Wall Street Journal Prints ‘Alternative Facts’ By Lawyers Appealing CR-595

Marquette County Road Commission v. Environmental Protection Agency

Regional environmentalists are dismissing as “wildly inaccurate” an article published in the Wall Street Journal (*1) on March 3rd, entitled “How a Michigan County Road Got Stuck in Regulatory Purgatory”. The piece, co-written by two lawyers working on the Marquette County Road Commission (MCRC) lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “relied on ‘alternative facts’ and amounted to little more than a highly-placed publicity stunt,” according to Kathleen Heideman, a Board member of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition’s (UPEC) Mining Action Group.

The Wall Street Journal story plays fast and loose with the facts, according to Heideman, suggesting that the road proposal is a “shovel-ready” jobs initiative caught in “regulatory purgatory” and that the EPA was “vague” in their wetland objections, which ultimately “vetoed” a critical road building project.

In fact, the mine’s original (permitted) transportation plan matches the mine’s current haul route, and the “short cut” was only concocted after the mining company purchased the Humboldt Mill property for processing and refining their ore. The so-called “shovel ready” plan failed to clear the review of multiple federal agencies, including EPA, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Previously, the mining company told regulators that they would use “existing infrastructure” and develop a rail depot north of the city of Marquette. “Groggy college students” would not have been endangered by Eagle Mine’s original plan.


From the beginning, environmentalists have contended that the Road Commission was trying to build an industrial road – a mining haul road for the benefit of a single company – rather than a County Road designed to benefit the public. “The Pacific Legal Foundation is attempting to recast this issue as an anti-EPA “states rights” issue, and revising history as they go. The facts of the case simply do not support their claims,” said Steve Garske, UPEC Board member and member of the Mining Action Group.

The CR-595 proposal was controversial from its first incarnation as the privately-funded “Woodland Road” proposal, which the owners of Eagle Mine (then Rio Tinto) offered to fund. Promoters of the “Woodland Road” claimed its main purpose was to provide local citizens with easier access to the roadless interior of Marquette County for hunting, fishing, berry-picking, and other recreational activities, while dodging massive ore trucks. Federal agencies objected to the “Woodland Road” plan on the grounds that impacts to wetlands and streams were poorly quantified, and because the road’s stated purpose was highly inaccurate.

Contrary to the Wall Street Journal article, the objections raised by federal agencies were always quite specific, as seen in early March 2010: “The application must quantify aquatic impacts, especially the following: the loss of headwaters and wetlands associated with headwaters, in each watershed; the loss of rare wetland plant communities, including bogs, fens and wet meadows; and water quality degradation due to runoff containing pollutants, and clearly indicate how the loss of each of these features would be compensated. This is necessary to allow (Michigan environmental regulators) to fully evaluate whether compensation is possible for the unique functions lost within each of the four watersheds… Woodland Road application is deficient in several areas, including reasonable comparison of alternative routes, an adequate 404(b)(1) analysis, and an adequate compensatory mitigation proposal.” (*2)

Remote Mulligan Creek wetlands complex, at the site of the proposed CR-595 crossing, photograph by Amy Cherrette (2016).

Woodland Road was later renamed “County Road 595”; the proposed route would have cut through 22 rivers and streams, including the Dead River and Yellow Dog River Watersheds, Mulligan Creek headwaters, Voelker Creek, and Wildcat Canyon Creek, destroying approximately 25 acres of wetlands, directly impacting 122 wetland complexes, and bisecting a major wildlife corridor, fragmenting both habitat and hydrology.

“The EPA’s decisions were not ‘arbitrary and capricious’ as the Road Commission has contended. Instead, they were in alignment with the concerns of the other state and federal agencies charged with protecting our natural resources,” said concerned citizen Catherine Parker.

Narrow leaved gentian growing at the Mulligan Creek wetlands complex, in the path of the CR-595 project. According to the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, this rare native plant is a threatened species, ranked “S2, meaning imperiled in state because of rarity (6 to 20 occurrences or few remaining individuals or acres) or because of some factor(s) making it very vulnerable to extirpation from the state.” Photograph provided by Jeremiah Eagle Eye.


