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.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

UPDATE: Backroom Boys dance postponed to Friday, Jan. 2, at Copper Island Beach Club

Please note the change of date: Backroom Boys will play dance music on FRIDAY, JAN. 2, because of Dec. 31 weather cancellation. (Back Room Boys poster courtesy Oren Tikkanen.)

UPDATED: HANCOCK -- The Backroom Boys Jazz Band will play dance music from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. FRIDAY, JAN. 2, at the Copper Island Beach Club (CIBC) in Hancock. The New Year's Eve Dance Party scheduled for Dec. 31 at CIBC has been postponed because of weather. Come down to CIBC this FRIDAY for an evening of post-holiday dancing and fun with the Backroom Boys.

This time out, the Backroom Boys will be Bob "Smooth Slide" Norden -- trombone, vocals, and high-jinks; John "Mr. French Quarter" Munson -- clarinet, tenor sax, keyboard; Matthew "Matti Poika" Durocher, once again voted the Keweenaw's Best-Looking Fretless Bass Guitar Player; and Oren "Vieil Homme" Tikkanen -- guitar, banjo and vocals.

The Copper Island Beach Club is on the Hancock waterfront at the bottom of Tezcuco Street. No cover or admission charge!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy holidays from Keweenaw Now!

HANCOCK -- Keweenaw Now wishes all our readers, contributors and supporters a very peaceful, safe and joyful holiday season!

This year we have tried to connect you with important issues and events -- not just in the Keweenaw, but also as far as New York and Normandy, thanks to our guest reporters and photographers and our news links on Facebook and Twitter.*

We welcome your letters and comments. Tell us what you like / don't like about our articles and offer us suggestions of what you'd like to see in 2015. Email us at or post your comments on individual articles.

We wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year!

* In case you missed them, see our series of articles on the New York City People's Climate March -- a highlight of our 2014 news -- by clicking on our Dec. 9, 2014, article on the march and checking the links at the end for the three previous articles in the series. See also our slide show in honor of the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

Keweenaw Now photo: "Paloma de la paz," by Gustavo Bourdieu.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hancock Chalet now open daily

HANCOCK -- The Hancock Chalet is now open on a daily basis for skier warmup, restroom use, etc. It is opened sometime in the morning and closed about dark.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Hancock Tori to hold Christmas Market Dec. 20

HANCOCK -- The Hancock Tori Christmas Market will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday, Dec. 20, at the First United Methodist Church, next to Quincy Green in downtown Hancock.

Handmade crafts and other tempting items will be available for your last-minute holiday shopping!

A fund-raising lunch will be offered by the Methodist Youth Group during the market.

If you have questions contact Sandy Soring at

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

MDOT to hold public meeting on Portage Lift Bridge maintenance project and bridge closures Dec. 18

View of Portage Lift Bridge by night. The public is invited to review plans for upcoming bridge closures at a Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) meeting TOMORROW, Thursday, Dec. 18, in Fisher 138 at Michigan Tech. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

HOUGHTON -- The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will share plans for the major maintenance project on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge at a meeting from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. TOMORROW, Thursday, Dec. 18, in Fisher 138 on the Michigan Tech campus.

Residents, community stakeholders and business owners can review the plans for construction and ask questions of MDOT staff members and contractor representatives.

MDOT will perform upgrades and preventive maintenance work on the lift bridge between Houghton and Hancock from mid-December 2014 to mid-April 2016. This $8.3 million project includes lift cable replacement, balance chain maintenance, electrical and mechanical upgrades, security system improvements, spot painting and new barrier gates.

The project will require two long-term nighttime closures of the bridge and numerous short-term closures.

Here is the tentative schedule for closures from January to March 2015:
  • One 10-hour closure (with ramp for emergency vehicles): WHEN? Jan. 17, 2015, nighttime (9 p.m. - 7 a.m.) with an alternate date of Jan 24 in case of weather delay. WHY? Disconnect lift cables from lift span.

  • Eight 2-hour closures: WHEN? January 2015, nighttime (2 a.m. - 4 a.m.). WHY? Remove balance chains.

  • 168 intermittent 15-20-minute closures. WHEN? January - March 2015, nighttime (7 p.m. - 6 a.m.) WHY? Lift cable removal and reinstallation.

  • One 11.5 hour closure (with ramp for emergency vehicles). WHEN? March 21, 2015, nighttime (8 p.m. - 7:30 a.m.) with an alternate date of March 28 in case of weather delay. WHY? Connect lift span to new cables.

  • Eight 2-hour closures. WHEN? March 2015, nighttime (2 a.m. - 4 a.m.) WHY?  Install balance chains.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hancock City Council to hold public hearing on two proposed ordinances Dec. 17

HANCOCK -- Hancock City Council will hold a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, on two proposed City ordinances:

1. Proposed ordinance (No. 288) approving amendment to the Development and Tax Increment Financing Plan of the City of Hancock DDA.
2. Proposed ordinance (No. 289) approving regulating open fires and burning within the City limits of the City of Hancock.

At the Nov. 19, 2014, City Council meeting, Council members unanimously approved the first reading of each of these proposed ordinances.* The agenda for the Dec. 17 meeting, which follows the public hearing, includes consideration of the two proposed ordinances.**

Copies of the two proposed ordinances are on file in the Clerk's office, Hancock City Hall.

* Click here for the Nov. 19 meeting minutes.

** Click here to read the agenda for the Dec. 17 meeting.

Rolf Peterson to lead wildlife discussion TONIGHT, Dec. 16, at Carnegie Museum

Rolf Peterson, Michigan Tech expert on Wildlife Ecology, will lead a discussion from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. TONIGHT, Tuesday, Dec. 16, at the Carnegie Museum in Houghton. (Poster courtesy Carnegie Museum)

HOUGHTON -- The Carnegie Museum will host Professor Rolf Peterson, Michigan Tech expert on Wildlife Ecology, for a discussion titled "Animal Elements of Keweenaw Peninsula and Isle Royale" from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. TONIGHT, Tuesday, Dec. 16. The museum will open at 6:30 p.m. for refreshments.

The event is part of a monthly series of sessions on the Geoheritage and Natural History of the Keweenaw. The discussions are aimed at the general public, but discuss current research and science.

"In the 19th and 20th centuries many wild animal species in the Keweenaw, along with the forest, were wiped out or reduced by unregulated harvest and widespread fire," Peterson explains. "Protective game regulations and regrowth of the forest allowed some species to recover, a process that continues today. Isle Royale was affected by the same influences, to various degrees."

Peterson will review the status of prominent and obscure species of wild animals, including many that are presently experiencing rapid change.

The Carnegie Museum of the Keweenaw is located at Huron and Montezuma in downtown Houghton. Seminars are held in the recently restored Community Room on the ground level of this historic building. Lectures are free, open to the public, and barrier free (wheelchair accessible).

For further information visit the Carnegie Museum on Facebook or contact the Museum at 906-482-7140.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Community Arts Center seeks art works for 2015 Art from the Kalevala exhibit

These art works, by Kris Raisanen Shourek (left) and Joyce Koskenmaki, were part of the January 2014 Art from the Kalevala exhibit at the Copper Country Community Arts Center. (File photo courtesy Copper Country Community Arts Center)

HANCOCK -- The Kalevala is a 19th-century work of poetry compiled by Elias Lönnrot from Finnish and Karelian oral folklore and mythology. It is regarded as the national epic poem of Finland and is one of the most significant works of Finnish literature. Its rich imagery provides a hearty topic for visual art.

