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Saturday, August 23, 2014

An Open Letter to Michigan’s Representative Scott Dianda

Dear Representative Dianda,

Seven months ago, at our community’s Heikinpäivä Festival, I was one of many constituents in the crowd who had the chance to converse with you. I’m also one of the many Michigan voters who worked on two successful efforts to place referenda on Michigan’s Fall 2014 ballot. That is, I participated in the democratic process that gathered 230,000 signatures in support of allowing voters to decide, first, whether we should hunt wolves in Michigan, and second, who should make decisions about game species. You and I talked about this, and I am grateful.

During the 2013 Parade of Nations, Diane Miller, center, author of this letter, is pictured at the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected booth along with two other petition gatherers -- Jackie Winkowski, left, Wolfwatcher Great Lakes Representative, and Leah Vucetich of Hancock. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

You listened to me as I expressed disappointment over your yea vote on SB288, a bill that allowed a group of non-wildlife experts to determine game species in Michigan -- a bill obviously designed to circumvent the referendum process. This bill passed and became PA 21.

I listened to you when you explained your reasons for the vote. You cited a situation in which a pet dog had been killed by wolves, here in Houghton County.

And you listened to me when I said that I knew that dog; it lived across the road from me, and I reminded you that legislation has existed since 2009 that allowed my neighbor to shoot the offending wolf, which he did: No hunting season was needed to protect his remaining dogs.

I listened to you as you expressed your concern about the children in the Ironwood day care center where wolves were reported to have been lurking. I could tell that you truly cared, and I was impressed by that.

You listened to me as I reminded you that not only has no human ever been attacked by a healthy wolf in Michigan, but the Ironwood stories -- including the one about the day care -- have since been publicly exposed and verified as lies. I asked you: "If you had known that the stories were false, would you have voted differently?"

"Yes, I probably would," I heard you say.

We don’t usually get second chances. But here we go again. As you know, the House convenes on August 27 and you will be asked to vote yea or nay on the "Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act" -- a law that neither embodies sound science nor seems conservation-minded. In fact, it repeats the earlier bill and adds an insignificant appropriation for Asian Carp control (a trick -- laws that include appropriations can’t be challenged by voters). Clearly, this is another effort to circumvent the democratic process.

Representative Dianda, you listened to me, and I listened to you. Now I am counting on you to do the right thing: Please vote nay.


Diane Miller
Houghton County resident

Editor's Note:  See also Katie Alvord's Feb. 26, 2014, article, "Interview: Diane Miller of Houghton County explains why she has collected signatures for two anti-wolf-hunt petition drives."

Friday, August 22, 2014

Guest article: Mine haul roads and their potential environmental impacts

By Esteban Chiriboga, GLIFWC (Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission) Mapping Specialist

Published in GLIFWC's Fall 2014 issue of MAZINA'IGAN. Reprinted here with permission. 

Eagle mine haul road under construction. No evidence of silt fencing or erosion control best management practices is visible. (Photo © and courtesy Esteban Chiriboga. Reprinted with permission.)

MADISON, Wis. -- Mine haul roads are integral parts of a mine operation. These roads can vary in size from single lane dirt roads located within the footprint of a mine to multi-lane paved highways used to transport materials to and from a mine site. Roads located within the mine footprint are usually included in the analysis of potential environmental impacts of a mine. However, roads that lead away from the project site to processing areas or regional shipping hubs are often overlooked, and the impacts that occur along these transportation routes may be discounted.

The Red Dog mine in Alaska is one of the more notable examples of a project that has impacted the environment along its haul road. This open pit zinc, lead and silver mine transports crushed rock from the open mine pits to a concentrating facility. From there, the concentrate is transported via a 50-mile haul road to a port facility. Sampling along the haul road conducted in the early 1990s showed elevated concentrations of metals on the road surface and on the road shoulder. This finding led to additional studies which indicated that metal deposition has occurred along the road, and concentrations decrease with distance from the road right-of-way. Elevated metal concentrations in several plant species are detectable up to 1600 meters (approximately 1 mile) from the road (ADEC, 2002).*

The source of the metals is concentrate dust that adheres to the truck tires as well as trace amounts of concentrate dust on the surface of the trucks (ADEC,2002).* It is important to note that the trucks have hydraulically sealed doors that completely enclose the concentrate inside. Even with this precaution, contamination has still occurred.

