Thank you, Oneida County Citizens, for defeating this referendum by an impressive 62 percent!

Referendum Question that appeared on the Nov. 6

ballot in Oneida County

After performing their due diligence, should Oneida County allow leasing of County owned lands in the Town of Lynne for the purpose of metallic mineral exploration, prospecting, bulk sampling and mining?
[ ] Yes
[ ]  No

    The referendum question being submitted to a vote is non-binding, which means that the Oneida County Board of Supervisors will use the results of the referendum as a factor in the decision, after performing their due diligence, or whether or not to allow leasing of county owned lands in the Town of Lynne for metallic mineral exploration, prospecting, bulk sampling and mining.
    A YES VOTE on the question advises Oneida County that the voter approves of, after performing their due diligence, Oneida County Allowing the lease of county lands in the Town of Lynne for the purposes of metallic mineral exploration, prospecting, bulk sampling and mining.
    A NO VOTE on the question advises Oneida County that the voter opposes the leasing of county owned lands in the Town of Lynne for the purpose of metallic mineral exploration, prospecting, bulk sampling and mining.

  * * *

Recent Developments

* * *

Oneida County Board: listen

to the expressed wishes of your constituents!

By Karl Fate


Dec. 2, 2018--On Nov. 6, 62.6 percent of voters in Oneida County advised our county government not to lease the Lynne Site for a sulfide mine on our county forest. This referendum question was born in the County Board's Planning & Development Committee. Committee members were unhappy with testimony that they received on a proposed mining ordinance. Many people who testified asked for the county forest to remain closed to metallic mining as a condition in the proposed ordinance.

Apparently, the committee members felt that this was not representative of the entire county.  One supervisor repeatedly said, to paraphrase, “Why should the Town of Lynne be able to block something that the rest of the county wants, and could benefit from?” As of Nov. 6, that supervisor knows that most of the rest of the county doesn’t want it either.

Five towns voted No with a margin of more than 70 percent; most of these were closest to Lynne. Although, the percentage of No votes generally dropped off the further away they were from Lynne, the fact remains that even the county's most eastern towns collectively voted No by nearly 55 percent. This happened despite the influence of Dark Money from outside interests calling for a Yes vote.

It seems that many voters were able to sympathize with the situation confronting the Town of Lynne. After all, what town would want our county government to force something on them that, for entirely legitimate reasons, they clearly do not want?

Our county government now has the advice they asked for, but they have an underlying problem.

When Oneida County decided to review its Mining Ordinance earlier this year, some supervisors used the process as an attempt to make a “back door” policy change. This attempted policy change is in direct contradiction to the Board's 2012 vote that closed the county forest to metallic mining, and established that mining was “no longer a policy goal” in our county.

Tens of thousands of dollars were spent removing several critical protections in the ordinance. Even the prohibition on dumping mine wastes in our county, produced from outside of our county, was removed during the rewriting process. These changes were made in order to promote sulfide mining in our county, in general, and specifically, to promote a mine at Lynne, something that those supervisors now know a clear majority of our county does not want.

The fact that our tax dollars were squandered by removing protections in the Mining Ordinance in order to facilitate a mine at Lynne, is an unacceptable travesty.

Oneida County needs to have an open public discussion on how to correct this colossal mistake.

* * *

Oneida County residents speak loud and clear: no mine at Lynne

Nov. 11, 2018--Last Tuesday voters in Oneida County turned out at the polls in record numbers to express their views. Of the county's eligible voters, 84 percent voted, compared to 75 percent in 2014, the last mid-term election.  There were some local elections of interest, but the Referendum Question on whether or not the county should lease publicly owned lands in the Town of Lynne for mining was the main factor for the dramatic uptick in voting. More than 62 percent said "No" to mining at the Lynne area. For full election results, visit the county's website page.

Through a grassroots effort, concerned citizens from across Oneida County worked tirelessly for three months leading up to the Nov. 6 election to educate and motivate voters through Letters to the Editor, placing ads in newspapers, and spots on radio and TV. The Lac du Flambeau Tribe did its own educating. The Tribe sponsored a series of TV ads speaking to the importance of the Willow Flowage region, which is part of the Ceded Territory for northern Wisconsin tribes.

The pro-mining forces, by comparison, mailed to every resident in Oneida County a series of expensive, colorful, large-size cards that featured cavorting deer, green woods and sparkling waters, to suggest that sulfide mining is completely safe and pro-environment. The slick mailer was paid for by WMC Issues Mobilization Council, Inc., an anti-environment and anti-labor union Madison, Wis.-based group whose donors are not subject to disclosure.

The next step for concerned citizens who do not want to see a sulfide mine at Lynne will be to closely monitor the Oneida County Board's actions in coming months. In a Channel 12 interview on Nov. 7, Board chair Dave Hintz suggested that the matter of a mine would be dropped.

Those who regularly attend the Planning and Development Committee meetings understand how dedicated some of the Supervisors on that committee are to bringing mining to Oneida County. Their mentor Sen. Tom Tiffany will continue to prod them to find a way to promote mining on publicly-owned forest lands. Tiffany authored Act 134, passed last year, a law that considerably weakens environmental protections and forbids local governments from passing more stringent laws than the State's for protecting the environment from contamination. Under Tiffany's tutelage, in June the Oneida County Board passed a Revised Mining Ordinance that opened up all county lands, public and private, zoned A-1 Forestry and General use, to mining as a permitted use, but the decision to lease the mineral rights resides with the owner of the land. In the case of the Oneida County Forest, that would be the residents of Oneida County. Their representatives (the County Board) can decide to lease or not lease those rights.

In August 2012, when the Lynne deposit site was last looked at for mining by the Board, Brian Desmond, Corporation Counsel, stated, "if Resolution #59-2012 does not pass, the direction of the County Board is that mining should no longer proceed as a policy goal for Oneida County. There is no longer a need for the Forestry, Land & Recreations Committee to continue with the mining process. Oneida County Board will no longer endorse mining in Oneida County. If Resolution # 59-2012 passes it would allow the process of mining to continue." #59-2012 was defeated by 12-9. The issue of mining lay dormant for five years, until the passage of Act 134, the law that Gov. Scott Walker said would declare "Wisconsin is open for mining." Gov. Walker was defeated in his third bid for governor. Newly-elected Tony Evers is on record as committed to protecting the environment.

The Referendum Question was put on the ballot to provide the "social license" that Sen. Tiffany stated was a necessary prerequisite for bringing mining into the area. The issue now is whether the County Board will honor the wishes of the 2/3s majority of Oneida County voters to keep the Lynne area clean and the Willow Flowage, a DNR-designated Outstanding Water Resource, healthy and free of sulfide contaminants.

* * *

Grassroots effort surges to oppose a mine at Lynne
Protect the Willow produces an educational video on the mining referendum

Oct. 25, 2018–As the referendum question on the Lynne Mine approaches, a group in Oneida County has gained traction on outreach and education about how a mine would harm the environment and tourism. Protect the Willow recently hosted an informational tour of the potential mine site. More than 80 people attended and were able to experience this water-rich area firsthand.

“The site practically speaks for itself,” said Peter Zambon, Rhinelander resident and member of Protect the Willow. “As those who attended the tour know, just a few steps off the access road and there is standing water everywhere. This isn’t a safe place for a sulfide mine. This type of mine has always caused pollution.”

Protect the Willow recently released a 2-minute educational video about how sulfide mining could impact Oneida County. To date, the video has been viewed more than 17,000 times on Facebook and has been shared more than 500 times. “This video is the clearest explanation I have seen about what sulfide mining could mean for Oneida County,” said Kathy Keogh Noel, resident of Sugar Camp.

The group’s organizing efforts are geared to protecting the Willow River and Flowage from the risks of sulfide mining. As the referendum approaches on Nov. 6, it has shared this message through newspaper, radio and television ads, and door-to-door canvassing. More than 500 “Protect the Willow” yard signs have been distributed to homeowners and businesses.

“People from all backgrounds and political stripes want to show their love for Oneida County’s natural resources,” said Zambon. “We had a huge demand for the yard signs and it has been encouraging to see them pop up in new places as the referendum approaches. We know the vote could be neck and neck, so we’re giving everything we’ve got to get the word out.”

* * *

What the heck is sulfide mining…

and why you should vote against a mine at Lynne

By Dave Noel

Sugar Camp, WI

Oct. 25, 2018—Now that sulfide mining is allowed in Wisconsin, the Oneida County Supervisors are considering leasing county-owned forest property near the Town of Lynne for a zinc mine. Oneida County residents have an opportunity to vote against consideration of this mine in the upcoming election.

Do you know what sulfide mining is? 

It is the practice of extracting metals such as copper, gold, silver and zinc from a sulfide-rich ore body. It typically involves explosives and heavy mining equipment to expose the metal ore in an open pit. There are major environmental issues that are of concern, primarily the run-off from the tailings. The tailings are the rubble created when the rock containing the metal is crushed in order to release the ore. In this type of metallic mining, the tailings contain sulfides. When exposed to water and air sulfides become sulfuric acid – battery acid. The acid and other heavy metal debris leach into the surrounding environment. It is devastating to aquatic organisms and degrading to water quality.

At the proposed Lynne site the ore deposit is located immediately below a wetland and an aquifer that drain into the Willow River, just a half a mile away. The Willow River watershed includes the vibrant Willow Flowage, which flows into the Tomahawk River, Lake Nokomis, and eventually the Wisconsin River. The mining lobby suggests that there are ways to protect the watershed during a mining operation, but the fact is that this has never been achieved when mining in a wetland. 

The processing of the ore may pose an even bigger problem than its removal at Lynne. The proposed mine contains primarily zinc ore, which is not particularly valuable, certainly not as valuable as gold or even copper. What this means is that the processing will most likely have to be done on-site to keep costs low and profits high. In order to process the ore, the zinc-bearing sulfide rock is crushed into a fine flour-like substance which is then separated in large vats of strong chemicals. Of greatest concern is the waste material, the tailings. If the tailings are not permanently stored and protected from the atmosphere and rain, sulfuric acid drainage occurs. Mounds of fine tailings, about 5 million tons at Lynne, would be nearly impossible to protect from the elements. Sometimes, tailings are returned to the pit after the ore is removed. In this case the proximity to the Willow watershed eliminates the option of storing the waste in the pit.

The geographic realities of the Lynne deposit would make proper management of the tailings very difficult and very expensive.

Mining the proposed site would destroy several thousand acres of wetland and forests, risk acid runoff from waste rock in the open pit, and create an unmanageable amount of potentially contaminating tailings for a yield of a small amount of precious metals. Acid mine drainage poisons water forever. Attempted remediation is never completely successful and is almost always a burden to taxpayers.

Oneida County voters are beginning to receive slick flyers from the mining lobby. The Flambeau mine is held up as an example of “clean” mining, but unlike the Lynne mining site, it is not located on a wetland; while the remediated Flambeau site looks nice, the runoff still does not meet Wisconsin surface groundwater quality standards; the mine, only 32 acres, avoided the issues around processing and permanent storage of the tailings by shipping the raw ore to Canada. Mining companies have much to gain by exploiting the natural resources in our county, but Oneida County has little to gain and much to lose by experimenting with destructive mining methods and proven environmental hazards. Tell our Supervisors that we are not interested in risking the Northwoods and our waterways for short term financial gain.

VOTE NO to mining at Lynne on Nov. 6.

* * *

Don't be misled by the mining industry propaganda:

Inform yourself about the real conditions at the Lynne site

By Karl Fate

Rhinelander, WI

Oct. 24, 2018—Prior to the upcoming election we are seeing extremely misleading statements contained in flyers and letters that are designed to sway our vote on whether our county government should lease the Lynne Deposit on our county forest, just upstream from the Willow Flowage.

We are being told that “strong environmental standards” are required, and that, “There have been no changes to the groundwater standards.”

Our groundwater standards were required because of the Clean Water Act.  It is critical to understand that these standards allow degradation of our groundwater quality, up to what is known as Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL).  These standards can be set depending on, if “the costs of treatment would outweigh the public health benefits of a lower MCL.” These “standards” are a political compromise, not “strong environmental standards.”

In Wisconsin, a waste disposal facility is allowed to exceed this political compromise. A sulfide mine at Lynne would create an enormous amount of waste material, dwarfing our county landfill.  The mining industry is allowed to exceed groundwater “standards” over a much larger area than is allowed for any other industry or business, up to 1,200 feet from the edge of any waste disposal facility.

We are also reading that there is insufficient information regarding the hydrogeology at the Lynne site. You would reach this conclusion if you only do an internet search. To find the information about the hydrogeology at Lynne, you would have to dig deeper.

Noranda did do a study of the hydrogeology of the Lynne site, some of which can be found in the “Notice of Intent,” which can be read in the Oneida Courthouse. This study of wells constructed in the large wetland areas shows that the groundwater was only inches from the surface at that time, and it is wetter now than it was then. For anyone who has spent time walking through these saturated wetland areas, the reality of the hydrogeology is obvious.

If our county board signs a mining lease at Lynne, they won’t be able to just back out of it when they feel like it, or when the reality of how wet the site is finally sinks in.  Unfortunately, only four out of 21 supervisors have taken the time to examine the water resources at Lynne, something critical to making an informed decision. Other supervisors have chosen to focus on other mining operations, unrelated to Lynne, at considerable taxpayer expense. 

We have ample information about Lynne to cast an informed vote. Our county government should not repeat its past mistakes. The facts on the ground tell us we should vote “No” on leasing the Lynne Site on Nov. 6.


* * *

How the Lynne Mineral Deposit site compares to the Flambeau Mine site

By Karl Fate

Rhinelander, WI

Oct. 10, 2018—On Nov. 6 we will be voting on a referendum question on whether or not our county government should lease the county forest for a mine at the Lynne Mineral Deposit site.

Now we are being told by various government officials and local media that we will be voting “blindfolded” on the issue because we may not really know very much about a mine at Lynne, so perhaps we should just pretend that it might be just like the Flambeau Mine site.

At this point, there is really no excuse for anyone in the media, or in the Courthouse, to claim ignorance about the issues at Lynne. Perhaps the local newspaper should hire an investigative reporter to dig up the “reams” of information about Lynne that have been hiding under our noses for the last 25 years.

We do know very much about Lynne, and it is much different than Flambeau.

The negative impacts from a sulfide mine can be divided into three categories. Direct environmental impacts, infrastructure impacts, and socioeconomic impacts. All three are interrelated, and are substantially influenced by the location of the mineral deposit.  

We know where the Lynne deposit is, and we know where the Flambeau deposit is.

Any industry that has a wastewater discharge will want their business located next to a major, industrial river, making it much easier to meet effluent limits, and minimizing the infrastructure necessary to accomplish the discharge of the wastewater.

The Flambeau deposit is right next to a major industrial river, not by choice, but by dumb luck.

The Lynne deposit is not right next to a major industrial river. The groundwater that flows over the deposit, and the surface waters that flow over, and aside the area over the deposit, all enter Willow Lake and the Willow River.  The Willow River is not allowed to be degraded because it flows into the Willow Flowage, a DNR-designated Outstanding Resource Water.

The mining industry does not like non-degradation standards, so it is exceeding likely that there would be a wastewater discharge pipeline constructed at Lynne to discharge the wastewater somewhere else. This would substantially add to the negative infrastructure impacts to the area.

A mine needs power, and a way to get ore, or ore concentrate, to a rail line for transporting somewhere for further processing, so it’s extremely beneficial for a mine to be near a power source and a rail line. The closer the mine is to existing infrastructure, the less are the infrastructure impacts. The farther from existing infrastructure, the greater the infrastructure impacts.

Flambeau is very near existing infrastructure; Lynne is not. The infrastructure impacts at Lynne would be large enough to make a mine there unacceptable.

By the same token, the negative boom and bust impacts of a mine are minimized near existing development, such as Ladysmith, and are much greater in a more remote area like Lynne.  

Then there are the physical differences between Flambeau and Lynne.

The Lynne site is dominated by wetlands. These wetlands are saturated with groundwater, mere inches from the surface, a 40-ft. or so deep column that flows over the deposit towards the Willow River. There are large wetland areas over the western and eastern portions of the deposit. The western wetlands are associated with Stream 16-4 that flows into Willow Lake, just upstream of the bridge on Willow Road. The eastern wetlands are fed by Stream 18-14 that flows from the east, and are adjacent to a primarily bog lake bed to the north.

Unlike Lynne, Flambeau is an upland site. There are some small wetlands at Flambeau, and some were directly, and indirectly, impacted by the mine. There are three small intermittent streams at Flambeau, one being the controversial Stream “C”, that is labeled an “impaired water” because of its copper levels. All of these streams flow into the Flambeau, a major industrial river. 