The Copper Country Community Arts Center will host an exhibition of art inspired by the Kalevala in connection with Hancock’s mid-winter Heikinpäivä celebration in January. Artists may submit up to three original works in any medium along with the rune or lines from the poem from which the artwork was inspired.

There is no fee to participate. The art works should be delivered to the Community Arts Center between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. A closing reception will be held from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. For more information call (906) 482-2333 or email The Copper Country Community Arts Center is located at 126 Quincy Street in Hancock.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Michigamme Moonshine Art Gallery to host Artists Holiday Celebration Dec. 14

"Elegant," by Laura Stahl Maze, is part of the holiday exhibit at the Michigamme Moonshine Art Gallery, which will host an Artists Holiday Celebration TOMORROW, Sunday, Dec. 14. (Photo courtesy Michigamme Moonshine Art Gallery)

MICHIGAMME -- Michigamme Moonshine Art Gallery will host a special Artists Holiday Celebration from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 14, at the Gallery in Michigamme. Holiday refreshments will be served.

More than 30 artists and 10 local authors are participating in this exhibit, which includes a variety of original art: drawings, gelatin prints, glass, linocuts, metal, mixed media, paintings, photography, pottery, sculptures, silk batik, wood art, woodcuts, and books. The exhibit will continue through Jan. 31, 2015.

Featured artists are Pat Butler, Thomas Cappuccio, Jens Carstensen (late), Jim Clumpner, Meegan Flannery, John French, Michael Friend, Maureen Gray, Ed Gray, Bill Hamilton, Pat Hicks Ruiz, Nan Hoeting Payne, Marc Homant, John Hubbard, Bryan Kastar, Connie Kerkove, Paula Kiesling, Janet F. Koenig, Taro Kojima, Mary Anne Kublin, Michael LaTulip, Tom Larson, Troy Lichthardt, Ron Lukey, Joanne McCoy, Sandra Palmore, Brook Powell, Seri Robinson, Rudd and McCafferty, Peg Sandin, Kathrine Savu, Laura Stahl Maze, Craig Weatherby, Emil Weddige (late) and Liz Yelland.

Michigamme Moonshine Art Gallery specializes in original fine art. Every year the gallery celebrates up to eight shows and receptions with artists and the strong support of art patrons. Michigamme Moonshine Art Gallery, located at 136 E. Main in Michigamme, is open year round: Mondays through Sundays: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays by chance. For more info call: 906-323-6546.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Michigan Tech choral ensembles, Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra to present holiday concert Dec. 13 at Rozsa

Michigan Tech Concert Choir will perform in a holiday concert at the Rozsa Center this Saturday, Dec. 13. (Photo courtesy Rozsa Center)

HOUGHTON --  Ready for a musical mix offering peace and beauty in the midst of the bustling holiday season? Put your ipods down and come to the Rozsa Center at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014: Michigan Tech’s two choral ensembles, led by Jared Anderson -- Michigan Tech Concert Choir and conScience, Michigan Tech Chamber Singers -- join the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra, with conductor Joel Neves, to present a concert titled "Choral-Orchestral Shuffle: A Concert Playlist."

The Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra will join two choral ensembles for the Dec. 13 concert at the Rozsa Center. (Photo courtesy Rozsa Center)

The Michigan Tech Concert Choir is a select ensemble of over 70 students and community singers studying and performing choral literature ranging from Gregorian Chant to Renaissance motets, masses and madrigals to fascinating new works by living composers. The smaller, more recently formed ensemble conScience: Michigan Tech Chamber Singers, is a select, student-only chamber choir of 12-16 voices. The Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra (KSO) has been a mainstay of the Upper Peninsula arts scene for over thirty years. The KSO counts among its musicians Michigan Tech students, faculty, and staff, community artists, and guest professionals from throughout the Upper Midwest. The KSO plays the great orchestral masterworks from the classical, theatre, and film repertoire.

The Concert Choir and conScience join together with the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra in an eclectic concert "playlist" of choral-orchestral masterworks, including music from operas, requiems, cantatas, motets, songs, even polkas. As the playlist shuffles from Bach to Berlioz, Verdi to Wagner, and Gabrieli to Fauré, it illustrates the dramatic power and expressivity inherent in music for choir and orchestra.

The concert is presented by the Michigan Tech Department of Visual and Performing Arts.

Tickets for adults are $19, youth tickets (17 and under) are $6, and Michigan Tech Student tickets are free with the Experience Tech Fee. For tickets, go online, or call Ticketing Operations at Michigan Tech’s Student Development Complex (SDC), (906) 487-2073, or visit in person at 600 MacInnes Drive, in Houghton. SDC box office hours are 8 a.m. - 9 p.m., Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 7 p.m. on Saturday, and noon - 8 p.m. on Sunday. Please note the Rozsa Box Office is only open two hours prior to show times.

MDOT TRAFFIC ALERT: Portage Lake Lift Bridge evening, night closings Dec. 14-16

HANCOCK -- The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has issued this TRAFFIC ALERT for the Portage Lake Lift Bridge between Houghton and Hancock:

Closures are set for Sunday, Dec. 14, through Tuesday, Dec. 16 (estimated completion date).

PROJECT: The contractor for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will be conducting necessary prep work in advance of this winter’s major maintenance project on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge.


This work will require intermittent short-term closures of the bridge, resulting in 15- to 20-minute delays for motorists. The closures are planned to occur between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. each night.

MDOT says: "Drive like you want to make it home tonight."

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

People's Climate March, Part 4: Videos, photos of the People's Climate March -- 400,000 strong

By Michele Bourdieu 

[Editor's Note: This is the fourth in our series of articles about the People's Climate March in New York City and related events.*]

Lined up on Central Park West, indigenous groups -- among the "Frontline" marchers at the head of the People's Climate March -- wait for the march to begin on Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

NEW YORK, NY -- It was an amazing display of diversity: A multitude of people of all ages and of many different cultures, races, religions and languages -- 400,000 strong and united in their message to the world -- offered that message peacefully on signs, sculptures and banners and in chants, song and dance: Climate change is real and we all need to do something about it NOW!

Large crowds converge in an orderly, peaceful demonstration at Columbus Circle, where the march begins. (Photo by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

The People's Climate March on Sunday, Sept. 21, began at Columbus Circle, near Central Park in New York City, and Keweenaw Now's two video cameras caught much of the action during the four hours of the march. Allan Baker (right inset) and his wife, Shirley Galbraith (at left, below, joining a group of Unitarian participants), captured the crowds that convened at Columbus Circle.