In 2012, when the EPA objected to the project’s failure to avoid or minimize impacts to wetlands and streams, it gave the MCRC and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) 30 days to modify their plans. On January 3, 2013, the DEQ announced that it would not be issuing a permit for the project. The implication was that the state regulators simply ran out of time, and the mining company, impatient for a secured haul road, decided to invest in improving the existing route specified in its mining permit.

So Eagle Mine paid for a different seasonal road to be widened and paved as far as the mine’s gate, and plans for CR-595 were abandoned – but not forgotten.

After abandoning the CR-595 proposal, the Marquette County Road Commission “improved” an unpaved, seasonal road to serve as a Haul Route for Eagle Mine. The pavement ends at the gate of the mine. Photograph by Kathleen Heideman (May 2014).


In July 2015, the MCRC filed a lawsuit claiming the EPA had unfairly “blocked” the road’s construction. To be clear, the CR-595 project still could have been built, but wetland permits would need to be secured from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Yet MCRC never applied to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for permits to build CR-595. “It seems that Eagle Mine and the Marquette County Road Commission are allergic to federal permits. Certainly they’ve avoided federal oversight at every turn,” said Loman.

MCRC’s lawsuit against the EPA was heard by Federal Judge Robert Holmes Bell in 2016. Judge Bell dismissed the lawsuit, stating that the MCRC “doesn’t have a viable claim against the EPA.” The MCRC appealed, and Judge Bell denied the motion for reconsideration. According to the Pacific Legal Foundation, attorneys and a mediator appointed by the appellate court were to have discussed a possible settlement by phone on March 6. If no resolution was reached, the case will proceed to the 6th U.S. Circuit of Appeals.

According to a federal attorney familiar with the case, such mediation will “address only the pertinent questions of law.” The facts of the case were previously addressed by the lower circuit court, which dismissed the Road Commission’s lawsuit against the EPA as baseless.


While the Wall Street Journal pairs the story with a photograph of scenic downtown Marquette, Eagle Mine’s trucks do not actually run through downtown Marquette. Those most affected by the mining trucks are local residents along the route which runs along the outskirts of Marquette and other small towns, and the so-called “groggy college students” at Northern Michigan University, where ore trucks and logging trucks pass the north edge of campus.

Save the Wild U.P.’s Summer Fellows at the site of the proposed CR-595 crossing of the Dead River wetlands complex (2015).

“College students are the ones who will inherit this mining mess in a few years — along with the financial responsibility for a thousand other contaminated mine sites, milling sites, and haul routes that haven’t been properly cleaned up. If the Marquette County Road Commission gets its way, these young taxpayers will also be saddled with the cost of constructing and repairing another haul road for Eagle Mine, on top of their college debts,” said Jeffery Loman, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community tribal member and former federal oil regulator.

According to Parker, “MCRC never had a case. Period. The evidence is right there in the files I received through Freedom of Information Act requests.”

“The road proposal was not an environmentally responsible option, and doesn’t fix any of the problems created for our community by the sulfide mining industry. The MCRC’s proposed dredge-and-fill, slash-and-burn method of road construction would produce exponentially more greenhouse gas than would be saved by shortening Eagle Mine’s haul route,” noted Alexandra Maxwell, a UPEC Board member.

The proposed CR-595 road would have destroyed dozens of heavily forested wetlands along the route. According to new research (*3), forested wetlands provide extremely high carbon sequestration benefits, trapping anywhere from 2,750 to 4,100 pounds of carbon per acre per year.

“It is important to remember that any potential benefit to air quality from the shortened trip will be offset by the fact that road construction effectively converts forests into pavement. Construction permanently cuts and burns the surrounding forest, releasing stored carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Considering CR-595 would be approximately 66 feet wide for 22 miles (applicants stated that habitat removal would be at least 66 feet in width, totaling approx. 180 acres), this is a substantial loss for the climate,” said Emily Whittaker, Special Projects Manager for the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, another organization which has vigorously opposed the CR-595 project.