In combination, the exceedingly favorable location of the mineral deposit, the extremely short duration of the mine, the off-site processing of the ore, and the relatively dry environment, make the Flambeau Mine an anomaly in northern Wisconsin, and cannot be used as a template for other deposits.

The fact that there are any water quality issues at the “Flambeau Anomaly” does not bode well for another mine in the Northwoods, where much more difficult conditions are the norm.

* * *

What happened in Michigan could happen to the Lynne deposit site:

Mining legacy, wetlands expansion fuel concern over U.P. mercury levels

By Eric Freedman
Great Lakes Echo

Sept. 25, 2018--Mercury levels remain high in the lakes, rivers and fish of the western part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula despite a substantial decline in airborne mercury emissions over the past 30 years, according to scientists from Michigan Technological University and the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s a “geographic enigma” with health implications, they said in a new study published in the journal “Environmental Science Processes & Impacts.” Continue reading.

* * *

You spoke out, but our government isn’t listening
Believe the facts, not the hype, about the reality of the Lynne Deposit

By Karl Fate
Rhinelander, WI

Sept. 23, 2018--In the late 1980s, our Oneida County government made an ill-fated decision to lease our publicly-owned county forest for metallic mining. The premise of the decision was that “ample guidelines have been formulated and sufficient laws have been passed to insure safe and sensible extraction of metallic minerals.” This premise was proven to be untrue as soon as it was tested, and is even less true today because our laws have been weakened. The policy goes so far as to promote strip mining on the county forest, something entirely at odds with the physical and geological realities in our county.
The history of the Lynne Deposit

After securing a mining lease at Lynne in the early 1990s, it didn’t take the mining company Noranda long to discover the Lynne deposit. The folks who wanted a mine at Lynne were elated, yet once Noranda began drilling dozens of exploratory holes into the complex wetlands at Lynne, there were early warning signs.

Noranda was literally scratching the surface of the problems they would encounter at the site when they decided to stop the process. Meanwhile, our county government had gone sour on the issue and declined to give Noranda an extension on their lease. Many of the supervisors had believed the county would make money off of the lease and that no minerals would actually be discovered. When what became known as the Lynne Deposit was discovered, it started a long learning process for the county. Several supervisors changed their positions. Some just got tired of dealing with the leasing proposals, and interest in mining the county forest was effectively dead, that is, until Tamerlane approached the county in 2009.

Between 2009 and 2012, the Mining Oversight Committee, led by Supervisor Dave Hintz, was consistently indifferent to the factual realities on the ground at Lynne, even though the committee was fully apprised of the nature of those realities. The committee also consistently rejected calls for a public hearing on the matter. This all changed once these concerns were raised with the full Board of Supervisors. The Board, faced with strong public opposition to mining at Lynne and uneasy over the lack of proper public hearings, voted in 2012 to close the county forest to metallic mining.

Ignoring the history, and the public

Now, our current County Board, chaired by Dave Hintz, is interested in renewing the failed policy of leasing the county forest for metallic mining. Once again the supervisors are ignoring the history of the site and its physical realities that make it an unsuitable place for mining.

Whenever supervisors in the courthouse are pushing a mine, several predictable things happen. For instance, while legally required to hold public hearings, our county officials avoid them like the plague. When a public hearing can’t be avoided, our elected officials choose to ignore testimony that is not consistent with those who are pushing the mine. Or worse, they treat opposing testimony with contempt.  The result? The County Board goes forward with one-sided information pushed by the Planning and Development Committee and passes a bad ordinance that is out of step with the desires clearly expressed in public testimony.

At the June 6 public hearing about the rewrite of our current Ordinance, the majority testifying asked that the county forest remained closed to metallic mining, and that this be made a formal condition in the new Ordinance.

This did not sit well with some of the supervisors. At the June 11 P&D Committee meeting, Committee Chair Scott Holewinski decided to go “off agenda” to discuss how to counter public testimony that the committee had received at the public hearing.

The committee spent 15 minutes discussing the leasing of the Lynne Deposit and a related Referendum Question to be put to the voters in the November election. This is an issue of great public importance, yet the public was not properly notified that the committee would be discussing it. Furthermore, leasing the county forest is not even the jurisdiction of this committee. Although nothing was voted on during this “off agenda” discussion, it is clear that a decision was made, and that action was taken as a result. At the next committee meeting on June 13, a finalized version of the Referendum Question was distributed.

The P&D Committee, as well as some of the local newspapers in their reporting, made a grievous mistake when they disrespected the public testimony. The folks who came spoke out because they knew this was really important. Most of these people that were there have “skin in the game” and aren’t going anywhere. They live here, fish here, recreate here – some for many generations, including members of the Lac du Flambeau tribe.  They won’t forget what their government is trying to do to their land.

So now we will be voting on the Referendum Question in November. It is not possible to cast an informed vote regarding a particular region of the county unless that place is clearly described. Yet it is exceedingly unlikely that this county government will provide the voter with that critical description. Furthermore, the Referendum Question asks the voter to trust that this county government will perform “due diligence” at Lynne prior to leasing the property. Due diligence is something that our county government has never performed in relation to mining. There is no reason to believe they would this time around.

In the next several weeks we will be hearing a great deal of speculation and hype about a mine at Lynne, and it will be just that, speculation and hype. There are many things at Lynne that are objective and true, but you are unlikely to hear about them. What is real is that the Lynne Deposit is underneath 40 feet of groundwater that is intimately connected to two streams, a lake, and vast areas of related wetlands that lie over and directly adjacent to the site, all of which flow towards the Willow River, just over a half-mile north, and just upstream of Willow Rapids and the Willow Flowage.

So, in November, vote for what’s real. Don’t believe the hype. Vote for our water. Vote No.

* * *

A response to Rep. Rob Swearingen
You call yourself conservative, Rob,

when in fact your actions suggest just the opposite

By Stephanie Burrell
Minocqua, WI

Sept. 23, 2018--State Rep. Rob Swearingen (Assembly District 34) assures me that he is a conservative who "balances" economic development with environmental "protections."

If this is so, “conservative" doesn't mean what it used to mean. For example, Act 134 — inaptly named "Mining for America" — seeks to force local and county governments to open our land to mining. This bill, like some 200 others recently passed in Wisconsin, strips away local decision making in favor of edicts from Madison.

But wait! Didn’t conservatism mean just the opposite, that big government should not interfere wrongly or unnecessarily in the affairs of taxpayers who would prefer to take care of our own business? Which kind of conservative are you, Rob?

Your so-called "balancing" of economic development against certain harm to irreplaceable natural resources is inappropriate to say the least. We the people who care for our precious water and land should be allowed to protect, at a minimum, what belongs to us.

I understand that some 35 percent of Oneida County is zoned 1A forest lands. Under our Ordinance, it is intended to be kept as natural as possible. We have honored that purpose for many years, even as we encourage fishing, hunting, sustainable timber harvest and abundant public enjoyment of our forest trails.

Again: This land is ours. Thus, we should be able to declare our county forests and wetlands closed to resource extraction, no matter the alleged monetary value of making a huge toxic mess. Please look again and pay attention.

* * *

To the Lakeland Times:

Are you interested in a truly neutral process

for examining the effects of sulfide mining in the Town of Lynne?

Open Letter to the Editor of the Lakeland Times

By Jeffrey Brown
Town of Lynne, Tripoli, WI

Sept. 18, 2018—On Aug. 28, 2018, the Oneida County Economic Development Corporation and the UW Extension announced a joint initiative to provide Oneida County residents an opportunity to learn about the Town Of Lynne mining proposal in an "unbiased and research-based" manner.

This is provided to Oneida County voters in preparation for the upcoming Nov. 6 non-binding referendum on mining being considered for the Town Of Lynne mine site in western Oneida County. They have gathered experts to offer insight on issues they anticipate from residents voting on the Nov. 6 referendum. The group includes scientists, lawyers, environmental experts, scholars and educators.

So, Lakeland Times, I would like to ask for your help. Are you interested in evaluating the level of neutrality and unbiased positions throughout this process? In June, your opinion page suggested we get a group of people together and really look into this sulfide mining thing in an unbiased way. Does this fit the bill? I have some concerns before they even get going.

1. How neutral and unbiased can the representation be when the Oneida County Economic Development Corporation states its pro-business growth goal is a primary direction of the OCEDC?

2. Funding for this project is provided by Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce,  a group that promotes "a better business environment" and "a pro-business public policy agenda." This is similar to the stated objectives of the OCEDC. How "unbiased" are these groups? Business leaders would have screamed their heads off if the funding would have been provided by the Sierra Club or, Ducks Unlimited. 

3. Initial legal representation was provided by Larry Konopacki, a highly respected Madison lawyer who has represented various mining companies and pro-mining organizations. If the lawyer selected would have had a history of work with environmental groups opposed to risky government projects, the Oneida County Board members who head up OCEDC, would have cried foul!

4. The members of the Oneida County Board itself. Lets understand their position on mining and ask for their "neutrality rating" on sulfide mining. Also, a clear understanding of their position on environmental impact to sulfide mining within the County Forest would be valuable.

The majority of risks brought before the Oneida County Board by the public to date are primarily ENVIRONMENTAL AND HISTORICALLY AND SCIENTIFICALLY VERIFIABLE. We encourage thorough assessment of those issues prior to the economic calculations are even considered! 

I also ask why these educational efforts did not include current existing stakeholder groups? The OCEDC and UW Extension contributors list did not include groups such as:

  • - Recreational Sports Clubs (ATV and Snowmobile clubs whom have used the Lynne site for years!)
  • - Hunting And Fishing Organizations which find exceptional lands and waters within the Willow Flowage, adjacent to the Lynne mine site.
  • - Tribal Leaders, whom have requested meetings multiple times this year with Oneida County's Board, to discuss mining on ceded territory, which this mine site is within.
  • - Quiet Sports Groups potentially opposed to non-quiet blasting or the ore body.
  • - Representatives from the active group of citizens that spent time attending 20 plus meetings with the Oneida County Planning and Development committee and Oneida County Board members creating our new mining ordinance enacted in July. We have spent significant time educating ourselves and others since the Mining 101 meeting in January, 2018 and countless hours doing the same during previous attempts to mine the Lynne site over the past 28 years. Our involvement should not be optional!

So again, Lakeland Times, do you have the desire to investigate this process and the people providing the "unbiased and research-based information" to the people of Oneida County on the most important issue before this county? In the past, you have offered your system of "grading" of various public officials and that might work well here.

Additionally, a local citizens group, Protect The Willow, will host a mine site visit and an informational overview of concerns we have regarding mining the Lynne mine site on Sat., Oct. 13. An hour-long tour will leave the Willow Region Fine Barn, at 5086 Willow Road, Tripoli, at 8:45 am. Boots and outdoor clothing are recommended. We will be doing some "in the woods" walking, and the site is under water frequently, so be prepared. This will be followed by a one-hour presentation of concerns from 9 am to 10 am at the fire barn, with time for questions and answers to follow. 

I make no promise of unbiased positions at this meeting. We will be talking about proven concerns and facts about the Lynne site that others have either ignored, minimized or neglected to discuss. I invite the Lakeland Times, local television and other media to join us as well. Thank you.

* * *

What you need to know for the Nov. 6

Oneida County Referendum on the Lynne Mine

Sept. 11, 2018

Did you know...

  • On Nov. 6, Oneida County residents will be asked by referendum vote the following yes or no question: “After performing their due diligence, should Oneida County allow leasing County owned lands in the Town of Lynne for the purpose of metallic mineral exploration, prospecting, bulk sampling and mining?”
  • The Lynne deposit was discovered in 1990 by Noranda Exploration and is located on forestry land owned by Oneida County within the town of Lynne. It is primarily a zinc sulfide ore with significant lead and silver and minor amounts of gold and copper. The deposit is estimated to be approximately 5.6 million tons recoverable metals by open pit mining(1).
  • The Oneida County Board voted in 2012 against leasing the lands in the Town of Lynne.
  • The mineral deposit is located beneath a water-rich environment of interconnected wetlands, lakes, rivers and groundwater in the Town of Lynne, in western Oneida County(2).
  • Noranda proposed open-pit mining at Lynne. The proposal included a 65-acre, 1,900 foot- diameter open pit that would produce 30 million tons of overburden, waste rock, ore, and tailings. Noranda proposed to put 17 million tons of waste rock and overburden in a 100-acre pit and up to 6 million tons of mine tailings (fine ground up rock left over from milling economic ore) into a 110-acre pit. The total disturbed or destroyed acreage was estimated to be 342 acres total(3).
  • Noranda’s proposal estimated processing 5.6 million tons (MT) of ore grading 9.27% Zinc, 0.47% Copper, 1.71% Lead, 2.38 ounces per ton (opt) Silver, and 0.021 opt of Gold. This means only approx. 640,000 tons of metal concentrates would be produced (11.45% of 5.6 MT) and that 98% of the 30 million tons mined from the open pit would be left behind as waste material(4).
  • According to the Toxic Release Inventory produced by the US EPA, metal mining is the most toxic industry accounting for 44 percent of toxic material releases into the environment. This amounts to 1.5 billion pounds of mining waste. Some of this waste product is managed responsibly but at many mines, the toxic materials migrate into surface waters and groundwater threatening the environment, public health and safety(5)
  • Large volumes of waste rock containing sulfide minerals create acid mine drainage when exposed to air and water. These waste products contain heavy metals such as lead and mercury and other contaminants that can migrate to groundwater and often in concentrations that exceed drinking water standards. When this contaminated groundwater migrates offsite it can pollute private and public drinking water supplies. Additional contaminants like cyanide may be added when ore is processed and refined on-site(6).
  • The surface water and groundwater at the Lynne site are highly interconnected. Toxic levels of metals and other wastes can migrate off the mine site into nearby surface waters causing fish kills and otherwise impairing aquatic life and water quality. Evidence from literature and field observations suggests that permitting large scale surface mining in sulfide-hosted rock creates a substantial and unquantifiable risk to water quality and fisheries(7).
  • If Oneida County leases the mineral rights the company will conduct more exploration and propose the type of mining that will be conducted. Some have suggested that an underground mine would be less environmentally risky. However, it is more-costly and is not risk-free. An underground mine still generates mining waste that must be managed and that mining waste could be a source of contamination for surface and groundwater. The mine’s location in a water-rich environment increases the risk of a release. Several sources have indicated that an open pit is most efficient and cost-effective way to extract the ore. This method of mining also carries the most risk. Moreover, both open-pit and underground sulfide mines themselves are sources of acid mine drainage even after the ore and waste rock are removed.
  • Mining at Lynne would require that both glacial and bedrock aquifers be dewatered by continuously pumping water out of the mine. For example, Noranda proposed up to 12 years of active mining requiring continuous pumping. This dewatering of the aquifers will negatively impact nearby wetland, lakes, and streams which rely on the groundwater to maintain water levels and ultimately aquatic life.
  • Despite the repeal of Wisconsin’s landmark Prove It First law for sulfide mining, no mining company has offered examples of sulfide mines that have operated and closed safely without causing pollution. The Flambeau mine polluted a nearby stream and the company has not yet fully reclaimed the mine site.

What’s at risk:

  • Our clean water. The Willow River is only 1/2 mile from the Lynne mineral deposit which lies beneath an open water bog, lakebeds, hundreds of acres of wetlands and an average of 50 feet of glacial aquifer(8).
  • The Willow Flowage is designated as an Outstanding Resource Water; less than 1% of Wisconsin’s 15,000 lakes are pristine enough to have this designation. Treated wastewater from processing and contact with waste rock and the mine pit was proposed by Noranda to bedischarged to the Willow or other nearby rivers such as the Little Rice, the Little Somo or even nearby wetlands(9).
  • Air and water quality are at risk from fugitive dust and emissions from the milling process and waste dumps. Air pollution from mining ores such as at Lynne can include mercury, lead, copper, zinc, magnesium, cadmium, and more that can harm aquatic life.

The economy:

  • The claims that the Flambeau mine significantly boosted the local economy are inflated and not supported by most economic indicators. The economic impact had little positive impact on the quality of life in Rusk County. The unemployment rate, poverty rate and per capita income all remained flat before, during, and after the mine. Additionally, Rusk County remains at the bottom of the rank (70 out of 72 Counties) on most economic indicators(10).
  • Mining always produces a boom & bust economy. Mines often idle during poor markets causing layoffs and all mines eventually close. The Lynne mineral deposit is relatively small, roughly twice as big as Flambeau. It would like only operate for 10 years or less. Yet the mine leaves a risk for environmental pollution that lasts for hundreds of years or longer.
  • OneidaCountyTourismindustryranks15thoutof72counties.Visitors pending and business sales were $305 million in 2017, up 3.5% from 2016. The Wisconsin Department of Tourism counts 2,200 jobs in the county related to tourism. Oneida County is a retirement and vacation destination. Over 50% of homes in Oneida County are owned by non-residents who are attracted to the area by the abundance of water-based recreation and quality of life(11).
  • Harvard University Economists recently evaluated a proposal to mine massive sulfide minerals in the Superior National Forest adjacent to the Boundary Waters. They found that, over the 20-year time horizon of the proposed withdrawal, introducing mining in the Superior National Forest is very likely to have a negative effect on the regional economy. Further, they reviewed the relevant literature and concluded that their findings are consistent with the literature, most notably the history of boom-bust economies associated with resource extraction that leave the local economy worse off(12).