Here in the Lake Superior region, there are ongoing concerns about impacts along mine haul roads in Minnesota and Michigan ceded territories. The proposed PolyMet mine in Minnesota is very similar to Red Dog in its operations and design. Although in the case of PolyMet, the crushed ore would be transported by rail and not by truck, GLIFWC staff are concerned about the potential for environmental impacts along the rail line. PolyMet proposes to use open rail cars that have gaps along the side door hinges to transport ore from the pit to the processing facility. There is no question that ore dust will escape the cars through these openings. In response to GLIFWC comments, the lead agencies for the PolyMet Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) have required water quality monitoring along the rail corridor between the pits and the processing facility. GLIFWC staff will continue to advocate for the use of sealed rail cars to reduce the possibility of contamination along the rail line.

The construction of a mine haul road also impacts the environment. The Eagle mine in Michigan is currently rebuilding sections of a county road to accommodate large ore trucks.

The Eagle mine haul road has caused habitat fragmentation in this biologically rich area. (Photo © and courtesy Esteban Chiriboga. Reprinted with permission.)

The construction of this road through a remote area involves filling of wetlands and numerous stream crossings. This area, which is included in the Lake Superior Binational Program Important Habitat List as an area of high biodiversity, has suffered habitat fragmentation due to this construction. It is possible that the use of salt in the winter will lead to water quality impacts in the area’s small creeks, and unintended ore dust deposition along the route is likely. Additional impacts may result from pumping water out of local creeks to use in dust suppression activities during construction.

Tanker spraying water for dust control along the Eagle mine haul road construction site. (Photo © and courtesy Esteban Chiriboga. Reprinted with permission.)

To our knowledge, the effects of pumping on creek water levels and biota have not been characterized. In addition, dust suppression often involves mixing the water with chemicals, and the effects of these chemicals have not been identified.

GLIFWC staff have and will continue to advocate for inclusion of mine haul roads in the analysis of environmental impacts of proposed mine projects. In the case of the road construction at the Eagle mine, the environmental impacts of the road were not evaluated when the permits for the mine were considered. The Eagle mine’s haul road is permitted under general state permits that are issued for road construction. These general permits, while often adequate for normal roads, do not require the data and analysis needed for a road that will be used to transport mine concentrate and/or metallic ores. These materials are often reactive when exposed to air and water and, as exemplified by the Red Dog haul road, can create environmental impacts in very small quantities. The failure to evaluate infrastructure associated with mining activities appears to undermine the goal of clearly disclosing all impacts associated with mineral development projects. Mine haul roads should also be included in any analysis of the cumulative impacts of multiple mine projects on the ceded territories.

*Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC), 2002, Fugitive Dust Background Document -- Draft Report.

GLIFWC's publication MAZINA'IGAN is available on line. Click here to read more of their recent articles on Great Lakes issues.

Portage Library to host Key Club for Storytime Aug. 23

HOUGHTON -- Kids are invited to use their imaginations and have fun on the farm at Storytime from 11 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Aug. 23, at the Portage Lake District Library.

Houghton High School Key Club members will read stories about farms and kids will make some cows, chickens and pigs to take home.

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

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Houghton County Fair opens TODAY, Aug. 21, at Fairgrounds in Hancock

"Wake up! It's time for the Houghton County Fair!" says this 2013 prize-winning rooster. The fair starts TODAY, Thursday, Aug. 21 -- and the Poultry-Rabbit Show is one of the opening events. Check out the Small Animal Barn to see this year's winners. (2013 video by Keweenaw Now)

HANCOCK -- The 2014 Houghton County fair opens at 3 p.m. TODAY, Thursday, Aug. 21, and continues to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 24, at the Fairgrounds in Hancock. It will feature Spectrum Entertainment for the carnival and midway.