After the CR-595 road proposal was abandoned, the Marquette County Road Commission used slash and burn land-clearing methods to dramatically widen and pave the “Triple A” (a season unpaved road) as far as the gates of Eagle Mine. This photograph shows stumps and roots set on fire, using fuel accelerant, along the route. Photograph provided by Jeremiah Eagle Eye.

“More important than the question of carbon released or sequestered by the construction of a new haul road from mine to mill is the impact of the road itself to an undeveloped region of the Upper Peninsula. This road would be nothing like the ‘Woodland Road’ touted by its proponents. It would be an all-season ribbon of concrete within a wide corridor, a permanent swath fragmenting a sensitive and wild landscape,” remarked Jon Saari, historian and UPEC Board member.

“We should be thankful to the EPA for setting high standards for any big new highway. Our region is still recovering from the wounds of the last mining and logging era a hundred years ago. The Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2017 guide (*4) just cited the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as a national treasure for its beaches, waterfalls, small towns, and old forests — in other words its natural setting. The EPA recognized that, too, and showed some backbone in this political and legal fight,” said Saari.

Back in 2012, when the road proposal became mired in wetlands concerns, Michigan lawmakers were quick to make statements of support for the road, which touted short-term jobs to be created by road construction. Michigan’s unemployment rate has fallen sharply since then. But unemployment rates and robust economic development may not be the ultimate value in many residents’ minds. According to the results of a newly published survey by Michigan State University researchers (*5), most Michigan residents — 59% — “favor protecting the environment, even when there could be economic risks of doing so, such as job loss” and they “prioritize the environment over economic growth.”

The environmental threats are real. According to the 2014 report “Status and Trends of Michigan’s Wetlands” (*6), Michigan has lost 40% of its original wetlands since the start of European settlement. While the rate has slowed, wetland losses continue, with 41,000 acres of wetlands lost since 1978. The pressure to sacrifice Michigan wetlands for the sake of poorly-conceived roads or short-lived industrial developments – like CR-595 and Eagle Mine – continues. In requiring the MCRC to prove that a road through the wild heart of Marquette County was needed and would be designed to minimize impacts on the environment, especially wetlands, headwaters and aquatic resources, the EPA was doing its job: protecting our natural resources.

Aerial view of remote Wildcat Canyon Creek wetlands complex and logging trail, site of proposed CR-595 crossing, photograph by Kathleen Heideman (2015).


  1. https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-a-michigan-county-road-got-stuck-in-regulation-purgatory-1488585470
  2. Letter dated March 12, 2010 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to EPA Region 5, concerning the Woodland Road proposal.
  3. See: http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/freshwetlands.htm, authored by Dr. William Mitsch at Ohio State University’s School of Environment and Natural Resources, with support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation.
  4. See: Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2017 (2016), p. 169.
  5. http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2017/a-trump-twist-environment-over-economy-in-michigan/
  6. http://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/DEQ-Water-Wetlands_-Status_and_trends_498644_7.pdf


Founded in 1976, the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition’s purpose remains unchanged: to protect and maintain the unique environmental qualities of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan by educating the public and acting as a watchdog to industry and government. UPEC is a nonprofit, registered 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, call 906-201-1949, see UPenvironment.org, visit our Facebook page, or contact: upec@upenvironment.org.

The UPEC Mining Action Group (MAG) is a grassroots effort to defend the clean water and wild places of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from the dangers of sulfide mining – previously known as Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP). Contact the UPEC Mining Action Group at info@savethewildup.org or call (906) 662-9987. Learn more about the Mining Action Group at miningactiongroup.org or follow MAG’s work on Facebook or Twitter.

Here is example of what a compromise is not | Gene Champagne

November 3, 2013| The Mining Journal

The recent controversy surrounding truck routes has brought to light some glaring vulnerabilities in the way permitting decisions for the Eagle Mine have been handled by affected municipalities.

