At the urging of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will hold an informational meeting and public hearing Tuesday at Northern Michigan University on the proposed construction of Marquette County Road 595.
We think it is important for the public to attend the meeting to learn more about the project and then weigh in on the new 21-mile, north-south County Road 595, which would run from County Road AAA in Michigamme Township to U.S. 41 in Humboldt Township.
Construction would affect 25.81 acres of wetlands and require building 22 stream crossings.
The Marquette County Board canceled its meeting Tuesday to allow commissioners to attend the meeting and make comments. In addition, other groups have been meeting locally rallying opponents and proponents to attend the sessions.
Among the uses and benefits cited for building the road include providing 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.
Other benefits include better access for emergency, fire and search and rescue vehicles, greater access for fishing, hunting and recreational opportunities, shorter routes for timber haulers and providing a north-south route west of the Dead River.
The DEQ is expected to issue its permitting decision by Oct. 1 and the agency has requested the EPA declare whether the permit applicant -Marquette County Road Commission- has adequately addressed concerns expressed earlier this year by the EPA.
Specifically, the EPA "raised questions as to whether there are practical, alternate routes which would have less impact on aquatic resources. EPA also noted the Commission's proposals to mitigate damage to wetlands and streams would not fully compensate for the loss of aquatic functions."
The DEQ has the authority to issue wetlands fill permits under the Clean Water Act, but the EPA retains oversight authority to object to proposed projects that do no comply with federal guidelines.
The informational EPA presentation and question and answer session will be from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the University Center at NMU. A formal public hearing to record comments for the record will follow at 7 p.m., with the facility closing at 10 p.m.
If you can't attend the sessions and would still like to offer some input, a public comment period will remain open until Sept. 4.
You can send written comments to Melanie Haveman, U.S. EPA (WW-16J), 77 W. Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60604-3590 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.