Poets of the Wild U.P.!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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MARQUETTE, MICH— Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) invites the public to celebrate “Poets of the Wild U.P.” with a poetry reading featuring Milton Bates, Janeen Pergrin Rastall, Kathleen M. Heideman and Russell Thorburn. SWUP’s literary event, scheduled for Thursday, April 2 from 7-9pm at the Peter White Public Library’s Shiras Room, will lend a uniquely environmental emphasis to National Poetry Month. The reading is free and open to the public.

“Our goal in sponsoring this reading is to highlight the special connection between yoopers and the environment, through the work of four local authors who draw inspiration from Lake Superior, U.P. environmental issues, and the natural beauty of Upper Michigan’s wild places,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s interim director.

The U.P.’s environment figures differently in the work of each poet.

“There’s a strong spirit of place, an identification with wildness and struggle, at the heart of our stories,” says Jon Saari, emeritus professor of History at Northern Michigan University. Saari, whose wife Christine is a poet and artist, serves as Save the Wild U.P.’s vice president.

“For me, ‘Saving the Wild U.P.’ means naming, cherishing, and protecting what makes the Upper Peninsula of Michigan such an incredible place, our creative culture, our clean water, and our wild lands,” says Kathleen Heideman, SWUP’s president. “When I consider the beautiful work of our local artists creating pottery, landscape painting, woodworking, etc., their material connection to place is obvious at a glance. Poets are really doing the same thing — using woods, water and rocks to create our work.”

“Poets of the Wild U.P.” will be the third literary event hosted by SWUP. Last year’s “Putting the Wild into Words” poetry competition drew submissions from across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Last April’s poetry reading in Marquette, which featured Russell Thorburn along with the winning poets, attracted a standing-room-only audience.

National Poetry Month, founded by Academy of American Poets, is the world’s largest literary celebration, involving millions of readers, teachers, students, librarians and authors and celebrating the critical role of poetry in our lives each April.

Founded in 2004, Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots environmental organization dedicated to preserving the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s unique cultural and environmental resources. For more information contact info@savethewildup.org or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with Save the Wild U.P.’s work atsavethewildup.org or follow SWUP on Facebook at facebook.com/savethewildup or Twitter @savethewildup

Biographical info for POETS OF THE WILD U.P. participants:

Milton Bates was the winner of Save the Wild U.P.’s “Putting the Wild into Words” 2014 poetry contest. He taught English literature for thirty-five years at Williams College and Marquette University. During that time he was also a Guggenheim Fellow and a Fulbright lecturer in China and Spain. He has published half a dozen books on subjects such as the poet Wallace Stevens, the literature and film of the Vietnam War, and the natural and human history of the Bark River Valley in Wisconsin. On retirement he and his wife moved to the Upper Peninsula, which provides material for many of his poems.

Kathleen M. Heideman will receive the City of Marquette Arts and Culture Center’s 2015 Outstanding Writer Award. She’s completed artist residencies with watersheds, forests, the National Science Foundation, and the National Park Service — including Isle Royale and Sleeping Bear Dunes. Informed by landscape and environmental concerns, her work has garnered recognition from the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, the Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Bush Foundation. She’s a curious woman.

Janeen Pergrin Rastall lives in Gordon, Mich, population 2. She is the author of the chapbook “In The Yellowed House” (dancing girl press, 2014). Her poetry has appeared in several publications, including The Midwest Quarterly, Midwestern Gothic, Border Crossing, The Michigan Poet, and Dunes Review. She has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes.

Russell Thorburn served as the U.P. Poet Laureate from 2013-2015. He lives in Marquette, Michigan, with his son and wife. A manuscript consultant for poets, he takes orphan poems that don’t fit together, and arranges the pieces in a way that not only makes sense, but makes beauty. He is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. “Salt and Blood,” an experimental noir, is forthcoming from Marick Press who also published his third book of poetry, “Father, Tell Me I Have Not Aged.”

POETS OF THE WILD U.P.
Thursday April 2, 7-9pm
Peter White Public Library, Shiras Room
217 N Front St, Marquette, Mich. 49855
Free and open to the public

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U.P. Environmental Groups Criticize DNR’s Decision

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Unified Opposition to Graymont ‘Land Transaction’

MARQUETTE — Environmental groups from across the Upper Peninsula are holding fast in their opposition to the recent sale of state land and mineral rights to the Canadian limestone mining company, Graymont, Inc.

“This is a huge loss for Michigan taxpayers and a massive blow to federally promised treaty rights,” said Alexandra Maxwell, Save the Wild U.P.’s interim director. “The DNR’s unilateral decision shows clear disregard for the input of Michigan citizens.”

Director Keith Creagh of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced his final approval of the Graymont Land Transaction in Roscommon, MI at a meeting of the Natural Resources Committee on Thursday, March 20. While not a mining permit per se, the DNR’s decision effectively converts roughly 10,000 acres of diverse, high-quality public lands into a sprawling complex of open pit limestone quarries and extensive underground mining operations.

“We are angry!” said Horst Schmidt, F.O.L.K. board member. “Again and again, the DNR said ‘send in your comments,’ but in a March, 2015 memo, Creagh’s managers blew off all comments as irrelevant. Yet in a press release issued after Creagh approved the transaction, their public relations person says the exact opposite! Over 90% of the comments, according to the first memo, were against the sale. How many citizens does it take to stop one corporation?”

Unprecedented in scale, the land transaction includes direct sale of approximately 1,781 acres of state-owned land plus 7,026 acres of state mineral rights to Graymont, a land exchange whereby Graymont acquires 830 acres of state-owned land, and a 10-year option secured by Graymont to acquire an easement over an additional maximum of 55 acres. Graymont Mining submitted the final revision of their application less than two weeks prior to the decision—the latest in an ever-changing application. DNR protocol dictates a thirty day public comment period once any revisions are received; this time however, no such public comment period was allowed.

The state lands that Creagh decided to trade, sell or transfer to Graymont include areas of shallow soil over limestone. They may include alvar, a globally-rare community found only in three regions of the world, including the upper Great Lakes region of eastern Upper Michigan and nearby Ontario, which often support unique plant communities and rare plant and insect species. The diverse wetlands slated to be handed over to Graymont may also harbor rare plants. Documents posted on the DNR’s “Graymont Land Transaction” page include no mention of biological or rare species assessments being done in preparation for this land transfer.

