Upper Peninsula

Image by John Wilson / Michigan Radio

As part of Michigan Radio's end-of-year look back at some of the more notable stories, here's a collection of 2011 arts and culture stories that we feel deserve another look:

The U.S. Forest Service says that Savoy Energy has informed federal agencies it's withdrawing an application to drill below a site called the Mason Tract in Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula.
user {inercia} / Flickr

MARQUETTE, Mich. (AP) - The city of Marquette is selling 100 acres of forestland for use in sand mining.

The Mining Journal and television station WLUC report the City Commission voted Monday to approve the sale of part of the former Heartwood Forestland property to the Marquette County Solid Waste Management Authority for $180,000.

The city bought the 2,400-acre property in 2005. The authority plans to use the sand at a landfill that serves the city in an effort to cut costs.

Photo courtesy of Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co.

For ten years, Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company has been pushing to mine nickel and copper near Marquette. The company started underground blasting of the mine in September.

The Department of Environmental Quality issued permits for the mine in 2007. But several of those permits have been challenged in court.

A circuit court judge in Ingham County recently upheld the mining permit.

Michelle Halley is an attorney for the National Wildlife Federation. It’s one of the groups that challenged that permit. She says they’re concerned about the type of mining that will happen in the Eagle Mine. It’s sometimes called sulfide mining.

“The rock at Eagle is extremely acid producing, very high in sulfides and so once that rock is exposed to air and water, there’s really no debate it will begin producing acid.”

That acid is sulfuric acid. According to the Environmental Protection Agency... that acid can cause heavy metals to leach from rocks. The resulting fluid can be highly toxic to people and wildlife.

This is called acid mine drainage. On its website, Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company says there is a risk that it can happen. But the company says it’s taking a number of steps to reduce that risk.

Chris McCarus / Environment Report

A judge has allowed a controversial mining project in the Upper Peninsula to go forward.

From the Associated Press:

A judge has upheld state regulators' decision to let Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. build a nickel and copper mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Circuit Judge Paula Manderfield of Ingham County on Wednesday sided against the National Wildlife Federation and other opponents of the mine being constructed in northwestern Marquette County. She ruled the Department of Environmental Quality acted lawfully when it issued a permit allowing the company to build and operate the mine.

An attorney for the wildlife federation says the group hasn't decided whether to appeal.

Kennecott Eagle is targeting an underground ore deposit that is expected to yield up to 300 million pounds of nickel and about 200 million pounds of copper, plus smaller amounts of other metals.

The company began blasting the mine entrance in September.

The controversy around the mine comes from fears of water pollution in the UP.

Mining operations in the U.S. haven't had the best environmental track record. Some old mining operations have left behind some pretty nasty legacy pollution problems (look up the "Berkeley Pit" in Butte, Montana for an example).

Back in 2005, Chris McCarus looked at the controversy surrounding the then proposed nickel mine in the UP for The Environment Report. McCarus reported:

Michelle Halle is a lawyer for the National Wildlife Federation and a local resident. She's got one question.

"I’m always interested in the answer to the question about whether he believes that a mine can exist with 100% perfect track record."

It’s a rhetorical question. She’s confident that the company won’t be able to meet the newer, stricter standards for getting a permit to mine.

"No human error, no design flaws, no natural disasters that are going to cause an impact... I don’t think that any company can say yes to that honestly."

Halle's 2005 hunch was wrong. Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. did get the permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and now a judge says development of the mine can go forward.

A family from Michigan's Upper Peninsula is refusing additional chemotherapy and radiation treatments for their 10-year-old son, according to a report from WLUC-TV in Marquette, MI.

Jacob Stieler of Skandia, Michigan was diagnosed with a rare form cancer known as "Ewing Sarcoma." He was treated, an is considered cancer-free, but doctors say he still needs additional treatments.

user Alchemist-hp / wikimedia commons

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A company is applying for state permits to construct a copper and silver mine in Michigan's far western Upper Peninsula.

Orvana Minerals Co., a subsidiary of a Canadian company, is proposing to build a mine near Lake Superior in Gogebic County. Orvana is targeting 798 million pounds of copper and 3.5 million
ounces of silver.

Company president Bill Williams says the mine would operate about 14 years and have about 250 people on the payroll.

Orvana will need 13 permits from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, including one to build and operate the mine. The others would deal with issues such as air quality, wastewater discharges and wetlands development.

DEQ officials say the mine will have to meet strict environmental standards to qualify for the permits.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The folklorist Alan Lomax spent nearly two months in the Upper Peninsula in 1938, recording the music of the north woods. He recorded lots of bawdy lumberjack tunes, Finnish songs and polkas. In a note to the Library of Congress, Lomax said "there was material enough in the region for years of work."

