MARQUETTE - The Marquette County Board voted recently to cancel one of its meetings later this month so members can attend a public hearing by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on proposed Marquette County Road 595.
In canceling its Aug. 28 meeting, the board is anticipating members will attend the EPA hearing and offer comments for the record.
The informational EPA presentation and question and answer session will be from 6 to 7 p.m. Aug. 28 at the Bottum University Center at Northern Michigan University. A formal public hearing to record comments for the record will follow at 7 p.m., with the meeting ending at 10 p.m.
A public comment period opened July 27 and closes Sept. 4.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality requested the EPA hold the hearing after the federal agency raised objections to the state issuing permits for the project. Construction would affect 25.81 acres of wetlands and require building 22 stream crossings.
The DEQ has the authority to issue wetlands fill permits under the Clean Water Act, but the EPA retains oversight authority to object to proposed projects that do no comply with federal guidelines. A state DEQ permitting decision is slated for Oct. 1.
The DEQ has also asked the EPA to make its decision by Oct. 1 on whether the Marquette County Road Commission has satisfied the agency's objection. Road Commission Engineer-Manager Jim Iwanicki said that beyond that date, the possibility of any potential funding for building the road from the Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. would likely be lost.
The proposed new 21-mile, north-south County Road 595 would run from County Road AAA in Michigamme Township to U.S. 41 in Humboldt Township. Among the uses and benefits cited for building the road include providing a more direct route for Kennecott to truck ore from its Rio Tinto Eagle Mine on the Yellow Dog Plains to its Humboldt Mill processing center.
Kennecott has signed no formal contract to fund building of the road, but has said it would provide the money if permits are granted and the work is begun by next May.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.