    3 Noranda Minerals, Notification of Intent submittal to WI DNR, January, 1992
    4 Adams, Glen, Geology of the Lynne Base Metal Deposit, Institute on Lake Superior Proceedings, Vol. 42, Part 2, 1996
    7 a-review/view



Protect The Willow is a Oneida County grassroots non-profit organization committed to education on the risks of metallic mining to Oneida County and the protected Willow River and Flowage and the wetlands, lakes, and forests of the town of Lynne. More information can be found at

* * *

Oneida County citizens will vote Nov. 6 on a Referendum

asking whether to permit mining in the Town of Lynne

Aug. 10, 2018—On June 19 the Oneida County Board of Supervisors approved placing a referendum question on the county’s Nov. 6 ballot. The Referendum reads as follows:

After performing their due diligence, should Oneida County allow leasing of County owned lands in the Town of Lynne for the purpose of metallic mineral exploration, prospecting, bulk sampling and mining?

[ ] Yes

[ ]  No


The referendum question being submitted to a vote is non-binding, which means that the Oneida County Board of Supervisors will use the results of the referendum as a factor in the decision, after performing their due diligence, or whether or not to allow leasing of county owned lands in the Town of Lynne for metallic mineral exploration, prospecting, bulk sampling and mining.

A YES VOTE on the question advises Oneida County that the voter approves of, after performing their due diligence, Oneida County Allowing the lease of county lands in the Town of Lynne for the purposes of metallic mineral exploration, prospecting, bulk sampling and mining.

A NO VOTE on the question advises Oneida County that the voter opposes the leasing of county owned lands in the Town of Lynne for the purpose of metallic mineral exploration, prospecting, bulk sampling and mining.

To allow mining in an area that is primarily a wetland and within 1/2-mile of the Willow Flowage — a region designated as an Outstanding Resource Water (ORW) by the Wisconsin DNR — is highly controversial. The primary mineral of interest at this site is zinc. It is embedded in sulfurous rock, as are most minerals in Wisconsin. Excavating sulfurous minerals that are located up to 50 feet under the groundwater table, as would be the case at the Lynne site, invites an incredible risk of exposing the air and nearby waterways to sulfuric acid contaminants. The possibility of poisoning the nearby Willow River and Willow Flowage and their downstream tributaries, as well as all the fish, birds and other wildlife that depend upon these waters, is a serious threat.

To date, no sulfide mine exists in the United States that has not shown to contaminate its surrounding soils and water. The Wisconsin legislature addressed this sobering fact by passing Act 134 earlier this year. Act 134 lifted the Prove It First Moratorium that had protected the state for 20 years from mining by companies that could not point to a successful non-polluting mine.

The Nov. 6 Referendum is non-binding, but the County Board will take seriously the voters' wishes in whether or not to pursue mining at Lynne. To read more about the risks of mining in mineral deposits with high sulfide content in watery areas, visit, or search “Protect the Willow” on Facebook.

* * *

This "obstructionist" disagrees

Open Letter To the Editors of the River News and Lakeland times
By Jeff Brown, Tripoli

June 28, 2018—Gregg Walker and Richard Moore - Enough already! If you feel better about calling mining opponents in the Town of Lynne obstructionists, fine! But stop telling your readership that you know what we in the Town of Lynne want and how we feel.

You make it sound as if we are unable to understand that mining minerals provides things we use every day of our lives. We get it! We simply believe it would be difficult to find a more environmentally sensitive place to mine than 2,000 feet from one of Wisconsin's outstanding water resources, the Willow Flowage.

You say we want to "obstruct mining at all costs and no matter the environmental impact, even if no environmental impact exists." You are absolutely wrong! You come out in your June 12 opinion to tell us of your highly thought-out plan to really look at sulfide mining once and for all. You guys are great. What a fresh idea.

Here's a question for you. Let's get your suggested group of two mining proponents, two "obstructionists" and some mining neutral people to really study this thing once and for all. When we get the answers, how do you propose we get the county board to listen to them? Good luck! That's the problem.

The people of Lynne have been dealing with these issues since 1990 only to have to deal with them yet again. Three times we have fought to preserve our environment from sulfide mining and its hazards, and now you suggest we haven't done our homework?

Here is what is new since the last 2012 debate. The science has not changed. Sulfur exposed to air and water (rain, snow, etc.) turns into sulfuric acid. Lime can slow that process down but never eliminates the risk. And if the state cannot find a single example of a safe sulfide mine in the United States or Canada that can satisfy the mining moratorium that was in place for 20 years, you get rid of the mining moratorium.

Maybe you guys (Walker and Moore) should come on down and look at the site yourselves, and it might make a little more sense to you. (Don't forget your boots as it's mighty wet.) And if you have any questions for us, please ask them. We prefer to be asked our opinions instead of having newspaper people pretend they know our positions. As you can tell, we are a chatty lot.

Hey, wasn't it just (recently) you suggested a countywide referendum on allowing mining on Oneida County-owned land? I actually like that idea as I believe our county residents would likely support the idea of keeping our county forests, well, forests. But the big problem with that is the county board. Who says they will listen to the people's referendum results? It surely would be an advisory referendum and not binding, kind of like the public hearing last week. And look at how many county board members didn't even attend the public hearing!

So here is the best way I can sum up what my "fear-mongering, overheated, obstructionist" neighbors in this "sparsely populated residential district - one likely to remain uninhabited," who are opposed to the risks of sulfide mining, might tell you they know.

After almost 30 years of effort to understand sulfide mining, the Lynne site would provide huge challenges, such as:

• The groundwater table sits above the minerals the mining people desire. Much of the surface of the mine site is under water, making it what we call a "wetland." This can make our well water and groundwater toxic, which can make us sick or kill us. We are against that.

• The entire area is within the ceded territory of the Lac du Flambeau tribe's treaty protected land. Tribal president Joseph Wildcat has asked the county board to meet with them twice since April 11 to share their perspective on sulfide mining and the county board has neglected to respond. That's more than a little impolite.

• The northern edge of the mine site is within 2,000 feet of the Willow River that runs into the Willow Flowage. The Willow Flowage is part of the Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company's flowage system created to provide fresh water to the Wisconsin River when inadequate rain amounts cause dangerous pollutant levels from businesses operating on the river. Sulfide-contaminated water from the Willow might be bad for diluting already polluted Wisconsin River water.

• The Oneida County Planning and Development Committee is struggling with the chore of writing an ordinance to protect the county from the complexities of a mining operation. Every lawyer I have heard talk about the draft ordinance feels it lacks the ability to stand up in a court of law in one area or another. That is not a slam, but a comment on the complexity of the ordinance. Just think how much fun the next steps would be on the way to reaping the benefits of Tom Tiffany's "Northwoods Comparative Advantage." How many lawyers and consultants will the county board need to help them even try to oversee the new rules within the ordinance? Who would ensure compliance now that the DNR has done away with their scientists? What about negotiations needed to work out any of the money no one has talked about yet? Do you think we have a strong team in the courthouse experienced in those activities, or should we look forward to more help from the "hopelessly deadwood corporation counsel?" Remember their moto on negotiations: "There's an old saying - everyone has a price."

• We want to not mine the Lynne site.We say that mining should not be allowed on Oneida County land because we are dealing with the county. They only look at things on a countywide level. If we could isolate the Lynne site, we would. Sorry, that doesn't solve the tribal concerns, and we "obstructionists" stand with the tribes on these issues.

Somewhere in the world there may be a great place to do sulfide mining without the risks we feel we will be subjected to. Maybe it is on the north shore of Stone Lake in Western Oneida County. Maybe then the newspaper people can encourage mining firms to try their best to extract desired minerals surrounded by sulfuric acid-based material with the promise of no negative impact. Then they can bring trucks full of arsenic and cyanide which they use to get the desired elements from the tailings, which will be left in the treeless former forest. And rest assured that you will have the full support of the DNR, the EPA and Oneida County's crack teams to help if any little issues come up.

I know I do not share the views of everyone in the Town of Lynne, as a 2011 survey I ran indicated some 25 percent of our land owners supported mining. I believe this is the view of the vast majority of residents I have spoken with recently.

* * *

We must be on to something!
Local editorial unleashes smear campaign against environmental activists

fighting to save the Willow Flowage

By Al Gedicks
Executive Secretary of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council

and emeritus professor of environmental sociology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

June 25, 2018--State Senator Tom Tiffany just can't stand to have me question the wisdom of imposing unwanted mining projects that threaten the clean water of Wisconsin. So after my recent testimony against opening up formerly protected lands from mining in Oneida County, he passed along the information on my 1970 antiwar protest conviction to the River News, which ran the story in the June 23, 2018, edition.

This is not the first time Tiffany has tried to divert attention from his efforts to promote destructive sulfide mining in Wisconsin. During the public hearing in Ladysmith in September 2017 on his legislation to repeal Wisconsin’s Prove it First Mining Moratorium Law, he interrupted my public testimony against the repeal and asked me about my arrest and conviction during antiwar protests at the University of Wisconsin in 1970. I told Tiffany: “If you are so desperate to defend a bill that has no scientific or factual credibility, you have to go to the depths of deviousness to bring up something that happened 47 years ago, under highly questionable circumstances, this is eloquent testimony to the bankruptcy of this entire proceeding.”

The report by Richard Moore, who had supported the repeal of Wisconsin's Prove it First Mining Moratorium Law, did not mention a word about most of my testimony on June 6 in Rhinelander, which warned about the danger of methylmercury from sulfate discharges into the water, the sulfur compounds into the air and mercury into both air and water, plus the flooding and destruction of wetlands which increases the amount of methylmercury in fish. The bioaccumulation of methylmercury in fish will have a disproportionate impact upon the health of the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe, who depend upon fish for a larger portion of their diet than the non-Indian population. The promotion of policies and practices that have a disproportionate negative impact upon minority populations is the definition of environmental racism.

Moore notes that I turned my back on the committee and directly addressed the 200 people in the Rhinelander High School auditorium, "holding high an inflammatory placard."  He doesn't say what the content of the placard was. Why not?  Maybe because it was a large photo of an armed private security guard in camouflage and ski mask with an automatic weapon in the public forestland around the proposed Penokee Hills iron mine. The armed guards were employed by Gogebic Taconite Company to protect the controversial mine site from a steady stream of visitors to the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe’s harvest and educational camp on public forest land in the Penokee Hills of Iron County.

In his editorial against my testimony in the same edition of the River News, Moore accuses me of supporting violence as an acceptable form of democratic dissent because I did not mention that prior to the hiring of armed guards in July 2013 to protect a controversial mine site in the Penokee Hills, 15 mining opponents had raided a drill site, vandalized mining equipment and took a camera from a geologist working on site. There was no physical violence but one protestor was charged with robbery by force.

While Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) justified its hiring of armed guards in response to so-called “eco-terrorists,” former State Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar), who represented the proposed mining area, said the show of force was unnecessary, because there had not been any trouble in the Penokee Hills since the June 11, 2013, protest. Jauch said the June 11 incident was terrible, but it was isolated. “There was no threat, there was no danger and, all of a sudden, GI Joe shows up in the north woods.”

GTAC at first refused to remove the guards. Then they learned that Bulletproof Security, an Arizona-based private security firm, was not licensed to operate in Wisconsin and withdrew the guards on July 10, 2013. “These actions demonstrate that GTAC has no respect for the public and no regard for the law,” said Jauch. “Had GTAC not been in such a hurry to hire a militia that’s armed more for war than defense of property, they could have hired a legally licensed Wisconsin firm.” Under Wisconsin state law, GTAC committed a felony by hiring unlicensed out of state guards for its drilling site. However, the state dismissed complaints against the security firm for operating without a license.

The real targets of GTAC’s armed guards were not the 15 protestors, but the growing resistance to the project among all 11 Wisconsin tribes, environmental organizations and local officials in Bayfield, Washburn and Ashland. Mining pollution from the proposed open pit iron mine posed a threat to the largest remaining wild rice wetland in the entire Great Lakes Basin downstream on the Bad River Ojibwe Reservation.

Tiffany authored the bill (SB 278) that allowed Gogebic Taconite to prohibit public access to 3,500 acres of land in managed forest law. During the public hearing on this bill, I testified before Tiffany's Mining Committee that the bill was "nothing more than GTAC's psychological warfare against anyone who cares about protecting the water. If this ill-conceived piece of legislation is passed, Wisconsin will join the countries where highly polluting mining activity can only proceed through the use and threatened use of armed violence: the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Philippines, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and West Papua. Is this the legacy you want for the people of Wisconsin?"

The vitriolic attack on me can only be understood as the product of a well-orchestrated industry-financed smear campaign led by Tiffany, with the support of the most powerful corporate interests in and out of state. This includes Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s largest business group; the Natural Resources Development Association, led by Nathan Conrad, a former spokesperson for the Republican Party of Wisconsin; Aquila Resources, a Canadian mining company; and Americans for Prosperity, a dark money electioneering group created by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

 Tiffany is clearly out of touch with the vast majority of the Wisconsin public. Public opinion polling prior to Tiffany’s repeal of Prove it First found 72 percent of Wisconsin residents wanted to keep Prove it First protections from mining pollution. Ojibwe water protector Winona La Duke has said: “Someone needs to explain to me why wanting clean drinking water makes you an activist, and why proposing to destroy water with chemical warfare doesn’t make a corporation a terrorist.”

* * *

The Board of Supervisors votes for mining

Meanwhile, the physical realities of the Town of Lynne will not go away

Analysis by Karl Fate


June 21, 2018--On June 19, the Oneida County Board decided to preemptively allow sulfide mines in areas of our county zoned 1-A Forestry and General Use, so that a mining company could avoid having to ask for a rezone the area. This effectively removes a critical protection from the towns and from all of us who pay taxes here.

This had been pushed by some supervisors since 2012, as a way to retaliate against the Town of Lynne, and to force a mine on them. Although this maneuver was designed to facilitate a mine at Lynne, it could potentially impact any zoned town in the county, some having large portions zoned 1-A Forestry and General Use.

This Resolution came from the P&D Committee, which does not have a single member who is a strong advocate for our water. In fact, several committee members have been pushing a mine at Lynne for many years. It is clear that this process was used by this committee to push the agendas of the committee members onto the full Board of Supervisors.  

Perhaps the most disgusting aspect of this debacle is that the supervisors disingenuously played innocent, as if they had no choice in voting for something that the people did not want. Yes, gentlemen, you did have a choice, and you decided to vote against local control, the towns, the taxpayers, and against protecting our water resources.

In the early 1990s, our county government lost the public’s trust, and had to learn the perils of sulfide mining in our watery world the hard way. Those lessons have not been lost; they have been deliberately ignored. This government is making the same mistake, and unlike the 1990s, it is not an innocent one. The opposition that you have already seen -- the impressive turnout at the June 6 Public Hearing, and the two dozen public comments made on Tuesday, all against allowing mining in our county -- will increase exponentially. And you will learn that the physical realities at Lynne will not go away. Once again, out tax dollars will be squandered because our government insists on trying to mount a dead horse.

* * *

The P&D Committee turns a deaf ear to the public

Few changes to the rewrite; a non-binding referendum proposed

Analysis by Karl Fate


June 15, 2018--There was only one good thing of immediate relevance that happened at this week's June 13 meeting held by the Planning & Development Committee -- its final meeting before the County Board meeting on Tues., June 19 -- and that is really because of what did not happen.

To understand this, we have to first look at the June 11 meeting. When I read the first account of this meeting, it appeared that the committee went “off agenda.” This has been confirmed by the recent reporting by Richard Moore.

What did the committee talk about when they were “off agenda”?

Essentially, they talked about how to counter the testimony at the hearing that called for the County Forest to remain closed to metallic mining, by putting the issue up as a referendum question on the November ballot, and by the Board simply voting to re-open the forest to metallic mining.

Although it appears that nothing was formally voted on “off agenda,” it is clear that a decision was made regarding the referendum question prior to the June 13 meeting because we were given a finalized version of the referendum resolution at that meeting.

