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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Guest article: Statement in response to DEQ Public Hearing on Eagle Mine Groundwater Discharge Permit

By Dana Ferguson*

It was very encouraging to see the community get out and ask valid, concerning questions in a respectable way regarding a very important topic: the environmental well-being of our land and water. While the DEQ, with the assistance of certain Lundin employees, attempted to address as many of the questions as possible, I can't help but feel many of the expressed concerns were not abated. Nor can I say that this was solely the fault of the DEQ.

Many of the insufficient or unsatisfactory responses were the result of there being lax, or no, regulations or standards in place to reference. These would have to be addressed at the state and federal level by our legislators. But we cannot, nor should we, relinquish all responsibility to those few involved in the legislative process. The community must play a larger part in this story, for it concerns them, their home, and their future. The voice of a strong community is far louder than the voice of a politician.

If Lundin and the DEQ can show that our community and environment will not be adversely impacted at all, then there may be a strong case to halt the resistance. But I believe it is their burden to prove.

It is dangerous and irresponsible to tempt a community which has been hit with unemployment and hard times with a promise of jobs, and with no regard to the future of that community. The promise of jobs right now may not make up for the consequences of when those jobs leave. This is not an obstinate stance, it is a valid concern regarding the future of a community. This is our home and we should be making decisions which make our home a better place to live, not just now but in the future as well. We must move forward with our eyes open. We must be cautious. Do we take the chance of sacrificing, or negatively impacting, one of our largest industries, tourism, as well as possibly damaging our irreplaceable natural treasures for the sake of a few jobs? How do we know what the tradeoff will be? We do not have to sacrifice our beautiful and unique home at the expense of jobs.

There are ways to bring jobs here which will allow us to keep the integrity of the U.P. in place. This should be our goal. It is too important to be ambivalent on the topic, so I encourage people to play a part in this discussion.

* Editor's Note: Guest author Dana Ferguson of Negaunee, Mich., is a potential candidate for Michigan's 1st District Congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek. He attended the March 25, 2014, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Public Hearing on the Groundwater Discharge Permit for the Eagle Mine and offered his comments on the hearing to Keweenaw Now. To learn more about Dana Ferguson, visit his Web site, Ferguson for Congress or his Facebook page. (Inset photo: Dana Ferguson. Photo courtesy Dana Ferguson)

Watch for Keweenaw Now's video report on the March 25 hearing, coming soon.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Michigan Tech Jazz Studies to present 14th Annual Don Keranen Memorial Jazz Night March 28

Don Keranen, founder of Michigan Tech's jazz program, is pictured here in 1977 with the Concert Band. (Photo courtesy Michigan Technological University)

HOUGHTON -- Energy and Jazz! Michigan Technological University Jazz Studies brings it all home with the 14th Annual Don Keranen Memorial Jazz Night at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 28, at the Rozsa Center. Michigan Tech's Jazz Lab Band (JLB) and R and D Big Band will perform a wide variety of classic and modern jazz, Latin jazz, fusion, ballads, blues, rock and funk.

"Today is an exciting time to be a jazz musician," Mike Irish, director of Jazz Studies says.

Mike Irish, Michigan Tech director of Jazz Studies. (Photo courtesy Michigan Technological University)

Don Keranen, founder of MTU's jazz program 47 years ago, made "fusion" a byword here, so today's eclectic world music, with jazz infused by many different styles and genres, is right at home.

"By the time our students graduate, they will have performed just about every style of jazz imaginable, including their own compositions and arrangements," Irish says. "I know Don would be pleased with the results!"

This concert will also feature the jazz stylings of trombonist Mike Christianson, the current director of bands at Michigan Tech, whose prior experience was as a top-call jazz trombonist in New York for 22 years.

"The level of jazz performance that Mike brings to our program is outstanding," says Irish. "Mike is a total pro, and his performance is such an inspiration for our students and me."