Meanwhile Keweenaw Now's editor found a spot along Central Park West, in view of the giant video screen where marchers cheered as they watched themselves on camera or caught a glimpse of climate marches in other parts of the world -- from Kathmandu to Rio de Janeiro -- all concerned about climate justice and the survival of Mother Earth and humanity's future generations.
The People's Climate March on Sept. 21, 2014, begins at Columbus Circle, near Central Park, in New York City. Eventually the participants will number about 400,000 -- much more than anticipated. A giant "Madre Tierra" (Mother Earth) heads down Central Park West toward Columbus Circle, followed by a peace and justice group chanting in Spanish, "El pueblo, unido, jamás será vencido!" (The people, united, shall never be defeated!) (Video by Allan Baker and Keweenaw Now)

Heading toward Columbus Circle from Central Park West, indigenous groups in colorful regalia are among the leaders of the People's Climate March, followed by a giant sculpture representing "Madre Tierra" (Mother Earth). Representatives of the Climate Justice Alliance follow, chanting for clean air and clean water. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

During the march, Keweenaw Now asked some enthusiastic visitors why they were attending the march. A couple from the United Kingdom, who wished to remain anonymous, said they just happened to come upon the march on their way to visit Central Park. Two students from Michigan -- Charlie Thatch of Traverse City, a Washtenaw Community College student of business and music production, and Matt Blain of Troy, a University of Michigan graduate student in urban planning and public policy, offered brief comments:

A visitor from the UK and two students from Michigan tell why they're at the People's Climate March. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

Another presence from Michigan spotted in the crowd: Marchers carry signs against fracking. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Marchers' signs, banners and chants call attention to climate justice -- from Peru to New York City neighborhoods affected by Super Storm Sandy. A cheer goes up from the crowd when they see themselves on the large video screen facing Central Park West. (Video by Allan Baker and Keweenaw Now)

At Columbus Circle, a lively New Orleans-style jazz band adds to the excited atmosphere of the People's Climate March and hundreds of union representatives with their signs speak out for action on climate change. (Video by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Photos of people marching in other cities around the world are projected on a large screen so the marchers can be aware of international solidarity about climate change. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

Phil Aroneanu of, one of the organizers of the People's Climate March, addressed Keweenaw Now readers in our brief interview. Standing near him, leading the marchers in chants, was Clara Vondrich, originally from McLean, Va., and now a New York resident working for Fenton, a social change communication firm. Both were excited about the tremendous turnout:

Phil Aroneanu of, one of the organizers of the People's Climate March, comments on the turnout and the importance of the event. Clara Vondrich, originally from Virginia and now living in New York City, explains her reasons for supporting the march. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

From "We Shall Overcome" to lively klezmer, various musical rhythms and chants set the pace of the marchers. (Video by Keweenaw Now and Allan Baker)

Groups of young people call for change to fight the climate crisis. Students ask their universities to divest from fossil fuels. (Video by Keweenaw Now and Allan Baker)

While thousands of young people marched for their future at this event, senior citizens also joined them -- concerned about their children's and their grandchildren's future.

At Columbus Circle, senior citizens march together with signs and banners announcing their concern for future generations. (Photo by Allan Baker)

One of those seniors, Elsbeth Reimann, 80, a New Yorker originally from Switzerland, struck up a conversation -- in French and in English -- with Keweenaw Now's editor.
Reimann said she had recently returned from Washington, D.C., where she was lobbying for food banks in New York City and also in the rest of the country.

Elsbeth Reimann, watching the march from a bench near Central Park, commented on her concerns about food and hunger. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

"Regardless of age or where we live, hunger is increasing," she said. "I'm very concerned for the future -- for the young people. It's so important that people wake up."

Reimann, who came to the U.S. in 1967, said she likes living in New York because it's made up of people from all over the world.

"People need to speak with each other and not at each other, so you keep learning," she noted. "It's fascinating!"

Like Elsbeth Reimann, these marchers expressed concerns about food justice -- and the importance of growing local, natural food. (Photo by Allan Baker)

Hector and Gladys Rubio, a retired couple from Guayaquil, Ecuador, were on their way to visit the Natural History Museum in New York during a visit with their daughter, who lives in New Jersey, and were happy to discover the People's Climate March.

"Thumbs up!" Visitors Hector and Gladys Rubio of Guayaquil, Ecuador, said they thought the People's Climate March was a great event. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

At one point during the march, young and old stopped their chants and paused for a moment of silence and unity -- announced on the large video screen:

Marchers pause for a moment of silence to honor victims and survivors of climate change. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

After the silence, roars and cheers of unity spread through the crowd:

After a moment of silence, the People's Climate marchers let out a giant roar of enthusiasm -- heard around the world. (Video by Allan Baker) 

At Columbus Circle, following a float resembling Noah's Ark, thousands of marchers from a variety of religious groups chant and display their signs and banners. (Video by Allan Baker)

Participants from Canada join others in protesting tar sands and their effect on climate change. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

Among the Canadian marchers was this Greenpeace group from Victoria, B.C., who paused for a photo. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Editor's Notes: Watch for more of our photos of the People's Climate March, coming soon in a new slide show.

* See our three previous articles related to this event:

"People's Climate March, Part 1, Letter: Houghton couple travel to New York to march for planet's future"

"People's Climate March, Part 2: Video Report: Riding People's Climate Train to New York"

"People's Climate March, Part 3: Home front action -- local art students create People's Climate March posters"

Green Lecture Series to host Rich VanderVeen on wind, solar energy Dec. 11

HOUGHTON -- Rich VanderVeen, president of Mackinaw Power, will be the speaker for the Green Lecture Series at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 11, in Hesterberg Hall of the Forestry Building on the MTU campus.

Rich developed the Great Lakes' first privately financed wind power project in Mackinaw City in 2001. He is also known for the large Wind Turbine installation north of Lansing in Gratiot County, Mich., as well as several other successful alternative and community-based energy projects (more recently working on community solar).

The lecture is free and open to the public. Enjoy coffee, tea and refreshments. Donations ($3) appreciated. The Green Lecture Series is co-sponsored by Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative, Michigan Tech Center for Water and Society, Keweenaw Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and Keweenaw Land Trust.

Friends of Portage Library to offer Christmas Ornament Making project for kids Dec. 13

HOUGHTON -- The Friends of the Portage Lake District Library invite young children and elementary age students to decorate ceramic Christmas ornaments from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13, at the library.

Children will paint pre-made holiday ornaments that will be fired at The Magic Kiln Studio in downtown Hancock. All supplies will be provided, and everyone will be notified when the ornaments are ready to be picked up.

Library programs are free and everyone is welcome. For more information please call the library at 482-4570 or visit

Noteworthy women's chorus to perform Christmas concert Dec. 11 at Gloria Dei

The women's chorus Noteworthy, directed by Joan Petrelius, left, performs a holiday concert at the Church of the Resurrection in Hancock. This year they will offer their annual Christmas concert Thursday, Dec. 11, at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Hancock. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

HANCOCK -- Noteworthy women's chorus will perform a Christmas concert at 7 p.m. this Thursday, Dec. 11, at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Hancock.

"We'll sing lots of fun holiday music in our usual four-part barbershop style," says Marcia Goodrich. "The Community Bells will also perform, and they are awesome."

Admission is free; a collection will be taken to benefit Gloria Dei's food pantry.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Friends of Calumet Library to host presentation on sturgeon Dec. 10

CALUMET -- Have you ever seen a sturgeon on Lake Superior? Are you curious about this ancient fish that can live over a hundred years and grow to six feet or more? Come to the Calumet Public Library at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 10, to learn more about it from researcher Dr. Nancy Auer, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Michigan Technological University.

Prof. Nancy Auer has an active research program in the areas of large lake research and restoration of native fish species. She has also co-authored the 2014 Michigan Notable Book, The Great Lake Sturgeon. Her presentation, "Uncovering the Mystery of the Great Lake Sturgeon," and book signing are open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

This event is sponsored by the Friends of the Calumet Public Library.