Today, most of that music has been lost to history. But Leslie (Les) Ross, Sr still plays it. Born in 1923 in Eben Junction, Ross is one of the last harmonica players in the country to play in the "lumberjack style."

As part of my Stories from the North Woods series, I sat down with Les Ross and percussionist Randy Seppola. With Ross on harmonica and Seppala on bones and spoons, they played me a number of old-timey tunes, and Ross talked about his days in Eben Junction and, of course, the harmonica.

Filmmaker Heather Courtney didn't set out to make a war story. "I set out to make a story about rural America," she says. Her new documentary, Where Soldiers Come From, is both war story and small-town homecoming saga; it follows a group of young men who sign up for the National Guard, serve in Afghanistan, and then return home to their families in Michigan's woody Upper Peninsula.

Courtney joins NPR's Scott Simon to discuss the documentary, along with two of the young soldiers featured in the film, Dominic "Dom" Fredianelli and Matt "Bodi" Beaudoin.

A guard at the state prison in Newberry is being held in the Mackinaw City jail awaiting felony charges of trying to smuggle contraband to inmates. John Cordell is with the Michigan Department of Corrections.

"It appears from the investigation that he was trying to introduce contraband – both heroin and contraband tobacco, which is illegal inside facilities – inside the correctional facility."

Cordell says the man faces at least three felony charges. He says the scheme was detected from monitoring phone traffic into the prison and information from a cell phone that was seized from a prisoner.

The guard was stopped and arrested in downtown Mackinaw City. Cordell says the contraband was in the corrections officer’s car.

The guard has also been suspended without pay from his job at the prison in the eastern Upper Peninsula.

Opponents of a planned nickel and copper mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula are making a final legal appeal to halt initial blasting at the site.

Four organizations have filed a motion in Ingham County Circuit Court for a stay of mining permits issued by the state Department of Environmental Quality. A judge with the court is considering an appeal of the DEQ's decision to grant the permits.

The Huron Mountain Club, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, National Wildlife Federation and Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve say the mine jeopardizes water and air quality in the forestland of western Marquette County. They say extracting minerals at the site could pollute ground and surface waters with sulfuric acid.

Kennecott Eagle Minerals says the project can be carried out while safeguarding the environment.

State lawmakers are scheduled to return next week to the Capitol from their two-month summer break. However this week a handful of legislators will head to Detroit as discussions intensify over whether to build a publicly owned bridge to Canada.

A group of lawmakers will tour the site proposed for a second bridge from Detroit to Canada. And they will hear from parties interested in and opposed to building the second span. The tour and meetings are expected to last all day, and Senate hearings on the bridge issue will resume when lawmakers return next week. Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley says Governor Rick Snyder’s administration is serious about getting the project approved before the end of the year.

As for the governor, this week he is in the Upper Peninsula, touring businesses and meeting with community leaders. A spokeswoman for the governor says the bridge in Detroit could come up in those meetings. She says a bridge in the southern part of the state is still an important issue in the UP because the infrastructure would have a big impact on agriculture and businesses throughout the state.

mainfr4me / Flickr

Police say a layer of smoke covering parts of Michigan's central and western Upper Peninsula is from forest fires burning in Ontario, Canada.

Michigan State Police say Tuesday that people in the area have been calling in reports to public safety officials with concerns about the smoke.

Planes flying for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have been checking for smoke, and pilots report it's blowing across Lake Superior.

Police say there are no reports of fires in the Upper Peninsula.

www.isleroyalewolf.org

No other wildlife species, it seems, causes such extremes of emotion as the wolf.

Some people want to protect it at any cost.

Others want to shoot the animal on sight.

And in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula illegal wolf kills are spiking.

Wildlife officials say they can defuse the situation if they can just get gray wolves removed from the endangered species list.

Interlochen Public Radio's Bob Allen filed a report with The Environment Report on the controversy in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Allen reported that the return of the gray wolf in the U.P. more than 20 years ago didn't cause concern, but that's changed in the last few years as some hunters are convinced wolves are decimating the white tail deer population.

Here's Allen's report:

Flickr user wili_hybrid

A nonprofit organization is rushing to clone some of the world's biggest and oldest trees in an audacious plan to restore forests that could help cleanse the environment and fight climate change.   

The Archangel Ancient Tree Archive is based in Copemish, MI. The group has tracked down and made genetic copies of "champion" members of more than 60 species. Among them are redwoods and giant sequoias from California's northern coast and oaks up to 1,000 years old from Ireland.   