When Kennecott Minerals first applied for a permit to operate Eagle Mine, the City of Marquette, the Marquette County Board, and many other local elected and appointed boards and officials could not get it passed fast enough.

Consequently, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was allowed to get away with the absurd declaration that there were no impacts outside of the mining area (fence).

Hopefully some valuable lessons have been learned and past mistakes will not be repeated for those errors that are still correctable.

Although the city of Marquette has seemingly ‘dodged the bullet’ this time, our region is not out of the woods yet.

A similar rush to permit is currently unfolding at north end of the prescribed haul route for Eagle Mine.

The Marquette County Road Commission has proposed a “realignment” plan for County Roads 510 and AAA from County Road 550 to the Eagle Mine.

MCRC’s design, foisted upon an unsuspecting public, was unveiled at a packed Powell Township Hall on Sept. 26. The public was aghast.

There was only one positive comment given by a single citizen. The plan, in the expressed public view, constituted a new road build, not an alignment.

It called for, and still does, a 55 mph road design that dictates immense amounts of clearing and will take private property if necessary, for corporate-funded interests.

Public comment and questions were allowed on the plan until October 4th, a period of only 9 days. This is a woefully inadequate time for thoughtful and informed feedback.

At the Oct. 15 MCRC meeting in Ishpeming, most questions that had been submitted to the public were answered by Jim Iwanicki, but perhaps due to the rather rushed time frame in which he was required to respond, many were not addressed completely or with clear definition.

At this meeting, which was standing room only, there were zero comments in favor of the “realignment” plan.

At the end of the meeting, Vice-Chair Dave Hall assured the public that “no decision has been made,” but that there was going to be a compromise with no one getting everything that they wanted.

Logically speaking, stating there was going to be a compromise was a decision in itself.

At the MCRC Oct. 21 meeting, a revised plan was presented that included some concessions to public concern.

This was heralded as a compromise and passed unanimously by the MCRC before the public had an opportunity to digest the information.

You cannot not take a plan that is so overwhelmingly opposed (by those who spoke), trim it a little, and expect it to be accepted by the public.

If there is a compromise present, it is the possibility that the public is even considering allowing an all-season road to be built here.

There is nothing in the mining permit, or law, stating there needs to be an all-season road from County Road 550 to the mine. The owners of the Eagle Mine assume the risks inherent in the permit.

They should not be put upon the public. We should not rush to begin work on the so-called “upgrades” to the mining company’s haul route. The minerals are going nowhere.

The MCRC needs to continue listening to the people who live and travel along County Road 510/AAA. These are our roads. This is our community, our lifestyle, and our culture.

The plan currently being considered by the MCRC is not necessary for the safety of either the traveling public or the safe transportation of the ore from Eagle Mine.

It has been soundly rejected to date by the public. The road needs to be designed for 35 mph. There can be no eminent domain for a privately funded project and beneficiary.

At least 30 days should be allotted for comment, followed by a minimum 30 days before a decision is rendered

At the risk of being called an “obstructionist” by this paper, I have to ask, “What’s the rush?” Do not blame the public if Lundin has to wait in order to make matters right and just.

This process could have been started a whole lot sooner than Sept. 26. Let’s take our time.

We have one chance to get this right, or live with the consequences.

Editor’s note: Gene Champagne is a resident of Big Bay.

Permalink: http://www.miningjournal.net/page/content.detail/id/592061/Here-is-example-of-what-a-compromise-is-not.html

To the editor: Road to ruin

Road to ruin | The Mining Journal | April 7, 2013

To the Journal editor:

The Upper Peninsula has a long history of mining and logging. Regardless of one’s personal position on this issue, don’t let the county leave public safety on the side of the road when considering proposed truck routes in Marquette County.

The Marquette County Road commission and Rio Tinto are negotiating plans to spend over $40 million restructuring the roads leading to the Eagle Mine, including over 20 miles of restructuring work on Marquette County Road 550.