Friends of the Calumet Public Library to meet Jan. 13

Friends of the Calumet Public Library will meet at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 13.

Are you looking for a way to become involved in your community? How about joining the Friends of the Calumet Public Library? There are many ways to lend a hand at the library: programming ideas, volunteer opportunities, the Red Jacket Readers book club, and more! Meetings are held the second Tuesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. in the library. This is an open meeting, and new members and new ideas are welcome. Come find out what's ahead at the Calumet Public Library.

This event is sponsored by the Friends of the Calumet Public Library. For more information, visit the library or call 337-0311 ext. 1107.

(In case of bad weather, when school is cancelled, all library programs are cancelled.)

Portage Library offers Food for Fines program through December and January

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

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

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

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

The library staff thanks everyone who is participating in the Food for Fines program and wishes everyone a Happy Holiday Season.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Copper Country Reading Council to hold Holiday Party Dec. 8 at Community Arts Center

HANCOCK -- The Copper Country Reading Council (CCRC) will hold its annual Holiday Party from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 8, at the Community Arts Center in Hancock.

This 30-year tradition includes a potluck dinner and its famous Bring Your Own Book (BYOB) show-and-tell activity. Participants are asked to bring a book that matters to them and discuss why their book is important.

This year participants will also be able to Make Your Own Book (MYOB) using simple paper-folding techniques for creating an instant journal, sketch book, or notebook. All materials will be provided.

This annual event attracts book lovers from around the Keweenaw and includes CCRC members, book club members, Keweenaw Reads facilitators and participants, and people who simply love to read.

People attending this event are asked to bring a dish to share and a book for "show and tell." Beverages will be provided, and door prizes will be given away. Everyone is welcome. For more information, contact Evie at

Friday, December 05, 2014

Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club to host "Middle Bridge Music Jam" fund raiser Dec. 6 at Orpheum Theater

HANCOCK -- Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club will hold a "Middle Bridge Music Jam" from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6, at the Orpheum Theater in Hancock.

The event is a fund raiser to help with the cost of replacing the middle bridge in the Swedetown gorge on Maasto Hiihto Trails. The replacement is estimated to cost $30,000.

Mark Roberts, who volunteers for bridge repair at Maasto Hiihto, inspects damage to the middle bridge over Swedetown Creek. (Photo courtesy Arlyn Aronson)*

The following bands will provide music for listening and dancing:

Realtime Jazz with Mike Irish (bass), Charles White (piano), Kirsten White (trumpet and vocals) and Adam Johnson (percussion).

Keweenaw Brewgrass featuring Doug Oppliger (guitar, vocals), Bogue Sandberg (dobro), Marshall Weathersby (mandolin, guitar, vocals), Craig Kurtz (banjo, bass, vocals), Jim Hertel (bass, banjo, vocals) and special guest Libby Meyer (fiddle).

PasiCats -- "arguably the third best Finnish dance band in the whole Copper Country" -- including Pasi Lautala (accordion and lead vocals), Bob (Paris) Hiltunen (guitar), Belinda Mattfolk (bass) and Shawn Badanjek, with special guest Oren Tikkanen.

Tickets for the event: General admission -- $15 in advance, $20 at the door; students, $10; preteen kids, $5. Advance tickets are available at the Orpheum Theater, Downwind Sports or any Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club board/club member.

* For details on the middle bridge and more photos, click here.

For more information on the Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club, visit their Web site.

Public invited to celebrate Finnish Independence Dec. 6 at Finnish American Heritage Center

The Finnish American Heritage Center in Hancock will host the 97th annual Finnish Independence Day celebration at 6 p.m. TOMORROW, Saturday, Dec. 6. It will include music, dance, food and fun for the whole family. (Photo courtesy Hilary Virtanen)

HANCOCK --  In keeping with a now-97-year tradition, Finlandia University will celebrate the independence of the country of its founders at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6, at the Finnish American Heritage Center on Quincy Street in Hancock.

This year’s program will feature a variety of local talent, ranging from youth folk dancers, to vocal and instrumental musical talents, to a dramatic reading. The evening will conclude with a dance from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., with the Pasi Cats and Oren Tikkanen providing the music. Also at this event, the City of Hancock’s Finnish Theme Committee will proclaim the 2015 selection of Hankooki Heikki, the person honored for his or her contributions to Finnish culture in the area.

The Kivajat youth dancers perform two Finnish dances during the 2014 Parade of Nations international entertainment at Dee Stadium in Houghton. They will perform at the Dec. 6 Finnish Independence Day celebration and will accept donations for their next trip to Finland. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

As the dance band plays, the Kivajat and Loistavat youth folk dancers will provide tasty Finnish treats and will be accepting donations to help fund their trip to Finland in July 2015 for the Tanssiva Turku dance festival. They’re intending to send 33 dancers across the ocean for the festival, so all assistance is appreciated.

The program is free and open to the public. All are welcome.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Calumet galleries, studios, shops offer First Friday gift shopping, art exhibits, more ...

CALUMET -- First Friday in Calumet -- Dec. 5, 2014 -- will offer visitors a chance to shop for one-of-a-kind gifts while enjoying new art exhibits and art activities in the holiday atmosphere of Christmas in Calumet.

Paige Wiard Gallery: "Glorious Gifting"

This pendant designed by Sue Hubbard is one of many one-of-a-kind gifts for sale at the Paige Wiard Gallery. (Photo courtesy Paige Wiard Gallery)

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Yes, it's that time of year again to start looking for the perfect Christmas gift. Visit the Paige Wiard Gallery for their "Glorious Gifting" show. Find the perfect gift for everyone on your Christmas list. The gallery will be displaying unique one-of-a-kind gifts, with a variety of price ranges.

An opening reception will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 5 at 109 5th Street, Calumet. For more information please call 337-5970 or email

Calumet Art Center: Open Studio

Ceramic artist Ed Gray, Calumet Art Center executive director, is pictured here with pots he fired recently. Visit the Center on First Friday to see art in progress. (Photo courtesy Calumet Art Center)

Visit the Calumet Art Center, 57055 Fifth St., for an Open Studio where you can find the space you need as well as inspiration to start, continue or finish your own personal art project. If you're looking for a unique gift created by local artists, browse the Center's studios, where you'll find reliquaries, paintings and woodcuts, woven bookmarks and jewelry.

Find your inspiration while touring the center and open studios featuring looms of all types, lamp work bead station, library and writing studio and the clay studio where there are always works in progress. Learn about recent classes, projects and upcoming events. Stop in on First Friday during your gallery tour. For more information call (906) 934-2228.

Galerie Bohème:  Group show

"Orange Bike," pen ink and colored pencil, by Cynthia Coté. (Photo courtesy Galerie Bohème)

Galerie Bohème is pleased to bring you a December group show featuring outstanding artist works by Margo McCafferty, Tom Rudd, Cynthia Coté, Georgi Tsenov and more.

The opening reception will be from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 5. So stop by check out the art, have a cuppa, a cookie, talk with friends and neighbors and take some fine art home for the holidays. Galerie Bohème is at 423 Fifth St. For more information, call (906) 369-4087.

Copper Country Associated Artists: Open House with Artists

At the Copper Country Associated Artists (CCAA) "Artist Open House," member artists will be in the gallery from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 5. Come browse, visit the artists and shop for the unique gifts they have created for this holiday season. For more information, contact the gallery at 337-1252, Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The CCAA Gallery is at 205 Fifth St.