Christianson will be featured on John Clayton’s "Soupbone" that highlights not only Christianson's improvisation skills, but his sought-after soulful playing with the plunger mute. To close the concert, he will be featured alongside Brittany Vanderwall in a duet titled "Two-Bone Barbeque," by Al Cobine.

Don Keranen (1942-2000) was one of the most talented musicians ever to be associated with the Copper Country. Born and raised in Baraga, Don received his academic music education at Northern Michigan University and graduate studies at the University of Oregon. He also accumulated an enormous breadth of musical experience, in all genres, as a composer/arranger, sax/flute performer, keyboardist, bassist and a marvelous vocalist.

Though associated mostly with the jazz idiom, Don was adept at performance in all styles of music. While a quiet individual, Don was a tremendous innovator at Michigan Tech.  He developed the jazz studies program, which today includes two big bands, three combos and academic courses in Jazz History, Jazz Improvisation, and Jazz Arranging. He  instituted and developed the MTU Wind Ensemble (known today as the Superior Winds); originated the "scramble band" concept used by the Huskies Pep Band; put the Pep Band into the now legendary "Stripes" uniforms; took the JLB on numerous Caribbean performance tours; and developed HiTech, one of the first all-synthesizer jazz combos in the country.

Tickets are: Adults $13, Youth $5, Students $5, Michigan Tech Students Free with Experience Tech Fee. To purchase tickets, call (906) 487-2073, go online at, or visit Ticketing Operations at Michigan Tech’s Student Development Complex (SDC).  Please note the Rozsa Box Office is closed during regular business hours and will only open two hours prior to show times. 

Finlandia's International School of Art and Design to host student art exhibit, fashion show TONIGHT, March 27

Artwork by students in the Finlandia University International School of Art and Design is on exhibit from now through April 15, 2014, in the Finlandia University Gallery in Hancock. An opening reception and fashion show will be held TONIGHT, Thursday, March 27. (Photos courtesy Finlandia University)

HANCOCK -- A juried exhibit of artwork by students in the Finlandia University International School of Art and Design (ISAD) is featured at the Finlandia University Gallery, Hancock, from March 27 through April 15, 2014.

An opening reception will be held from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. TONIGHT, Thursday, March 27, at the gallery, in the Finnish American Heritage Center. A fashion show will begin at 7:15 p.m. and awards for student excellence will be presented. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Fiber arts and fashion design are among the variety of media included in the student exhibit.

The exhibition includes works by students working in media including drawing, painting, illustration, ceramic design, fiber arts and fashion design, sculpture, integrated design, graphic design, digital media, photography, and mixed media/installation.

Much of the student artwork featured in the juried exhibit will be available for purchase.

The awards include Best of Show, awards for Freshman, 2-D and 3-D, a Faculty award, and a Purchase award. The jury included a faculty member, a graduating ISAD senior, and a community member.

The Finlandia University Gallery is in the Finnish American Heritage Center, 435 Quincy St., downtown Hancock.

For more information, contact the Finlandia University Gallery at 906-487-7500.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Environment Michigan: EPA proposes major protections for Michigan’s streams and wetlands

From Environment Michigan
Press release sent March 25, 2014

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- On Tuesday, March 25, in the biggest step forward for clean water nationally in more than a decade, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule to close loopholes in the Clean Water Act that leave 48 percent of Michigan’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands at risk of unchecked pollution and development.

"With the drinking water for 1.4 million Michiganders at risk, we’re thrilled to see the EPA moving forward to protect our waterways," said Shelley Vinyard, regional director with Environment Michigan, which has worked for many years to restore these Clean Water Act protections. "Today’s action is about ensuring that all our water is safe and healthy. And it has a huge impact on the health of the Great Lakes. Whether we’re fishing on the Au Sable, swimming in our favorite stream, or just drinking the water that comes from our tap, we need Michigan’s streams and wetlands to be clean and protected."

This rulemaking comes after a decade of uncertainty over the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act, following polluter-led Supreme Court challenges in 2001 and 2006. The rule, which could be finalized as soon as later this year, would restore Clean Water Act protections to many of Michigan’s wetlands and nearly half of Michigan’s streams.