The shoulder widths being called for by the Marquette county roads commission are below Federal Highway Administration recommended minimum widths of four foot paved, and below Michigan state standards of a six foot paved shoulder called for during restructuring work, that will endanger the public’s use of the Big Bay highway.

The three foot paved shoulder proposed by the county road commission is below acceptable standards. In the interests of public safety and to adequately plan for future use of this valuable traffic corridor, the county should rebuild the Big Bay highway with the minimum acceptable shoulder width called for during a restructuring project.

The county is failing to consider additional growth in northeast Marquette County, the demands of emergency responders, a projected increase in non-Eagle Mine truck traffic, other commercial development, private landowners, the residents of Powell and northeast Marquette townships and the tourists and travelers to Big Bay.

The county’s plan also fails to adequately provide for safe non-motorized and recreational use of this valuable transportation corridor.

Everyone that travels the Big Bay highway should be concerned. Everyone with an economic stake in Marquette County’s future should be concerned.

Demand the county provide adequately for public safety. Develop the Big Bay highway to the minimum acceptable roadway design standards.

In the interests of public safety, economic stimulus and future growth, the county has the duty before it to add six foot paved shoulders during the Big Bay highway restructuring project.

Mike Beck, member

American Planning Association

Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals


Letter to Chairs of Natural Resources Committee regarding CR 595

Via Telefax delivery:

March 20, 2013

The Honorable Richard “Doc” Hastings
Chairman, Natural Resources Committee
1203 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Fax: (202) 225-5929

Waves crashing on the rocky shoreline by Jacob Emerick

The Honorable Edward J. Markey
Ranking Member, Natural Resources Committee
2108 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Fax: (202) 225-4273

Dear Chairman Hastings and Ranking Member Markey:

We write regarding the upcoming testimony of Mr. James Iwanicki, Engineering Manager of the Marquette County Road Commission. Mr. Iwanicki is scheduled to provide testimony at a hearing on “America’s Mineral Resources: Creating Mining and Manufacturing Jobs and Securing America.” His testimony is slated to take place this Thursday, March 21, 2013, before the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources (Committee). We also ask that you allow the voices of those whose homelands are being sacrificed in the name of foreign mining companies currently operating in an irresponsible and unsustainable manner in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to be heard.

Collectively, we are members of a federally recognized Indian tribe, former resource extraction industry regulators, and environmental advocacy groups made up of many of the more than 200 practicing physicians, clergy, property owners, workers, residents, and frequent visitors of the Upper Peninsula who oppose irresponsible mining activities currently underway. Many of us provided testimony and written comments describing our concerns and made recommendations for the proposed mine haul road that Mr. Iwanicki is slated to testify about before the Committee.  Unlike Mr. Iwanicki, whose responsibilities are limited to road maintenance and construction in Marquette County, Michigan, we are prepared to provide the House Natural Resources Committee or any of its subcommittees, with a concise description of the unsustainable practices that threaten our resources, including treaty protected tribal trust resources, our environment and our way of life.

We expect that the testimony provided Mr. Iwanicki will downplay the relationship of the road to Rio Tinto’s operations and that the Committee will be told that the road would enhance safety, recreation and “economic benefits for county residents.” Because Mr. Iwanicki’s responsibilities are limited to roads there are many aspects of this debacle of which  the Committee will not be apprised. Many are directly related to the primary purpose of the hearing. Mr. Iwanicki is likely unprepared to talk about the impacts this proposed road would have had to National Wild and Scenic Rivers, the McCormick Wilderness, and the health and way of life of the people who work, live and recreate in this area. This is the case because there was no environmental impact statement prepared for the road project. This was possible only because Rio Tinto, which claimed that it would fund the road entirely but only if the project could be permitted within a truncated timeframe that did not allow for the analyses required by federal law.