The Miss Houghton County Fair Queen Pageant for teens aged 16 to 18 will take place at 6:30 p.m. TONIGHT, Thursday, on the Indoor Stage.

At 8 p.m. tonight don't miss the Kivajat and Loistavat Finnish Dancers, also on the Indoor Stage.

Kids of all ages enjoy the rides at the Houghton County Fair. (2013 Keweenaw Now video. Click on x to remove ads -- beyond our control)

Entertainment this weekend will include Midwest Monster Trucks, Cirque Amongus (shows and a time for fair attendees to try their hand at circus acts), Whispering Pines Mobile Zoo with the addition of an aviary this year, Wayne the Wizard with magic shows, ballon-a-tics, and ventriloquism. Kerry Sharp, hypnotist, will return for a second year due to his popularity last year. Ward’s Local Logging Competition as well as Horseshoe Pitching and an Antique Tractor Display are also among the returning events.

Musical acts will include Mike Urbis, Yesterday’s Wine, Tom Katalin, Vince Anthony, and the Country Drifters. At 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, a youth talent show will offer nice monetary prizes.

Motorized events include Motocross Races, the Farm Tractor Pull, Off Road Derby, and both a Truck and Car Demolition Derby. A local truck Tug of War will entertain at half time of the Monster Truck Show.

This hen laid an egg to exhibit her talents to visitors in the Small Animal Barn. (2013 photo by Keweenaw Now)

Livestock shows include Open, Youth and Jump Shows, along with the "Cowboy Challenge." Kathy Caspary and Jack Kujansuu will offer an Equine Education Seminar for exhibitors. Rabbit, Poultry, Swine, Beef, Dairy, and Goat Shows are scheduled -- and new this year will be a Camelid (alpaca and llama) show.*

Horse jumping is a favorite event at the Houghton County Fair in Hancock, Michigan. This young rider puts her horse through some winning paces at the 2013 Fair. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

Exhibits, including youth projects, range from baking and preserving to arts and crafts, folk arts, needlework, photography, horticulture, floriculture, science projects, poetry, education posters and antiques. Exhibit buildings are open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

This year the fair is pleased to announce that a matching grant of more than $1000 was obtained from the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee for printing the Fair premium book, brochures, and passes.

* Click here for the full schedule of events.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District: Letter to FCC on proposed Brockway cell tower location

[Editor's Note: The Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District has sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to request that FCC deny the Environmental Assessment (EA) File A0909673 -- concerning the proposed cell tower location on Brockway Mountain -- on the basis that applicant SBA and its agents failed to Consult in Good Faith. The following is an excerpt from their letter.]

From: Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District
Aug. 19, 2014
Reprinted here in part with permission

To: The Federal Communications Commission
Washington, D.C. 20554

Re: ASR Filing 40909673,
Application for Antenna Structure Registration on Brockway Mountain, Keweenaw County, MI


The mission of the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District is "To advise and assist the people of Houghton and Keweenaw Counties to wisely manage and use our natural resources through education, information, technical assistance and land stewardship." Therefore, in order to serve our community,uphold our mission, and to protect Brockway Mountain, a local, state and nationally recognized resource of significant natural, historic, cultural and economic importance, the Board of Directors of the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District requests that you reject the Environmental Assessment (EA) File
A0909673 on the basis that SBA and its agents failed to Consult in Good Faith.

The Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District discussed the EA for A0909673 at our regular monthly board meeting on July 29,2014. While our board and most constituents support providing cell service for residents, visitors and public safety, we know that this proposed cell tower will have a significant negative impact on Brockway Mountain and the Keweenaw Coastal Wildlife Corridor. We also know, as do our constituents, that the Copper Harbor area can obtain cell service without defacing Brockway Mountain. Therefore, on July 29, 2014, the Board of the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District unanimously passed a resolution for a Petition to Deny A0909673 on the grounds that SBA Failed to Consult in Good Faith.

The Role of the FCC

The FCC should carefully consider the content and not just the packaging of the EA. While it may satisfy your required "check-list," you will note, as we have, that the hundreds of pages of detail conflict with what is summarized by SBA.

