Northern Marquette County, MI – During the week of June 23, 2014, a reconnaissance survey of forest and wetland conditions on the Snowmobile Trail 5 route by the Yellow Dog RIVERKEEPER ® led to a discovery of road construction by Plum Creek Timber Company that did not meet with stated permit conditions.
The company’s permit allowed for construction at the Mulligan Creek Bridge and included additional fill and trenching for ditches on either side of the snowmobile trail. Upon visit by the RIVERKEEPER, no permit was posted on site, no silt fencing was in place, and other sedimentation protection best management practices were absent next to this high-quality wetland and cold water trout stream. Past surveys by the RIVERKEEPER show that this wetland was habitat for the endangered Narrow Leaved Gentian, an extremely rare wetland plant. YDWP is investigating whether the company received approval to impact this plant’s habitat, as is required under Michigan’s Natural Resources Environmental Protection Act.
In addition, work has already been completed on numerous culverts along the Trail 5 route that did not have permits posted or permit applications on file.
The discovery led the Yellow Dog RIVERKEEPER to request a site visit by state natural resource agencies. Currently state regulators are internally deciding what enforcement actions can or should be taken. Often times, a simple fix-it list is supplied to the applicant, which is Plum Creek in this case. However, failure to comply with permit conditions could result in a revoked permit. YDWP will continue to monitor and encourage enforcement by state agencies.
Plum Creek Timber Company also applied for a permit through the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for the Snowmobile Trail 5 route bridge over the Yellow Dog River, locally known at the Clowry Bridge. This is leading some to suspect that all of this new work is related to upgrades for the County Road 595 project.
Applications for road construction in this area have been tried and rejected numerous times in the interest of preserving habitat, wildlife corridors, endangered species, and have led to the federal rejection of a road in any form. The routes have been named the “Wilderness Road” or County Road 595 and each have been proposed for use as a haul route for nickel and copper ore from the Lundin Eagle Mine to the Humboldt Mill. In early January 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency denied the Marquette County Road Commission federal 404 Wetlands-Fill Permits, and halted construction of County Road 595 at this location.
Further investigation will continue by the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve as the situation unfolds.
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