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

###

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.

###

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.

###

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

Featured

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

Featured

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

Featured

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.

Motives questioned on the Yellow Dog Plains

Featured

Published in the Mining Journal, November 12, 2014.

To the Journal editor:

So the Eagle Mine has set its eyes on 40 more acres of state land on the Yellow Dog Plains (Oct. 30 article by John Pepin), for geological exploration and supposedly not for a new mine.

This exploration is, as Eagle Mine spokesman Dan Blondeau explains, “part of our commitment to the community,” apparently to grow the mine. At best, this is an odd use of “commitment” and “community,” and at worst an exercise in Corporate Speak.

I have watched this mine develop over the last ten years as a watchful and dismayed observer. It was to be a small remote mine site, a limited, respectful cut into the earth with minimal impact on its wildland setting.

And then the mine portal got pounded into Eagle Rock, a site sacred to the Anishinaabe. The generator-only power system ended up on the grid, with cables laid to the mine site. The trucking of ore to a railhead north of Marquette was forgotten long ago. The “woodland” haul road along the Triple A has turned into a full-blown super highway that has re-engineered the landscape. Lundin Mining Corp., which took over Eagle Mine two years ago, seems to have an eraser for a memory when it comes to commitments.

Eagle Mine seems to be betting that all the “community” wants is economic development that benefits humans. But the Yellow Dog Plains is one of those storied places in our collective imagination. That place, and the larger community we live in, includes rivers, forests, wildlife, rocks and waterfalls, and quiet backwoods camps.

Surface drilling, as Lundin intends on this parcel of state land, may or may not lead to a new mine, but will have impacts right on the edge of the Yellow Dog River floodplain. If this were private land, we would have little say, but this is our land, public land, and the public should have a big say in what happens there.

What would our reaction be if a foreign mining corporation wanted to do exploratory drilling in Presque Isle Park? You would hear the uproar all the way to Big Bay.

We need a public hearing on this proposal. Too much is at stake.

Jon Saari, vice president, Save the Wild U.P

* For detailed information on the proposed mineral lease, see our press release.

SWUP has worked closely with Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve to ensure that citizens have an opportunity to voice their concerns, and protect the wild lands and pristine waters of the Yellow Dog Plains. We’ve created a petition calling on Michigan’s DNR to deny this new mineral lease.

Protect your public lands and clean water: sign the petition here.

Eagle Mine seeks new mineral lease, Save the Wild U.P. demands Public Hearing

Featured

SWUP-lease-banner
MARQUETTE – The Eagle Mine LLC, currently owned by international mining conglomerate Lundin Mining, is seeking a new mineral lease from the State of Michigan for 40 acres of land (NE 1/4 SE 1/4, Section 13, T50N, R29W, Michigamme Township, Marquette County) beside the Yellow Dog River, a federally-recognized National Wild and Scenic River with a status of ‘excellent’ water quality.

According to documents obtained by grassroots organization Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP), Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has known about this application since July. The DNR’s announcement of Lundin Mining’s mineral rights lease application was published on Monday October 20th, 2014, commencing a legally-required 30-day public comment period.

SWUP contends the DNR and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) have institutional conflicts of interest in regulating metallic sulfide mining. Most recently, the organization has found that just one month after Lundin’s Eagle Mine submitted a letter of interest to Michigan’s DNR, the DNR Fisheries Division changed its 2003 recommendation of “Non-development” to “Development, with no restrictions” in August of this year. DNR retains restrictions on the property for a recreational trail, endangered plants, and “neotropical migrants” including Kirtland’s warbler.plat

SWUP encourages concerned citizens to demand a Public Hearing and a transparent, democratic evaluation of the proposed lease by sending an email Karen Maidlow, Property Analyst, Minerals Management, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, at maidlowk@michigan.gov, while copying info@savethewildup.org as the organizations is maintaining an independent analysis of comments received. Comments regarding the mineral rights lease can be mailed directly to Karen Maidlow, Property Analyst, Minerals Management, DNR, P.O. Box 30452, Lansing, MI 48909.

“It’s no surprise that Lundin is seeking to lease more minerals,” says attorney Michelle Halley. “Save the Wild U.P., the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, and others have known that Eagle Mine is just the beginning of a regional mining development strategy. In the long term, the public will pay a high price for mining projects performed with inadequate permitting, monitoring and enforcement.”

Save the Wild U.P.’s president Kathleen Heideman is outraged. “It’s alarming that the State of Michigan is seriously considering this mineral lease request. The land in question is only one hundred feet from the Yellow Dog River’s 100-year floodplain, which means the land is vulnerable to extreme flooding events (King & MacGregor Environmental, Inc., 2011). For me, that’s a giant neon sign spelling R-I-S-K-Y: sulfide ore and water are a dangerous mix! Also, the DNR’s Wildlife staff identified the land as habitat for the Kirtland’s Warbler, a state and federally-listed Threatened and Endangered species.”

“Mining activity on this land poses a direct threat to the Yellow Dog River: land disturbance, drilling contamination, groundwater impairment, surface water pollution, you name it. The DNR needs to reconsider their classification of the property’s restrictions. Given the river’s proximity, this land is absolutely too sensitive to allow mining development,” says Cynthia Pryor, watershed resident and dedicated environmental watchdog.

According to SWUP Director Alexandra Thebert, “Leasing mineral rights means drilling, and drilling can quickly lead to a new mine. We must ensure that the enormous liability of mining on State-owned land isn’t a burden shifted to taxpayers while increasing the profits of a foreign mining company.”