In late February, a collective letter of opposition was sent to Director Creagh, outlining serious concerns with the proposed transaction, including displacement of existing limestone quarrying jobs and the loss of sustainable, long-term jobs in the forestry and tourism sectors, and noting that the sale of these lands would interfere with tribal rights by having an adverse impact on fishing, hunting and gathering activities of tribal members under the 1836 treaty.

The letter of opposition was jointly signed by individual citizens as well as major groups, including the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, Friends of the Land of Keweenaw’s (F.O.L.K.) Board of Directors, the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, the Central U.P. Group of the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club, Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, Concerned Citizens of Big Bay, Save the Wild U.P., the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Students for Sustainability of Northern Michigan University, Northwoods Native Plant Society, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizens Against the Rexton Project, Concerned Clergy of Marquette, the Marquette Unitarian Universalists Social Action Committee and multiple individual property owners in Trout Lake, MI.

“The DNR hopes we’ll believe they’ve addressed all objections raised during the public comment period, but that’s obviously not true. Most of our concerns were ignored. The approval of this sale directly contradicts the DNR’s own mission of conservation, protection, and public enjoyment of public natural resources,“ said Maxwell.

“We are extremely disappointed!” said local Trout Lake resident Kathy English. “This is total disenfranchisement for the people living in the area, who will be adversely affected by this decision. It is a significant and decisive blow to the threatened and endangered plants and wildlife, unique geology, recreation and tourism. It makes the “PURE MICHIGAN” slogan a joke.“

After the decision was announced, Dr. Martin Reinhardt, an assistant professor of Native American Studies at Northern Michigan University, and enrolled citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, along with Dr. Phil Bellfy, professor emeritus of American Indian Studies at Michigan State University and citizen of the White Earth Nation, filed an injunction against DNR Director Creagh citing violations of the 1836 Treaty of Washington between the U.S. federal government and the Ojibway Nations. While the injunction was dismissed, the judge acknowledged unresolved provisions related to the Consent Decree and tribally-held fishing rights.

“This decision to allow Graymont to open a mine near Rexton was highly irresponsible on the part of Director Creagh and the NRC,” said Reinhardt. “It really exemplifies how the State of Michigan is mismanaging public lands in violation of Anishinaabe treaty rights and human rights in general. You can get short term economic gains through these types of actions, but it will have severe repercussions for future generations. Our Anishinaabe ancestors warned us about this path of destruction, and it is up to us to stop it before it is too late.”

Graymont proposal area

Graymont proposal area

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Founded in 1989, FOLK is an active all-volunteer organization located in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It works with other regional, state and national organizations to protect and preserve the ecological integrity of the Lake Superior Watershed. See their website, folkup.org, or follow FOLK on Facebook at facebook.com/folkorg.

Founded in 2004, Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots environmental organization dedicated to preserving the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s unique cultural and environmental resources. For more info about their work, see savethewildup.org, or follow on Facebook facebook.com/savethewildup.

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Seeking SWUP Summer Fellows!

Featured

We are delighted to announce our search for superstar fellows to join Team SWUP to start during the Summer 2015 NMU semester.

Save the Wild U.P. is dedicated to protecting our environment and unique culture while promoting sustainable economies. We’re tracking new mining developments, educating the public about groundwater and the hazards of sulfide mining — while hosting free hikes, lectures, concerts, poetry readings and more to celebrate the wonderful wild U.P.!

Unified Opposition to Graymont ‘Land Transaction’!

Featured

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Unified Opposition to Graymont ‘Land Transaction’

MARQUETTE — Tribal officials, clergy, local residents and leading environmental organizations of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan have joined forces to deliver a letter to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), outlining their collective opposition to the Graymont ‘Land Transaction.’

In a unified letter of opposition sent to the DNR’s Director Keith Creagh on Friday February 27th, they urge him to reject the Graymont land sale “which threatens to sacrifice public lands for the benefit of a foreign mining company, at the bargain price of a few hundred dollars per acre.”

Graymont, a Canadian mining company, first submitted an application to purchase over 10,000 acres of public land from the DNR in November of 2013. Graymont intends to construct surface limestone quarries and, eventually, an extensive underground mine. These lands are currently open to the public for hunting and recreational trails, supporting wildlife, and managed for timber — contiguous forest lands considered some of the most productive forest land in the Eastern Upper Peninsula.

The area under consideration includes fragile wetlands and critical ecosystems. These public lands support unique hydrology and biodiversity, including “karst” habitat identified in Michigan’s Natural Features Inventory, limestone features (cliffs, pavement, sinkholes, caves) and special ecologies uniquely adapted to limestone: bats reliant on limestone caves, globally-rare “alvar” plant communities, and limestone wetlands critical to the endangered Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly, termed “one of North America’s rarest dragonflies” by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The collective letter of opposition is signed by individual citizens as well as major groups, including the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, Friends of the Land of Keweenaw’s Board of Directors, the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, the Central U.P. Group of the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club, Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, Concerned Citizens of Big Bay, Save the Wild U.P., the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Students for Sustainability of Northern Michigan University, Northwoods Native Plant Society, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizens Against the Rexton Project, Concerned Clergy of Marquette, the Marquette Unitarian Universalists Social Action Committee and multiple individual property owners in Trout Lake, MI.

In the letter, the groups enumerate serious environmental and economic concerns, including “…the displacement of existing limestone quarrying jobs, and the loss of sustainable, long-term jobs in the forestry and tourism sectors.” In addition, “the sale of these lands interferes with Indian tribes’ rights by having an adverse impact on fishing, hunting and gathering activities of tribal members under the 1836 treaty.”

meme-Graymont-simplemessage

“Graymont recently revised the land transaction for the umpteenth time, increasing their proposed royalty payments to 18.75 cents per ton — but only for a short duration,” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP’s president. “That’s a pittance in comparison to current market values and contemporary royalty offers. It all adds up to nothing, really.”

“These are serious and unresolvable objections,” said Alexandra Maxwell of Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP), who helped organize the collective letter of opposition. “Our message to Director Creagh is simple: don’t make this deal.” According to Maxwell, Save the Wild U.P. has been following the developments of this project since Graymont submitted its application; SWUP and other groups have consistently attended public meetings and submitted commentary critical of this potential land sale. “Now a majority of environmental organizations and concerned citizens throughout the U.P. have reached a clear consensus–the Graymont project must be stopped.”