When Chair Scott Holewinski, at the June 13 meeting, brought up the issue of the County Board voting on a resolution to re-open the County Forest to metallic mining, it was shot down by committee member Mike Timmons (who is usually quiet) and he was supported by Dave Hintz, not on the committee but the chair of the Board.  They thought the resolution should wait until after the referendum results are in. It was indefinitely tabled, with the motion made by Jack Sorensen.

The more I think about the referendum resolution, the less I think of it. Aside from the obvious issue of it being brought up “off agenda” on June 11, and then showing up on June 13 as in finalized form as a resolution to present to the County Board, and the reality that lobbyists will be coming out of the woodwork trying to sway votes one way or another, I see another issue with it. 

The question reads, “After performing their due diligence, should Oneida County allow leasing County owned lands in the Town of Lynne for the purpose of metallic mineral exploration, prospecting, bulk sampling and mining?” 

The problem with the wording of this question is that Oneida County has never “performed their due diligence," ever, in the last 28 years since the Lynne Deposit was discovered, and that includes the time that Dave Hintz chaired the Mining Oversight Committee.

I think it is time that we demand that our county government finally come to grips with the physical realities on the ground at the Lynne Site, as well as the rest of our County Forest.

Regarding the Metallic Mining Ordinance rewrite, the 40-some public comments, with few exceptions, were really not taken seriously. We have before us an rewritten ordinance that the people of Oneida County don’t want, that was not constructed in the Public Interest, and does not represent the Public Interest. There are simply too many things still wrong with it, for me to address everything. I think the most important thing we need to ask to have changed, is to only allow mining in areas zoned “Manufacturing and Industrial." This protects the county, it protects the towns, and it protects the people living in an area who would be impacted by the massive change in land use that would be caused by a massive sulfide mine. We get one more chance to do this: on Tuesday, June 19, 9:30 am, at the full County Board meeting.

* * *

Mining still possible on the county forest
Committee does about-face on permit approvals

By Richard Moore
Investigative Reporter, River News/Lakeland Times

June 14, 2018--Opponents of mining who spoke at this month's public hearing for a revised Oneida County metallic mining ordinance won a significant victory at the committee level this week, but they lost when it came to their side's overriding objective. During four hours of public comments at the June 6 public hearing, speaker after speaker urged the county's planning and development committee to amend the proposed ordinance to ban all mining on the county forest, period. This week, the committee met to consider possible changes before sending the proposal on to the county board, but they declined to endorse a complete prohibition of mining on county forestland. Continue reading.  (Subscription required.)

* * *

Public expresses massive opposition to mining
Officials hear repeated calls for mining ban on county forestland

By Richard Moore

Investigative reporter, The Lakeland Times/River News

June 9, 2018--They came by the scores and the scores Wednesday evening, and one by one they delivered to the Oneida County Planning and Development Committee an overwhelming but pretty simple message: Don't allow sulfide mining in Oneida County, and, more specifically, don't allow any mining on county forestland.

The scene was Rhinelander High School, the stage a public hearing on a proposed nonferrous metallic mining ordinance. The county rewrite was sparked by a recent law that repealed the state's mining moratorium and generally requires counties to have a new mining ordinance in place by July 1. Continue reading.  (Subscription required.)

* * *

Testimony Presented to the Oneida County Planning and Development Committee

at the June 6, 2018, Public Hearing on Mineral Extraction in Oneida County


Joint Comments before the Oneida County Planning and Development Committee

on Oneida County Bulk Sampling Moratorium and Metallic Mineral Exploration, Bulk Sampling

and Mining Ordinance Amendments, on behalf of the Sierra Club–John Muir Chapter, the River Alliance of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, and Midwest Environmental Advocates    

 Presented by Dave Blouin

Mining Committee Chair, Sierra Club - John Muir Chapter

Thank you for the opportunity to make these comments and suggestions related to the draft Oneida County Ordinance Amendment #10-2018, Chapter 9. Article 9.61, Metallic Mineral Exploration, Bulk Sampling and Mining.  We understand and appreciate the difficult position that the passage of 2017 Act 134 by the legislature has put the County in.  The draft ordinance is an important and significant starting point for discussion and we offer our comments with hopes of making the ordinance as protective as possible of the County’s interests in safeguarding its residents, property values, and natural resources from destructive industrial-scale metallic mining.

Our interest in this issue comes from our members and supporters who have an interest in protecting and preserving the natural habitat, air, waters and public health of Oneida and its neighboring Counties and citizens.  Our interests include preserving County forest lands for their sustainable income and recreational resource benefits and the Willow Flowage and its tributaries.  As you know, the Willow Flowage is a state protected Outstanding Resource Water that is already being harmed by mercury deposition.

Our concerns arise from the failed environmental track record of the mining industry and metallic sulfide mining in particular. Despite the repeal of the state’s Prove It First regulation requiring proof of successful mining in metallic sulfide minerals, the mining industry has yet to demonstrate any examples of mines that have safely operated and closed without causing pollution.  Mining projects are amongst the largest industrial activities proposed in Wisconsin in terms of land use and leave behind multi-millions of tons of reactive mine wastes covering hundreds of acres of land.  Open pit and underground mines expose the same reactive rock.  The mines are not usually backfilled and closed to limit acid mine drainage production of acid and the release of heavy metal contaminants and both mines and wastes must be managed to control acid production on time scales that begin with decades and can stretch to centuries.

Timing of ordinance approval

Act 134 has established an artificial and arbitrary deadline of July 1 for completion of updating ordinance language but we encourage the Committee to ignore this deadline and take the time to consider amendments or to reject the permitted use approach of the Amendment and return to your existing zoning approach to make the ordinance as legally robust and protective to your residents and natural resources as possible. The likeliest mineral deposit to be proposed for development is the Lynne deposit that is owned and controlled by the County. This means that a company would have to be granted a lease before any exploration or bulk sampling work can be done.  That fact alone means that any company interested in Lynne cannot vest legal rights in your ordinance anytime in the near future and means the July 1 deadline does not apply to Oneida County and you control if and when a mining permit application can be submitted. 

In fact, the Wisconsin Counties Association guidance points out that only a full mine permit application to the County would result in vested rights in the ordinance language at the time of the application[1].  This means that a Notification of Intent to apply for permits, or exploration and/or bulk sampling permit applications would not result in vested rights related to the full mining sections of the ordinance and gives the Committee additional time to consider amendments or even scrapping the current proposal to return to County zoning.

Legislative Intent of County Board to restrict mining

We urge the Committee to honor the vote by the County Board made in August 2012 that rejected mining as a form of economic development for the County and maintain the current legal land use zoning restrictions in the 1-A Forestry District that do not list mineral mining as a conditional use. Mineral mining is currently and appropriately allowed only as a conditional use in the Manufacturing and Industrial, and General Districts and Act 134 did not preempt the County’s authority to maintain this appropriate land use restriction. 

Applicants interested in mining in Oneida County could work with the County and other local governments to re-zone County Forest land if necessary for mineral development if the Ordinance Amendment is not adopted.  If the draft Amendment is adopted, we urge the committee to amend it further by deleting the District 1-A Forestry from the list of districts where nonferrous metallic mining is a permitted use in N.2. (line 576).  This amendment would be consistent with the legislative intent established in 2012 by the County Board.   

Issue with Permitted Use Model and Local Agreement

The Wisconsin Counties Association (WCA) Handbook states that Zoning Ordinances are “zoning ordinances are arguably the strongest and most legally defensible regulatory framework available to counties.[2]”  Oneida County’s current regulatory approach for mining is zoning but the Amendment replaces it with a Permitted Use model.  The WCA notes in its discussion of Licensing Ordinances (or Permitted Uses as in the Amendment) that the Licensing approach has inherent legal issues that could result in the state approving mining permits without the requirement of a demonstration of local zoning approvals based on inconsistent language in the statutes (see WCA excerpt below). 

The WCA also notes that there is legal uncertainty over whether a license ordinance is a legal land use ordinance under state law if the license incorporates code elements that can be considered zoning.  If either of these two legal issues are challenged by a mining company or its proxies, the County could find itself unable to enact and enforce a local agreement and/or the state could simply permit a project without proof of local approvals. Neither of these outcomes are desirable for the County if the goal of the Amendment is to include a valid Local Agreement.

Items 4. & 5., excerpted from Section VIII, Licensing Ordinances, pp 38-39, WCA Nonferrous Metallic Mining Handbook:

     4.  Another Legal Risk in Adopting Licensing Ordinances vs. Zoning Ordinances for Regulation of Nonferrous Metallic Mining:Potential Loss of WisDNR’s “Local Approval” Requirement.  Pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 293.49(1)(a)6, WisDNR must issue a mining permit if certain conditions are met in an application. One of these conditions is that the application demonstrates that “the proposed mining operation complies with all applicable zoning ordinances” (emphasis added).[3] This language is unlike Wis. Stat. § 293.41(1), which references a “zoning or land use ordinance (emphasis added).”

Wisconsin courts have not determined whether WisDNR’s permit issuance is conditioned upon an applicant securing local approvals if those approval requirements are set forth in a licensing ordinance, rather than in a zoning ordinance. Given the lack of case law for guidance, a county faces the risk of its approvals no longer being a condition of WisDNR’s approval if a county elects to use a licensing ordinance to regulate nonferrous metallic mining. In effect, a county’s use of a licensing ordinance, rather than a zoning ordinance, would excuse an applicant’s failure to obtain local approvals when obtaining the mining permit from WisDNR.       

     5.  And Another Legal Risk in Adopting Licensing Ordinances vs. Zoning Ordinances for Regulation of Nonferrous Metallic Mining:  Potential Loss of Ability to Use a Local Agreement.  Wisconsin Statute § 293.41(1) clearly allows a county to enter into a local agreement with a mine operator if that county has a zoning code.  It is less clear whether a Wisconsin court would allow a local agreement to be used in conjunction with a licensing ordinance.  This uncertainty is due to the language of Wis. Stat. § 293.41(1) stating that a local agreement may be used if an operator is required “to obtain an approval or permit under a zoning or land use ordinance.”  While a licensing ordinance seems to meet the “permit…under a land use ordinance” requirement in Wis. Stat. § 293.41(1), a court may determine that a licensing ordinance is not a land use ordinance, thereby eliminating a county’s ability to use a local agreement. In addition, a court may interpret a comprehensive licensing ordinance that meets the requirements of a “land use ordinance” as a zoning ordinance, thus requiring the necessary statutory approval process of a zoning ordinance.[4]

Bulk Sampling Moratorium Resolution

We support enactment of Ordinance Amendment #9-2018 to create a temporary moratorium on Bulk Sampling. Our understanding is that this is to allow time for the state to create administrative rules for Bulk Sampling as specified in Wis. Stats. 293.13. Bulk Sampling in metallic sulfide rock has the same potential as full mining to produce acid mine/rock drainage from the pits and waste materials and should be regulated as protectively as possible due to the short and long-term risk of contamination that is not generally an issue for non-metallic mining. For that reason, we urge the Committee to revise the Bulk Sampling section of the full Ordinance Amendment #10-2018.

It is also unclear whether or not the state will have the time or resources to draft rules for Bulk Sampling in the 18-month window established in the amendment. We want to urge the County to consider drafting additional protections to regulate Bulk Sampling in case the state fails to draft comprehensive rules.  Marathon County is ready to adopt a Bulk Sampling code that includes additional protections such as controls on lighting, blasting hours, hours of operation, dust control, fuel storage and safety, site security, county inspections, a prohibition on chemical extraction and processing and reclamation requirements. These are all examples of appropriate protections the County has authority to enact and that are not preempted by state law.

We also note that the amendment specifies the Oneida County non-metallic mining reclamation standards for Bulk Sampling. County non-metallic mining standards were not designed to handle Bulk Sampling in sulfide materials and we suggest that the Committee adopt reclamation rules that index current state law, specifically Wis. Stats 293.13(2) and WI Administrative Code NR 131.08.  These are the minimum standards the state will require of a Bulk Sampling permit – especially if new administrative rules are not written prior to the 18-month moratorium.

Additional reductions in protections in the Ordinance Amendment

In light of guidance from the Wisconsin Counties Association and comments from the mining industry front group, Natural Resources Development Association (NRDA), we looked at the draft to see whether the County has proposed regulation that supersedes current state regulation and/or potentially makes these activities too “difficult” or even impossible for the industry to meet.  Our review of the ordinance amendment didn’t find anything that oversteps the County’s authority to regulate exploration, bulk sampling or mining.  There are certainly instances where the County duplicates or references lists of state requirements but that duplication is not the same as exceeding the state’s regulatory authority. 

In fact, the amendment reduces a number of important protections that remain within the County’s authority to regulate and we encourage the committee to consider reinstating these code elements plus enacting any additional safeguards it feels are necessary to protect its interests – even if the safeguards appear to be or are actually more protective than state standards – as a statement of intent of policy on metallic mining by the County. These safeguards then help direct current and future County regulators and legislators as they consider permits for mining and for negotiation with a mining company seeking permits to mine.

Local Agreement approval rules

The Amendment proposes two changes from the current ordinance that should be rejected in favor of the current language. The first is the current requirement of a three-fourths vote of the County Board to grant a variance from the ordinance, or to make any part of it non-applicable in a Local Agreement. Making these important decisions subject to a simple majority vote by the Board, as in the amendment, only serves the applicant by making such an important local land use decision easier to gain.  The second is the change in the clause related to opening and modifying a local agreement. The current ordinance states that the agreement “shall” include such language and this is a requirement in state mining law (see: Wis. Stats. 293.41(2)(g).  The word “may” should be replaced for “shall” in the amendment, K.6.b. (line 458). 

The Amendment language for approval of a Local Agreement (lines 427-435), is inconsistent with the list of Timing Milestones and Triggering Events (lines 112-113).  We recommend clarifying K.5.a (lines 427-435) to require the Local Agreement not be signed until immediately prior to or concurrent with the state’s final decision on a permit application. The proposed language here could result in the County signing a local agreement long before all the relevant facts about a mine proposal are known and prior to the closure of the public record on the draft permit(s) and the draft EIS.  Signing Local Agreements before all the facts are disclosed has caused significant controversy and resulted in major delays in permitting efforts in past mine projects at both Flambeau and Crandon. 

The final permit decision by the state to approve or deny the mining permit is required within 90 days of the completion of the public record of public comments and the state’s responses to public comments on the draft permits and the draft Environmental Impact Statement. See Wis. Stats. 293.49. The goal for the County here is not to unnecessarily delay a decision to approve or deny a local agreement; rather it is to ensure that the County has adequate time to exercise due diligence and review the public record within the 90-day window the state has to finalize the mining permit decision and to allow the County time to address any new issues that arise as a result of the public information hearing and public comments that comprise the public record. 

An additional rationale for pushing the signing of an agreement to the very end of the process is that Act 134 reduced the hearings on the Draft and Final Environmental Impact Statements from two to one hearing and only at the end of the process where it is accompanied by draft permits. The result is a significant reduction in the amount of time available for review of the EIS and any public comments including expert testimony that will only be heard at the single hearing. This single hearing is also for information only and is not conducted as a Contested Case Master Hearing thus increasing its importance when considering whether or not a negotiated Local Agreement is protective enough of the County’s interests.

The state’s final permit decision to approve or deny the mining permit hinges on a number of factors including satisfaction that the proposed mining operation conforms with all applicable zoning ordinances.  See Wis. Stats. 293.49(1)6.  This law ensures local governments have an important tool to help them understand the full range of potential impacts to plan for protecting their interests.  

Processing and mine waste restrictions

The current ordinance includes legal protections that are eliminated from the Amendment, specifically: solution mining, smelting and refining, and disposal of mining waste from prospecting or mining sites in Oneida County from a prospecting or mining site outside of the County. The current protections should be retained and in the case of the disposal restriction, expanded to include Bulk Sampling from sites outside of the County. 

Solution mining is a significant cause and source of groundwater contamination from the use of cyanide or other reagent solutions to dissolve economic metals from ore in what are known as “heap leach piles.”  These same toxic chemicals are often spilled or accidentally released at mine sites. Smelting and refining of metals are known causes of acid rain and local and long-range air pollution of land and waters via air deposition of heavy metals that are difficult to remove from processing exhaust and venting.  The final item – restricting mine waste disposal from projects outside of the County – should be expanded to include Bulk Sampling by name and is a common-sense and legal land use control to avoid overfilling existing and potential solid waste facilities in the County.

