Last night a large number of citizens and groups attended the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s hearing on the proposed County Road 595. The road project permit application that was submitted by the Marquette County Road Commission was debated for 3 hours in Ishpeming. Comments both opposing and supporting the project were made.
The initial level of support for the project was voiced mainly by elected officials such as township supervisors, county representatives, and road commission board officials. There were also members of law enforcement and resource industry representatives supporting the construction of this road. Reasons for support included increased ability to respond to emergency calls from the remote area. However, that argument was countered later by an opponent of the road by noting that a road would actually increase the number of possible calls by opening up an area to more users. Additionally supporters of the project spoke out about the road’s important in increasing economic development in the form of timber and mineral extraction.
As the hearing proceeded, more and more citizens stood up and voiced their opposition to County Road 595. Most of the comments in opposing related to the road’s actual intended purpose. In the permit application, the stated purpose is to provide increased emergency access, commercial, and recreational access. However, this project was proposed and applied for already in 2009 by a partnership that included Kennecott Eagle Mineral Company. The partnership called the project theWoodland Roadand devised a route connecting Kennecott’s Eagle Mine with Kennecott’s Humboldt Mill. The route ran for 22 miles starting at Eagle Rock on the Yellow Dog Plains, ran through four watersheds, impacted numerous wetlands and aquatic resources, and ended inHumboldtTownshipnear U.S. 41. The project met with much opposition from federal and state authorities since it impacted so many aquatic and terrestrial resources. Kennecott then withdrew their application in 2010 and began working with the Marquette County Road Commission on a new proposal. The road commission used theWoodland Roadroute and its supporting documentation and submitted it as a new project with a different stated purpose. Most everyone at the hearing, some who were even in support of the road, acknowledged that this really is still a haul road for Kennecott. Other individuals stated that recreation would in fact not be increased by the construction of the road. Some argued that the specifications of the road would not allow room for users to park along the road to recreate and it would be dangerous to do so with so much heavy traffic passing by.
Those who attended numbered to about 300. At least 60% who spoke out were not in favor of the proposed project. It was interesting to note the contrast in opinions from the community’s elected officials in support and the individual citizens in opposition. The MDEQ will use only comments directly relating to the application itself in their decision on whether to grant or deny the permit application.
Comments can still be made until March 2 in the following ways:
1. Written comments can be sent to:
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
420 5th Street
Gwinn, MI 49841
2. Electronic comments can be sent to: http://www.deq.state.mi.us/lwmpnh/commentsform.asp?aid=11520075&at=ph