We believe that Mr. Iwanicki will inform the Committee that he was operating under a budget set by Rio Tinto and under a timeline set by Rio Tinto. We urge the Committee to question Mr. Iwanicki accordingly and specifically ask for an explanation that reconciles the obvious elimination of any use of federal transportation funds to avoid National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements with the exclusive use of Rio Tinto funding. It’s only reasonable to conclude that if the project has all of the benefits that Mr. Iwanicki will tell the Committee it has, using some federal transportation funds would be acceptable. This however was impossible for Mr. Iwanicki as a result of Rio Tinto’s arbitrary time limit. By setting the timeline and funding limitations Rio Tinto simply made it impossible to incorporate mitigation requirements to fulfill the Clean Water Act’s wetlands protection mandates. Rio Tinto maintained control over the project Mr. Iwanicki was charged with managing. It’s important to note that Mr. Iwanicki only became the manager of this proposed project when Rio Tinto’s own road proposal failed to meet these same federal requirements. The failure here is not EPA’s, but Rio Tinto’s failure to recognize and comply with federal environmental protection laws.

Because the proposed road was primarily for the purpose of avoiding traffic problems associated with Rio Tinto’s mining activities, there are literally dozens of substantive natural resource related issues and legal concerns that Mr. Iwanicki will not relate to the Committee. For example, Mr. Iwanicki is not likely to tell the Committee that while Rio Tinto touts the use of health impact assessments through its role as a member of the International Council of Mining and Metals, none has been prepared for any of the activities Rio Tinto has conducted in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Natural Resources Committee also will not learn how Rio Tinto obtained permits from the State of Michigan to construct and operate a hard rock mine with insufficient financial responsibility assurances in place as EPA fails to complete its rulemaking to address the inability of our government to continue to clean-up the millions of pounds of toxic chemical releases to our environment from these mines each year. Mr. Iwanicki will surely not explain the regulatory fiasco at Rio Tinto’s Eagle mine where a State of Michigan ground water permit is the only thing in place to regulate up to 504,000 gallons of industrial mine water discharges that Rio Tinto itself told the EPA were “not discharged below the surface of the ground.” Additionally, we are very certain that Mr. Iwanicki will not tell anyone at the hearing that State of Michigan water program technical staff who worked on Rio Tinto’s Eagle mine permits and the Governor of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula District Manager who had a very significant role during the permitting process are now on Rio Tinto’s payroll and working at the Eagle mine.

Through his testimony, we expect that Mr. Iwanicki will explain how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), through what has been described by our Congressional representative as “regulatory overreach,” eliminated employment opportunities in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We believe Mr. Iwanicki will testify that EPA’s “overreach” occurred in conjunction with a road construction project called County Road 595. Further, it is our understanding Mr. Iwanicki will state that EPA’s refusal to withdraw objections pursuant to provisions of the Clean Water Act that are in place to protect wetlands constituted this alleged “overreach.” We assure you that EPA’s decision to exercise its authority and follow the provisions of the Clean Water Act were not only completely appropriate – but long overdue and sought after by the citizens of the area likely to be impacted by the proposed road. To be clear, the proposed road was initially designed to address concerns related to the transportation of ore on existing roads from Rio Tinto’s Eagle mine, currently in the final stages of construction. Had EPA properly exercised its authority it would have required or prepared an Environmental Impact Statement, which EPA has the discretion to do. Through that process, issues involving the transportation of ore from the Eagle mine and other mines currently being proposed could have been addressed. Unfortunately, Rio Tinto, through extensive lobbying and other actions, set out to eliminate any and all federal environmental regulatory oversight of its activities. If one seeks to find blame with any aspect of mining and its ancillary activities in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan they would be prudent to look carefully at the actions taken by Rio Tinto.

The regulatory failures associated with recent mining activities in the Upper Peninsula are monumental. Conflicts of interest, inadequate financial assurances, catastrophic technical mistakes, inadequate and insufficient scientific and environmental analysis, significant lack of experience among technical staff employed by State and federal regulatory agencies, complete absence of cumulative impact assessments and more, all are certain to contribute to a situation where we will see a net reduction of jobs in the resource extraction industry. This does not have to be the case and we are prepared to explain this situation to the Natural Resources Committee in full measure. While they operate with breathtaking arrogance and an unfounded sense of entitlement, these companies continue to avoid public debate regarding the manner in which they operate. We hope you agree that respectful and informed debate is the American way to create jobs through responsible and safe development of our natural resources.