The DNR will be accepting written comment from the public concerning the newest revision of the Graymont proposal through March 19th. “We strongly urge folks to review the facts,” said Maxwell, “and then write directly to Director Creagh, asking him to reject the Graymont land deal. Concerned citizen still have time to protect their public lands, in their own words.”

Written commentary may be submitted to: DNR-GraymontProposalComments@michigan.gov

Comments can also be mailed to the Roscommon Customer Service Center, ATTN: Kerry Wieber, 8717 N. Roscommon Rd, Roscommon, MI 48653.

“A foreign mining company wants to buy 10,000 acres of our public land?” said Heideman. “By my calculation, that’s ten thousand great reasons to reject the deal.”

The group’s letter can be viewed or downloaded here:  Letter of Unified Opposition to Graymont Land Transaction

meme-Graymont-whatsatstake

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Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots environmental organization dedicated to the preservation of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s unique cultural and environmental resources. For more information or to schedule an interview, contact info@savethewildup.org or call (906) 662-9987.

 

Political grandstanding on behalf of CR 595

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Save the Wild U.P. opposes political grandstanding on behalf of CR 595

MARQUETTE – Grassroots environmental group Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) expressed disappointment over the recent flurry of “Resolutions” sponsored by lawmakers in support of the Marquette County Road Commission’s lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). SWUP opposes House Resolution 13, House Concurrent Resolution 1, and Senate Resolution 9 (pending).

According to SWUP, these resolutions, drafted in support of the Road Commission’s lawsuit against the EPA, are an attempt to resurrect the previously defeated County Road 595. The 595 route would have cut through the Dead River and Yellow Dog Watersheds, the Mulligan Creek headwaters, Voelker Creek, Wildcat Canyon and more, on its way from Eagle Mine to the Humboldt Mill.

“The EPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) all objected to the construction of this road, as did area residents and property owners who want nothing to do with mine traffic passing their isolated and serene camps,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP interim director.

“Suggesting that a few resolutions will “make the EPA back down” is ludicrous,” said Gail Griffith, retired professor of Chemistry at Northern Michigan University and SWUP board member. “This is exactly why the Environmental Protection Agency was founded: ‘To protect human health and the environment.’ This requires the EPA to make difficult decisions — including saying ‘no’ when special interests, corporate lobbyists or politicians promote projects that would benefit industry at the expense of our environment.”

“Our state government is not supposed to be a corporate-errand boy. I expect politicians to participate in democracy and represent the will of the taxpaying citizens who elected them, not the international corporations that mine our lands and pollute our water,” said Alexandra Maxwell, Save the Wild U.P.’s interim director. “But let’s be honest — these resolutions are the political equivalent of a group selfie — politicians trying to get their names mentioned to convince the folks back home they’re supporting jobs.”

“We must trust that as a federal agency, the EPA won’t be pushed around by corporate bullies — whether the bullies are big oil companies polluting our coastlines, global mining companies who’d profit from tearing apart our wild lands, poorly informed politicians, or a grudge-bearing road commission,” said Kathleen Heideman, Save the Wild U.P. president. “The EPA shouldn’t rubber-stamp anything. They should protect our environment, period. Save the Wild U.P. affirms the decision of the EPA, and we will continue to oppose any action that threatens the clean water and healthy watersheds of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.”

“This blatant attempt to pressure the EPA to approve a mining haul road through the MIchigamme Highlands is despicable,” said Steve Garske, biologist and SWUP board member. “When the permit for Eagle mine was approved, then-owner Rio Tinto agreed to haul the ore to a point north of Marquette, where it would be transferred to a rail line. If Eagle Mine had been held to their word, these transportation issues would have been put to rest long ago.”

County Road 595:  "Bad idea, wrong place."

“The CR 595 project was destined to fail. And it did fail,” said Jeffery Loman, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community tribal member and former federal oil regulator. “Now some politicians want us to believe that their proposed resolutions will result in the building of this mine haul road. Did Congress create the environmental law that the EPA is responsible for enforcing with some provision that says ‘follow the law until some politicians want you to ignore it in order to support their friend’s businesses’? It’s insulting, really.”

“Our local politicians in Lansing seem to think that issuing wetlands permits is a question of cheering loudly rather than following exacting regulations and rules. They tried the same political full court press two years ago. It was a failing strategy then and deserves to fail again. They should do their wetlands homework,” said Jon Saari, SWUP’s vice president.

Save the Wild U.P. demands full disclosure and transparency concerning the recent decisions of the Marquette County Road Commission, which is attempting to circumvent federal regulations. Private interests are trying to undermine hard-won environmental protections for clean water and wetlands — federal regulations intended to protect our drinking water and our trout streams. Save the Wild U.P. urges citizens to fully consider the long-term implications of the CR 595 proposal, and question the motivations of any elected officials who support this lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency.

Save the Wild U.P. was formed in 2004 to protect the U.P.’s unique communities, lakes, and lands from the hazards of sulfide mining, which threatens to contaminate the Lake Superior Watershed with acid mine drainage.

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Justifications questioned as Road Commission sues EPA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Save the Wild U.P. questions justifications as Road Commission sues EPA

MARQUETTE – Grassroots environmental group Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) has serious objections to the narrative being created by politicians surrounding a lawsuit brought against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by the Marquette County Road Commission (MCRC). In 2013, the EPA denied the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) authority to issue permits that would allow construction of the proposed CR 595, an industrial haul-road for Eagle Mine. This decision was based on the potential for great harm to existing wetlands and vital watersheds.

“The MCRC says their road project was not properly considered by the EPA, but nothing could be further from the truth. How many times will they try to push this idea down the public’s throat? Multiple federal agencies reviewed this project and outlined their objections. Those objections still stand. As concerned citizens, we outlined our objections too — nothing has changed. The 595 road remains a terrible idea for the environment, as well as taxpayers,” said Gail Griffith, emeritus professor of Chemistry at Northern Michigan University and SWUP board member.

“We’re talking about the wild heartland of Marquette County, a remote and ecologically sensitive area. When I traveled the entire proposed route in 2009, I saw hundreds of narrow-leaved gentian plants growing along the northern end,” said botanist and SWUP board member Steve Garske. He believes the EPA made the right decision. “This gentian is locally common around the Yellow Dog Plains but rare in Michigan — it occurs in only three counties in the state.” He also documented two populations of the rare Farwell’s water milfoil along the route.

