We join what we suspect is a significant number of area residents in mourning a decision last week by Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. to abandon construction of a north-south haul road from its developing Eagle mine site in northern Marquette County to a processing facility in Humboldt Township.
The company, after years planning and studying, and upwards of $8 million in expenditures, determined that regulator concerns about the proposed road's impact on wetland areas were sufficient to call the work off.
Instead, Kennecott officials said the company will revert to a plan it had years ago to simply improve existing public roadways and motor a substantial truck fleet over them, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
We - and many other people including some local units of government - were attracted to construction of the north-south road concept because it would have separated the truck traffic from busy city streets.
Now, regrettably, trucks carrying thousands of tons of ore bound for the processing facility in Humboldt Township will use Marquette County Road 550 to Wright Street in the city of Marquette.
From there, these rock-toting giants will travel on U.S. 41 many miles out to western Marquette County where the Humboldt Mill is.
Kennecott's decision to pull the plug on the road project reportedly came after a meeting last month between it, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment, King and MacGregor, a Grand Rapids-based firm that does environmental assessment work for Kennecott and the Environmental Protection?Agency.
In the session, which was held at K.I.Sawyer, federal officials apparently balked enough about the potential impact the road project could have on wetlands acreage that Kennecott backed off, never mind the millions of dollars it has invested in the route.
Local environmentalists have claimed victory, believing, perhaps, that local residents who live along the existing public roadways the company will use will put up enough of a fight over noise and safety issues that Kennecott will just go away.
We hope that doesn't happen. We believe the north-south haul route, in whatever form it would have taken, could have been constructed in a way consistent with environmental law. And certainly the road could have been used by a wide variety of people and concerns.
But now that the road isn't going to be built, we look forward to meetings Kennecott says it plans to hold with residents and other stakeholders to smooth out potential safety and noise difficulties.