Ottawa Sportsmen's Club News

Carole Williams, Club Reporter


The L'Anse Sentinel, Wednesday, Feb 7, 2001

KBIC, OSC Oppose Submerged Logging

by Barry Drue

Comments were mixed from a group of about 20 people attending a public hearing Monday, Feb. 5 on proposals to raise submerged logs from Keweenaw Bay. A second hearing for Huron Bay underwater logging was scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 6 as the Sentinel went to press.

Monday's hearing at LAnse High School was conducted by Les Thomas of the Department of Environmental Quality. Thomas, a Lansing based coordinator of the new, legislatively mandated submerged log recovery program, brought DEQ Negaunee staffer Kevin Swanson to help record the public comments. DNR Acting Watershed Coordinator Steve Scott of Newberry was on hand to address the most often asked questions regarding impact on fish habitat.

Two rnajor local groups are on record opposing the removal of logs from the Keweenaw and Huron Bays. The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community voted on Saturday, Feb. 3 to oppose submerged logging in both bays. The Ottawa Sportsmens Club voted several weeks ago to oppose the proposals. Environmental and natural resources issues are cited by both groups, along with concerns about treaty fishing and other factors raised by KBIC.

Three companies have paid $3,500 to the state's Great Lakes fund to apply for each permit for up to 320 acres of underwater logging. Monday's hearing focused only on the Keweenaw Bay proposals by Pestka -Construction of Ontonagon and Kelhart Marine Technologies of'downstate Grand Ledge. Both companies have applied for permits to remove logs from similar sites off Pequaming, and offshore from the Village of Baraga.

Tuesday's hearing was scheduled for the Arvon Township Hall. The proposals for log removal from four sites in Huron Bay were on the agenda for that session. Seeking permits are Pestka Construction and Blue Forest Timber, Inc. ofdownstate Howell.

The ground rules:

Thomas opened the LAnse hearing with an explanation of the permitting process. He said the state legislature has mandated that DEQ develop and carry out the permitting and oversight for the new submerged log recovery program.

Among the considerations the DEQ will used in issuing permits and evaluating concerns are potential adverse impacts to the environment, natural resources and riparian rights; and impacts on public health, safety and welfare. Other issues, such as emotion-based comments, will not get much of an ear in Lansing.

"Those (issues) are applicable to what the statute requires us to do," Thomas said of the resource and public welfare issues. "We'll take those (comments) into consideration forwhat they're worth...The primary criteria is the impact to the fisheries resource and habitat."

Two permits have been issued by the state since applications were first accepted last September. One is for underwater log removal off of Munising, and the other is onshore of the Traverse City area.

Pestka and Kelhart chose not to make formal comments at Monday's meeting, although the hearing process would have allowed that. One former resident of the Skanee area, Lenore Smith, now of Ontonagon, spoke informally on Pestka's hopes to raise logs. The hearing began with formal, tape recorded statements read by several people on both sides of the issue. Once those comments were taken Thomas turned off the recorder and an informal and informative give-and-take session began. The LAnse meeting lasted about an hour and a half.

Where they stand:

Emil Filpus, Vice President of the Ottawa Sportsmens Club, read a three-page statement from the club outlining many concerns with the proposals, and stating opposition to removing any underwater logs. Lack of specific information on the applications was cited, along with concerns about adequate DEQ or DNR oversight on log removal. Loss offish habitat structure is a concern, along with barges and log removal impacting crucial fish cycles such as spawning. Everything from the safety of the LAnse and Baraga water supplies after the lake bottom is disturbed to lack of science on the impacts of log removal were mentioned. The social need (or lack of it) to remove logs was also questioned,

Tribal fish biologist Mike Donofrio attended, but made no formal comments. KBIC's tribal council on Feb. 3 voted unanimously to oppose the project on a number of environmental grounds, and due to the impact on tribal commercial fishing, sport fishing and recreational use of the bays. Treaty issues are also raised. KBIC issued a statement questioning the log program and calling for an Environmental Impact Statement several weeks ago.

