For a secondary road through a remote part of the county, the proposed Marquette County Road 595 has generated a lot of controversy.
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. Proponents have said it would bring a myriad of uses and benefits, include creating a more direct route for Kennecott to truck ore from its Rio Tinto Eagle Mine on the Yellow Dog Plains to its Humboldt Mill processing center, providing better access to logging sites and recreational land.
Opponents, now including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, argue the proposal doesn't look closely enough at practical, alternative routes which would have less impact on wetlands. The road would affect 25.81 acres of wetlands and require building 22 stream crossings.
Both sides will now get a chance to express their views in an official setting.
The EPA has opened a public comment period and will hold both an informational meeting and a public hearing in Marquette. The informational presentation and question and answer session will be from 6 to 7 p.m. Aug. 28 at the University Center at Northern Michigan University. The formal public hearing will follow at 7 p.m. The EPA is also taking public comments through Sept. 4.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality requested the hearing after the federal agency objected to the state issuing permits for the project.
The DEQ has also asked the EPA to make its decision by Oct. 1 on whether the Marquette County Road Commission has satisfied the agency's objection.
County Road Commission Engineer-Manager Jim Iwanicki said that beyond that date, the possibility of funding for building the road from the Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. would likely be lost. Kennecott hasn't formally committed to pay for building the road, but has said it would provide the money if permits were granted and the work was begun by May 2013.
So the clock is ticking.
Regardless of your opinion on the proposed Marquette County Road 595, we urge you to attend the meeting to express it.
If you can't attend, there are other options. The EPA is taking comments until Sept. 4. Send written comments to: Melanie Haveman, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, (WW-16J), 77 W. Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60604-3590 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
It's an opportunity for all sides of the debate to be heard.