The proposed road would have cut through the Dead River and Yellow Dog Watersheds, the Mulligan Creek headwaters, Voelker Creek, Wildcat Canyon and more. “I know the Wildcat Canyon area… it is a treasure of streams, rocky ledges and deep woods that would be destroyed if used as a corridor for a haul road,” said Lynn McGlothlin Emerick, a longtime Upper Peninsula resident.

Wildcat Canyon Creek crossing, along the proposed 595 route, which would require 22 stream and river crossings.

Wildcat Canyon Creek crossing, along the defeated CR 595 route.

“The EPA, The U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers (USACE), and the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) all objected to the construction of this road, as did residents and property owners in the area who want nothing to do with mine-traffic passing their isolated and serene camps,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP interim director.

“595 would irreversibly impact high quality wetlands at the headwaters of several watersheds and foreseeably lead to additional roads that would open up one of Michigan’s last remaining wilderness areas to resource exploitation,” according to Jessica Koski, Assistant Mining Technician of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC). “Michigan’s economy depends on tourism dollars from hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation businesses enabled by wetlands. Yet, wetlands are on the frontlines of development and their preservation is vastly underappreciated. Michigan has already lost more than half of its original 11 million acres of wetlands due to filling and draining.”

In recent weeks, the Road Commission has been seeking resolutions from local townships, county boards, and U.P. politicians, to back up their claims of ‘overwhelming support’ for 595. Demonstrated support has actually been lukewarm, despite much political drum-beating. The Marquette County Board failed to support the MCRC’s lawsuit, and half of the county townships are opposed. Northern Michigan University’s Board of Trustees – dedicating five minutes to discussion of the agenda item – voted to offer a resolution of support for County Road 595, but it should be remembered that the Trustees are political appointees.

In response to doubts regarding the costs and possible repercussions of the lawsuit, a group was formed to fund the litigation and inspire public support: Stand U.P., a 501c4 organization described as a ‘local non-profit, non-political group’ created to allow citizens to contribute money to fund the lawsuit. Formed at the request of Senator Tom Casperson, Stand U.P. will be able to accept unlimited corporate funding without disclosure and in turn, can support, endorse, and communicate on behalf of candidates.

“It undermines democracy. This so-called nonprofit will be siphoning corporate dollars to manipulate a public agency — the Marquette County Road Commission — into doing the bidding of special interests,” said Alexandra Thebert, former executive director of Save the Wild U.P. “Special interests are trying to tell us this lawsuit is a David versus Goliath battle, but a quick look at abandoned downtowns across the U.P. and the piles of mining waste across our landscape reveals the true Goliath — multinational companies getting rich off our labor and resources while leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for environmental and economic destruction.”

“The people in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan aren’t stupid,” said Jeffery Loman, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) tribal member and former federal oil regulator. “They know what Stand U.P. is. It’s a comedy act.”

“Let’s be honest. The plan for 595 collapsed under the weight of its own inadequacies, and now there’s no mining money left on the table to pay for it. This is a zombie road,” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP’s president. “This is a dead idea, dug up by politicians who want to frame the EPA as a ‘big bad federal agency’ that only cares about wetlands and clean water. Our elected officials are comparing the ‘freedom to burn wood to heat our homes’ with the ‘freedom to build roads.’ Freedom to build more roads? Our county doesn’t have enough money to fix potholes and rusty bridges and keep our existing roads plowed, so it’s outrageous to talk about funding another Road to Nowhere.”

Kennecott proponents first dreamed of a ‘South Road,’ a napkin-drawing which soon became the “Woodland Road,” backed by private developers, including Eagle Mine, who stood to gain financially from a new route into the wild interior of Marquette County. But when the Woodland Road was rejected by the EPA, USFWS and USACE, Kennecott withdrew their application in May of 2010, citing “environmental obstacles imposed by federal regulators coupled with the uncertain timelines and cost.”

The Marquette County Road Commission (MCRC) persisted, however, changing the name of the project to County Road 595, citing the public’s need for recreational and emergency vehicle access. In written comments objecting to the 595 proposal, the USACE stated “there are no references to the need for a north-south connector west of the Basin, in county planning documents or resolutions prior to 2010.” Clearly, this was still a haul road, dressed up as a county project.

“The Road Commission’s lawsuit against the EPA is being pushed by a consortium of private interests — logging, aggregate and real estate — that would benefit financially from County Road 595 being built,” according to Catherine Parker. “The suit is also about egos and the mistaken view that incremental ‘development’ does not equate with ultimate destruction.”

“Having sifted through years’ worth of letters, reports, and communications between various regulators, I can say with certainty that this project is far worse than most people realize. The Army Corps of Engineers, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan DEQ and Michigan DNR, along with the EPA, all had serious concerns that could not be resolved. Field staff in our state agencies did not support construction of 595 — only the political appointees at the top did so,” said Catherine Parker. “Let them sue. Perhaps EPA will revoke the state’s somewhat dubious wetlands permitting authority as a result.”

“The lawsuit being brought against the EPA by the MCRC is shocking and feels more like a child’s tantrum than anything that has legitimate standing in a court of law,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s interim director. “The EPA’s objections to the construction of this road were valid and protective of one of the region’s most important headwaters .”

Save the Wild U.P. demands full disclosure and transparency concerning the recent decisions of the Marquette County Road Commission, which is attempting to circumvent federal regulations — and the will of the people. Private interests are trying undermine hard-won environmental protections for clean water and wetlands — federal regulations intended to protect our drinking water and our trout streams. Save the Wild U.P. urges citizens to fully consider the long-term implications of the CR 595 proposal, and question the motivations of any elected officials who support this lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency.

Save the Wild U.P. was formed in 2004 to protect the U.P.’s unique communities, lakes, and lands from the hazards of sulfide mining, which threatens to contaminate the Lake Superior Watershed with acid mine drainage.