Hahn Hammered Copper: Ornaments and unique items

Stop in at Hahn Hammered Copper on First Friday to see what's new for the Holidays. Enjoy homemade cookies while you browse our own hand-hammered copper ornaments and unique salvaged items. Add a rustic touch to your loft with a barbed wire wreath, or a vintage brass candlestick from an old Copper Country church or perhaps an Odd Fellows Saint Nicholas mask!

Whatever your taste, you're sure to find something at Hahn Hammered Copper, 203 Fifth St. in Calumet.

Cross Country Sports: Holiday Open House

At Cross Country Sports, a Holiday Open House, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., will feature works by local artists including Jeremy Rowe of Night Sky Photography, Elaine Eikenberry, Heather Mroz, Eric Ollis of UP Panorama, Jen Szubielak and Barbara Flanagin.

Stop in at 507 Oak Street for holiday cookies and refreshments, in-store discounts and a drawing for a door prize at 9 p.m.! For more information, call 337-4520.

Café Rosetta: Poetry Reading, art by Jacquelyn Williams

Café Rosetta is pleased to host a Community Poetry Reading and Slam from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on First Friday! Let out your inner poet by sharing your latest creation or your favorite poetry piece. Or, win a cash prize/gift certificate in the Poetry Slam! A poetry slam is the competitive art of performance poetry. This is a community event, open to all ages.

Jacquelyn Williams is Café Rosetta's December featured artist. Jacquelyn is excited to be returning to the Rosetta to share her love of art. Her works for this season include a beautiful variety of autumnal and winter landscapes on canvas, framed original oil pastel sketches and hand-painted holiday ornaments. Stop in to enjoy Jacquelyn's art or pick up a perfect original gift!

Café Rosetta is at 104 Fifth St. in Calumet.

Click here to learn about more Christmas in Calumet events this weekend.

Enjoy Christmas in Calumet art, music, family activities beginning Dec. 5, 6

These snow people from Avolio GlassWerks are among the one-of-a-kind gifts for sale at the Paige Wiard Gallery's "Glorious Gifting" show -- part of the First Friday gallery events that will kick off Christmas in Calumet activities this weekend. (Photo courtesy Paige Wiard Gallery)

CALUMET -- Christmas in Calumet activities begin this weekend and continue almost to the New Year. During the weeks preceding Christmas come to Calumet to capture that old fashioned, small town holiday spirit! Enjoy a concert or a play, visit Calumet's unique shops and galleries for one-of-a-kind gifts and dine at one of the fine restaurants. Parking is free in downtown Calumet through Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015.

Here is a schedule of events for this weekend, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 5 and 6:

Friday, Dec. 5:

    First Friday events at galleries, shops, and eateries, 6:30 p.m. - 9 p.m.
    Terry Lee Goffee -- "Johnny Cash Tribute," Calumet Theatre, 7:30 p.m.*

Saturday, Dec. 6:

Visits with Santa and free goodie bags, Rowe Furniture, 11 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Holiday music by strolling musicians, various downtown locations, Noon -3 p.m.
Poor Artists Sale at CLK High School Gym, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.**  

Click here for the rest of the schedule on Main Street Calumet's Web site.

* Visit the Calumet Theatre Web site for more information on this event.

** Click here for more details on the Poor Artists Sale.

For more information about any of these events, please contact Main Street Calumet at (906) 337-6246. (Inset photo courtesy Main Street Calumet)

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

38th Annual Poor Artists Sale to feature wide variety of handmade items Dec. 6 in Calumet

HANCOCK -- The 38th annual Poor Artists Sale will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, at the CLK Gymnasium in Calumet  Enjoy work from more than fifty local and regional artists.

Poster for Dec. 6, 2014, Poor Artists Sale. (Poster courtesy Copper Country Community Arts Center)

The Poor Artists Sale is hosted by the Copper Country Community Arts Council (CCCAC) as a benefit for the Community Arts Center in Hancock. Shoppers will find handmade jewelry and pottery, holiday wreaths, ornaments, baskets, wood art, glass, fiber arts, honey products, candles, photography and much more. Shop and visit with friends in a relaxing, social atmosphere, renew your Arts Council membership (or join for the first time) and enjoy homemade treats at the CCCAC hospitality table.

Fiber artist Andrea Puzakulich is pictured here with her original Distant Drum designs at a previous Poor Artists Sale. Check out her booth of unique clothing at this Saturday's Poor Artists Sale at the CLK Gymnasium in Calumet. (Keweenaw Now file photo)
This year’s artists include: Deanna Attee, Herbal Oasis Bodycare; Janice Brogan; Ritch Branstrom; Mark Bukovich; Colleen Carlyle, Native Sister Soaps; Connie Cogger; Rachel Cranford; Ryan Dalman; Dawn Dodge; Tom Doman; Elaine Eikenberry; Genevieve Faber; Randall Geda; Linda and Mike Greene; Connie Hedmark; Lindsey Heiden; Melissa Hronkin and John Hersman, Algomah Acres Honey Farm; Georgiana Hurst; Patsy Keyes; Edward Kisiel; June Klein; Lenore Lampi; Rowan Leithauser, Violet Star Clothing; Heather Lindquist; Kevin Maki; Barbara Maronen; Deb Matthews; Terri Merrick; Heather Mroz; Jim O’Brien; Rich Pethtel; Andrea Puzakulich, Distant Drum designs; Jodi Rauvala; Toivo Salo; Rick Shapero; JR Scott; Diane Simonson, Keweenaw Bay Wreaths; Sue Stephens; Nancy Stoneman; Grace Strong; Bill and Edith Wiard; and Lois Woodworth.  Community groups: Houghton Keweenaw Counties Genealogical Society, Isle Royale and Keweenaw Parks Association and thirteen Finlandia student artists from the Young Women’s Caucus.

For more information stop by the Copper Country Community Arts Center at 126 Quincy Street in Hancock, visit, or call 906-482-2333.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Artist Clint Jukkala exhibit to open Dec. 4 at Finlandia University Gallery

"Useful Fictions," oil on canvas, 2014, by Clint Jukkala. (Photos courtesy Finlandia University)

HANCOCK -- The 24th annual Contemporary Finnish American Artist Series Exhibition -- featuring Clint Jukkala: Lenses, Portals and Escape Plans -- will be on display at the Finlandia University Gallery, located in the Finnish American Heritage Center, Hancock, from Dec. 4, 2014, through Jan. 2, 2015.

An opening reception at the gallery will take place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 4, with an artist talk beginning at 7:15 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

At once reflective and irreverent, Jukkala’s paintings depict a world in which rationality gives way to the realm of psychology, memory and daily life. Framed and reframed by circular forms evocative of eyes, goggles, or periscopes, our view into Jukkala’s world is constantly shifting. Jukkala asks us to become aware of our own thinking and sense perceptions -- our consciousness. With both humor and profundity, Jukkala offers us a fresh perspective on the sublimity of daily life.

"The Feeling of Knowing," oil and acrylic on canvas, 2011, by Clint Jukkala.

"My paintings offer portals into sensory worlds of color, geometry and remembered experience," notes Jukkala. "Ostensibly abstract, they refer to the real world, suggesting interior spaces, windows and landscape vistas. Through framing and reframing, the paintings unfold, creating pictures within pictures and spatial ambiguities."

Artist Clint Jukkala pictured with some of his paintings in 2014.

