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      Support and opposition expressed at public forum for County Road 595

      Hundreds of people turned out for the Environmental Protection Agency's public forum on the proposed Marquette County Road 595. The road would serve as the main haul route for the Rio Tinto Eagle Mine.

      EPA officials sat silent as one person after another expressed support and opposition. State and county officials took a stand in supporting the project from Governor Snyder's administration to the Marquette County Road Commission.

      State Senator Tom Casperson faced a not-so-pleasant reaction after he said the public, as a whole, supports the project.

      "From the state on down, all in support of this project, so clearly we have the support of the people to move forward with this thing," said Casperson.

      The EPA has raised questions as to whether there are more practical routes, like Mulligan Road and Sleepy Hollow, that would have less impact on aquatic resources. Initial permit applications indicate construction would affect 25 acres of wetlands and numerous stream crossings. Some city officials say a full mitigation plan has been drafted.

      "The statement they (Marquette County) used was on 20 to 1 basis by preserving some existing wetlands in the area of the McCormick Track," said Marquette City Commissioner Don Ryan. "But you can't do this without paying the price, and the price is to replace those wetlands."

      Some say that price is simply too high for taxpayers. There's also confusion as to why Rio Tinto officials are not applying for the permits on their own.

      "The county has already spent tens of thousands of dollars lobbying for the road," said Skandia resident Gabriel Caplett. "According to the application, we'll spend hundreds of thousands of dollars maintaining the road. The county can't afford that."

      The EPA stated they will either approve the project, deny it, or modify the objections. For those who couldn't attend the meeting, a written comment is accepted until Sept. 4.

      Send written comments to: Melanie Haveman, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (WW-16J), 77 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60604-3590.