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TIMELINE – COVERAGE OF THE COUNTY ROAD 595 ISSUE


4-22-10 “Mine Opponents Comment on Woodland Road Plan” (Save the Wild U.P.)
http://savethewildup.org/2010/04/mine-opponents-comment-on-woodland-road-plan/


1-18-11 “Kennecott Abandons Woodland Road” (ABC-10)
http://abc10up.com/kennecott-abandons-woodland-road/


8-29-12 “Strong Public Opposition to CR 595 at Hearing” (Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve)
http://www.yellowdogwatershed.org/blog/strong-public-opposition-to-cr-595-at-hearing/


8-30-12 “EPA notes CR 595 objections: wetlands impact central to federal concerns” (The Mining Journal)
http://www.miningjournal.net/page/content.detail/id/579258/EPA-notes-CR-595-objections.html


9-11-12 “Reps push EPA on CR 595”  (The Mining Journal)
http://www.miningjournal.net/page/content.detail/id/581667.html


12-5-12 “EPA drops one objection to CR 595 proposal” (TV6)
http://www.uppermichiganssource.com/news/story.aspx?id=833953


12-6-12 “EPA Partially Removes Objection to CR 595” (Lake Superior Community Partnership)
http://marquette.org/epa-partially-removes-objection-to-cr-595/


1-7-13 “County Road 595 Kicked to the Curb” (Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve)
http://www.yellowdogwatershed.org/blog/county-road-595-kicked-to-the-curb/


3-17-13 “D.C. hearing to address CR 595 roadblocks” (The Mining Journal)
http://www.miningjournal.net/page/content.detail/id/585411.html


3-1-14 “Specter of CR 595: Will the Zombie Rise Again?” (Jon Saari, UPEC Newsletter)
http://www.upenvironment.org/newsletters/UPEC_2014_SpringNewsletter.pdf


7-8-14 “CR 595 – Under Construction?” (Save the Wild U.P.)
http://savethewildup.org/2014/07/cr-595-under-construction/


8-1-14 “DEQ investigating road work: Environmental groups concerned…” (The Mining Journal)
http://www.miningjournal.net/page/content.detail/id/602472/DEQ-investigating-Plum-Creek-road-work.html


12-26-14 “State lawmakers discuss future of County Road 595” (TV6)
http://www.uppermichiganssource.com/news/story.aspx?id=1141395


12-29-14 “County not suing EPA over 595, reps say they’d back litigation…” (The Mining Journal)
http://www.miningjournal.net/page/content.detail/id/611220/County-not-suing-EPA-over-595.html


1-22-15 “Road Commission prepares for lawsuit against E.P.A.” (TV6)
http://www.uppermichiganssource.com/news/story.aspx?list=194550&id=1153222


1-28-15 “Marquette County Board, residents, environmental groups oppose Road Commission vote to sue EPA over CR 595; lawsuit funding sources undisclosed” (Keweenaw Now)
http://keweenawnow.blogspot.com/2015/01/marquette-county-board-residents.html


2-4-15 “(Ishpeming) Council to consider supporting CR 595” (The Mining Journal)
http://www.miningjournal.net/page/content.detail/id/613351/Council-to-consider-supporting-CR-595.html


2-4-15 “Michigan lawmakers sponsor resolutions supporting County Road 595” (TV6)
http://www.uppermichiganssource.com/news/story.aspx?id=1159366


2-6-15 “Boards and townships still split CR-595 while elected reps support EPA lawsuit” (TV6)
http://www.uppermichiganssource.com/news/story.aspx?id=1141395


2-9-15 “Environmentalists call lawsuit against EPA ‘child’s tantrum’” (ABC-10)
http://abc10up.com/environmentalists-call-lawsuit-against-epa-childs-tantrum/


2-11-15 “County Road 595 suit, project gaining favor” (The Mining Journal)
http://www.miningjournal.net/page/content.detail/id/613735/County-Road-595-suit–project–gaining-favor.html


2-3-15 “Stand U.P. group raising funds for County Road 595 lawsuit” (The Mining Journal)
http://www.miningjournal.net/page/content.detail/id/613283/Stand-U-P–group-raising-funds-for-County-Road-595-lawsuit.html

SWUP Urges DNR Director: Reject Graymont Proposal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Save the Wild U.P. Urges DNR Director: Reject Graymont Mining’s Proposed Land Transaction

MARQUETTE — Following yesterday’s meeting of the Natural Resources Commission meeting in Lansing, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Keith Creagh announced his approval for a massive exchange of mineral rights — totaling 1,700 acres — for the benefit of Graymont, Inc., a Canadian limestone mining corporation.

“We are disappointed by the DNR’s approval of the mineral rights exchange,” said Kathleen Heideman, president of grassroots environmental group, Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP).

“Upper Michigan environmental organizations, including SWUP, have submitted extensive written comments, outlining our serious objections to the Graymont proposal, including the exchange of mineral rights. This DNR decision fails to serve the DNR’s mission of conservation, protection, and public enjoyment of public natural resources. It benefits a foreign mining company at the expense of Michigan’s environment,” according to Steve Garske, biologist and SWUP board member.

On February 6th, the DNR received yet another revision of Graymont’s ever-shifting proposal. No decision has been announced regarding Graymont’s proposed land transaction, which remains open for public comment until March 19th, when a decision will be announced at the meeting of the Natural Resources Council in Roscommon, MI.

“The Graymont proposal has become an administrative circus,” said Jon Saari, vice president of SWUP. “First introduced in 2012, the proposal gets revised a bit every time objections are raised, including most recently a week before a decision was to be made by the DNR Director! How are we in the public supposed to comment on this moving target? Which proposal? The original one? The final one? The final final one? This is no way to conduct public business. It is a joke. The Graymont proposal should be thrown out for toying with the DNR and the public.”

“Save the Wild U.P. renews our call for Director Creagh to reject Graymont’s Land Transaction,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP interim director. “Public lands must be managed and conserved for public benefit.”

Still pending, the Graymont land sale threatens to sacrifice public lands for the benefit of a foreign mining company, at the bargain price of a few hundred dollars per acre, although a majority of the citizens and taxpayers in the affected areas are vehemently opposed to the Graymont sale.

“The Graymont Proposal makes no sense, economically,” says Maxwell. “Does the DNR have qualified mining staff involved in evaluating this proposal? Graymont promises that a handful of mining jobs would be created, but residents believe that any short-term economic gain is far outweighed by the loss of existing, sustainable, long-term jobs in forestry and tourism sectors.”

The Graymont proposal includes lands currently open to the public for hunting and recreational trails, lands supporting wildlife, and managed for timber — contiguous forest lands, considered “some of the most productive forest land in the Eastern Upper Peninsula” by the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition.