The FCC should check SBA's facts. Many so-called "facts" are false.

The FCC has done a disservice to the Keweenaw Coastal Wildlife Corridor and Brockway Mountain by defining the scope of the EA for 40909673 narrowly and ignoring the impact of running electricity up bedrock of the Brockway Mountain Drive into a pristine area.

The FCC approved the SBA towers for Delaware and Medora and these towers were constructed in 2A12-2013. These towers were also positioned as necessary for public safety. However, these towers to date have not been turned on and are doing nothing for public safety even though they have been standing for more than a year.

The FCC by now understands that our Community has been trying to both communicate the negative impact of a cell tower on Brockway Mountain and to share alternatives for over two years. Many of these people live and work locally and have better things to do with their time than research technical cell tower issues and document and explain scientific, cultural and historical information when their day jobs end. The Community has funded an engineering study to try and present factual information to SBA to work collaboratively on mutually beneficial solution. We know there are alternatives and you should too.

To date the Community's communication and ours has fallen on deaf ears, but it is not too late for the FCC to listen and reverse this ill-conceived plan to deface Brockway Mountain. ...

Note: The Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District requests that concerned citizens attend the regular Keweenaw County Board meeting at 6:30 p.m. tonight, Aug. 20, at the County Courthouse in Eagle River.

Friends of Brockway Mountain: Today is last day to submit petition on Brockway cell tower location

According to Friends of Brockway Mountain, "On a USGS topo map the red dot/cross is the proposed Brockway Tower location. This tower and its lights at night will be obvious from Copper Harbor, Keweenaw Mtn Lodge, Lake Medora, Brockway summit, US 41, and..... forever." (Image courtesy Friends of Brockway Mountain)

From Friends of Brockway Mountain
Reprinted from their Facebook Page with permission

[Editor's Note: We regret the late posting of this information. We just learned that today, Aug. 20, is the final day to submit to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this  "Petition to Deny" the proposed Brockway Mountain cell tower application by SBA. Friends of Brockway Mountain are not opposed to a cell tower but to the proposed location for a tower on Brockway.]

COPPER HARBOR -- YOUR ACTION NEEDED NOW!!! In spite of the strong opposition, the FCC is continuing to consider Brockway Mountain for a cell tower location. We only have until AUGUST 20, 2014 to contact the FCC about Brockway Mountain, file number A0909673. Please petition the FCC to deny the the Brockway Mountain cell tower application by SBA file number A0909673 on the grounds of fraudulent inducement and misrepresentation to Keweenaw County; SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office); US Fish and Wildlife; and citizens, businesses, conservation organizations and visitors. 

SBA and its agents falsely represented that Brockway Mountain was the only location for a cell tower to ensure public safety. A grassroots-funded engineering study showed other locations provide equal or better to provide public safety. Defacing Brockway Mountain to improve SBA's profit margin is a tragedy to be avoided. Please contact the FCC by following the instructions below. Be sure to copy your message and also email it to: the FCC, SBA, Ramaker and Associates, elected officials, US Fish and Wildlife, SHPO and Keweenaw County. Please be sure to always use file number A0909673 and customize your message as you see fit and THANK YOU for DEFENDING BROCKWAY MOUNTAIN.

Here is the procedure to file a "Petition to Deny":

Compose the text of your Request for Environmental Review and save it as a document(s) on your computer. You may use Word or any of a number of other popular formats. You will also have an opportunity to attach photographs or other materials in separate documents.

1) Point browser to this link:
2) Select "File Environmental Request" at top of page.
3) Read and follow instructions on the page.
4) At the bottom of the page click "Continue"
4) Go to the Pleadings Page.
5) Select the Pleading Type "ASR Environmental Request Notice" from the drop down box.
6) Enter your Filer and Contact Information and click Continue.
7) Click the File Number button.
8) Enter the ASR File Number (A0909673) associated with the application you are challenging in the box and click Submit.
9) Check the box next to each File Number and click Continue.
10) Select the Type of Pleading (Petition to Deny). Browse to the location on your computer to upload the pleading, enter a brief description of the pleading, and click Add Attachment.
(Note: Repeat Step 10 for each separate file you want to upload.)
11) Click Submit Pleading.
12) Upon successful submission you should automatically be assigned a filing number. Write it down or otherwise save the number.

