Gogebic Taconite and Our Wetlands

Published in the Green Bay Press Gazette under the headline “Gogebic’s iron mine should be examined from all angles.” A link to the commentary is provided below.

Count on the debate over the permitting process that would allow Gogebic Taconite LLC (GTAC) to move forward with a mine in the Penokee Hills west of Hurley being resolved in favor of the mine. The current political power structure within the Wisconsin legislature makes that a certainty. Only the pending recall proceedings targeting Governor Scott Walker and a group of state legislators could change that outcome. Which is why the mining bill being debated in Madison has “rush” stamped on it.

GTAC will not move forward with its plan unless concessions are made to shorten the timeline of the permitting process and the need to protect wetlands that will be impacted by the mine’s progress. Absent the concessions, GTAC will take its interests, and the 700 jobs it promises, elsewhere. In exchange for the concessions, GTAC promises to avoid impact on streams and wetlands where possible and to minimize and/or mitigate harm if those impacts cannot be avoided. It also promises no net loss of streams and wetlands. Further it says it will comply with the National Clean Water Act and all effluent limitation regulations.

Forget the low-rent extortion tactic of that 700-job carrot. That is yesterday’s news when it comes to corporate games. Ashley Furniture played that card on a larger, 2,000-job scale in Arcadia when in it sought permission of expand onto a wetland bordering the Trempealeau River. The jobs ploys are there to distract us from the real prize, concessions at the expense of wetlands.

The Ashley-Arcadia debate was resolved in 2005 when Ashley created a 34.5 acre artificial wetland after receiving permission to expand onto an existing 13.5 acre natural wetland. In 2010 floods put much of Arcadia and Ashley’s plant under water and renewed the wetland mitigation debate. How soon we forget.

GTAC’s mine in Ashland and Iron counties will affect a complex ecosystem of aquifers, wetlands, lakes, streams and rivers that combine to form a watershed that sustains the land and life around it while flowing north to empty into Lake Superior. The impact is within reach of Copper Falls State Park, and other popular tourist destinations. The mine is also within our memories’ reach of Kennecott Copper’s Flambeau Mine, 110 miles southwest, near Ladysmith, where reclamation efforts covered the open pit but left behind significant toxic metal contamination of the adjacent Flambeau River.

By contrast, the first phase of GTAC’s open pit mining operation will focus on a 4.5- by 1.5-mile site covering 4,320 acres, almost 24 times the size of the Flambeau mine, before a potential expansion onto GTAC’s full, 22-mile lease.

Water has a habit of joining other water. The relatively pure water being played in the GTAC debate will unavoidably unite with water touched by the extensive mining operation. That will happen, save some sudden turn of events in Madison. Instead of a short-sighted rush to grant GTAC a permit we should instead make every studied effort to insure the outcome is one that favors our long-term survival.

Link to the commentary in the Green Bay Press Gazette: http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/article/20120221/GPG0706/202210469/1269&located=rss

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2 Responses to Gogebic Taconite and Our Wetlands

  1. Pingback: Wisconsin’s February and the 2013 Mining Bill | Karl Garson / Postcards from America

  2. Pingback: Wisconsin’s February and the 2013 Mining Bill | Karl Garson / Letters from Badgerland

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