The targeted area also includes fragile wetlands and critical ecosystems. These public lands support unique hydrology and biodiversity, including protected karst habitat identified in Michigan’s Natural Features Inventory. Karst landscapes include limestone features (cliffs, pavement, sinkholes, caves) and special ecologies uniquely adapted to limestone: bats reliant on limestone caves, globally-rare “alvar” plant communities, and limestone wetlands supporting the endangered Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly, termed “one of North America’s rarest dragonflies” by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Graymont proposal area

Graymont proposal area

Graymont proposal area

Graymont proposal area

Graymont proposal area

Graymont proposal area

Graymont proposal area

Graymont proposal area

In opposing the proposed sale of lands to Graymont, Save the Wild U.P. affirms the conclusion of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition: “We can see absolutely no justification for the State to even consider the sale of such a large and important parcel of public land to a mining company, or any other private entity for that matter (…) this sale will undermine the public’s confidence in the ability of DNR to manage our public lands for the benefit of all citizens of this state.”

Save the Wild U.P. collectively voices our opposition concerning this unprecedented, environmentally-destructive sale of publicly held lands. The proposed sale would fail Michigan’s taxpayers, tribes, and the Eastern Upper Peninsula’s growing sustainable forest and tourism economies, and especially Michigan’s environment, including critical habitat and endangered species. We urge the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to reject the Graymont Proposal “Land Transaction” as being inconsistent with the DNR’s mission, and a bad deal for Michigan.

The public is urged to submit written comment to: DNR-GraymontProposalComments@michigan.gov

Comments can be mailed to the Roscommon Customer Service Center, ATTN: Kerry Wieber, 8717 N. Roscommon Rd, Roscommon, MI 48653.

Founded in 2004, Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots environmental organization dedicated to preserving the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s unique cultural and environmental resources. For more information or to schedule an interview, contact info@savethewildup.org or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with Save the Wild U.P.’s work at savethewildup.org or follow SWUP on Facebook at facebook.com/savethewildup or Twitter @savethewildup

meme-Graymont-whatsatstake

County Road 595: A bad idea in the wrong place

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By Jessica Koski*

Proposed Marquette County Road 595 would irreversibly impact high quality wetlands at the headwaters of several watersheds and foreseeably lead to additional roads that would open up one of Michigan’s last remaining wilderness areas to resource exploitation.

Wetlands are a foundation of our nation’s water resources and are one of the most biologically productive ecosystems on Earth, rivaling that of tropical rainforests. Vital to the health of waterways, wetlands recharge groundwater, absorb floodwaters and filter pollution. They provide essential wildlife habitat, agricultural resources (berries, wild rice), timber production and economic activities. Michigan’s economy depends on tourism dollars from hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation businesses enabled by wetlands.

Yet, wetlands are on the frontlines of development and their preservation is vastly underappreciated. Michigan has already lost more than half of its original 11 million acres of wetlands due to filling and draining.

Aerial view of Mulligan Creek, showing the Snowmobile Trail #5 crossing, proposed route of County Road 595. Photo by Jeremiah Eagle Eye.

Before:  Aerial view of Mulligan Creek, showing the Snowmobile Trail #5 crossing, proposed route of County Road 595. Photo by Jeremiah Eagle Eye.

 

 

After:  Mulligan Creek fragile wetlands were degraded by Plum Creek Timber's illegal "road improvements" along the 595 route, as documented in 2014.

After: Mulligan Creek fragile wetlands were degraded by Plum Creek Timber’s illegal “road improvements” along the 595 route, as documented in 2014.

From an Ojibwe standpoint, many culturally significant plants, foods and medicines occur in wetlands and within the County Road 595 project area. These resources are an essential part of Ojibwe lifeway; and tribal rights of access, collection and use are guaranteed through treaties signed with the United States.

Threatened (legally protected) with a status of "imperiled" in Michigan.

Protected: Narrow-leaved gentian is threatened (legally protected) with a status of “imperiled” in Michigan. Found along the proposed 595 route.

Last month, the Marquette County Road Commission voted to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its “arbitrary and capricious” objection to County Road 595 over two years ago. In reality, the MCRC failed to submit an application consistent with federal Clean Water Act requirements.**

In EPA’s objection letter, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was given detailed requirements to address inadequate wetland minimization and compensation plans, and 30 days to satisfy the objection or deny the permit. MDEQ denied the permit, although the process could have transferred to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers authority.

Prior to a decision, EPA heard directly from the public in Marquette on August 28, 2012. Many citizens expressed concerns in opposition to County Road 595, contrary to many government officials.

Wildcat Canyon Creek crossing, along the proposed 595 route, which would require 22 stream and river crossings.

Wildcat Canyon Creek crossing, along the proposed 595 route, which would require 22 stream and river crossings.

The lawsuit’s price tag is $500,000 and road construction is estimated to cost $80 to $100 million, without additional maintenance costs. Eagle Mine says they won’t fund the lawsuit or road. Taxpayers are promised they won’t foot the bill. According to local officials, state Sen.Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, is a driving force behind the lawsuit and an assembly of secret private funders.

Casperson’s road rage is currently attempting to amend Michigan’s Constitution to rob the state’s Natural Resources Trust Fund for timber and mining infrastructure. This is contrary to the opinion of Michigan’s Attorney General and the original intent of the Fund since 1976 to support environmental preservation and enhance outdoor recreation benefits for the public.

Recent Eagle Mine trucking accidents are undeniably a public safety concern. However, even if MCRC is successful, it would be years before County Road 595 could be a reality. Are there alternative actions to more immediately protect the public from ore trucks? Yes.

In June 2013, the Marquette City Commission asked MDEQ to require Eagle Mine to amend its Environmental Impact Assessment regarding transportation. MDEQ denied the request claiming the city is not within the mine’s “affected area.”

Marquette County could object to MDEQ’s unwillingness to enforce the state mining rules. Part 632 states that an EIA shall define the affected area. Because the company significantly changed transportation from rail to truck after receiving a mining permit, the people of Marquette County were never rightfully provided an opportunity during the permitting process to weigh in on transportation impacts and the now inaccurate affected area.

Eagle Mine can also go beyond regulatory requirements and implement best practices. In fact, their original permit included hard cover trailer tops, but switched to soft cover tarps for easier loading and unloading. Is a convenience for Lundin Mining Corp. more important than public safety?

The company could also reconsider its original rail option. This would create jobs, alleviate stress on public road infrastructure and better protect public safety and the environment.

Rail probably could have saved much wasted investment and headache for the local community. Also, imagine if as much political support and energy exhausted into County Road 595 went toward a truck bypass around the city.