Specified Setback Distances

The existing setback distances in Chapter 9.6 C.2. have been significantly reduced in the Amendment. We recommend maintaining the current setbacks, specifically:
The setback distance from a residence is currently 2500 feet, while the Amendment proposes to reduce this distance by two-thirds to 800 ft.  The setback distance from a commercial (non-residential) structure is currently 1500 ft., while the Amendment proposes 650 ft.  The setback from a water well is currently 1500 ft., while the Amendment proposes reducing this to 1200 ft.  And finally, the Amendment simply eliminates the current setback of 2500 ft. from any State Natural Areas or County recreational areas – places that should automatically be protected as much as possible from the effects of any mineral mining.    The original setbacks should be retained, not reduced or eliminated as in the Amendment.

Compliance History

The current mining ordinance includes an information requirement related to an applicant’s environmental compliance history (9.61 E.3.h.).  This information requirement would help inform elected officials and the public about an applicant’s compliance history and would not supersede state law provided it is not used as criteria for permit approval or disapproval.

Cited references:
[1] WCA Nonferrous Metallic Mining Handbook, Sec. VIII, 6. Timing and Vested Rights, p. 31,
[2] Ibid, p. 28
[3] Wis. Stat. § 293.49(1)(a)6.
[4] See Zwiefelhofer, 2012 WI 7 at ¶62-63; 76 Op. Att’y Gen. 60, 68 (1987).


Presented by Karl Fate, Rhinelander

Keep the County Forest Closed

The taxpayers of Oneida County are sick and tired of having our tax dollars used to weaken the protection of our Lakes and other water resources because of threats coming from sources outside of our County. We saw this with Act 55, and we are seeing it again with this process. The ultimate responsibility for creating this threatening atmosphere in our County, and across the State, lies squarely in the lap of Senator Tom Tiffany who has no problem spending public resources catering to Corporate Special Interests. 

The only way for Oneida County to put an end to these threats is to keep our County Forest lands closed to metallic mining and to formally spell it out in this Ordinance. The Lynne Site is a horrible place for a mine, but it is not unique. It’s saturated with water and is surrounded by wetlands. There are many such areas on our County Forest.  The sulfide deposits are found in the bedrock. The depth to bedrock on the vast majority of our County Forest is over 100 feet and the depth to water table on our Count Forest is zero to 50 feet.  The mineral deposits are underneath all of this.  There aren’t suitable sites for a massive sulfide mine on our County Forest.  Keep it closed.

Preserve our Current Zoning

The reason we have Zoning is to protect the taxpayers, their Property, and their Resources from large changes in land use. There would be no greater change in land use in our County than a massive sulfide mine.  This reality is reflected in our current Ordinance.  The proposed Ordinance specifically changes this to promote a mine at Lynne and to weaken Local Control.  The lawyer hired by our County is quoted as saying that “you need to add land to it to be attractive to mining companies.” This is inconsistent with mining no longer being “a policy goal” in our County.

A Massive Sulfide Mine is not compatible in either 1-A Forestry or General Use.
A Massive Sulfide mine would not protect the “integrity” of our Forest or preserve it in “a relatively natural State”.  Much of the mine site would no longer be a Forest at all, ever.

Many of the areas in our County zoned “General Use”, such as my own property, are some of the most undeveloped parts of our County where a Massive Sulfide mine would create the greatest of changes in land use.

 The Oneida County Landfill is within our County Forest and is appropriately zoned “Manufacturing and Industrial”.  The waste material created by a mine at Lynne would dwarf the Oneida County Landfill.  And, unlike the landfill that allows groundwater standards to be exceeded up to 150’ from the edge of the landfill, the waste disposal sites at Lynne would be allowed to exceed those standards up to 1,200’ from the edge of the sites.  The mine waste would have to be isolated from the environment for the rest of eternity.

If there were a mine at Lynne, the mine site would have to be withdrawn from the County Forest Program, and the County would have to find land to replace the site because it would be considered a “Net Loss”.    

Allowing metallic mining only in areas zoned “Manufacturing and Industrial” is not a ban or Moratorium. It is an important hurdle that protects the County, the Towns, and most importantly the people that live and work here.
Metallic mining should not be a permitted activity in “1-A Forestry” or “General Use”. 

Local Agreements

I find the treatment of Local Agreements in this proposed Ordinance to be extremely troubling. Ever since Flambeau I, the industry objective has been to get Local units of government out of the way as quickly as possible by making all, or some portion, of a Local Ordinance non-applicable, in exchange for some financial reward given to the Local unit of government. Assistant Corporation Counsel Mike Fugle was recently quoted as saying that, "There's an old saying: Everybody has a price."  Thankfully, not everyone can be bought.

Negotiating a Local Agreement substantially favors the Mining interest over the Local unit of government because the mining interest will know what it wants, in great detail, while the Local unit of government will not.  If a Local Agreement is signed, the Local unit of government will find it extremely difficult to fix the inevitable mistakes, and impossible to get out of because it will have signed a binding contract with another party.

Rather than thoughtful consideration if a Local Agreement is appropriate, or not, at the time, this proposed Ordinance ties the hands of this and future governments by making a Local Agreement a requirement.

Most alarming are lines 458-462 of the proposed Ordinance. Our current Ordinance states that, “A local agreement shall include the right to reopen and modify the local agreement after” approval, and that “In such case, the agreement shall be modified in accordance with the approval process set forth above. The proposed Ordinance states that “A local agreement may include the right to reopen and modify the local agreement” and then requires a three-fourths vote by the County Board to reopen and modify.

Our current Ordinance protects itself by requiring a three-fourths vote of the County Board, for a local agreement to make any portion of the Ordinance “non-applicable,” or to grant a variance from the Ordinance. The proposed Ordinance lowers the bar for a local agreement to make any portion of the Ordinance “non-applicable,” or to grant a variance from the Ordinance, by requiring only a simple affirmative vote of a majority of the County Board. I cannot conceive of a more blatant effort to promote a mine at the expense of the County and the Public’s interest.

A Local Agreement may have a place if it is used to address issues not covered by the Mining Ordinance, but there should be a high bar for making any portion of the Ordinance non-applicable, requiring a three-fourths vote by the County Board, and a low bar, favoring the County, to reopen it.  A Local Agreement should never be approved of until after the County has been able to review the Final Environmental Impact Statement so that it can make an educated decision.

Oneida County has no obligation to facilitate a Mining District in our County

Our current Ordinance has prohibitions meant to preclude a Mining District in, or involving our County.

Specifically, our current Ordinance prohibits “The process of solution mining, smelting or refining,” and “Disposal of mining wastes at a prospecting or mining site in this county from a prospecting or mining site outside of this county.” These prohibitions should be retained in the proposed Ordinance.

Our current Ordinance contains “Bad Actor” provisions, Article 6-17, 6, Environmental Compliance Standards.
These provisions should be retained in the proposed Ordinance.


Presented by Eileen Lonsdorf, Lake Tomahawk

Oneida County Planning and Development Committee: Thank you for allowing me to address my concerns to you this evening.

Sulfide Mining in Oneida County wetlands is a dangerous and thoughtless use of our beautiful Northwoods forests, wetlands, lakes, and rivers. Sulfide mining is the most toxic industry in the United States. * Sulfide mining has never been proven to not pollute the environment, especially the water ecosystems.** Sulfide mining puts rivers, lakes, wildlife, and public health at risk by creating acid mine drainage, a highly toxic process that renders water poisonous and ecosystems severely damaged for hundreds of years.

Oneida county has the highest percentage of wetlands in the state of Wisconsin. It also has the highest percentage of County lands mapped as wetland.*** There are 428 named lakes in Oneida County, Wisconsin, along with 701 with no names. Together they make up 68,447 acres of surface area. Willow Flowage, at 6,306 acres, is the largest. Oneida County is the county with the second largest number of lakes in Wisconsin, after neighboring Vilas County.

As our elected representatives, you should not be inviting or encouraging any sulfide mining to contaminate our Oneida County’s water ecosystem for hundreds of years. You should not be taking it upon yourselves to open up our county forest lands to this sort of misuse. The planning and development committee is using the ordinance to change the permitted use language in section 9.20 that currently prohibits metallic mining in all Forestry zones. That change will allow mining in other parts of the county zoned 1A Forestry, both public and private land.

Our Northwoods economy does not need Sulfide Mining. We are a water-based recreational area. Our tourism economy is based on fishing, camping, resorts, summer camps, and hundreds of miles of forested trails. Visitors to Oneida County spent $221.8 million in 2016. That’s an increase of 2.74 percent over 2015, according the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce. We do not NEED Sulfide Mining.  And if, as representatives of the people of Oneida County, you lack the courage to stand up to Senator Tiffany and his out-of-State mining interests, then you will endanger the health of our citizens, as well as our natural resources....for many, many generations. As our County Board, you gentlemen need to represent the people of Oneida County! We are counting on you!

Metallic Mining is site-specific. Sulfide Mining does not belong in the wetlands of Wisconsin Think twice about this, please. You’ll NEVER be able to undo the damage to our Oneida County water ecosystem. You’ll never be able to undo the damage to our economy, health and safety of all that live up here.

In closing, I want you all to consider the real reason you are sitting before all of us today. You all have to remind yourself that you were not voted in by anyone other than your constituents. You were not put in place by Senator Tiffany, Governor Walker, or Aquila mining company up in Canada. It is your job to do the will of the people that voted you in. You owe it to everyone (all of us in this room, as well as those who aren’t). You owe it to our vacationers. To yourselves and your families. And you owe it to those “downstream” do what is right. You may be making decisions that most likely will affect your children and grandchildren. And you will have that as your legacy.

Cited References:

~ ~ ~

Presented by Rick Plonsky, Harshaw

Gentlemen, I have read through the P&D committee's  proposed ordinance and am disturbed by it in many ways. However, in the interest of brevity I will address what I think is the most significant shortcoming of  your amendment to 9.61: Land use and zoning.

Unfortunately, Senator Tiffany's Bill, Act 134, strips away  most local control  from counties and municipalities  to regulate  non ferrous metallic mining.  But, it does not strip away the county's ability to regulate land use through zoning, nor does it compel the county to allow sulfide  mining on Oneida County Forest land, land owned by the citizens of Oneida county.

To date, the only significant ore deposit of  value to mining companies  is located on a piece of Oneida County Public Forest. The sulfide ore lies under fifty feet of water, and within one half mile of the Willow river.  The Willow  Flowage is designated by the State of Wisconsin as an “Outstanding Water Resource.”  “Of Wisconsin’s 15,000 lakes and impoundments, 103 are designated as an Outstanding Water Resource—fewer than 1% .”  1

According to the WI DNR,   Outstanding Water  Resources  “warrant additional protection from the effects of pollution. “   Also, according to the DNR, “The Willow Flowage Scenic Waters Area is isolated from roads and development. This remoteness, along with its natural shoreline, draws visitors from around the state and region.”2

The Willow Flowage is a rare jewel that should be protected at all costs, not exploited and put at grave risk for limited short term economic gain.  Regardless of assurances to the contrary, sulfide mining cannot be accomplished without damaging surface water. If it could, Senator Tiffany would not have authored Act 134 to eliminate the “Prove it First, “ Moratorium on sulfide mining. Mining companies would simply have used  scientific evidence to allow the permitting process to take place. That evidence does not exist.  

“Fisheries have been impaired world-wide by releases of Acid Mine Drainage from mining areas. The mining industry has spent large amounts of money to prevent, mitigate, control and otherwise stop the release of Acid Mine Drainage using the best available technologies, yet Acid Mine Drainage remains as one of  the greatest environmental liabilities associated with mining, especially in pristine environments with economically and ecologically valuable natural resources.” 3

The P&D committee, and the  Board can  protect the Willow, by simply  prohibiting mining on County Forest Lands.  The County Forest  belongs to the citizens of Oneida county, and the  water of the Willow Flowage belongs to the citizens of Wisconsin. You have the power to protect both.  Just say NO!  To do otherwise is simply reckless, and puts our water, our fishery and our $229M per year tourism economy at great risk.

Additionally, the P&D Committee's current revision  of  9.61 N. (2)  changes permitted use in land zoned  1-A Forestry and  General Use. Currently, no metallic mining is permitted in either zone, only  land  zoned Manufacturing and Industrial can be utilized for mining.  This change is a mistake,  common sense should relegate mining to land zoned  Manufacturing and Industrial  since it is an industrial use, just like our landfill.   This protects other landowners, our water resources, and our environment from inappropriate siting of  mines. The P&D committee should revise 9.61 N (2)  accordingly.

Cited references:


Presented by Al Gedicks, Executive Secretary, Wisconsin Resources Protection Council

Methylmercury (MeHg)

Oneida County has the highest percentage of wetlands in the state of Wisconsin. It also has the highest percentage of County lands mapped as wetland. The proposed Lynne mine site is nearly all wetlands. This poses a significant risk for both aquatic resources and human health from mercury methylation, the most dangerous form of mercury. The discharge of sulfate from extraction and processing of sulfide minerals can stimulate the conversion of mercury in wetlands to methyl mercury. Bacteria that are common in wetlands and lakes transforms the heavy metal deposited by air into something that can be transported up the food chain — from micro-organisms to fish to pregnant women. The methyl mercury that bioconcentrates through the food chain increases impacts on both aquatic resources and human health.

The sulfate discharges into the water, the sulfur compounds into the air, and mercury into both air and water, plus flooding and destruction of wetlands, creates the perfect storm to produce huge increases in the amount of methyl mercury in fish as a result of bioaccumulation, from the very smallest organisms in the water up to the largest fish, that can result in an increasing concentration of a million times. Methylmercury can be absorbed much more easily than mercury into the bodies of insects and other small organisms. When these small organisms are eaten by bigger living organisms such as fish, the heavy metals enter the fish. Those metals can remain in the fish for extended periods. As the fish eats more of the smaller organisms the amount of heavy metals increases.

And we, as human beings, as well as wildlife — we're at the top of the food chain. And the fetus is at least five times more sensitive to the effects of mercury as an adult. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can affect the brain and nervous system development in fetuses, infants and children. In Minnesota's Lake Superior region, already one out of 10 newborns are born with levels of mercury in their blood that exceed safe levels — levels of mercury that are high enough to show in scientific literature a correlation with decreased IQ.

Methylmercury contamination will have a disproportionate impact upon the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe

The Willow Rapids are immediately downstream of the proposed Lynne mine and is an important walleye spawning ground. DNR staff surveyed the Willow Flowage and noted "excellent population level/ standing stock; outstanding size structure of stocks and/or trophy fishing; endangered, threatened or watch list aquatic species or unique strains." The survey supported the Willow's classification as Outstanding Resource Water (ORW), which gives  the Willow Flowage non-degradation status.

Mine waste discharges upstream would degrade water quality in the spawning area and the flowage. Methylmercury contamination of walleye and other fish species would have a disproportionate health impact upon the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe, who have a greater reliance on fish consumption than the non-Indian population. This is the textbook definition of environmental racism where minority populations suffer a disproportionate health impact from toxic waste discharges.

The Lac du Flambeau Tribe, in a letter dated April 11, 2018, to Oneida County Board Chairman Dave Hintz, expressed the Tribe's concerns related to mining activities and invited the Oneida County Board to meet with the Lac du Flambeau Tribal Council. The Tribe never received a response, nor has there been notice of consultation with the Tribe, by either state of federal officials related to this issue.

A May 14, 2018, Tribal Resolution stated that "the Tribal Council is extremely concerned how proposed commercial mining activities within Oneida County, which is located within the 1836 and 18421 Ceded Territory, could negatively impact treaty protected hunting, fishing, and gathering by Tribal members."

The resolution resolved "that the Tribal Council hereby states that it will seek any and all legal avenues to challenge any mining activity in the Town of Lynne and/or the County of Oneida that would negatively impact the Tribe's hunting, fishing, and gathering rights; disturb any historical sites and/or negatively impact the environment within the 1836 and 1842 Ceded Territory.

Mining projects lacking a "social license to operate" can result in local resistance to environmentally destructive activities and encourage a militarized response where mining companies hire private security firms to repress democratic expressions of resistance.

The reason why Oneida County is contemplating overturning the previous policy of excluding metallic sulfide mining from county forest lands is the legislation promoted by Sen. Tom Tiffany and the mining industry lobby which repealed Wisconsin's Prove it First Mining Moratorium. Public opinion polling prior to the repeal of Prove it First found that 72 percent of Wisconsin residents wanted to keep Prove it First protections from mining pollution. After just two weeks of circulating a petition of public opinion, over 300 property owners in Oneida County indicated they were against mining in lake/wetland rich Oneida County. There were no votes for mining, even when a possible economic boom was pointed out.

If resort owners, property owners, environmental groups and the Lac du Flambeau Tribe are united in opposition to any metallic sulfide mining in Oneida County, this is clearly an entire community saying no to mining — there is no "social license to operate" here.  Yet Sen. Tiffany was quoted saying that "You have to get that social license to mine. It's the price of doing business these days for a mining company."