Referencing the tradition of geometric abstraction, Jukkala’s paintings stretch its conventions, combining strong saturated color and highly textured surfaces with image making.

"By restoring abstraction to the body, Jukkala generates new forms and surprising connections -- imagination being the subject as well as the primary interest of these works," writes Hearne Pardee in his review of Jukkala's work in The Brooklyn Rail.

"Suspended between the sublime, or sublimated, and the visceral, Jukkala playfully combines devices of high modernism with elemental images, exploring the world generated by his primitive visual logic. Jukkala evokes an abstract sublime that lurks in the pure fields of modernist color. But by making images he also roots himself in an alternative modern tradition, one that goes back beyond Magritte to the Metaphysical Painting of De Chirico and Carrà," continues Pardee.

Jukkala received his Bachelor of Fine Art from the University of Washington, and his Master of Fine Art from Yale University School of Art. His work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group shows in New York, including a solo exhibit at Bravin Lee Programs, New York, NY, in June 2014.

He is currently a Professor and Chair of Graduate Programs at PAFA -- Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts -- and previously taught at Yale University and University of Connecticut.

The Finlandia University Gallery is in the Finnish American Heritage Center, 435 Quincy Street, Hancock. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday noon to 4 p.m., or by appointment. For more information, call 906-487-7500.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

"Paddle to D.C." team to reach Washington this week with petition to protect Boundary Waters, Lake Superior from proposed sulfide mining

By Michele Bourdieu

Kessler Silvelet, 4, adds his signature to the canoe that is now on its way to Washington, D.C. -- part of a petition to protect Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Lake Superior from projected sulfide mines. Dave and Amy Freeman of Ely, Minnesota, are "Paddling to D.C." with the petition and expect to arrive this Tuesday, Dec. 2. On Sept. 11, 2014, Amy Freeman and her teammate, Olivia Ridge, gave a presentation in the Portage Lake District Library on the Freemans' educational work. (Photos by Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated.)

HOUGHTON -- Dave and Amy Freeman of Ely, Minnesota, and members of their team  plan to arrive in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 2, 2014, with their canoe full of signatures for a petition to protect Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Lake Superior from plans for sulfide mining in northern Minnesota. Their canoe trip this fall also coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, which established the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.*

The Freemans, named "National Geographic Adventurers of the Year" for 2014, are outdoor enthusiasts / educators who, before setting out on this trip from Ely last August, spent three years kayaking, canoeing and dog sledding 11,700 miles across North America -- while communicating via Internet with children in schools who interacted with them and even gave them suggestions for their trip.

Through the Freemans' "Wilderness Classroom," students again participate in the couple's adventure -- this time a 2,000-mile canoe and sailing trip from the Boundary Waters to Washington, D.C.

Dave and Amy Freeman of Ely, Minn., posted this recent photo of paddling down the Chester River towards Chesapeake Bay with a Thanksgiving update on their "Paddle to D.C." blog as they near their goal of arriving in D.C. on Dec. 2. (Photo © and courtesy Dave and Amy Freeman. Reprinted with permission.)**

Each week this fall -- since September 2 -- elementary and middle school students have been using STEM-focused lessons to join the adventure and learn along with the Freemans through educational updates, video conferencing and a variety of educational activities. The Freemans and their team will also record data ranging from the amount of garbage they produce, to water quality measurements for students to interpret.***

The Freemans launch their canoe in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. They set out early this fall on their "Paddle to D.C." trip from Ely, Minnesota, to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness of potential pollution from sulfide mining. (Photo © and courtesy Nate Ptacek)

On Sept. 11, 2014, at the Portage Lake District Library in Houghton, Amy Freeman gave a presentation including both the nearly 12,000-mile North American adventure from the Pacific Northwest to Key West via the Arctic and the reasons for the current "Paddle to D.C." trip. The event, "Protecting Our Precious Waters," was sponsored by the Portage Library and Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK).

Here are some video excerpts from the presentation:

At the Portage Lake District Library on Sept. 11, 2014, Amy Freeman begins her presentation with photos and videos of kayaking, canoeing and dogsledding 11,700 miles across North America with her husband, Dave Freeman. Their human-powered trek took them from the Pacific Northwest to Key West via the Arctic. She stopped in Houghton during their present trip, "Paddle to D.C.," 2,000 miles by canoe and sailboat to call attention to sulfide mining threats to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota and the Lake Superior watershed. Chris Alquist, Portage Library community program director, introduces Amy and explains that Dave Freeman was unable to attend as scheduled because of high winds on Lake Superior that day. Click on YouTube icon for a larger picture. (Videos by Keweenaw Now)

Amy Freeman describes animals she observed at the beginning of the Freemans' 3-year trip -- including humpback whales that came very close ...

During her presentation at the Portage Library, Amy Freeman describes the Arctic sled dog portion of the Freemans' nearly 12,000-mile trip via kayak, canoe and sled dog. She explains how students interacted with the team and made a decision about one of the dogs, 12-year-old Fennel, who, they felt, deserved retirement.

Amy Freeman describes navigating through the Boundary Waters in the fall. They followed the route of the voyageurs to Grand Portage, where they saw some spectacular Northern Lights, photographed by their friend Bryan Hansel, who joined them on this part of the trip.

Showing photos of cities they passed through on the East coast, Amy explains how they stopped along the way to give community presentations. She points out that wild areas still exist not too far from some cities. Amy describes how they felt when they finally completed their trip at Key West, Florida.

Why the Freemans are "Paddling to D.C." -- sulfide mining threats in Minnesota

During the second part of the presentation, Olivia Ridge, also of Ely, Minn., a member of the Freemans' team, speaks about the grassroots effort to save the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior watersheds from the threat of proposed sulfide mines by Polymet and Twin Metals in Minnesota. Click on YouTube icon for larger view of maps.

Amy Freeman and Olivia Ridge describe examples of acid mine drainage that already exists from old mines and from new prospecting (exploration) for future mining in Minnesota.

Following the presentation, Freeman and Ridge invited members of the audience to sign the "petition" canoe and the written petition to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from sulfide mining. The petition can also be signed on line.****

Kyle McGurk of Green Bay, Wis., a third-year Michigan Tech student in electrical engineering, signs the Freemans' canoe.

Amy Freeman commented on the double purpose of "Paddling to D.C." -- taking the petition to Washington to request that federal agencies enforce the Clean Water Act and the Wilderness Act and also stopping in communities along the way to share their message about sulfide mining.

"When we were planning this trip it wasn't the paddling that was the challenge," Amy Freeman told members of the Houghton audience. "It was planning events like this along the way. This is new to us."

After the presentation, Amy Freeman, left, pauses for a photo with, from left, Chris Alquist, Portage Lake District Library community program director and FOLK board member; Connie Julien, FOLK member, who hosted the visitors in her home; and Olivia Ridge of Ely, Minn., a member of the Freemans' team and spokesperson for the grassroots effort to save the Boundary Waters from sulfide mining.

Connie Julien, FOLK member, said Amy Freeman and Olivia Ridge stayed at her home during their visit to Houghton while they waited for the Freemans' sailboat to arrive after it was held up in Ashland, Wis., because of high winds and waves (preventing Dave Freeman from participating in the presentation).