Thomas noted that the state will not be the only agency with control over permits. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will also have to approve permits for Great Lakes proposals. That federal agency may be where the tribe's issues and questions puU the most weight.

A handful of individuals also spoke. Historical Society President Jim Dompier and Jack Hornick of the Ford museum at Alberta favor underwater logging so historic logs with the Ford log stamp can be raised and donated to the museums. Dompier noted that the Baraga County Historical Museum doesn't have a log with a stamp from the Hebard or Ford logging eras.

Carlton Patterson, long associated with promotion of the local sports fishery and a Pequaming resident, spoke in opposition to removal of logs. He cited potential impact on fish habitat and water quality issues. He and Maria Patterson submitted a letter suggesting the State of Michigan has high quality forests and that's where logs should come from.

Jim Loman of Baraga spoke of his knowledge of the Keweenaw Bay after a lifetime of fishing. He questioned the impact on "some of the best salmon fishing in the state of Michigan," particularly in May/June, and September/October. Ingrid Shriner of Pequaming also opposed, due to potential impact on the fishery.

Don Carlson submitted a letter citing potential harmful environmental effects such as declining baitfish habitat and exposure of chemical pollutants if the bottom of the bays is disturbed.

Mike Cieslinski of the DNR Parks and Recreation department, questioned the proposed use of public access sites and publicaUy funded boat landings for removal of logs from boats and barges to log trucks, He noted that commercial use of such public sites 'Is not prohibited and some type of permit would be necessary.

Video of lake bottom:

Following the recording of formal comments, Thomas allowed the polite and respectful group to ask questions to himself and DNR fish specialist Steve Scott. A number of questions raised in the formal comments were answered, and other topics were debated.

Scott noted that the local DNR fisheries crew had "sacrificed their bodies" in freezing late November and early December temperatures to videotape six hours of bottomland views at the proposed Pequaming and Baraga sites. The state mandate to get the log recovery program in gear has limited the tune available for carefully analyzing aspects of log removal.

Calling it only a "snapshot in time," Scott said the hundreds of logs he saw on tape showed little or no evidence of fish associated with them. However, he said, no views are available from different seasons or at night. Scott found the vast majority of the logs were scattered individually on the bottom, some partially buried in sand sediment, and others "look like they were dropped there yesterday."

Sand is not likely to be harboring quantities of pollutants from long ago, Thomas said. The finer bottomland materials such as silts and mucks tend to contain pollutants over the long term. The vast majority of the bottom Scott saw on tape is sand Some weeds and vegetation was also seen.

The permits won't allow slab wood, old docks cribs or anything except fairly large logs to be removed. Scott noted that the local permits will have a stipulation that they be pulled from water at least 15 feet deep, to avoid disturbing fish habitat in shallow water.

Thomas said the state will be paid for each log that a company removes. The current formula will be that each log will cost twice the going stumpage price for that species cut in state logging contracts The prices will be updated quarterly, and the entire pricing system will be reviewed to see if it is appropriate. The revenue will go into a fund to be used for Great Lakes projects.

Thomas noted that anything on the bottom of the: Great Lakes belongs to the state and all the people of Michigan. He also emphasized that DEQ is "flying by: the seat of our pants" in trying to implement the legeislative mandate for the first time.

Several people questioned the experiences of underwater logging onshore from Wisconsin where: it has been conducted in recent years. Scott has spoken to Wisconsin colleagues who told him there has: been very little scientific follow-up to determine the impact of underwater log removal.

The DEQ public comment period will remain Open for 15 days following the date of each of the two local hearings. Comments can be sent to Les Thomas, LWMD-MDEQ, Submerged Log Program PO Box 30458, Lansing, MI, 48909-7958, or e-mailed to thomasl@state.mi.us

As directed in the statute, the DEQ has 90 days. from the date of the hearings to act on the permit applications.

The current round of permits were generated during a one-month "window" for applications last September. From now on the month to apply will be in January Thomas said during January, 2001, eight more applications were sent in.

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