The last time Sen. Tiffany changed the law to promote mining was the ill-considered Gogebic Taconite iron mine in the Penokee Hills. When it became clear that there was widespread opposition to an open pit mine next to Lake Superior, Gogebic Taconite hired a private security firm that placed armed guards with automatic rifles and camouflage uniforms in county forest land around the proposed mine site. If Oneida County lands are opened for mining in the face of widespread local opposition, how long will it be before we see armed guards protecting mining operations from democratic dissent?

Respect the will of the people, Reject sulfide mining in Oneida County.

* * *
Wisconsin Communities have a right to protect
clean water from metallic sulfide mining

By Al Gedicks, Executive Secretary,
Wisconsin Resources Protection Council
May 30, 2018

Wisconsin counties urged to adopt mining regulations by July 1, 2018

With the repeal of Wisconsin’s Prove It First Mining Moratorium Law, the state of Wisconsin now claims that it has the authority to assert that counties have until July 1, 2018 to enact mining regulations, mining ordinances or zoning ordinances to regulate metallic sulfide mining. We would assert that state preemption of counties passing mining bans is not justified or legally valid when such preemptive actions violate county elected officials’ duty (and oath of office) to protect “the health, safety and welfare” of their communities. Nor is a state imposed deadline on such passage valid for the same reason. Even the bill’s chief author, State Sen. Tom Tiffany told a reporter that “You have to get that social license [community acceptance] in order to mine.” He said he didn’t include any language in the bill pre-empting local governments inherent right to protect their citizens.

Marinette County says metallic sulfide mining is a “prohibited use”

On May 29, 2018 the Marinette County Board adopted an ordinance listing “nonferrous metallic mining” as “a prohibited use and shall not be considered a part of the specified uses except as allowed by a local agreement.”

Can metallic sulfide mining be regulated?

A recent literature review for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concludes that permitting large scale surface mining in sulfide-hosted rock with the expectation that no degradation of surface water will result due to acid generation imparts a substantial and unquantifiable risk to water quality and fisheries.

Community Rights Ordinances Can Prevent, Rather than Regulate Destructive Mining Activity

Since the early 2000s, about 200 communities and counties in nine states have passed legally groundbreaking and locally enforceable Community Rights ordinances that ban harmful corporate activities and protect the community’s rights to govern itself.

In November 2014 residents of Mendocino County, California passed the Community Bill of Rights Ordinance by 67% of the county vote. The Ordinance bans fracking, dumping of frack waste and protects their water from being used for fracking anywhere in the state. Mendocino County became the first California community to adopt a Community Bill of Rights, placing their interests above corporate interests. Residents see the enactment of this ordinance as the first step in asserting their right to local self-government, and a rejection of the idea that their community will be a sacrifice zone for corporate profits.

Here is what Paul Cienfuegos, the founding director of Community Rights US had to say about the July 1st deadline for enacting zoning and mining ordinances after the repeal of Prove It First:

“This state-imposed deadline is also one that municipalities and counties have every right to refuse to abide by. Local elected officials need to start acting as if they understand that they are the duly elected representatives of The People of that community or county. They’re not there to salute every time the state takes some of their local power and authority away. Some day the local elected officials will start to understand this, and act upon that understanding, as hundreds of elected officials from those 200 communities and counties already do, where Community Rights ordinances have already been passed.”

“Dark money” behind the repeal of Prove It First Mining Moratorium

The effort to repeal Wisconsin’s landmark Prove It First Mining Moratorium Law was a profound assault on the democratic process initiated at the grassroots level that led to bipartisan support for the legislation in 1998. The repeal campaign, led by Sen. Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) had the support of the most powerful corporate interests in and out of the state, including Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s largest business group, Aquila Resources, a Canadian mining company, and Americans for Prosperity, a dark money electioneering group created by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

The Community Rights movement is a reminder that government is required to serve us. The Wisconsin Constitution is clear on this point. Article 1, Declaration of Rights states:”governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Contrary to the dire predictions of attorneys for local governments, the vast majority (95%) of Community Rights Ordinances have never been challenged in court. Faced with the prospect of permanently contaminated drinking water supplies or a possible court challenge to local self-government, which is the riskier possibility? 200 communities and counties in nine states have decided they’d rather face the possible lawsuit.

(This article is an edited excerpt from the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council newsletter. Used with permission.)

* * *
Open Letter to the Oneida County Board of Supervisors

By Eileen Lonsdorf
Lake Tomahawk, WI

May 23, 2018--The subject of the June 6th Public Hearing is “Mineral extraction in Oneida County.”  Really?? Come on guys! (Note that per the recent election, you are all guys on the Oneida County Board.) You make it sound like you’re digging up copper nuggets with a spade! Let’s not sugar-coat reality here. Call it what it is: “Sulfide Mining in Oneida County Wetlands.”

Sulfide mining puts rivers, lakes, wildlife, and public health at risk by creating acid mine drainage, a permanent toxic process that renders water poisonous and ecosystems lifeless.

Oneida County has the highest percentage of wetlands in the state of Wisconsin. It also has the highest percentage of publicly-owned county lands mapped as wetland. There are 428 named lakes in Oneida County, along with 701 with no names. Together they make up 68,447 acres of surface area. Willow Flowage, at 6,306 acres, is the largest. Oneida County is the county with the second largest number of lakes in Wisconsin, after neighboring Vilas County.

So why would you invite a Canadian mining company in to ruin Oneida County’s water ecosystem forever? Certainly not because it will “boost our economy.” We don’t need our water-based tourist economy “boosted” with sulfide mining, thanks anyway. Visitors to Oneida County spent $221.8 million in 2016. That’s an increase of 2.74 percent over 2015, according the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce.  We do not need sulfide mining.  And if our County Board members lack the courage to stand up to Sen. Tiffany and buckle under to his threats, they will will endanger Wisconsin families and its natural resources for generations. Our County Board should represent the people of Oneida County, not outside mining interests.

Sulfide mining in the desert of Morenci, Arizona, is a whole different ballgame than sulfide mining in the wetlands of Wisconsin. Think twice about this, please. You’ll never be able to undo the damage to our Oneida County water ecosystem. You’ll never be able to undo the damage to our economy, health and safety of all that live up here.

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The men behind the push to bring sulfide mining to Oneida County
and how they are going about it

By Karl Fate

May 19, 2018--On Aug. 21 ,2012, the Oneida County Board voted to end a proposed plan to lease the County Forest for metallic mining. The Lakeland Times reported that Corporation Counsel Brian Desmond declared, “Since the resolution failed to receive a majority vote, mining “will no longer proceed as a policy goal for Oneida County. “The mining issue will be stricken from agendas [of the Forestry Committee].”

This outcome did not sit well with some supervisors, so one month later, mining was back on the agenda, this time in the P&D Committee. The committee members present that day were Scott Holewinski, Jack Sorenson, Dave Hintz, and Gary Baier.

Some of the supervisors were visibly angry, one directing his ire specifically at the Town of Lynne; another proclaimed that nothing was more important than a mine. Lynne had taken a position that they would veto any attempt to rezone the Lynne site to allow a mine there, so the committee was seeking to retaliate by allowing mining in areas zoned Forestry 1-A, so that a rezone would not be required at Lynne.

The committee kept pushing this for some time, until it was finally dropped in 2014 because of substantial public opposition.

This month the committee has found a new opportunity to resurrect this ploy designed to facilitate a mine at Lynne.

Because of State Sen. Tom Tiffany’s law (2017 Wisconsin Act 134) that repeals the Mining Moratorium Law, the state’s counties were given six months to develop a mining ordinance, supposedly to “protect themselves.” Oneida County already has a Metallic Mining Ordinance. Early on, County Board Chair Dave Hintz said, “We have a good ordinance, we are in a good place.” As it turns out, rather than being a process to protect the counties, the Ordinance is being constructed under threat.

In Oneida County, we still don’t know who or what the source of the threat is, but apparently, the threat is that, if the counties create a “too restrictive” ordinance, they will be stripped of local control.

This seems to have become of an opportunity than a threat to some of the supervisors. Three of the supervisors on the committee that wanted to allow mining in areas zoned Forestry 1-A back in 2012, are also on the P&D Committee that is rewriting our ordinance: Scott Holewinski, Jack Sorenson, and Dave Hintz.  Although Hintz was recently, but not currently, a committee member, it is reported that he still attends meetings and is actively involved in the meeting discussions.

The current process is being used, to try again, to allow sulfide metallic mining in areas Zoned Forestry 1-A, to “grease the skids” for a mine at Lynne. 

 Here is what Forestry 1-A is supposed to be about, according to 9.20 of the current Oneida County Ordinance: “The purpose of the District 1-A Forestry is to protect the integrity of the county's forested lands by preserving such land in a relatively natural state.”

Let’s be crystal clear. A massive sulfide mine at Lynne does not “protect the integrity of the county’s forested lands by preserving such land in a relatively natural state.”

The committee wants us to believe that a sulfide mine is really like any non-destructive use of our forest lands.  It isn’t. There is no greater change in land use anywhere in our county than a massive sulfide mine. Our ordinance needs to reflect this, but what is being proposed ignores this reality. This must be corrected.

When the glaciers receded thousands of years ago, they left behind vast beds of gravel, saturated with water, that cover the bedrock where the mineral deposits lie. These saturated beds of gravel are over 100 feet deep on much of our county forest lands, and they cradle our lakes, streams, and wetlands. The vast column of water held in these beds of gravel is intimately connected to our surface waters.

More than 20 years ago, Noranda proposed to remove 6.7 million tons of overburden and another two million tons of waste rock before removing any ore. It was never clear how Noranda would handle the large amount of water in those 6.7 million tons of overburden and the vast watery areas around it.

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The State can't force the County to put a sulfide mine
in its publicly-owned forest lands

Open Letter to the Oneida County Board of Supervisors
By Rick Plonsky

May 16, 2018--I reside in Oneida County and am opposed to sulfide mining in environmentally sensitive areas, for example, the Willow River watershed.

I believe State Senator Tom Tiffany's bill (2017 Wisconsin Act 134) was ill-advised and dangerous  not only to the environment, but to the tourism economy of northern Wisconsin. Although Oneida County has no choice but to bring its ordinances in compliance with the new state law, the county is under no obligation to grant mining companies access to Oneida County Forest land.

This article from The Duluth Reader and its accompanying photo vividly illustrate the dangers of mining in watersheds. Fortunately, this spill was composed principally of iron oxide, and thus the primary danger is to fish populations. A spill of acidic water mixed with other metallic oxides associated with sulfide mining  would have far more dire consequences.

Industrial accidents associated with mining continue to this day, and no technology — no matter how mature and well developed — can guarantee against their occurrence now or in the future. The short-term economic gain associated with sulfide mining is not worth the very real risk of catastrophic pollution to the Willow.

I urge you: please do not allow county lands to be mined, especially the Town of Lynne site, which is extraordinarily vulnerable.

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P&D Committee finishes up rewrite on metallic mining ordinance
Next step: the public hearing

By Sarah Juon

May 13, 2018—After months of laboring over an extensive revision of the Oneida County’s metallic mining ordinance (9.61), the county board’s five-member Planning and Development Committee signed off this week on its final draft and began preparing for presenting it to the public. The required public hearing will be held June 6, 6 pm, in the Rhinelander High School auditorium.

The revision was necessary after the passage into law of State Sen. Tom Tiffany’s “Mining for America” bill in December, known as the 2017 Wisconsin Act 134. The Act, which goes into effect July 1, lifted the state’s moratorium on metallic mining, in effect for the past 20 years. The moratorium had required that applicants for approval of a sulfide mine demonstrate to the DNR that a sulfide mining operation in the U.S. or Canada had operated for at least 10 years without polluting surface water or groundwater and that such mine had been closed for 10 years after mining without polluting surface water or groundwater.

The Oneida County P&D Committee was charged with re-writing the county’s ordinance to conform with Act 134, which left little leeway for the stronger environmental protections that are in the original mining ordinance. Mike Fugel, one of the P&D’s lawyers specializing in mining, told the committee many times, “The overarching theme of this [re-write] is, you can’t require more than the State requires. You have to be backtracking along with the State requirements.”

So, what is being changed? What do citizens need to know, going into the public hearing?

1. First, it’s important to understand that while the neither the current ordinance nor the new one refer to “sulfide mining,” sulfide is the major component of mining in the three major deposits found in Oneida County. The mining would be for copper ore, zinc, nickel and precious metals; the hard rock these metals are found in is sulfide-bearing rock. Sulfuric acid is created when sulfides are released through the mining process and exposed to air and water.

2. The current ordinance says that non-ferrous metallic mining is prohibited in all zoning districts other than the #08 Manufacturing/Industrial zoning district. The new ordinance opens up mining exploration in the following zoning districts: District 1-A Forestry (167,000 acres of publicly-owned land); District #8 Manufacturing and Industrial; and District 10 General Use.

3. Instead of requiring a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for mining operations, a one-time permit into which restrictions can be applied, the new ordinance requires simply a permit, subject to review by the P&D. The timeline of 60 days for reviewing the scope of the county baseline study in the current ordinance has been dropped, as has the 120-day review period of the application, and the 90-day period before recommendation or denial of the CUP. There is no mention of a second hearing by the County Board.

4. The permitting process follows a new procedure, triggered by a mining company’s expressed intent in applying for a permit. A committee will be formed, known as the Local Impact Committee for Nonferrous Metallic mining, or Mining oversight/Local Impact Committee (MOLIC). This committee will be composed of a group of individuals who will play a significant role. Lawyer Mike Fugel told the committee: "Ultimately, the local agreement is going to be the lynch pin in terms of someone having a mining operation." The new ordinance doesn’t spell out who chooses who is to be on this committee, or its make-up. Will the affected town’s interests be adequately represented? Is there a danger of loading up the committee with either pro- or anti-mining? The committee is given the power to negotiate the Local Agreement with the town where the mine would be. The Local Agreement receives a public hearing, and a vote of a simple majority by the County Board, after which the mining company can be permitted.

5. The current ordinance prohibits the process of solution mining, smelting or refining, and disposal of mining wastes at a mining site in the county. This has been dropped from the re-write.

6. Financial responsibility for the applicant has been watered down. The current ordinance states a certificate of insurance certifying the applicant as an active liability insurance policy deemed adequate to cover all mining activities, for no less than $25 million, and must remain in effect for 40 years following the permanent closing of the mine. The re-write shortens the time required for the insurance provisions to remain in force—only through the reclamation operations—and specifies that impairment liability coverage be “not less than $10 million per claim, and $10 million in aggregate.” Sen. Tiffany attended the P&D Committee on Wednesday to reassure it that the changes to the financial assurance requirements in 2017 Wisconsin Act 134 were sufficient to cover damages at a mining waste site, for up to 250 years after closure. The new financial assurance requirements need to be studied carefully to see if, as claimed, they are sufficient.

7. Bulk sampling, part of the process for determining the quality of a deposit, is defined under the new re-write (9.62) as excavating “less than 10,000 tons of material, including overburden [covering rock] and any other material removed from any portion of the excavation site.” There is no language provided for monitoring or regulating this process, and the duration of the moratorium "shall be in effect for 18 months up to and including January 1, 2020."

8. Through the passage of 2017 Wisconsin Act 134, the state has opened its doors to mining. Environmental standards have been lowered. For instance, Act 134 states that “groundwater contamination enforcement standards do not apply below the depth in the Precambrian bedrock below which the groundwater is not reasonably capable of being used for human consumption.” Current law states that “groundwater standards generally apply from the land surface down through all saturated geological formations.” Act 134 “eliminates special administrative code provisions applicable to impacts to wetlands caused by a nonferrous [sulfide] mining operation.” Under the current law, generally applicable wetlands requirements apply to a mining site. The area cited for mining in the Town of Lynne is a vast wetland.

9. Can the Town of Lynne just say No to mining? According to lawyer Mike Fugle at the committee meeting on Wednesday, "A town could say no to mining, we’re never going to agree to a mine; but that would likely open a town up to litigation." Committee Chair Scott Holewinski added, "MOLIC would be the town’s level of participation. It would be veto power for town. Like the county can’t just say no to mining, nor can the town. They have to have good reason to say no."

The state’s 72 counties will be dealing with increased pressure from mining companies to issue permits. Oneida County in particular will be targeted. Citizens will need to inform themselves about the new law, and think hard on how mining would affect the county’s forests, wetlands and water bodies—the life breath of its $221 million/year tourist industry.

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Oneida County Planning & Development Committee revises mining ordinance
to allow mining in county forest lands

By Sarah Juon

May 5, 2018--At Friday's P&D Committee meeting, three out of five members were present, enough for a quorum, and they used it to make important changes to their current draft of the Oneida County Zoning and Shoreland Protection Ordinance, Article 6, Section 9.61, which addresses regulation of metallic mineral exploration, bulk sampling and mining in the county.