"It was a pleasure to host them and hear of their exciting adventures so far on this long journey to our Nation's Capitol," Julien said. "We are so proud of their quest to bring the issues of environmental protection to our legislators and communities along their route in such a dramatic way."*****

Ann Pace and John Slivon of Hancock (formerly of Minnesota) also commented on the presentation.

"I thought it was very impressive because they have clearly thought through the issues involving this kind of mining in their particular community and environment," Pace said.

Slivon added, "Their issues are exactly our issues -- polluting the last great unpolluted fresh water system in the world."


* On September 3, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act, which set aside an initial 9.1 million acres of wildlands, including the one-million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, for the use and benefit of the American people. In the 50 years since that event, over 100 million acres in the U.S. have been preserved for the public through the Wilderness Act.

** Click here for the Freemans' Thanksgiving blog entry on their Web site.

*** Click here to learn about the Freemans' Wilderness Classroom activities allowing young students to participate in "Paddle to D.C."

**** Visit "Paddle to D.C." to learn more about the trip. Click here to sign the petition.

***** See the Freemans' Sept. 18 blog entry, "To Houghton After the Gale," for their impressions of the Houghton visit.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

State Rep. Scott Dianda notes concerns about clean energy, road improvement, public transit, more ...

By Michele Bourdieu

After a recent interview with Keweenaw Now, Scott Dianda (D-Calumet), 110th District state representative, right, chats with two local residents, Jack Korri, left, of Calumet, and Mark Korpela of Hancock in the Kaleva Café in Hancock. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

HANCOCK -- Scott Dianda (D-Calumet), 110th District state representative, is concerned about alternative, cleaner energy and also about roads and public transit -- especially in the context of what will benefit his constituents in seven Upper Peninsula counties. He recently discussed several issues under these topics in an interview with Keweenaw Now.

Coalition needed for building renewable energy future

Dianda recently joined with Republican colleagues in the Michigan House in proposing a bipartisan legislative package of energy bills targeting sector growth, job creation, new investments, lower energy costs and environmental protection. Rob VerHeulen (R-Walker) and Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) joined Dianda in proposing bills intended to start a discussion about Michigan’s energy future.

"I’m pleased that my colleagues in the House are taking a forward-looking approach to Michigan’s energy challenges," said Dianda. "Between woody biomass, wind, solar and geothermal, we have the opportunity to make cheap, renewable energy right here at home. Our consumers in the U.P. are facing job-killing energy rate increases. We need to encourage investment in energy generation and empower people to produce their own power. It’s the future."

Since Democrats are in the minority in both the Michigan Senate and the House, Dianda said, he believes a partnership with Republicans is necessary and he is glad to work across party lines to get renewable energy legislation passed.

"We have to build a coalition to improve our energy future with renewables," he noted.

Dianda said residents in his district -- which ranges from Gogebic County in the west to parts of Marquette County (Ishpeming and Powell townships) -- cannot afford to pay more for electricity than they are already paying, especially during the cold U.P. winters.

"We are going to have to have more electricity for our furnaces and -- for those who heat with wood -- for the fans to move the air around," he noted. "A lot of my residents use electric blankets and heating pads because they don't have much heat in the house."

Michigan State Rep. Scott Dianda introduces himself to Kaleva Café customers Bob Lean, left, of Bootjack, a former UPPCO (Upper Peninsula Power Company) employee, and his grandson, Bobby Lean, of Hibbing, Minn.

Dianda's bill, HB 5968, introduced on Nov. 13, 2014, would establish clean energy targets for each Michigan utility, he said. Dianda envisions Michigan's coal power plants, by switching to bio-fuel, reaching a goal of 15 percent renewable energy by 2019 and 19 percent by 2022, with additional increments of 4.5 percent every three years until they reach 100 percent.

"We need some of the bigger producers to come and help us in the U.P. with an incentive program for investment," Dianda added.

If forest waste products in the U.P. were used for bio-mass, local energy production could be increased from the current 10 percent renewables to 30 percent, Dianda said. He also suggests using some sort of organic waste, e.g. food waste, to return nutrients to the soil after these forest products are removed.

Dianda's bill also includes wind energy -- creating a wind energy resource zone board and providing for its power and duties and authorizing the creation and implementation of wind energy resource zones.*

Dianda told Keweenaw Now he is in favor of using geothermal energy from water in the local mines (as has been proposed recently and is presently being used at the Keweenaw Research Center).**

"We could never re-create the caverns of warm water that we have under these communities," Dianda said. "They're created by the mining industry, and we're left with the by-product."

With the resources at Michigan Tech and the Keweenaw Research Center, there must be a way we can tap into these old mines that have an abundance of warmer water -- for district heating, Dianda noted.

Dianda said he is also aware of and supportive of the HEET (Houghton Energy Efficiency Team) and their recent efforts and application for a Georgetown prize of $5 million to support their energy efficiency plan.

State Senate bill would raise gas tax for Michigan road improvement

Dianda has expressed concern about a recent Senate bill to add a 41-cent per gallon tax on gasoline in order to fund road repairs in Michigan.

"We've got people right now having a hard time paying their heating bills and putting food on the table," Dianda said. "It's going to be a very big tax burden on people up here who can least afford it. And out of the $1.2 billion that they want to raise, how much money is going to come to our seven counties and what is it going to do to help our local county road commissions?"

He noted, for example, that the funds would not be designated for snow removal.

In an open letter released this week, Dianda called on Governor Snyder to make the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) a more cost-efficient organization. The lawmaker warned that he would not vote for a gas tax increase on his constituents unless he felt that MDOT was making the wisest use of its current budget.

"In the U.P., we are seeing that MDOT maintains a fleet of state planes for its employees to use, but the department won’t keep our main streets clear of snow and ice during a storm," Dianda said. "There is something very wrong with that picture."

Dianda is concerned that even with the proposed gas tax increases, municipal governments in his district still would not get the service they need to function properly unless the state cuts back. In his letter, Dianda outlines several steps the governor could take to curb costs at MDOT, including a smarter system for awarding state contracts and making sure that MDOT employees use videoconferencing technology whenever possible to avoid travel expenses.

"We have a sacred trust to guard the resources of the people and to spend their money as we would our own. My constituents are very concerned about how a gas tax increase is going to impact their daily lives and ability to commute to work," Dianda noted. "We need to fix Michigan’s roads and maintain them during the winter. Our counties and townships have been asked to do more with less. I understand that," he added. "But I will not vote to make it more costly for folks to get to work unless I know I have done everything I can, and the governor is doing everything he can, to make the Michigan Department of Transportation a leaner, meaner organization."

Dianda formerly worked for MDOT and he is now on the House Transportation Committee.

Need for public transit in rural areas

Asked about future possibilities for improving public transportation in the U.P., Dianda told Keweenaw Now lawmakers have talked about public transit in committee, but funding is lacking.

"The way the funding situation is, I'm just glad we have what we have," Dianda said. "I'd like to see it improved for all of our counties up here."

He agreed that Hancock and Houghton public transit could be improved with evening and weekend hours -- to benefit both senior citizens who don't drive and young people who have to work part-time jobs.

Dianda said he fears most of the funding might go for road expansion in more populated metropolitan areas rather than improvement of existing roads and needed public transportation in the seven counties he represents.

"If we spend $1.2 billion is the quality of transportation life in the U.P. going to get better? That's my question," Dianda said.