If you have trouble, contact the FCC at Phone: 1-888-225-5322.

Keweenaw Heritage Center to present Baroque music concert Aug. 20

CALUMET -- The Keweenaw Heritage Center at St. Anne’s in Calumet will host a concert of Baroque music at 7 p.m. TONIGHT, Wednesday, Aug. 20.

Local musicians, Susan Byykkonen and Kathleen Alatalo-Arten will be performing Baroque pieces on the harpsichord, flute and pipe organ. Come and enjoy a beautiful evening of music, followed by a reception. Tickets will be available at the door for $5.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Marquette County Road Commission in violation of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act

From: Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve
Posted Aug. 14, 2014, on their Web site
Reprinted with permission

Spring water runs through the construction site on the new County Road AAA, a haul road for Eagle Mine. A series of springs were ruptured during construction activities and led to the pollution of a wetland. (Photo dated Aug. 6, 2014, courtesy Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.)

MARQUETTE -- On Aug. 4, 2014, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Water Resources Division issued a Violation Notice to the Marquette County Road Commission (MCRC) for an unlawful discharge of sediment and turbid water into a wetland ravine, tributary, and the East Branch Salmon Trout River. The unlawful discharge was created when excavation for the new County Road AAA road corridor reached groundwater level and water began to flow out of the construction site, down slope, and into nearby waterways.

The Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve (YDWP) was informed in late July by an anonymous source that a spring that feeds the East Branch of the Salmon Trout River had been damaged during road construction on County Road AAA. Site visits by our organization continued for several weeks and confirmed the damage had occurred, mitigation had begun, but that the MCRC did not have a formalized plan to control the release. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Michigan Department of Natural Resources were notified of the situation immediately and completed several site visits in July and August.

The Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve sent in a formal complaint letter to MDEQ on Aug. 1, urging the agency to issue a citation for polluting the water. We also urged the agency to require the implementation of a mitigation plan to clean up the site. We are currently informing the EPA of the incident and speaking with tribal entities and our legal team. Sedimentation at these levels can have serious impacts on fish and other aquatic organisms.

In the Violation Notice, the MDEQ states that they observed the unlawful discharge of sediment and turbid water on July 14, 2014. Improved erosion and sediment control measures were installed at their direction. When the groundwater mixed with rain and sediment after a storm event, the flow rates increased, the water was polluted and was not properly contained -- in violation of Part 301, Part 303, Part 91, and Rule 2190 of Part 31 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. The MCRC is being directed to remove sediment from selected portions of the wetland and intermittent tributary as well as monitor the water color at several locations for the remainder of the 2014 construction season.*

It is unclear what ongoing hydrological impacts can be expected by this. It is also unclear what long-term solution can be adopted that would manage the continued increased flow of water. YDWP will continue monitoring the waterways and the engineering decisions of the Marquette County Road Commission. We would also like to see a complete hydrological assessment of the whole impacted area and have pushed for one since 2004.

* Editor's Note: The Marquette County Road Commission will hold its regular monthly meeting at 6 p.m. TONIGHT, Monday, Aug. 18, at the Marquette County Road Commission Office, 1610 N. Second Street, Ishpeming. According to Big Bay resident Gene Champagne, citizens concerned about the road construction violations plan to attend the meeting.

"The MCRC ignored 99 percent of public comment that the project was too ambitious and broad for its intended purpose and was on an unrealistic schedule for completion that could lead to mistakes, as happened on CR 550 last year," Champagne told Keweenaw Now. "Many also urged the MCRC to perform an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) and a hydrology study, which they also ignored. Furthermore, some visitors to Big Bay have commented that they will never return to Big Bay again after traveling the new 510/AAA construction and witnessing the unnecessary scope of the project. This may very well have an impact on our local economy."

Click here for the agenda for tonight's MCRC Meeting.

Click here for more photos of the violations.