The current Ordinance states "Special Conditional Use Permit Required. Mining and prospecting operations and mining site whether conducted or located in whole or in part within this county may be allowed under a special conditional use permit in accordance with the provisions of this section, but only in the #08 Manufacturing/Industrial zoning district."

The most significant change requested was to ask the committee's lawyer, Bill Scott, to adjust the draft to rezone county-owned forest lands (1-A) for permitted use of metallic mining, as well as the General Use zone. This would be in addition to the current Ordinance's #08 Manufacturing/Industrial zoning district. They also voted to eliminate the need for a CUP, and go only with the permitting process, with "General Standards" applying. Committee members voting were County Supervisors Jack Sorenson, Scott Holewinski and Ted Cushing. Billy Fried and Mike Timmons were absent.

Bill Scott told the committee that the mining district "has to include more land, you need to add land to it to be attractive to mining companies." With more land use open to mining, "you can do away with Conditional Use Permitting (CUPs), and just go with Permitted Use, and General Standards would apply." Scott noted that the Committee would likely run into incompatible standards for mining in some districts, but he felt that forestry would not be incompatible for mining. "You can reclaim forest lands. The mine is a temporary thing. You can restore forestry use [when the mine is closed]...The 1-A zone looks considerable in size, and may be sufficient."

Other proposed changes to the mining ordinance reflect the Committee's desire to receive proposals from mining companies. The Committee is intent on establishing a Joint Local Mining Impact Committee for reviewing applications as soon as they are filed with the County. The composition of the Committee has to be worked out, but may include committee chairs, town chairs and others.

If the Committee gets its way, the Northwoods as we know it will change. Wherever there is a mineral deposit, even in county forest lands, the land could be destroyed for a mine and subject to sulfide runoff. Mining companies, along with their promoters among the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate, will make a case for how good the technology has gotten and how responsible mining companies are for cleaning up their waste sites. But their claims are undermined by the government's lifting of the Moratorium Law last year, which stated that no company would be given a permit without proving it had a record of restoration lasting 10 years. Here is a short video taken yesterday  by Eileen Lonsdorf of a piece of Oneida County-owned forest land in Woodruff. The spring peepers are joyous with the warm weather. This area could be subject to mining.

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The watery wetlands in Lynne are eyed
by Oneida County officials for sulfide mining

By Karl Fate

May 2, 2018—Because of the repeal of the Mining Moratorium Law last year, the mining issue is once again being discussed in our Oneida County courthouse.

Our county-owned forest lands in the western part of Oneida are where the Lynne sulfide deposit is located. Currently, the county forest is closed to metallic mining. We want to keep it that way.

Consequently, it is once again critical to make the problems with a mine located at Lynne crystal clear. I am holding ongoing tours at the Lynne site to publicize the wetland and water issues at the site and doing a photographic chronicle of those water and wetland issues at Lynne. Stream 16-4, about ½-mile downstream of the deposit, was out of its banks this spring. There are large wetland areas associated with this stream and some of those wetlands lie above the western portion of the Lynne deposit.

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Oneida County citizens want and deserve transparency

Analysis by Karl Fate


April 11, 2018–Now that I have my taxes done, here is my report on the Oneida County Planning and Development Committee meeting last Wednesday.

If I could sum it up in a few words, it would be “The natives are getting restless.”
Both myself and Jeff Brown of the Town of Lynne  expressed our displeasure with how this was being done.

The people are being blocked from being effectively involved in this process.  We need to see the details of what Attorney William Scott is communicating to the committee.

County Supervisor Jack Sorenson offered a resolution so that the committee can decide to release documents marked “Confidential” rather than need approval of the full County Board to do so. Only committee member Billy Fried voted no.

The million dollar question is why did the county hire a lawyer that wants to communicate with the committee with ‘Confidential” letters regarding what should be a very open process?

 The most alarming moment of the meeting was when Supervisor Dave Hintz suggested that one of the options was to not have an Ordnance but a Local Agreement with a specific mining Company. Of course, that would contradict the county policy  that “Mining is no longer a policy goal.”

I thought that the committee favored one of the three options offered by Attorney Scott, but I find the three options  in written form, to be different from what was actually discussed.

We are also hearing rumors that the county is being threatened with having Local Control taken away if it has a too “restrictive” Ordinance. Is this coming from State Senator Tom Tiffany? No one will tell us, and it is adding to the aura of secrecy around this issue, and is creating an atmosphere of distrust.

I told the committee that I sensed that a “Covert Government” was operating in the building.

We need to make it very clear to all of the county supervisors  that this ordinance  is all about protecting the county, protecting the county’s towns, and protecting our water resources, and not at all about facilitating a mine. 

And, we need to be clear that we want our count forest to remain closed to metallic mining.

Did I forget anything?

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Oneida County’s P&D Committee veers into the bizarre

over resurrecting sulfide mining


A report by Karl Fate


March 30, 2018—Wednesday we sat through another bizarre Planning & Development Committee meeting, so I would like to assess where we are in Oneida County regarding the review of our mining ordinance.

There are two problems afflicting the P&D Committee’s review of the Ordinance.

1. A lack of transparency

At a previous committee meeting several weeks ago, County Board Supervisor David Hintz suggested to the committee that he could talk to Attorney William Scott about reviewing the mining ordinance with the committee’s permission. He did talk, but there was not a motion nor a vote made by the committee to give him permission to do so.

Hintz talked to Scott alone, rather than with the whole committee.  Scott was the only attorney Hintz talked to because he was the only candidate that was given any consideration. Hintz is refusing to divulge everything he talked to Scott about, stating attorney client privilege.
For background, note that it was Scott who collaborated with Hintz and Tom Evans on the plan to lease the Lynne Site for “exploration” several years ago.

At the meeting Wednesday the first substantive agenda item was to go into closed session regarding the mining ordinance, “with respect to litigation in which it is or is likely to become involved.” Supervisor Jack Sorenson vehemently opposed going into closed session.

The closed session seemed to revolve around a “confidential” letter that the committee had received, which the committee seems to find threatening. We have no idea what this letter says or who sent it.

2. A lack of focus

The committee is spending much, if not most, of its time talking about Local Agreements rather than the mining ordinance. The law has not been changed regarding Local Agreements because it delivers what the mining industry wants. Since there has been no change in the law, there is no need to change our ordinance in this regard, unless we want to improve it. There is no immediate, substantive reason to be talking about Local Agreements unless there is a mine actively being proposed and it is what the local units of government want.

It is painful listening to the county’s Corporate Counsel Brian Desmond ramble on about Local Agreements while nervously twirling his pen and cautioning the committee that he really doesn’t understand them very well. It was bizarre to hear him say that he wondered how many suitcases of money the county might get.

Unless the committee fixes these problems soon, it is in danger of losing whatever confidence we may have had in this process.

The committee did receive its first analysis from Scott but was unable to discuss it much because it had just received it. I will want to read it myself before commenting on it.

Both Jeff Brown and Lisa Zunker of the Town of Lynne made very strong statements against a mine at Lynne. Zunker, who has been Lynne’s county supervisor for the past four years, has chosen not to run for a third term.

I told the committee that it would save everyone a lot of grief if they kept the County Forest lands closed to metallic mining, and that since the Lynne deposit was the only deposit in the county of any real significance, it was unlikely there would be a mining proposal as long as the County Forest remained closed.

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Sulfide Mining Will Not Keep Our Northwoods Waters Clean

An editorial by Eileen Lonsdorf
Lake Tomahawk, WI

Feb. 26, 2018--The critical issue with mining in the Northwoods is our dependence on clean water.
Clean water is not a partisan issue here. We are really not as hopelessly divided as our politicians would like us to believe. The folks of Northern Wisconsin actually have much in common when it comes to our environment. And as difficult as it seems in these times of violently differing political ideals, it is important to remember what we have in common, so that we in the Northwoods can unite and protect what is near and dear to us.

We must turn a deaf ear to politicians who tell us about “all the jobs that mining will bring to our community.” We must tell them that the Northwoods doesn’t want or need our $20-billion tourist industry ruined by the guaranteed water pollution that accompanies an open pit sulfide mine constructed within the Willow River watershed. This should be of special concern to those who live downstream, as well, since the pollution will flow right into the Wisconsin River.
We must remember that the mining companies chomping at the bit to blast open our northern Wisconsin landscape aren’t even Wisconsin owned. Aquila Resources is Canadian, as is Noranda Mining, while others are based in Western and Southern states and even in South America.

We do not need to replace our pristine, clear lake water with yellow acid water containing heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, copper sulfate, and manganese, that will destroy fish and plants, poison ground water (our drinking water) and turn our lakes and rivers into dead zones for perpetuity. We do not need to risk our health and put our children and grandchildren at risk of developing autism caused by heavy metal ingestion.
Clean water is essential to our Northwoods economy, and to the safety and health of all who live and vacation up here in the land of lakes. Unfortunately, once acid drainage enters a water source, it’s there forever.

Our Northwoods region has thousands of lakes, and is believed to be the third highest concentration of lakes in the world. Many of the state’s major rivers, such as the Flambeau, Wisconsin, Wolf, Peshtigo, and Brule-Menominee rivers, originate in the Northwoods region. Our exceptional water quality needs to be protected by a united effort of the people of Northern Wisconsin. It doesn’t matter whether we are Republican or Democrat. We will all be affected in the exact same way.
Recently, the Wisconsin state legislature quietly lifted the State's regulatory protections that had been in place to protect Wisconsin lakes and rivers from sulfide acid mining. We (all of us!) now have a few short months, until July 1, to put in our own county protections to prevent mining companies from polluting our non-partisan water and destroying our non-partisan environment. 

Tell your county board representatives not to remove our local protections, and to strengthen our current protections. Tell them to represent you, and not the interests of mining companies.

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The five-man P&D Committee once again has its eyes on

sulfide mining deposits in Oneida County

A report by Karl Fate on the Jan. 31 meeting

Feb. 2, 2018—The Planning and Development Committee did a lot of dithering over what steps Oneida County should take next, in light of the recent Act 134 passed by the Wisconsin Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker to remove the 20-year moratorium on sulfide mining. Suggestions from citizens attending the meeting addressed what improvements could be made to the county’s Mining Ordinance currently in effect.
However, the committee, chaired by Supervisor Scott Holewinski and comprised of Supervisors Billy Fried, Dave Hintz, Jack Sorensen and Michael Timmons, spent most of the time talking about mining leases and local agreements. Corporate Counsel Brian Desmond was taken to task for letting this discussion go over the line, with little being accomplished.
Oneida County has three mineral deposits that I am aware of: the Lynne Deposit, the Pelican River Deposit, and the Wolf River Deposit.  Only Lynne could be considered a stand-alone deposit. Lynne would be considered economically viable if not for two things. It is a massive sulfide deposit that resides under 50 feet of saturated overburden, with a lake bed just to the north, a stream just south, and another stream just east, plus vast areas of wetland extending in nearly every direction from the area over the deposit.
It is extremely remote that we will see a mining lease in the County anytime soon that triggers the Ordinance, unrelated to property that the County does not control. I don’t believe any law has been passed that alters the Local Agreement law, so our Ordinance should be entirely intact regarding Local Agreements. When the Ordinance was being worked on, I argued that it should be entirely insulated from a Local Agreement, instead we ended up with a compromise. Currently, Oneida County forest lands are not currently open to metallic mining. Even if they were, the county is not compelled to lease the deposit.
The Ordinance states: “The Local Agreement may not declare any portions of this ordinance non-applicable to a prospecting or mining operation or include variances from this ordinance except upon an affirmative vote of three-fourths of the members of the County Board and upon the affirmative vote of the Town Board of each Town in which the proposed mining site is located. In addition, any exceptions, variances or rezoning from state mandated zoning requirements must comply with the standards prescribed by state law.” This is not perfect, but it is serviceable.
Hintz acknowledged that he had chosen a lawyer and then communicated with the lawyer by himself, with no transparency. This is especially concerning since several years ago Hintz felt that he could make decisions about the leasing of the County Forest in a three-way teleconference with the lawyer Bill Scott and Tom Evans of the Wisconsin Geological Survey.

After the meeting I did some research and reviewing the Dec. 20, 2017, P&D committee draft minutes. In the minutes there is no indication that there was a vote to permit Hintz to contact Attorney Scott.  I also picked up an audio CD from P&D of the Dec. 20 P&D meeting and have listened to the agenda item multiple times, and concluded, to the best of my ability, that here is what happened and what did not: The issue of hiring an attorney came up and it was strongly suggested that this would have to go through the Administration Committee.

Hintz stated that our mining ordinance was Bill Scott’s work. This is not true. Scott was hired to develop a mining lease bid package for the county. Hintz mentioned Scott on several occasions and, eventually said, “with this committee’s approval, I(Mr. Hintz) could call Mr. Scott” about the issue. There may have been a mumbled approval by a supervisor, or a wink and a nod, but clearly there was no vote taken on the matter. It also seems reasonable to expect that there should have been an explicit agenda item for an upcoming meeting, and that the entire committee, not just Hintz, should have talked to Bill Scott and other candidates.
Following are some notes from Dave Blouin (Mining Committee Chair for the Sierra Club, John Muir Chapter) that help us understand why we need to enact a stronger County Mining Ordinance, and quickly:

“According to Larry Konopacki with the WI Legislative Council, WI Act 134 did nothing to preempt local control or the local agreement law. Konapacki was clear in his presentation at the WCA/WTA seminar that the intent of the new law was clearly meant to honor local control and that the new law did nothing to affect existing police powers and/or zoning by the local governments or any new controls enacted before July 1 and/or before an application to mine is submitted. See his presentation starting at the 1 hour mark and especially around the 1:25 mark:

"It is uncertain whether a Notice of Intent to apply for permits would freeze current local control and that uncertainty is definitely driving Marathon County’s work to build a solid ordinance ASAP, given they have none on the books so far and Aquila is interested in the Reef prospect in the town of Easton there. We’re researching this but it defies logic that the law would allow a NOI to suffice to freeze existing local regulation in place. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the new law reduced a lot of protections that local units should think about when drafting any new legislation."

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Is sulfide mining really safe? This short video may help you decide whether it's right or not for your community.

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County Board peers over the abyss and walks backwards,

afraid to rattle the chains of Madison

Weds., Jan. 17, 2018—After 11 months and seven public hearings, yesterday the Oneida County Planning and Development Committee offered its resolution (#5-2018) of amendments to the county’s Shoreland Protection Ordinance. The County Board chambers were packed — standing room only. More than 18 people registered to make public comments, all of which were asking the Board Supervisors to say No to the resolution. No one spoke out in favor of the resolution, which commits the county’s Zoning Department to follow the general, lowered standards of shoreland protection set forth by Wisconsin’s Act 55 of 2015, authored by Sen. Tom Tiffany of District 12.

Former supervisor Bob Martini pointed out that the weakened state law, as applied to the lake-rich district of Oneida, will allow 100-ft. lot sizes on small lakes. He urged the Board to step back and take another look at the amendments, with the aim of using whatever opportunities there are, even under the current law, to strengthen protections — a step the current Planning and Development Committee has been timid about taking. Former supervisor Tom Rudolph reminded the Board that they had two passed resolutions “still on the books” from 2015 in which the Board, along with many other counties, petitioned the State Legislature to repeal Act 55.

Jane Banning of Crescent voiced the concerns of several speakers when she shared her story: “We moved here six years ago, not primarily, but in part because it is the antithesis and repudiation of Lakes Mendota and Monona, which have killed shoreline and water quality due to over-development. Have you been swimming in those lakes on a hot August day? You can't. Eaten fish out of those lakes? You shouldn't. Seen eagles soaring overhead? You won’t. Please protect our pristine lakes.”

Dave Hart of Schoepke echoed the thoughts of many when he said, “Our natural resources are our best asset. It’s why I came here, for the natural beauty of our area. We need to preserve or better, improve on it.”

Scott Eshelman of Newbold said that this, being an election year, would be a good time for local county boards to lean on state legislators, and let them know that we want our local control back. “The only way to get Madison’s attention is to draw the line — no more taking control. We could get sued, but it hasn’t happened too much, and if it did, it would garner some attention. Peace, quiet, natural beauty, these are the top reasons people want to live here.”

Several speakers from Sugar Camp lobbied the Board to preserve Zoning D-2 for single residence density on Sugar Camp and Indian lakes. Corporate Counsel Brian Desmond said he was waiting for the state’s attorney general to respond “yes” or “no” to whether Sugar Camp’s request for keeping its current zoning, which would not be in compliance with the State’s regulations, would be acceptable. “I’ve been waiting for nine months for a response,” he said. Supervisor Scott Holewinski, representing the Sugar Camp area, claimed that Sen. Tiffany had told him that he would petition for preserving zoning for Sugar Camp, so “I say we should take the risk.”