In closing, please know that we have placed our trust in your abilities and integrity, and we seek only to remain confident that the Natural Resources Committee will not make decisions that forsake the laws and federal trust responsibilities of the United States. Please feel free to contact us if you believe we can be of service to the House Committee on Natural Resources.


Gene Champagne
Concerned Citizens of Big Bay
Big Bay, Michigan

Jeffery Loman
Member, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community
L’Anse, Michigan

Emily Whittaker
Executive Director, Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve
Big Bay, Michigan

Margaret Comfort
President, Save the Wild U.P.
Marquette, Michigan

Catherine Parker
Marquette, Michigan

Richard Sloat
Iron River, Michigan

Congressman Douglas Lamborn, Chairman, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, Via fax: (202) 226-2638
Congressman Rush Holt, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, Via fax: (202) 225-6025
Congressman Daniel Benishek, Member, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, Via fax: (202) 225-4710

CR 595 project plans dropped – Victory for now, but the fight’s not over

“We are relieved that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has decided not to issue a permit for CR 595, aka the ‘road to nowhere,’ but we are well aware the fight isn’t over yet,” says Margaret Comfort, president of Save the Wild UP.

“This has been a David and Goliath struggle,” says Comfort. “Activists throughout the Midwest are watching this issue — would the EPA and the DEQ accomodate of one of the world’s largest mining companies and allow them to build a haul road through fragile wetlands? This is a victory for working people and all citizens across the UP: big business lost this round.”

“We are so grateful for the support of community members throughout the Upper Great Lakes Region who questioned the wisdom of this ‘Wilderness Road.’” Comfort was among hundreds of citizens who attended public hearings, wrote the EPA, and spoke out against the proposed haul road.

“This boondoggle was a corporate driveway dressed up as a public service. Rio Tinto has a lot of nerve to set up the County Road Commission to build their private infrastructure. Taxpayer money should never have been spent lobbying for Rio Tinto’s haul road, period,” says Kathleen Heideman, board member of Save the Wild UP.

“Thanks to the EPA and the DEQ for carefully reviewing this project, and acting in the best interest of our fragile wetlands and intact ecosystems. Once lost, they can’t be replaced.” says Gail Griffith, SWUP board member.

Save the Wild UP is a grassroots environmental organization dedicated to the preservation of the Upper Peninsula’s unique cultural and natural resources. For more information visit: savethewildup.org, e-mail info@savethewildup.org, or call (906) 662-9987.

Reps push EPA on CR 595

November 11, 2012
By JOHN PEPIN – Journal Staff Writer (jpepin@miningjournal.net) , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE – U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, is among seven lawmakers urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to remove its federal objection to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality issuing permits to build Marquette County Road 595. Continue reading

CR595 decision delayed again

EPA needs more time to review 400-plus comments from public

September 29, 2012
By JOHN PEPIN – Journal Staff Writer (jpepin@miningjournal.net) , The Mining Journal

HUMBOLDT – Rio Tinto officials said Friday a deadline extension until December on whether the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will issue permits necessary for building Marquette County Road 595 will not affect the company’s pledge to fund the $82 million roadway – if construction begins by spring.

“We’re going to adhere to the current plan,” said Dan Blondeau, Rio Tinto advisor for communications and media relations in Humboldt. “We remain committed to funding County Road 595 if the road can be permitted and construction can begin by spring 2013.”

The proposed new 21-mile, north-south County Road 595 would run from County Road AAA in Michigamme Township to U.S. 41 in Humboldt Township. Among the uses and benefits cited for building the road include providing a more direct route for Rio Tinto (Kennecott) to truck ore from its Eagle Mine on the Yellow Dog Plains to its Humboldt Mill processing center in Humboldt Township.