Mining trucks through Marquette add high carbon footprint

Since Dianda's constituency includes parts of Marquette County, he also expressed concern about the truck transport from the Eagle Mine to the Humboldt Mill, now that the mine is in production.

"The truck traffic from the Eagle Mine to the Humboldt Mill has to take an out-of-the-way route through the Northern Michigan University campus -- Wright Street to U.S. 41 and west to Humboldt," Dianda said. "This is a large carbon footprint -- trucks having to do extra mileage."

Dianda noted the mining company should have put in an elevated railroad with lighter loads in order to have less impact than truck traffic.

Dianda's Bill naming bridge for veterans approved in House

The Michigan House recently approved unanimously Dianda's Bill 5715, which names a bridge in Ontonagon County the "Ontonagon County Veterans Memorial Bridge."

“Our brave veterans deserve our support and recognition for their courage and willingness to leave their families to serve," Dianda said. "I am proud to sponsor this bill to show them our appreciation."

HB 5715 was introduced in July following a recommendation from the Ontonagon County Veterans’ Association, which has been in operation for 10 years. The bridge is located on Highway M-64 over the Ontonagon River in Ontonagon Township.

"I thank my House colleagues for joining me to honor our veterans and approving my bill," said Dianda. "I hope that my Senate colleagues will give their approval so we can see this bill signed into law before session ends in December."

To learn more about State Rep. Scott Dianda or to contact him, visit his Web site.


* Click here to read Dianda's proposed HB 5968.

** See the guest article by Laura Smyth, "Minewater Geothermal on the Keweenaw Peninsula."  A Green Lecture on this subject was also held in Houghton on Nov. 20, 2014. Watch for more on this issue, coming soon.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Guest article: Lundin mineral lease application -- Here we go again

This photo from the north demonstrates the proximity of Lundin Mining's proposed 40-acre mineral lease to the Yellow Dog River and recreational access. The actual corner of the parcel with trees removed north of the bridge (red X) is less than 400 feet from the river and less than that from the flood plain. Click on photo for larger version. (Photo and caption © and courtesy Jeremiah Eagle Eye)

By Gene Champagne*

Eagle Mine LCC, a subsidiary of Lundin Mining of Toronto and Sweden, has recently applied for a mineral lease on 40 acres of state owned property (in other words OUR property) that lie a short distance southeast of the current Eagle Mine site. The parcel also lies within a few hundred yards of the Yellow Dog River -- close enough to be in the river’s 100-year floodplain. Public comment is currently being accepted by the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources (MDNR) until December 1, 2014. Citizens should not only comment on this proposed mineral lease, but also request that a public hearing be held on the permit application either in Marquette or Big Bay. Marquette is a regional hub that would enable more people to comment. Big Bay is the community most affected by the creeping industrialization of the decreasingly pristine Yellow Dog Plains.

Residents of Big Bay are literally the "canary in the coal mine" for this segment of the mining industry that is mapping out a new mining region around Lake Superior. Big Bay residents are just beginning to experience some of the negative side effects of this industrialization. Our quality of life is being seriously diminished by noise, super highways, and other precursor effects. Other potential effects to our water and air may not be felt for years to come. By the time any negative impacts to our water are realized, it will be too late; the horse will be out of the barn with no turning back. You cannot reverse the process of acid mine drainage. We need to give pause before proceeding with any new mineral leases of state land in this area.

First of all, Eagle Mine has just commenced production, which is not even up to full speed yet. This segment of the mining industry is relatively new to the region. The history and science of hard rock mining has left a legacy of watershed devastation worldwide and in the western US, where it is DRY. Michigan and the Great Lakes region may have too much water for this type of mining. Water is becoming the oil of the 21st century.

Eagle Mine permit challenged

Many consider the current permit very inadequate at the least. There is enough evidence to render it fraudulent and illegal. If Eagle Mine is to operate we should wait a few years with Eagle at full capacity before jumping down some sink hole we may never recover from. The minerals are going nowhere. If our water is ruined, it is ruined forever. No one is making any more.

Of most concern is the process of mineral leasing and mine permitting itself. The state leases minerals for exploration that may, or may not, turn out to be profitable. If determined to be profitable, the company submits a permit application to mine. The State of Michigan, through the Dept. of Environment Quality (MDEQ) feels obligated to grant a permit. You cannot lease minerals without the expectation of a permit application to follow. The area may be an inappropriate place to mine due to the sensitivity of the environment (read water table/watershed/rare fauna/flora). The permit may be totally inadequate to protect such an area, but will be granted regardless.

Michigan needs siting criteria for mining

Those who speak of our toughest in the nation mining laws (politicians and mine advocates/officials) are blowing smoke. For example, South Dakota, a traditional mining state, has siting criteria, which determine areas that are too sensitive for mining activity. Michigan needs such siting criteria. The writers of the current rules and regulations refused to include a siting provision when Kennecott Minerals opposed it. Some of these same mine advocates, with the backing of local media, portend the need to balance the environment with development, but there is no balance when development always wins out. All we get is an inadequate and illegally compromised permit. The "winners" of late are international conglomerates beholden to stockholders, while we are tossed "trinkets and beads." Trinkets and beads buy us nothing when our lands are gone.

Dan Blondeau, senior advisor, Communications and Media Relations for Eagle Mine, has stated that Eagle Mine LLC has no interest in mining this parcel, but hopes it will help them understand the geology of the area better.

Dan states, "Contrary to speculation there is no mine plan for the proposed lease area, nor is there an immediate plan for exploration."

I can relate to that. I lease parking spaces all the time and let them sit idle. I just want to better understand the nature of parking lots. I do the same with apartments and cars. When Lundin acquired Eagle Mine from Rio Tinto, the package came with over 5,000 acres of owned/leased mineral rights in the vicinity of Eagle Mine. What is this 40-acre parcel going to tell them that they don’t already know? And so we begin the slide down the slippery slope.

Why lease this public land?

To grease the skids down this slippery slope, the MDNR Fisheries Division quietly changed the property’s designation to "development -- with restrictions," which could include a mine, when Eagle Mine made their intention for a mineral lease application known to the MDNR. The property was originally designated as "non-development" in 2003. What changed on this land other than a mining company’s interest in it? This land is OUR land. This 40-acre parcel of OUR land sits adjacent to an additional 481 acres of OUR land. Sound familiar? It should.

Many area residents, as well as tourists, use this area for camping, fishing, hunting, hiking, gathering, snowmobiling, skiing, and quiet reflection. This is OUR quality of life. It is the main reason many have chosen to live here. Private land adjacent to this state- controlled 40 is used by many people for some of these same purposes. There was a recent gathering here in October for religious and spiritually inclined individuals to mourn the loss of our solitude and quality of life. The gathering bemoaned the destruction of our immediate environment and, reflecting upon nature’s gifts, resolved to stand against further loss. The gathering was well attended.

Public comments due Dec. 1, 2014

Do we, as residents of the central Upper Peninsula, wish to maintain our quality of life or would we rather sell out to foreign internationals for a temporary infusion of "trinkets and beads"? Your opinion matters. Comments may be mailed by Monday, Dec. 1, 2014, to
Karen Maidlow, Property Analyst
Minerals Management Office, Department of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 30452
Lansing, Michigan 48909-7952

or email Karen Maidlow at

* Editor's Notes:
Guest author Gene Champagne is a member of Concerned Citizens of Big Bay. Excerpts from this opinion article appeared recently in the Marquette Mining Journal.