Co-founder David Milarch says the group is focusing on 200 species that perform ecologically valuable jobs such as absorbing toxic chemicals and storing carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. Archangel hopes to sell millions of its trees for replanting in cities and rural areas.

The U.S. Army / Flickr

Update 12:40 p.m.:

We will carry the live feed of President Obama's speech in Marquette on our website at 1pm.

Update 12:01 p.m.:

Governor Snyder has released the following statement about President Obama's trip to Marquette:

“All Michiganders can take great pride in the national recognition earned by Northern Michigan University and the communities of Marquette County.  Their partnership to expand high-speed wireless internet services through NMU’s WiMAX network wisely recognizes the critical need to enhance online availability in the 21st century.  This cutting-edge approach benefits students and families while providing an essential tool that drives business development.

“At the state level, we are working aggressively to provide additional online and self-service alternatives for Michigan residents.  Expanding wireless capabilities in the Upper Peninsula complements our efforts and provides welcome conveniences to U.P. customers.  The President is right to highlight this initiative as a model of cooperation and innovation.  We welcome the President to Michigan and look forward to him sharing this Upper Peninsula success story across America.  We also applaud NMU and the Marquette area as they get their well-deserved attention on the national stage.  They are outstanding ambassadors for the Upper Peninsula and our entire state.”

Update: 10:58 a.m.:

Marquette, Michigan?? Wish we were going to Hawaii instead....

President Obama and his entourage of staff are flying aboard Air Force 1 to Marquette (Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is making his final flight).

The White House press corps is traveling along and they're not looking forward to the extreme cold temps.

Here's a "pool report" from the press:

Marine One touched down at Andrews approx 9:35 am. POTUS, wearing overcoat but no hat or gloves, on AF1 5 minutes later, followed by staff including Jarrett , Sutphen, Mastromonaco, and Gibbs, making his final flight as press secretary.

AF1 rolling, with a flight time of just over 2 hrs from Andrews to Marquette, where the temp is said to be in single digits with a wind chill of -19. Pool fondly remembering travel pool in Hawaii just over a month ago.

7:12 a.m.

President Barack Obama will visit the city of Marquette in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula today. The President will visit Northern Michigan University to promote his administration’s National Wireless Initiative.

It’s a program the President first announced during last month’s State of the Union Address.

The initiative would bring high speed wireless internet access to 98 percent of the nation’s population within five years.

Some say it’s a lofty goal, considering such technology is only now being built in major cities.

The initiative is part of the White House’s new focus on innovation and competitiveness as a way to “win the future.”

Former Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak will be heading to Harvard University this spring for a resident fellowship. As the Detroit Free Press reports:

Stupak, a Democrat from Menominee in the Upper Peninsula, retired from office this year at the end of his ninth 2-year term. As a resident fellow this spring, he and the other five people selected will meet with students, participate in activities with the Harvard community and lead weekly study groups on a range of topics.

As Politico notes, Stupak, "didn't much enjoy his intense moment at the center of the health care fight and didn't seek re-election."

Prison bars
Ken Mayer / Flickr

Updated 2:23 p.m.:

Michigan Department of Corrections public information officer John Cordell  reacted to the report by saying, "This is why we do audits. It looks like we came up short. We'll be sure to correct our procedures in the future."

12:11 p.m.:

Auditors say officials at Newberry Correctional Facility in the upper peninsula haven't been listening in enough on their prisoners.

The Associated Press reports:

The prison is supposed to document that it monitors at least 50 phone calls a month by inmates. State auditors say they fell short of that target by half during a three-month period earlier this year.

The auditors said phone monitoring is an important part of keeping prisoners from violating prison policies or state law.

The medium security prison in Newberry can hold 1,072 people.

The Michigan Department of Corrections holds more than 43,960 prisoners in 34 correctional facilities around the state.

Friends of the Porkies

Artists can apply to spend part of their summer in a cabin in the middle of the woods. 

The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is accepting applications for its artist-in-residence program. The state park is in the western part of the upper-peninsula and borders Lake Superior. The park has 60,000 acres of varied forest, along with plenty of trails.

Sherrie McCabe directs the artist-in-residence program.  She says the artists get to live in a secluded cabin with no running water or electricity:

It’s far enough away from any roads that you really don’t get the traffic noise.  Sometimes it’s dead silent and at other times it’s so loud it’s practically deafening with the sounds of nature. The wind can howl, the owls are noisy, the birds are noisy, but as far as humans go it’s very, very quiet.

Residencies are open to any kind of artist. Applications are available at The Friends of the Porkies.

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