The Marquette County Road 595 Project has taken another leap forward. The Environmental Protection Agency has withdrawn an objection concerning the proposed road. It will provide a more direct route from the Rio Tinto Eagle Mine to the Humboldt Mill, but the EPA is concerned about the surrounding environment.
On December 4, the EPA sent a letter to Dan Wyant of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality saying they had withdrawn one of their objections. They now feel that all other routes have been considered and that the proposed 595 is the least damaging to the environment. Jim Iwanicki and the Marquette County Road Commission must still make several changes to their plans concerning wildlife and wetland mitigation before a permit will be issued. They have 30 days to get it all done.
With the EPA recognizing that the proposed route is the best one, enthusiasm is running high at the road commission. Though there is still work to be done, they are optimistic of the outcome.
"The road commission feels very good that this part of the project has been accepted, and we're excited that the next 30 days will bring success and that we will have a permit here on January 4," said Iwanicki.
Iwanicki will be quickly drawing up revised plans and coordinating with the DEQ. They will present them to the EPA by the January 4 deadline.
"So I guess the best way to put it is they have opened the door, but there are still a couple of barriers in front of that door that we need to remove before we can step through it," Iwanicki said.
Spirits are high though, and not just at the road commission. The Lake Superior Community Partnership is one organization that has been supporting the road commission's efforts since day one. The organization has repeatedly spoken out and written letters to legislators in support of the project.
"We're extremely pleased for the County Road Commission. This is a huge step forward for them," said Caralee Swanberg, Business Development Manager with LSCP.
If the EPA is not satisfied by January 4, then the permit will need to be received through the Army Corps of Engineers in a process that may take two to three years. If that happens, Iwanicki believes the project may be scrapped.