"This rule would protect the streams that feed into and the wetlands that filter pollution out of our Great Lakes," said Vinyard. "If we don’t protect these critical waters, we can’t ensure that any of our waterways are fully protected."

With so much at stake, Environment Michigan and its sister groups across the country have waged an intensive multi-year campaign to restore these Clean Water Act protections -- including more than 1 million face-to-face conversations with people across the country, and rallying more than 400 local elected officials, 300 farmers, and 300 small business owners to call on the Obama administration to take action.      

In September 2013, EPA announced it was moving forward with the rulemaking to restore Clean Water Act protections to waterways throughout Michigan and across the country. It simultaneously released a draft science report on the connection between smaller streams and wetlands and downstream waters, which makes the scientific case for the rulemaking. Members of the public submitted more than 150,000 public comments in support of the report’s findings that these waterways merit protection under the law.

Many of the nation’s biggest polluters are already weighing in against the rulemaking, spreading misinformation about the rule’s potential impacts. While the EPA has announced the rule will preserve all existing Clean Water Act exemptions for the agricultural sector, the American Farm Bureau is insisting that the rulemaking is "a land grab" by the EPA and cause for "battle." The American Farm Bureau Federation is one of 28 members of the Waters Advocacy Coalition, an industry group formed to lobby against clean water protections.

"When finalized, this rule would be the biggest step forward for clean water nationwide in more than a decade," said Vinyard. "Thank you, Administrator Gina McCarthy and the EPA for fighting to protect clean water. Now let’s get the job done."

* Editor's Note: The EPA needs to hear from more Michigan citizens concerned about the water. Visit Environment Michigan and click on Help Protect the Great Lakes to send a note to the EPA.

Portage Library to host "Beekeeping Basics" March 27

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library invites those who want to learn about the amazing world of honey bees to an evening with local beekeeper Todd Gemelli as he presents "Beekeeping Basics" from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 27.

Participants will learn what types of equipment a beekeeper uses, how much time it takes to maintain hives, and the costs and rewards of beekeeping. There will be a small, empty hive and basic tools of the trade to examine and pure Keweenaw honey to taste. Some beekeeping items will be given away. Come and catch the beekeeping buzz!

Gemelli has been a beekeeper for 15 years. He is fascinated by the important role bees have in nature and is eager to share his knowledge and experience with others.

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

Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District to hold Annual Meeting March 27

HOUGHTON -- The Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District (HKCD) will hold its ANNUAL MEETING from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 27, at the Ramada Inn in Hancock. Everyone is welcome!

The program will include HKCD 2013 Accomplishments and 2014 Updates and a special presentation: "Conservation plus Self-powered Recreation in Keweenaw," by Aaron Rogers of the Copper Harbor Trails Club.

Refreshments will include a Make-Your-Own Taco Bar
RSVP appreciated: please call 906 482-0214.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Portage Library to host local authors Todd and Kristen Neva TONIGHT, March 25

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library invites everyone to join local authors Todd and Kristin Neva for an evening of conversation on suffering, holding on to faith, and discovering joy in the midst of sorrow.

The Nevas will present "HEAVY: Finding Meaning after a Terminal Diagnosis/A Young Family’s First Year with ALS" from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. TONIGHT, Tuesday, March 25.

Participants will be encouraged as the Nevas read excerpts from their book HEAVY and discuss questions like these: How should we respond to suffering? Is there a purpose to suffering? How can we prepare our children to face adversity?

Shortly after the birth of his son in 2009, Todd Neva, then 39, experienced weakness in his left arm. His condition steadily worsened. In June, 2010, upon referral, a neurologist diagnosed Todd with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that leads to total paralysis and death, usually in 3 to 5 years.

