To the Journal editor:
On Aug. 28, the EPA will conduct a public hearing at the request of the Michigan Department Quality on the proposed County Road 595. Both agencies are charged with preserving and protecting our natural resources for present and future generations.
DEQ Water Resources Chief William Creal expects that a hearing will demonstrate to EPA that 595 has strong local support, thus outweighing any concerns for the environment.
But the reality is that most supporting comments have come from area politicians and industry representatives, not the general public, and that the damage that would be done by this project is far from acceptable.
The DNR's evaluation of the 595 application describes the likelihood of extremely serious consequences to fish and wildlife habitat, animal populations, and recreational experiences, and yet it rather flippantly concludes that these concerns can somehow be remediated.
And during a brief meeting in Marquette, Director Dan Wyant told environmentalists that the DEQ intends to excel at customer service.
How does this translate to our present situation? Who is the DEQ's customer? Clearly, County Road 595 is a haul road for Kennecott, as was the Woodland Road before it. The timber and aggregate industries will see only marginal profit increases if it is built. Negative impacts to the environment, both natural and human, will be severe and are entirely avoidable.
The Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association is calling upon its members to provide comments to the EPA, saying that County Road 595 is a significant project that will create work. At the same time, they state that the industry needs about $1.4 billion in new highway investment each year just to reverse the deterioration of our road and bridge system. Marquette County alone needs $200,000,000. Since we don't have the money to fix up what we already have, what kind of sense does it make to take on a new road, especially one that would be of limited usefulness?
According to a report by the Surface Transportation Policy Project ("Setting the Record Straight: Transit, Fixing Roads and Bridges Offer Greatest Jobs Gains"), investments in road and bridge repair create 9 percent more jobs per dollar than building new roads or bridges.
We should improve existing roads and bridges that everyone can use, and construct a bypass north of the city of Marquette to accommodate heavy truck traffic. Sounds like a win-win solution to me. Let's speak up and hope the EPA is listening.