serious problem with the modeling for the amended MVAR is that climate information was plugged in from a Sawyer/Green Bay database with added observations from the Munising Airport. There are many microclimates in Marquette County, and as a frequent traveler from the city of Marquette to the Yellow Dog Plains, I’ve learned to be prepared for something quite different from what I left in my front yard. What about prevailing winds, for example? It seems impossible to accurately forecast deposition into soils and water without accurate meteorological information."

Gene Champagne of Concerned Citizens of Big Bay shared some of his written comments to MDEQ concerning this permit.

Like Parker, Gene Champagne comments on the weather data as problematic because of its source, adding that weather data from Rio Tinto's own weather station at the Eagle mine, operating since 2007, is the data that should be used.

"The weather on the Yellow Dog Plains, as far as the extremity in temperature and precipitation can be significantly different, even from that in Big Bay a mere 10 miles away," he notes.

"Computer modeling has a bad reputation, especially in the mining industry, for being overly optimistic, unreliable, and even deceptive," he writes. "The modeling will spit out information based upon the the data inputted. This is can be a 'garbage in - garbage-out' proposition."

Gene Champagne also questions data that indicates sulfides are in the 30 percent range. Kennecott's original permit, he says, "states that the sulfides in 1,477,00 metric tonnes are greater than 80 percent; between 30 percent and 80 percent in 2,573,000 metric tonnes; and less than 30 percent in ore that Rio Tinto has no intention of extracting. This could actually be considered a fraudulent application and rejected on those grounds alone."

He calls for collecting two years of baseline air data before operations begin without a fabric filter.

"Air emissions and data need to be collected for a year past the 1,660 tons per day average before the fabric filter is removed," Gene Champagne writes. "If the fabric filter is allowed to be removed from the current permit, then 24/7 air monitoring needs to be in place before mining operations begin. Placement of air monitors should be decided by the DEQ with assistance from the EPA and encompass the most likely places for worst case scenarios as well as for capturing fugitive dust along the transportation route." 

Jessica Koski, mining technical assistant in the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community's (KBIC's) Department of Natural Resources, was unable to attend the hearing, but sent a
letter to MDEQ stating several concerns, beginning with the tribe's rights to hunt, fish, trap and gather on traditional lands ceded to the United States under the 1842 Treaty of LaPointe.

"The Eagle Mine project and associated infrastructure, including the permitted release of air emissions that will extend within and beyond the fence line, are located within this ceded territory," Koski writes. "Fugitive dust and uncontrolled air emissions will adversely impact tribal members more so than the general public due to subsistence living practices and the exercise of treaty-reserved rights. The proposed changes pose disproportionate health risk particularly to tribal members who gather and consume plants and wildlife nearby, and those who continue to visit our sacred place within the mine's fence line, Migi zii wa sin, Eagle Rock."

Eagle Rock, the Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) sacred site, is now surrounded by a fence. The decline tunnel blasted under the Rock to access the ore body is at right. (August 2012 Keweenaw Now file photo © and courtesy Steve Garske)

Koski's letter requests several actions from the MDEQ, including these:

1) Require controls on the MVAR (main ventilation air rise) stack and request that Rio Tinto reconsider including a fabric dust collector, which was included in the original permit and expected to capture 99 percent of all emissions.

2) "We ask for proof that their models are correct, including review and analysis of the models and any further modeling, by the Environmental Protection Agency air quality staff," Koski notes.

She also recommends installation of air quality monitors at the site for the life of the mine.

In addition, Koski expresses concern that the present air permit application does not look at potential environmental health effects of nickel, copper and particulate matter deposition predicted for areas beyond the fence line of the mine, including the Salmon Trout River, the Yellow Dog Watershed and the communities of Big Bay and Marquette.

3) Koski reminds the MDEQ that, according to Michigan's Environmental Justice Plan of 2010, MDEQ's review of projects should identify disproportionate adverse health effects on minorities, including tribal communities and members. She notes also that this Plan indicates state environmental regulators should consult with tribes on environmental justice matters when their decisions may impact tribal members' health and environmental well being.***

Superior Watershed Partnership: Applicant must demonstrate Best Available Control Technology

The Superior Watershed Partnership (SWP), which is conducting independent monitoring of the Eagle Mine, recently submitted comments to MDEQ on the air permit application, including the following statements:

"Per State Air Regulations, the applicant must demonstrate that it is installing the Best Available Control Technology (BACT) in order to assure that the area will continue to meet the NAAQS (National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Applicant is to identify all air pollution control options available, feasibility, effectiveness and why each represents BACT. AQD (Air Quality Division of MDEQ) is to verify applicant's determination of BACT and review BACT determinations for similar facilities in Michigan and nationwide."

"...There is no documentation contained within the permit that demonstrates a review or recommendation of Best Available Control Technologies."

"MDEQ has proposed a one-time stack test of the MVAR after peak production has been reached. The SWP questions the accuracy, relevance and significance of any one-time test. The Clean Air Act National Stack Testing Guidance issued by USEPA requires that Rio Tinto be able to demonstrate that it can 'continuously comply.' How will MDEQ ensure continuous compliance from a one-time test?"

"The proposed stack test will only use AQD Method 5 to test for particulate emissions. A host of other methods are readily available and would provide relevant data concerning emissions from the MVAR.

"Additionally, the draft permit fails to specify what happens if the proposed test exceeds limits to PM (particulate matter) emissions."

SWP includes a list of recommendations should MDEQ approve this permit.****

Parker summed up the critical response of the public to Rio Tinto's current air permit application, as follows: "We, the public, have not withdrawn our request for a filter on the main exhaust system at the mine. We are not interested in degrading our water and air sheds to levels that are acceptable to state and federal agencies. We want a system that is guaranteed to work, and an air monitoring system at the mine site beginning yesterday -- a demonstration that Rio Tinto’s operations will not pollute, impair or destroy our natural resources."

Monday, March 18, is the final deadline for submitting written comments on this air permit (Permit to Install Application No. 50-06B). Click here to find links to more information and to submit comments on line.


* Click here to read the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve article on the March 12, 2013, hearing.

** Click here for the MDEQ Air Quality Division's Fact Sheet on this permit application.

*** Click here to read Jessica Koski's letter to the MDEQ concerning this permit.

**** Visit the Superior Watershed Partnership Web site to learn about their monitoring program for the Eagle Mine. Their comments to MDEQ should be posted on their Web site soon.