Jeramey Jannene
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More About Iron Mine Controversy

Cullen wins award for work on legislation as Milwaukee Magazine weighs in with story.

By - May 1st, 2013 01:41 pm

Environmentalists are greatly concerned about the potential impact of the planned iron mine near Lake Superior.

Perhaps that explains why the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation has named state Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville), its Conservation Legislator of the Year. Cullen earned the honor for “his outstanding efforts on legislation revising Wisconsin’s laws regulating iron mining,” a news story notes.

The irony is that the bill Cullen favored didn’t get passed. This is more an award for his “efforts” than his success.

Meanwhile the May issue of Milwaukee Magazine offers a thoughtful story by Erik Gunn about the clash of cultures in this region of Wisconsin. He notes the high unemployment in Iron County and an average per capita income ($25,500) that is 26 percent below the state average, so more jobs are definitely of interest. He also documents the concerns of residents in the region, including the Bad River Band of American Indians.

No big scoops here, but Gunn does report that the Bad River Band is seeking donations for a lawsuit against the state. And he notes the new  legislation changes state law on mining to say an adverse impact on wetlands is “presumed to be necessary.” Under the old law an adverse impact was “presumed to be unnecessary.”

Why is this important? As an Urban Milwaukee story by Al Gedicks reported, the area in question includes 40 percent of all the wetlands on the Great Lakes, along with four major rivers, which is why this area has been called “Wisconsin’s Everglades.”

The proposed mine, he reported, “would create the largest open pit iron mine in the world, some 4 miles long by 1.5 miles wide and 1000 feet deep. Over a billion tons of waste rock and tailings created during the projected 35-year life of the mine would be dumped at the headwaters of the Bad River watershed where it could leach toxic metals into the largest undeveloped wetland complex in the upper Great Lakes. Seventy-one miles of rivers and intermittent streams flow through the proposed mining area, emptying into the Bad River and then into Lake Superior.”

Geddicks’ story also offers a history of how Indian tribes in Wisconsin have been affected by mining and the broad legal rights they retain, which have been affirmed by court decisions, allowing them to contest any mine that might have adverse impact on their reservation.

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