There will be a book signing and selling after the presentation. You can read more about the Neva’s story at and at

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

Presentations on mining communities scheduled for March 24, 25 cancelled

Update from Tech Today
Posted Tuesday, March 25

HOUGHTON -- The two presentations on legacy mining communities by Allan Comp of the Office of Surface Mining (OSM), Department of the Interior, scheduled for March 24 and March 25 at Michigan Tech, have been cancelled since his flight was cancelled and he was unable to come to Houghton.

Guest article: Minewater Geothermal on the Keweenaw Peninsula

By Laura Smyth*

CALUMET -- I’ve always dreamed of making my house energy self-sufficient -- maybe a windmill could be mounted where that old TV antenna anachronistically sits; maybe we could get a wood stove for the living room, some solar panels on the roof? I even occasionally allow myself to fantasize that our entire peninsula could be energy independent with no need for a larger electrical grid. What an economic boon that would be to my family and my neighbors I think, wistfully. Imagine never paying an electric or heating bill again.

If that all sounds a little pie-in-the-sky, consider the fact that we live above a valuable resource that could make at least some of it possible. I’m not talking about copper -- I’m talking about water and the vast underground network of abandoned mines. One legacy of copper mining in the Keweenaw was boom and bust economics. The other could be renewable energy and sustained economic development through new technology.

What is minewater geothermal? In a nutshell, the holes in the ground that were left behind by decades of mining have, after decades of disuse, filled with water and the earth’s heat has warmed that water enough to make it useful in a heat-exchange system. Pump the water up, extract the heat, pump the slightly cooled water back to be reheated by the earth. Any engineers reading this are now slapping their foreheads at my simplistic description, but this is not a technological article.

On December 12, 2013, a group of student researchers from Michigan Technological University presented their report on "Exploring the Social Feasibility of Minewater Geothermal in Calumet." The students, led by Prof. Richelle Winkler, had spent their Fall semester devising and implementing a study to aid the Calumet community in the process of deciding whether and how we might best use this untapped resource.

Michigan Tech Professor Richelle Winkler (in foreground seated at computer) and several of her student researchers are pictured here during their Dec. 12, 2013, presentation on minewater geothermal at CLK Commons in Calumet. (Photo © and courtesy Laura Smyth)

You can access their full report as well as a report summary here so I won’t go into great detail about their findings in this article. Let me just say they did a great job -- and the community, in particular those of us at Main Street Calumet who helped coordinate this project with Prof. Winkler, greatly appreciate their work.

As part of their study, the students devised a survey to gauge community interest in and concerns about the idea of geothermal energy production from minewater. Among the questions on the survey, I think the most telling was this: "Do you believe that Calumet (or maybe the Keweenaw Peninsula more broadly) is capable and ready to be an innovator or leading community for sustainable energy sources?"

That’s really what it comes to in the end: do you believe we can do this? The technology is proven and even in use already on the Keweenaw. While every site and every situation is unique, one model that the students looked at is the Keweenaw Research Center. Headed by Michigan Tech’s Jay Meldrum, the Keweenaw Research Center, located near the Houghton County Airport, is a successful example of minewater geothermal in action. Another example of the increasing commercial potential of this technology is Keweenaw Geothermal Research Group LLC (KGRG), a privately owned company that is in the initial phases of harnessing minewater geothermal as an energy source.  

These are exciting times, but bringing minewater geothermal to the Keweenaw Peninsula on a larger scale won’t be simple and it won’t be immediate. One challenge facing proponents of minewater geothermal is funding for the initial development; another is politics. With the most promising mine shafts located on both municipal and private property there are concerns about costs, ownership, and how the benefits of resource development will be shared.

But we have the know-how. Do we have the will power? Can we harness our different and too often competing interests and outlooks in common cause? We can have both a clean environment and a strong economy, and we can realize benefits for our youth from the hard work and sacrifice of our elders.

(For more information on the work of Main Street Calumet and ways you can get involved visit

* Guest author Laura Smyth is a writer and founding member of Keweenaw Writers Workshop. She is also a graphic designer and owner of Smythtype Design in Calumet, Michigan. (Inset photo: Laura Smyth in her Smythtype Design office. Keweenaw Now file photo.)