“Public lands belong to the public — not private corporations. This is not an isolated parcel of surplus land,” said Jon Saari, vice president of SWUP. “It adjoins another 840 acres of contiguous State Land on the Yellow Dog Plains.” Current recreational use includes camping, fishing, hunting, ATV riding, and snowmobiling. Marquette County’s Snowmobile Trail #5 runs right through the property – as does the controversial County Road 595 route defeated last year.

Gene Champagne, Concerned Citizens of Big Bay, sees a pattern of deception and creeping industrialization of the Yellow Dog Plains. “Clearly, mineral leasing leads to surface operations – and the land under consideration in this proposed mineral lease is only half a mile from the freshly-paved Triple A road. We renew our call for a federal corruption investigation concerning the State’s failure to regulate Eagle Mine, fraudulent permitting, bait-and-switch electrical infrastructure, the steamrolling of road upgrades, and total disregard for cumulative environmental impacts.”

“This mineral lease request should be denied,” agreed Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP outreach coordinator. “Metallic mineral lease of this land would serve only the short-term goals of Industry at the immediate and long-term expense of taxpayers. Once again, the State of Michigan seems wholly incapable of serving the public trust. We demand that a Public Hearing be held.”

Founded in 2004, Save the Wild U.P. is dedicated to protecting our communities, lakes, and lands from the hazards of sulfide mining, which threatens to contaminate nearby watersheds – including Lake Superior – with acid mine drainage. SWUP continues to raise public awareness about mining exploration and development, regulatory errors and conflict of interest issues. More information is available at savethewildup.org or by calling (906) 662-9987.

* Note: we’re partnering with the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve to send a unified, clear message to the Michigan DNR: deny Eagle Mine’s application for a mineral lease on the Yellow Dog River!

Protect your public lands and clean water: sign the petition here.

 

CR 595 – Under Construction?

Featured


View CR 595 – Under Construction? in a larger map

CHAMPION – Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) has released over 300 geotagged photos of bulldozing and road construction along the previously-defeated CR 595 route which was proposed as a direct route from the Lundin Eagle Mine near Big Bay to the Humboldt Mill along U.S. 41 near Champion in Marquette County, Michigan.

The photos were taken after SWUP was alerted to major road construction taking place at the remote headwaters of the Mulligan Creek by a member of the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve’s RiverKeeper program.

Construction along this route included multiple instances of wetlands impacts, including unpermitted culvert installation and wetlands dredging and filling, with no evidence of a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit – a permit required by law to alter or destroy wetlands during the permitting review of the CR 595 proposal.

SWUP President Kathleen Heideman is outraged. “We’ve already been through an administrative process during which three federal agencies determined that the CR 595 development should not occur. If that’s what’s occurring now – if the construction happening out at the Mulligan Creek is just a backdoor for building CR 595 after all – then this is illegal,” said Heideman.

“The EPA’s decision was very clear: no CR 595 route should be constructed. Now the Mulligan Creek and its fragile headwaters are being gouged, dredged, driven-through, filled, and degraded – it is absolutely obscene. We’re demanding that the MDEQ, EPA, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers get involved up here — boots on the ground — pronto,” said Heideman.

In 2011, a Wetland Delineation Report was conducted on the CR 595 corridor for the Marquette County Road Commission, delineating the wetlands boundaries in the area.

“None of the contractors, logging companies, MDEQ, or the Marquette County Road Commission can claim they did not know there are wetlands here. There is a 742 page report clearly outlining the wetlands surrounding the CR 595 route, including the Mulligan Creek,” said retired chemistry professor and SWUP board member Gail Griffith.

Botanist Steve Garske, who also serves as Secretary for SWUP has personal experience with the area, said, “When I traveled through the proposed CR 595 route in 2009, I saw hundreds of narrow-leaved gentian plants beside the road in the Mulligan Creek headwaters area, as well as a population of the rare Farwell’s milfoil in at least one of the streams near the road. At that time, the CR 595 route was a rutted 2-track, a snowmobile trail. This gentian is rare in Michigan – it occurs in only three counties in the state. When they bulldozed this new, unpermitted road they undoubtedly buried, destroyed, or otherwise degraded colonies of this protected species, a clear violation of state law.”

“This is an egregious wetland fill. No attempt has been made to control erosion. The black silt fencing used in every other road construction project is nonexistent here. Already several of the culverts are completely plugged with sand, and sand and silt are washing down into the streams and wetlands – and no evidence of permits exists for multiple poorly-installed culverts,” said Garske.

“Any new roads being constructed in this environmentally sensitive area should be reviewed as part of a network of related actions. We need to stop the creeping incrementalism – a new bridge here, new culverts there, wetland destruction along the way. Cumulative impacts must be considered. That’s precisely what makes the CR 595 proposal a bad deal for taxpayers and environment. We will continue to report on this issue – democracy must not take a back seat solely for a haul road connecting the Eagle Mine to the Humboldt Mill,” said Alexandra Thebert, SWUP executive director.

According to the one current permit granted by the Michigan DEQ (posted at 46.69° N and 87.9° W), only “snowmobile trail”-related bridge work is authorized. Bridge materials are documented in the photographs on the north end of the snowmobile trail near the Yellow Dog River by a site where a contractor is currently “replacing” a series of culverts installed during the late 1990s – no permits are visible for multiple culvert installations.

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.