July 21, 2014 by Barbara With
On August 21, 2014, the six tribes of Wisconsin’s Chippewa Federation will meet with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials to urge them to stop mining activity in the Penokee Hills in northern Wisconsin. Tribal leaders sent a letter in May requesting the meeting and asking the EPA to invoke a section of the Clean Water Act in order to prevent the devastation of a proposed 22-mile open-pit mountaintop removal iron ore mine from destroying the Bad River watershed:
“CWA§404(c) authorizes the EPA to restrict, prohibit, deny, or withdraw the use of an area for the disposal of dredged or fill material, including mining wastes, when it is determined that discharge will have unacceptable adverse effects on fisheries, wildlife, shellfish beds, municipal water supplies, or recreational areas.”
Last week, the EPA made a ruling concerning waters in the Bristol Bay area of southwest Alaska, where it was determined that using waters in the watershed for disposal of dredged or fill material associated with mining the Pebble deposit would do irreparable harm to the environment and economies of the region. According to Dennis McLerran, Regional Administrator for EPA Region 10, “The science is clear that mining the Pebble deposit would cause irreversible damage to one of the world’s last intact salmon ecosystems. Bristol Bay’s exceptional fisheries deserve exceptional protection. We are doing this now because we’ve heard from concerned tribes, the fishing industry, Alaskans and many others who have lived and worked for more than a decade under the uncertainty posed by this potentially destructive mine. Simply put, this will be a uniquely large mine in a uniquely important place.”
The Bristol Bay ruling means that any developer wishing to mine the Pebble deposit area must prove that its operations will not have an “unacceptable adverse effect” on Bristol Bay’s water resources.
The Wisconsin Chippewa Federal will be asking the EPA to consider a similar action, as the Bad River Watershed has long been considered a world-class water system and provides fresh water to the entire region. The Kakagon and Bad River Sloughs are one of the sites listed in the list of wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, which was signed in 1971 and entered into force in the US in 1987. It is one of 35 such sites in the US.
The legal department of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa is planning to hand deliver letters from concerned citizens who wish to protect the area of a proposed 22-mile open pit mountaintop removal mine being forced upon the region by Republican legislators and Gogebic Taconite LLC despite the overwhelming evidence of potential damage and opposition from all across the state.
Go here to sign and send a letter to be included in the meeting.