Monday, March 24, 2014

"World Water Day Exhibition: Water's Edge" at Great Lakes Research Center celebrates three artists

Poster for World Water Day Exhibition at Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) through Apr. 23. The public is invited to a "meet the artists" event from 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 26, at the GLRC. (Poster courtesy Carrie Flaspohler of Finlandia University Gallery)

HOUGHTON -- An art exhibit in Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) is part of this week's World Water Day events and continues through Apr. 23.

The Water’s Edge Art Exhibition celebrates artists Amy Arntson, Joyce Koskenmaki and Bonnie Peterson. The artists use paintings, prints and textiles.

Koskenmaki and Peterson will attend a "meet the artists" event from 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 26, at the Great Lakes Research Center. The public is invited to attend.

Arntson’s watercolors explore the surface qualities of water, including the reflectivity of colors found at sunrise and dusk. Her works illuminate the first floor entryway of the GLRC. Around the corner, Koskenmaki’s lyrical and metaphorical images of waterfalls, fish and aquascapes come to life with intense, pure oil paints. The large paintings almost leap off the wall, full of life. On the second floor, Peterson’s richly embroidered, beautifully tactile, large-scale textiles depict maps and scientific data on water. Peterson investigates environmental issues and the changing role of water in our culture.

Water’s Edge is the brainchild or Dr. Noel Urban, Michigan Tech professor of civil and environmental engineering. Urban wanted to juxtapose art with the campus-wide celebrations of World Water Day, including lectures, poster sessions and other events, because art can help bring important ecological issues to light. Anne Beffel, Michigan Tech professor and Visual and Performing Arts Department chair, and Carrie Flaspohler, Finlandia University Gallery curator and director, teamed up with Urban and curated the exhibition. Beffel and Flaspohler agree that these are three amazing artists, each with her own way of paying attention to and translating the cultural and ecological qualities of this element.*

The exhibition is sponsored by Michigan Tech's Center for Water and Society, Great Lakes Research Center and Visual and Performing Arts Department and by the Finlandia University Gallery and the Sustainable Finlandia Committee.

* Editor's Note: Click here to read more about World Water Day events at Michigan Tech. Visit the Michigan Tech's Center for Water and Society for more details.

Speaker from Office of Surface Mining, Dept. of the Interior, to give presentations March 24, 25, at Michigan Tech

Editor's UPDATE (noon, Tuesday, March 25): Unfortunately the following two events have been cancelled, since the speaker's flight was cancelled.

HOUGHTON -- Allan Comp of the Office of Surface Mining (OSM), Department of the Interior, will give two presentations on the Michigan Tech campus -- today, Monday, March 24, and tomorrow, Tuesday, March 25.

Comp, who leads the Office of Surface Mining of the Department of Interior’s Western Hardrock Watershed and Appalachian Coal Country teams -- the two primary organizations linking OSM to rural communities -- will speak on "The OSM/VISTA - Michigan Tech Partnership," today at 5 p.m., in Dow 642.

Comp will discuss how OSM/VISTA partners with local organizations to provide VISTA volunteers working in economic rejuvenation and environmental restoration in legacy mining communities and watersheds. Michigan Tech has partnered with OSM to enable students to earn a graduate degree while participating in the OSM/VISTA program.

Comp’s presentation will be directed toward Michigan Tech students and faculty with an interest in details of how the program works. The talk is free and open to the public. Pizza will be provided. More information about the program can be obtained at the Michigan Tech Graduate School website.

At 7 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, March 25, in Room G002 of the Forestry Building, Comp will speak on "The rejuvenation of legacy mining communities in the southern Rockies and central Appalachians."

Comp's two OSM teams and their volunteers work with nongovernmental organizations in the rejuvenation and rehabilitation of legacy mining communities and surrounding watersheds.

Efforts range from business development with local Chambers of Commerce to water-quality and trout restoration with watershed groups. The talk will focus on the needs of these communities and what strategies can be used to revitalize small rural communities.

The talk is free and open to the public.