Ultimately, local officials are empowered with zoning and ordinance authority to establish more stringent conditions for how, when and where heavy ore trucks travel through the city.

Eagle Mine ore trucks

Note: author Jessica Koski is a member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC). She is an alumna of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and currently serves as Mining Technical Assistant for the KBIC. This article appeared in the Marquette Mining Journal on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015. It is reprinted here with the author’s permission.

Concerns raised about proposed discharge permit for Eagle Mine’s Humboldt Mill

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Concerned citizens from across the U.P., residents of Humboldt township, members of the grassroots organization Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP), members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC), and others gathered at the Westwood High School in Ishpeming on Tuesday night, to discuss a draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit for Eagle Mine’s Humboldt Mill.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) held the Public Hearing to discuss a proposed “reissuance” of an expired NPDES Permit, which originally authorized Eagle Mine’s Humboldt Mill to discharge wastewater into a wetland located between the Humboldt Pit and US-41.

During the hearing, residents raised serious questions and provided critical feedback to the MDEQ. Many believe that draft permit will degrade water quality in the Escanaba River. Unresolved environmental issues plague Humboldt Mill. Tailings produced by Eagle will be deposited into an existing pit, adding to legacy contamination. There is an ongoing investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding the mill’s status as a Superfund site. An additional outflow pipe was recently built between the tailings pit and wetlands of the Escanaba River without permits or public involvement.  Residents are especially alarmed by increased discharges— 2.8 million gallons per day (MGD), compared with 0.82 MGD in the first permit. The new discharge pipe (“Outfall 002”) will handle 50% of that discharge.

“As we learned at the State hearing Tuesday night, in addition to problems like flooding the private property of nearby residents, MDEQ’s proposed NPDES permit for discharges at the Humboldt Mill is inconsistent with federal law and it fails to protect the Escanaba River Watershed that once was cherished fishing ground,” said former federal offshore oil regulator and KBIC tribal member Jeffery Loman. “I intend to hold the EPA accountable for these failures. The EPA is responsible for overseeing the Clean Water Act and they are the trustee for treaty-protected tribal resources at stake here.”

During the hearing, Steve Casey, MDEQ’s District Supervisor of Water Resources, seemed uncertain as to why baseline environmental assessment were needed for a wetland receiving NPDES discharges, or why “additive impacts” (such as legacy pollution of wetlands and sediment scouring) must be calculated before a NPDES permit is granted. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “Agencies have an obligation to evaluate waters in terms of how they interrelate and function as ecosystems rather than as individual units, especially in the context of complex ecosystems where their integrity may be compromised by environmental harms that individually may not be measurably large but collectively are significant.”

“The MDEQ was obviously unprepared for the level of precision shown in the commentary at this public hearing. But our community has been tirelessly committed to protecting our land and water from mining interests for more than ten years now. We know that regulators aren’t enforcing the rules and are instead relaxing them to benefit multinational mining companies — threatening our clean water as well as our democratic process,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s Interim Director.

Residents voiced concerns over numerous changes (deemed “Insignificant Changes” by MDEQ staff) which have allowed Eagle Mine to radically change plans for Eagle Mine and Humboldt Mill, violating Michigan’s Nonferrous Mining Regulations. Under Part 632, Eagle’s permits require amendment. There was no public input or environmental impacts assessment for construction of a pipeline terminating at the newly-constructed “Outfall 002” — this significant structure and related wetland impacts were deemed “insignificant” — yet the draft NPDES permit will authorize use of the outfall, a clear violation of due process. The public was not notified when the location of Humboldt’s Water Treatment Plant (WTP) was switched, and the draft permit fails to mention the WTP’s treatment capacity, 1.44 MGD.  Given the WTP’s design flaws, up to 50% of Humboldt’s wastewater discharges may bypass the treatment plant, sending the mill’s tailings water directly into the environment. “Environmental concerns and due process concerns are one and the same,” said attorney Jana Mathieu.

Richard Sloat was angered by the permit’s failure to require stream monitoring or discharge monitoring.  “Water temperature data is not being recorded for the Escanaba River. This pipe will discharge ‘treated or untreated’ waste into that river. There is only one instance of a recorded temperature at the water treatment plant, documented because of a contamination leak in September, when the wastewater temperature reached 78.1 degrees — they want to discharge warm water into the Escanaba River, a cold-water fishery, in September?!”

“I find it outrageous that MDEQ and Eagle Mine failed to consider the environmental impacts of increased discharges — 240% more! — authorized by this permit!” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP president. “No baseline information was provided, either for the wetland or the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River. Eagle Mine’s original permit failed to evaluate these sites, and now they want to dump wastewater into unassessed ecosystems! No wetland hydrology or biology data was included in the draft permit, so there’s no way to calculate the risks, and the certain degradation that will result.”

humboldt-meme1

Water quality will clearly be undermined by this permit, a violation of the Clean Water Act, but Eagle Mine is seeking an exemption in its Antidegradation Demonstration, stating that the lowering of water quality is necessary for “important social and economic development in the area” — however the Humboldt Township Board announced during Tuesday night’s hearing that they were unanimously opposed to the permit. Concerned citizens and representatives of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) raised objections to Eagle’s Antidegradation Demonstration, collectively requesting updated and comprehensive proof of the social and economic benefits.

Residents are concerned about the enormous increase in discharge — from 0.82 to 2.8 million gallons per day (MGD). Both mass limits and concentration limits for pollutants have been increased, allowing more pollution of wetlands, and the Escanaba River. The first NPDES permit allowed discharge from only a single pipe (“Outfall 001”).

Pollutant limits are substantially increased for multiple parameters, according to the draft NPDES permit. Below are two tables showing increased limits for quantity (Figure 1) and increased limits for concentration (Figure 2):

pollutant-increases.jpg

Attorney Michelle Halley, who has worked extensively on Eagle Mine issues, said, “This NPDES permit allows discharges  to the Escanaba River that do not protect the fishery. Because of that, it violates the Clean Water Act.”

“It is important to remember that ore being processed at the Humboldt Mill comes from Eagle Mine, containing valuable copper and nickel — along with dangerous sulfides, salts, and a long list of toxic metals,” said Maxwell. Water monitoring at Eagle Mine has documented more than 100 exceedances of groundwater discharge limits since the permit was issued in 2007, including serious exceedances of arsenic, copper, lead, molybdenum, silver, and vanadium —  and uranium levels in water at the Eagle Mine facility have risen to 103 ug/L, more than 3 times higher than the EPA’s Maximum Concentration Level.  Since uranium monitoring was not included in Eagle Mine’s permit, the mine claims that no permit violation has occurred.