Article Photos

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials record public comments during a hearing in August at Northern Michigan University on a Marquette County Road Commission permit application for the proposed County Road 595. A Monday deadline for a DEQ permitting decision has been postponed until Dec. 1, with EPA officials needing more time to review comments from the meeting and an associated public comment period, which closed Sept. 4. (Journal photo by John Pepin)

Marquette County Road Commission Engineer-Manager Jim Iwanicki authorized the DEQ in a letter Thursday to extend the permit decision deadline until Dec. 1. A permit decision was scheduled to be rendered by Monday.

Iwanicki said Thursday’s deadline extension was provided after consultation with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials, who said they needed additional time to review and consider more than 400 comments received during an Aug. 28 public hearing in Marquette and a public comment period that ended Sept. 4.

“The DEQ really needs the answer from the EPA so they can do their final bit of work,” Iwanicki said.

In January, the road commission applied for a wetlands fill permit for the road-building project from the DEQ under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Sections 301 and 303 of the Michigan Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.

Under an agreement, the DEQ can issue permits on behalf of the federal government, unless the EPA objects. In April, the EPA filed an objection, after consulting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The basis for the EPA’s objection is the presence of feasible alternative routes with fewer aquatic impacts, impacts to aquatic resources with the project are significant and proposed mitigation would not sufficiently compensate for impacts.

Since the objection, road commission officials have worked to try to rework the proposal to satisfy the EPA’s concerns. In late August, a new proposal was announced for mitigation that would preserve 1,576 acres, including 647 wetland acres, near the McCormick Wilderness.

In addition, the road commission originally proposed filling 25.8 acres of wetlands and constructing 22 stream crossings in the building County Road 595. The county now plans to fill 24.3 acres of wetlands, replace 19 steam crossings and build seven others.

Last week, after a review of the changes, the DEQ urged the EPA to remove its objection to the project.

If the EPA maintains its objection, the DEQ has 30 days to issue a permit addressing the objections or deny the permit. After that, authority to issue a Clean Water Act permit would fall to the Corps of Engineers. The application process would restart.

If the EPA withdraws its objection, the DEQ could issue the permit and work on the project could begin.

The DEQ was initially scheduled to make a permit decision in July, but under a new law that took effect June 14, applicants can authorize the DEQ to extend permit processing periods up to a year. In this case, that would be mid-January for the road commission.

In July, Iwanicki extended the deadline until Oct. 1 to provide more time for application review.

But in authorizing that extension, Iwanicki said discussions with Rio Tinto indicated that beyond Oct. 1, the possibility of funding for building the road from the mining company would likely be lost. Rio Tinto needs to finalize its transportation plans in line with its Eagle Mine production scheduled to begin in 2014. The road is expected to take roughly two years to build. Rio Tinto would use existing roads until County Road 595 was finished.

Blondeau said Friday the Oct. 1 deadline for a permit decision “was not a drop-dead date.”

EPA notes CR 595 objections

Wetlands impact central to federal concerns

August 30, 2012
By JOHN PEPIN – Journal Staff Writer (jpepin@miningjournal.net) , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials from Chicago outlined their decision making process and explained the basis for their objections Tuesday to plans to build Marquette County Road 595. Continue reading

CR 595 debated at forum

August 29, 2012
By JOHN PEPIN – Journal Staff Writer (jpepin@miningjournal.net) , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE – Roughly 100 people testified Tuesday at a packed public hearing at Northern Michigan University on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s wetlands and alternatives objections to Marquette County Road 595. Continue reading

Marquette County Road Commission calls attention to Tuesday hearing

CR 595 truck demo

August 27, 2012
By JOHN PEPIN – Journal Staff Writer (jpepin@miningjournal.net) , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE – In an effort to generate support and call attention to Tuesday’s public sessions on the proposed Marquette County Road 595 roadbuilding project, the Marquette County Road Commission moved logging and aggregate truck traffic today through parts of Marquette. Continue reading