Several supervisors spoke out against the resolution. Supervisor Bob Mott advocated for resisting Act 55. "We need to throw out the state regulations that counties can’t zone more restrictively, which I prefer to call ‘protectively’”. He pointed out that Act 55 allows for lowering the standards for shoreland mitigation, buffer zones, lighting, building heights, corridor widths, inspection of construction upgrades such as septic, and the size of impervious surfaces. “The key is, the State has made Oneida County like any other county, no matter that we have a $220 million tourist industry to protect. We need to uphold the Public Trust Doctrine.”

Supervisors who spoke out in favor of the resolution cited concerns over the State suing, fining or otherwise punishing the county for non-compliance. Alan VanRaalte expressed the worry that litigation would arise from anyone denied a building permit that did not meet the standards of the county's ordinance. "I don't want to put the taxpayer in jeopardy."

In the end, six courageous supervisors voted No: Carol Pederson, Lisa Zunker, Bob Mott, Jim Winkler, Bill Freudenberg, and Bob Metropulos. The yea-sayers were: Alan VanRaalte, Billy Fried, Dave Hintz, Scott Holewinski, Robb Jensen, Tom Kelly, Lance Krolczyk, Greg Oettinger, Sonny Paszak, Greg Pence, Jack Sorenson, and Alex Young. Absent were: Ted Cushing, Mitchell Ives, and Michael Timmons.

Remarks made by Karl Fate of Rhinelander,

during the public comment period:

We have finally had hearings on the loss of local control in our beloved State of Wisconsin. Unfortunately, there are fundamental problems relating to these recent hearings that addressed amendments to the Oneida County Shoreland Ordinance to put it in compliance with the Wisconsin Act 55 of 2015, authored by Sen. Tom Tiffany. Act 55 prohibits a county zoning ordinance from regulating a matter more restrictively than the standards promulgated by the DNR. Act 55 was tucked into a budget bill at the last minute, not given any public hearings, to make it law, Act 55 should have been put forth as a proposal to hold hearings around our state, especially in the northern counties, where the consequences of the proposed changes are so dire.

I have testified on these changes at recent hearings on at least five occasions and have consistently stressed that Oneida County should never willingly agree to changes it knows are harmful to the long-term health of our lakes. However, because these lower standards in shoreland protection are now already law, and, especially given the perceived threat that Oneida County will be punished by the state and/or some special interest should it resist, comments such as mine have been rendered irrelevant. This is not an accident.
These changes to the regulations that protect our waters were tucked into the bi-annual budget bill to stifle legitimate public opposition. What makes this especially troubling is that the people who are being stifled are the owners of the waters that will be negatively impacted by these changes, and worse, that our state legislators are supposed to be representing the public’s interest in the waters our state, but clearly are not.

The changes made in this resolution are harmful to the long-term health of our lakes and this is ultimately harmful to our county. Anyone who knows our lakes understands this; most everyone in this room understands this; the DNR understands this. Even the state legislature surely must understand this, but they clearly don’t care, because the state legislature consciously decided to blow up the critical relationship between the State and County governments, a relationship vital to the protection of our lakes. I don’t know, specifically, what special interest the state legislature is representing, but it’s clear they are not representing the public’s interest in our lakes, even though it’s their constitutional obligation to do so, as laid out in Wisconsin’s Public Trust Doctrine more than 150 years ago.        

I understand that the Board is under intense pressure today to approve this resolution (#5-2018), given the perceived threat that it will be punished if it does not. But imagine that: a county punished by the state, or some special interest, for trying to protect its own lakes. Is this how corrupt our state legislature has become?

If you send a signal to the legislature today that you are okay with this, our county will be spending time and resources every year making yet more changes that are harmful to our county and our Lakes, and then you will be expected to just say “okay.”

I urge the Board to reject or indefinitely table this resolution and then make it clear to the legislature that this is not okay by drafting a formal, detailed, Letter of Protest, coordinating with other counties across the North, and then sending the letter to every elected politician in our state government. 

This mess was created by our state legislature. Now, they are the ones who need to fix it.

Read this report of Thurs., Jan. 18, in the Northwoods River News by Richard Moore for a comprehensive account of what changes will occur in regulating shoreland areas, as well as the pro- and con- remarks made during the Board's consideration of Resolution #5-2018.

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We must fight to protect our legacy

Wisconsin's wetlands keep our waters clean and stable

By Karl Fate, Rhinelander, WI

Jan. 12, 2018--Several thousand years ago, the glaciers that covered this part of Wisconsin receded, leaving behind a vast bed of gravel that was saturated with water. This is the very nature of where we live.  It’s why we have so many wonderful lakes and why we have so many wetlands. Our wetlands are the support system for our lakes, our streams, and our groundwater, often in interconnected, directly and indirectly, ways. Wetlands store water and filter it, keeping our waters clean and stable. They are also critical for protecting a wide array of wildlife.

Our surface waters, as well as our wetlands, are being increasingly threatened by development. It is a time when they need more protection, not less. Unfortunately, the state legislature these days is representing special interests instead the public’s interest. They are proposing new laws that would allow the destruction of some of our wetlands without a permit. Our wetlands serve a site-specific purpose. “Mitigating” wetland destruction by “creating” a wetland somewhere else does not replace the purpose of the wetland being destroyed.

Wisconsin should be honoring its wetlands instead plotting their destruction. Anyone who understands the nature of our watery world should be opposing these proposed laws.

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Another assault on local control

Legislature proposes to remove restrictions on developing Wisconsin’s wetlands

By Karen Kitze, Crescent, WI
Jan. 11, 2018--Currently, the state legislature is discussing two bills, AB457 and SB600, both of which would remove restrictions on wetland protection in Wisconsin. These bills would exempt non-federal wetlands from permitting requirements. The bills exempt all wetlands that are not under federal jurisdiction (those that are connected to navigable waters) from DNR permitting requirements.

These bills, again, remove local control from citizens and raise the possibility of outright destruction of wetland habitats. According to Wisconsin Green Fire, a state association of retired scientists, researchers, conservationists and DNR employees, "If enacted into law, AB547/SB600 would result in degradation or outright conversion of wetland habitats, reducing Wisconsin's rich diversity of wetland habitats and the ecosystems they support. It removes protection for wetlands that provide many ecological services, including feeding downstream waters, supporting groundwater connections, trapping floodwaters, removing pollution, and providing fish and wildlife habitat. These wetland services support agriculture, recreation, and are key drivers of Wisconsin's tourism economy." Read Green Fire's full analysis of the harm these bills would do to Wisconsin's wetlands.

Bob Martini, a board member of Wisconsin Green Fire, recently proposed to the Oneida County Board that the zoning and planning commission put all wetlands under general zoning so that all wetlands currently on the DNR wetland map be protected by general zoning. I urge readers to support Martini's proposal and encourage the Oneida County Board to enact it. You can help by writing to your state legislators in opposition to these bills and by contacting your county board supervisor to support Bob Martini's proposal.

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Northwoods communities must act quickly
Deadline looms for creating local ordinances to protect groundwater

and soil from sulfide mining pollution

By Eileen Lonsdorf, Lake Tomahawk, WI
Jan. 10, 2018—In December our state legislators repealed the moratorium on industrial acid mining by passing Senate Bill 395 and Assembly Bill 499. The communities that are targeted for mining now have a very short time, until July 1, 2018, to put local ordinances in place to protect our groundwater and soil. If we do not meet that deadline, we will have no recourse but to accept the consequences of tailing ponds, acid mine drainage, and miles of decimated streams and rivers.

There was no reason to repeal the moratorium, since Wisconsin law had already stated that this type of mining was allowable. The catch was that mining companies first had prove they could use industrial acid mining techniques without harming the environment. And that...they could not do. To date, there are zero mines — none — that have used this process and successfully prevented environmental damage.

Sen. Tom Tiffany, the bill’s author in the State Senate, argues that mining techniques have “advanced.” He points to the Flambeau mine is evidence of a “successful mine.” However, the Flambeau mine, closed now, is responsible for Flambeau River tributaries currently being classified as “impaired and toxic,” according to the Wisconsin DNR.
John Torinus, a business leader in West Bend, wrote an insightful piece on economics and our environment. “Somehow,” he noted, “GOP legislators have bought the erroneous theory that the environment and economy are an either-or proposition. Nothing could be more wrong. Advances for the economy and the environment are complementary, not competing.”

Wisconsin’s Northwoods depends on a $20 billion tourism industry, not on open-pit mining. Tourism depends on the health of natural resources: on clean water and clean lakes. This recurring revenue is a major, sustainable economic engine. Fishing guides can’t sustain a business when their clients can’t catch fish. Resorts can’t entice visitors to canoe, kayak, swim, or water ski in polluted water.

Sen. Tiffany and Gov. Scott Walker have the backing of significant industry resources who stand to gain without concern for those who choose to live and vacation in the Wisconsin Northwoods long after the mine gives up all its treasure.

As citizens of Oneida, Marathon, and other affected Wisconsin counties, it is our responsibility to preserve and protect the earth, the air, and the water we all need to survive. Therefore, I urge you who care about balancing economic development with environmental protections to call or email your local county legislators and implore them to get local ordinances in place now.

                                                            Local involvement is vital

The Town of Lynne, in Oneida County, is one of several proposed sulfide mine locations. (See references below). The county supervisor position in that District (19), is up for re-election. There are two people running to replace Lisa Zunker, who has announced she is not running again. They are Jeff Vollmer and Robert Almekinder. You, as a citizen of Northern Wisconsin, have a choice.You can vote to back the mining industry and disregard any environmental ordinances by voting for Robert Almekinder. Or you can vote to strengthen our local ordinances to prevent environmental pollution by voting for Jeff Vollmer. For more information, contact Vollmer directly.

If you aren’t a resident in  District 19, you can help by spreading the word to people you know in Minocqua, Lynne, and areas affected by the mine who do have a vote. Attend the Oneida Planning and Development meetings. Attend the county supervisor board meetings. Get involved, learn, and speak out about what’s important to you.

This is an issue that will affect all of us. Going “up North” means “going fishing, going up to the cabin, going to the lake, and swimming, water skiing, canoeing and kayaking in water “where you can see the bottom.” This concept does not include an open-pit sulfide mine that will eventually change forever what you now know as “Up North.”

To read more about the effects of sulfide acid mining:

Things gone wrong:
Sulfide mining explained:
Map of proposed mines:

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State legislature weakens water protection laws

to lure mining industry to Wisconsin

Analysis by Karl Fate, Rhinelander, WI

Jan. 4, 2018--Back in the early 1980s, when Exxon was proposing a mine southwest of Crandon near Mole Lake, there was a huge promotional campaign to make the argument that this would be a modern mine, using new technologies to assure the water resource would be protected.

At present the only proposed sulfide mine in the region is across the border in Michigan, and several Wisconsin counties across the river are actively opposing it. Yet once again we are hearing the same argument: that technology will assure that a mine today in Wisconsin will protect our water resources. This argument is an even less meaningful than it was 35 years ago. Here’s why:
Our state legislature, led by Sen. Tom Tiffany, has been working hard to weaken Wisconsin’s mining laws, as well as other laws that protect our water and wetlands. If the argument that today’s technology will protect our water is true, then it would mean that the industry would have an easier time complying with existing law. Why then have the laws been weakened?

It is important to understand that the even if a technology exists, it may not be employed because it is cost-prohibitive, or because the mining interest may choose not to employ it to cut costs and increase profitability. Consider the Crandon Mining Company, which was a partnership between Exxon and Rio Algom. It determined it could save millions of dollars by employing less technology to minimally clean up their wastewater by piping the wastewater through a 38-mile-long pipeline to be discharged into the Wisconsin River below Hat Rapids. This ended up being a strategic nightmare for the company, a huge controversy for the DNR, and it brought out the worst and the best of Oneida County’s governing entities.

There are two related reasons why the state legislature has been weakening the mining, water, and wetland laws. The first reason is to cut industry costs. The Iron Mining Law, passed in 2015 (see Archives, 2015 Report), which will go down as one of the most corrupt chapters in Wisconsin history, was designed by Tiffany to create a low-cost producer of iron ore. This was done by weakening the protection of our waters, limiting opportunities for public involvement, and disregarding local control. The law went so far as to reverse legislative intent, presuming that damage to the state’s natural resources was a necessity. This is a clear violation of our state constitution because the legislature abandoned its obligation to represent the public’s interest in our navigable waters.

The laws were weakened also to accommodate the faulty argument that this would make previously failed mining projects happen.
The proposal for an iron mine in the Penokee Hills ended because the mining interest did not want to pay the cost of mitigating the enormous amount of wetland destruction that would have been caused by the project. In this way it is like the failed Lynne project in Oneida County. In both cases, the mining interests were literally scratching the surface of the problems that they would have encountered when they pulled the plug. It happened at Penokee Hills even though the law was drastically weakened to accommodate the mining interest.

We live in a very watery part of the world that is of great importance to the people who live here. The sulfide deposits found here were buried under our waters when the glaciers receded. This is an exceedingly difficult environment for constructing a sulfide mine. Costs are higher in such complex and difficult locations. The industry understands the immense issues that confront them, were they to propose a mine in such a difficult location, and they know that the recent repeal of the Sulfide Mine Moratorium Law doesn’t change these realities. Lowering the bar may not make these mines more possible, but it will increase public opposition.

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For previous reports, visit OCCWA's Archives page.

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Upcoming Events and Meetings

Welcome to OCCWA

OCCWA (Oneida County Clean Waters Action) advocates responsible representation at the local and state government levels for protecting our greatest in the Northwoods: our pristine waters, wetlands, forests and clean air.

This OCCWA website serves as your resource for news about environmental issues that impact Oneida County in northern Wisconsin.

Learn how you can help keep sulfide mining out of our Northwoods and clean rivers and lakes.

Visit the website Protect the Willow, and visit "Protect the Willow" on Facebook.

    OCCWA's mission

    ​​​​​​OCCWA will provide reports on county and state government actions that affect the quality of our environment, and to offer ways in which you can participate in helping preserve our beautiful natural environment.​​

    Check out our Forums Page for views on important state and local issues that affect our clean waters. Go to the Information Center for information about local and state environmental groups working to preserve our natural heritage. On the Legislative Watch page you'll find contact information for our current Oneida County Board Supervisors.​ For learning about the impact of sulfide mining on waterways and groundwater, visit the Lynne Mineral Deposit Site page.

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Waterway protection

The public trust doctrine

Wisconsin's Waters Belong to Everyone
Wisconsin lakes and rivers are public resources, owned in common by all Wisconsin citizens under the state's Public Trust Doctrine. Based on the state constitution, this doctrine has been further defined by case law and statute. It declares that all navigable waters are "common highways and forever free", and held in trust by the Department of Natural Resources.

Assures Public Rights in Waters
Wisconsin citizens have pursued legal and legislative action to clarify or change how this body of law is interpreted and implemented. Go to the Wisconsin Department of Resources website to watch videos on how individual Wisconsinites have benefited from these efforts.

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Oneida County Clean Waters Action

* Featured Book for 2019 *

Oneida County author Ted J. Rulseh shares his love and knowledge about our beloved freshwater lakes. The editor and publisher of several books on the Great Lakes region, he is the author of On the Pond: Lake Michigan Reflections, and writes the newspaper column "The Lake Where You Live" for the River News. A Lakeside Companion is published by the University of Wisconsin Press.

"Your lake is an intertwining world," Rulseh says. "It's in the water, in the sand, gravel, rocks, and muck of the bottom; it's on the surface and in the air above; it is along the shoreline—a belt of land incredibly rich in life. Just as important is what you can’t see: the physical, biological, and chemical processes that determine, for example, how many and what kinds of fish live in the lake, which plants grow there and how profusely, the color and clarity of the water, and how soon the ice forms in winter and melts in spring. I’m not a lake scientist—just someone who loves lakes, cares about them deeply, and has studied them in high school and college courses, in books and magazines and online sources, and through personal experiences. I grew up in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, on the shore of Lake Michigan, but I found inland lakes more captivating than the big lake, more accessible and inviting, especially those in the northern regions. The fascination took hold from the first time my family vacationed in a rustic lakefront cabin in the big woods of Upper Michigan, back when I was nine years old. I now live on Birch Lake, 180 acres of water, deepest point 27 feet, in the glacial lake country of north central Wisconsin.

"No doubt you have enjoyed lakes in many of the same ways. Now I invite you to look deeper at the forces that shape lakes and the life that abounds in them. I hope this book helps you know your lake more intimately, and come to love and appreciate it even more than you do today."