To protect aquatic life, conservative water quality standards should be calculated for all potential contaminants. The draft NPDES permit fails to list limits for many contaminants, including: Aluminum, Antimony, Barium, Boron, Calcium, Chromium, Fluoride, Iron, Lithium, Magnesium, Molybdenum, Potassium, Silver, Sodium, Thallium, Tin, Titanium, Strontium, Sulfate, Vanadium, and Uranium.

“The problem really boils down to a regulatory process focused on permitting rather than preventing pollution,” said Steve Garske, SWUP Board member and western U.P. resident. If contaminants are present in the ore from Eagle Mine, it is reasonable to expect they will also be present in Humboldt Mill’s tailings. It is unclear why discharge limits at the mill do not reflect known contaminants from the mine, and all legacy contaminants previously found in testing of the Humboldt site.

At the hearing, MDEQ’s Steve Casey provided a brief update on Eagle Mine’s Groundwater Discharge Permit, which was considered deeply flawed by concerned citizens.  Casey acknowledged Eagle’s ongoing vanadium exceedances, shared some theories as to why contaminant levels might be increasing in the groundwater — and confirmed that MDEQ has still not approved Eagle Mine’s Groundwater Discharge Permit, which expired two years ago. “You cannot understand the impacts of this endeavor until you understand the water,” said Cynthia Pryor, watershed resident and longtime community watchdog. “Neither the mining company nor MDEQ understand how hydrogeology functions at the Eagle Mine and at the Humboldt Mill.”

 

View Save the Wild U.P.’s written comments re: Proposed NPDES Permit, MI-0058649submitted to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency on January 16, 2015 (PDF)

 

Ore truck accident raises environmental concerns

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Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) was notified early Saturday morning (December 13th, 2014) by a concerned citizen that one of Eagle Mine’s ore trucks had overturned. The truck, hauling double trailers and fully loaded, was heading southbound on County Road 550 near Wetmore Landing.

Eagle Mine spokesman Dan Blondeau sent out a reassuring email on Saturday morning, in which he stated, “The load was contained and the truck was out of the way of traffic.” But Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s Interim Director, observed that “ore had spilled from the overturned truck, and the tarp of the second trailer was torn open.” Photographs from Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve document the spilled ore. Maxwell watched as crews working with heavy equipment and wreckers tried to raise the second trailer of the damaged ore truck. Their efforts closed CR 550 to traffic in both directions for more than an hour; later visits by Save the Wild U.P. confirmed that the road was closed most of the afternoon, blocking traffic until at least 5pm.

Eagle Mine stated, “Any potential impacts to the environment are being mitigated by Trimedia.” According to Maxwell, however, workers on the scene “were occasionally stooping over to pick up rocks from the ditch by hand, and tossing them into a container. Was that their mitigation plan? One worker was carrying a shovel, others were standing around two closed cardboard boxes, presumably containing environmental mitigation supplies. No plastic barriers were placed in the ditches — although snow was melting.”

Save the Wild U.P. has long raised concerns about Eagle Mine’s lack of a transportation plan, as required by Michigan’s Nonferrous Metallic Mineral Mining Regulations, Part 632. Under Rule 103, “Mining Activity” clearly includes transportation of ore, and Rule 203 states: “The mining, reclamation, and environmental protection plan (…) shall include, at a minimum, (xviii) roads, railroads, docks, piers, and other transportation infrastructure, and provisions to prevent release of contaminants to the environment from ore or waste rock during transportation.”

According to attorney Michelle Halley, “This accident demonstrates why it is important for the State of Michigan to require Lundin to assess the environmental impacts of all mining activities including hauling ore on the designated transportation route. That analysis is required under Part 632, but to this day the State has failed to apply or enforce it.”

Alexandra Maxwell agrees. “Throughout the process, we’ve seen Eagle Mine ignoring environmental impact assessments while burying infrastructure, building bridges, and funding a paved haul road. It’s an accident waiting to happen.”

For Cynthia Pryor, Big Bay resident and longtime environmental advocate, Saturday morning’s accident raises serious safety concerns. “We should reexamine Eagle Mine’s hauling operations. First, vehicles are traveling at excessive speeds. Lundin needs to self-limit these heavily loaded, top-heavy trucks to 45 miles per hour, from Eagle Mine to the Humboldt Mill. Second, why are they hauling double trailer loads in winter? Workers at Tilden Mine say they never transport the second pup (trailer) in winter, due to safety concerns.”

Pryor notes that “Eagle Mine’s permit stated the ore would be contained by a hard cover, but they asked the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for a permit amendment, stating it was easier to load and unload with soft covers. The canvas cover was torn in this accident, and sulfide ore was released into the environment. Finally, how many loads had this driver already hauled? The trucks are running multiple round-trips per day, 24/7. The accident happened at 3:00 am on clear roads. Was the driver properly rested?”

Peter Sheret, a nearby resident, has observed ore trucks and other mine vehicles exceeding the speed limits on a regular basis. “Last Saturday night, as I was heading toward Eagles Nest Road, I met one of these ore trucks just coming down from ‘Passing Lane Hill’. He whizzed past me at the fastest speed I have seen yet. It’s clearly risky.”

SWUP board member Chip Truscon fears such incidents will be repeated. “This isn’t simply metallic ore, it is massive and semi-massive sulfide ore, which turns into sulfuric acid when it hits air and water. And what if Eagle Mine is moving radioactive rock? How do we protect our water?”

Pryor asks, “Why are these trucks not marked clearly ‘Eagle Mine’? All trucks carrying sulfide ore in our community should be clearly marked. We have a right to know that a truck passing our home, business or school is carrying sulfide ore — emergency responders need this information, too.”

SWUP president Kathleen Heideman is outraged. “There’s no way that Eagle Mine could have fixed the problem if that ore truck had overturned on the other side of the road — it would have ended up in Lake Superior! Where’s the emergency plan for that?”

Save the Wild U.P. was formed in 2004 to protect the U.P.’s unique communities, lakes, and lands from the hazards of sulfide mining, which threatens to contaminate the Lake Superior Watershed with acid mine drainage.