As most of you know, the DEQ has extended the deadline until October 1 for their decision on permitting CR 595. According to the DEQ’s Steve Casey, they need extra time to consider additional information and modifications—but all indications point to DEQ approving the project.
The Road Commission has asked the EPA to make its decision by then as well, saying that there is unlikely to be a funding commitment (from Kennecott) beyond that date.
DEQ Water Resources Chief William Creal stated that he requested a public hearing on the EPA’s objection because CR 595 has “importance to the economic well-being of the central Upper Peninsula,” adding that the EPA’s objection to the project will “prevent this road from being built.”
The purpose of the hearing is, ostensibly, to give the EPA an opportunity to gather more information in order to make an informed decision. Creal is hoping it will demonstrate to the EPA that the 595 proposal has widespread support, and that it will allow them to hear “first-hand” about the (alleged) benefits of the project.
In the EPA’s notice of hearing, it says that questions remain as to whether there are “practical, alternate routes which would have less impact on aquatic resources.” It also says that the Road Commission’s proposals for mitigating impacts to streams and wetlands “would not fully compensate for the loss of aquatic functions.”
Our comments, then, must focus on refuting Creal’s remarks on support for and benefits of CR 595, and on reinforcing the EPA’s objections to the project. Although the DEQ has the authority to issue wetlands fill permits under the Clean Water Act, EPA may still object if the proposed 595 does not meet federal guidelines.
Analysis of the 595 application by the DNR, Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps and EPA seems to present insurmountable concerns and objections, but the DNR, in an apparent nod to the DEQ, concluded that they are remediable. And the DEQ has been working closely with Kennecott and the Road Commission all along.
Lansing, in its zeal to extract resources from the U.P., is completely on board with this project. The political pressure being applied, on both the local and state levels, is the most powerful tool being used to push this project through. Please ask the EPA to hold the line on permitting and enforce the law.
It is also important to emphasize that it is entirely inappropriate and sets a dangerous precedent to allow the County to pursue permits for a private entity, in this case, a corporation called Rio Tinto.
To those of you who turned out for previous hearings and/or submitted written comments, thank you! Your contributions have kept this area wild, so far. The DEQ hearing was our finest hour, but we’re going to have to turn out in even greater numbers for the EPA, bringing the same or more passion, inspiration, and solid information.
This is Rio Tinto’s, and the Road Commission’s, last chance to win over the EPA. It is ours, as well. Please send comments and attend the hearing on the 28th.
Location: NMU University Center, Ontario/Michigan/Huron Rooms
1401 Presque Isle Ave., Marquette
Time: 6 p.m. – Informational presentation and Q&A session
7 p.m. – 10 p.m. Public hearing
Written comments will be accepted until September 4, and may be submitted to:
U.S. EPA (WW-16J)
77 W. Jackson Blvd
Chicago, IL 60604-3590
Additional talking points: http://standfortheland.com/2012/02/17/deq-hearing-on-cr-595-aka-kennecotts-haul-road/
Links to official comments: http://standfortheland.com/2012/07/12/kennecot