Non-Ferrous Metallic Mines Prohibited In Marinette CountyIssue Date: May 31, 2018
By unanimous vote on Tuesday, May 29, Marinette County Board approved revisions to the county zoning ordinance that prohibit metallic mining anywhere in the county unless there is a specific local agreement in place.
Before recommending the zoning ordinance changes as a way to resolve the mining issue, the Development Committee had been assured the action means that any potential metallic mine anywhere in the county would need to be approved by County Board and the local municipality before it could become a reality.
The "show me" law that in effect prohibited sulfide mining anywhere in Wisconsin ends on July 1, and is replaced by rules leaving that decision to local communities provided the mine can comply with DNR regulations. With no local regulations in place, original recommendation of the Development Committee had been for an 18-month moratorium on development of any non-ferrous metallic mine in the county while they devised a suitable ordinance to regulate mines.
The committee had been assured by County Administrator John LeFebvre that there is no company currently attempting to develop a metallic mine in Marinette County, nor does one exist anywhere in the county at this time.
Local sentiment against sulfide mining has been particularly strong because of opposition to the proposed Aquila Resources Back Forty Mine near the banks of the Menominee River on the Michigan side in Menominee County's Stephenson Township.
The Development Committee's original recommendation had been for an 18-month moratorium on mining in the county until a new ordinance could be put in place. That recommendation was approved despite advice to the contrary from LeFebvre, based on input from Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison.
Marinette County has only three zoning districts - Forestry, Recreation and Unrestricted. With the revisions approved on Tuesday, each use category now includes a provision that states: "Notwithstanding any provision of the Marinette County Code of ordinances to the contrary, nonferrous metallic mining (as defined in Wisconsin Statute section 293.01(9)) is a prohibited use and shall not be considered a part of the specified uses except as allowed by a local agreement entered into pursuant to Wis. Stat. sec. 293.41." Non metallic mines, with restrictions, are permitted in all Marinette County zoning districts. These generally are stone quarries and gravel pits.
The only question raised before the unanimous vote in favor of the ordinance changes was from Supervisor Glenn Broderick, who asked if prohibition covers the entire county. "Yes, it does. 100 percent of the county," LeFebvre assured him. Everyone present then voted in favor without further discussion Supervisors George Kloppenburg and Gail Wanek were absent and excused.
The meeting had started with public input from several individuals who have been actively opposing the Aquila Mine. Several of them praised Marinette County for the position it took over a year ago by passing a resolution opposing development of the Back Forty Mine.
Dale Burrie, who lives in McAllister just 228 feet from the Menominee River praised the board for passing the anti-mine resolution, and said that courageous leadership to protect almost 80 miles of Menominee River frontage led seven other Wisconsin counties and numerous municipalities to adopt similar resolutions.
"You could actually have saved the Great Lakes by the action you took," Leah Jane Burrie told the board.
Mary Hansen spoke at length on environmental disasters caused by various mines, oil pipelines, manufacturing facilities, etc. and blamed it on "government corruption and corporate greed."
She said each time we ask, "What happened?" and the answer is that an accident happened, "and accidents do happen."
Scott Lindquist, of Menominee, spoke of bare fields left after mining operations have been closed and sites "reclaimed. He said if we have mines being opened, operated, and then and closed at various sites over the years, soon there will be nothing left of the northwoods except bare fields. He said the tourists who come here to enjoy the woods spend billions of dollars, compared to the millions of dollars that mines would generate.
Before the vote to adopt the zoning prohibition, LeFebvre explained it started with the Development Committee resolution to do the moratorium, but due to doubts he and Mattison had on the legality of that action, he, County Board Chair Mark Anderson, and Supervisor Robert Holley, vice chair of the Development Committee, had several hours of telephone conversations with WCA Administrator Mark O'Connell and WCA Attorney Randy Phillips on what to do. O'Connell and Phillips advised adopting the ordinance changes the board was now being asked to approve.
The ordinance prohibitions now in place should put the entire mining issue to rest for Marinette County unless and until a request comes in from a company seeking to negotiate a local mining agreement. LeFebvre had told the Development Committee that in order not to get into trouble with the state if there were a request they would have to negotiate in good faith, but they may never be faced with that decision.
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