Sokaogon Chippewa Community News

Public Hearing for Back Forty Wetlands Permit

Public Hearing for Back Forty Wetlands Permit
Story by Tina Van Zile – Environmental Director

I had the privilege of speaking on behalf of Chairman McGeshick at the wetlands permit public hearing. Michigan DEQ said they recognize the sovereign nations and therefore would begin the evening with Tribal Leaders giving their verbal three-minute comments. Chairman Besaw from the Menominee Nation was the first speaker and he did an amazing job.

I was the fourth speaker and I began with my traditional Ojibwe introduction and read the following statement:

We the Sokaogon, Mole Lake Band of Lake Superior Chippewa have years of experience with proposals for mining permits. With the Crandon deposit, we have chosen to leave the sulfides in the ground where they cannot hurt our people or the environment. This was our investment in the earth and future generations.

We urge Michigan DEQ to deny the permit to Aquila resources for the following reasons:
How can you determine that this project is in the public’s interest? Not to mention that the public will NOT realize benefits from this project. Aesthetic beauty is the main economic driver in this region. Small businesses depend on the natural and pristine nature of this area to attract fishermen, hunters, snowmobilers, skiers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. A mine and all the destruction it brings will sacrifice the inherent allure of the Menominee River for short term economic gain.

Aquila has failed to provide a feasible and prudent (least environmentally damaging) alternative.

Aquila has chosen the least preferred option for wetland mitigation and went straight to preservation without providing any evidence that they thoroughly examined the more preferred options of restoration, creation and enhancement. In exchange for destroying crucial wetlands adjacent to the Menominee River, Aquila has proposed a preservation land swap as their method of wetland mitigation. The EPA claimed that preservation is the least desired method of mitigation, behind restoration, creation and enhancement, because it does not meet the goal of no net loss of wetland function and acreage. Essentially, Aquila is proposing to do the least amount of work required when it comes to mitigation.

As you can see from this map, it has come to our attention that facility design schematics have changed SIGNIFICANTLY from the one approved in the mining application and this demands reconsideration and amendment. Are you going to require Aquila to update the environmental analysis justifying these significant changes? Aren’t they required to submit an amendment to the mining application because of these significant changes? If I didn’t know better, I’d say Aquila is preparing to import high sulfur waste from the Bend and Reef deposits located in Wisconsin.

Lastly, and more importantly, you cannot and should not permit any activity that doesn’t coincide with your 2010 environmental justice plan. This permit would allow for destruction and/or disturbance of sacred ancestral lands of the Menominee Nation. It is their ancestors who are buried in those mounds, it is their creation story that begins at this proposed mine location and this is why WE STAND with the MENOMINEE NATION and ask you to DENY this permit!

When I got to the end of our statement my voice started to shake because as I said the words “it is their ancestors who are buried in those mounds,” I felt an overwhelming sense of emotions thinking of their ancestors, for a brief moment my mind thought about their ancestors walking the land, planting their gardens, gathering their water and living in that area and how the Back Forty Project could destroy all of the spiritual significance of the whole area.

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