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Wetlands permit denied for Back Forty mine

The decision came after mine opponents challenged the permit issued in 2018.
Published: Jan. 5, 2021 at 8:12 AM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) - A Michigan judge has overturned a decision by state regulators and denied a key permit for a proposed gold, zinc and copper mine in Menominee County. This decision coming just two weeks after Michigan State Circuit Court dismissed the challenge to Back Forty’s mining permit.

According to Aquila Resources, an administrative law judge ruling Monday denied the wetlands permit for the Back Forty Project in Lake Township, north of Menominee. The decision came after mine opponents challenged the permit issued in 2018 by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

The company says it disagrees with the decision, but believes it can resolve the cited issues. The ruling came from an administrative law judge for the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules.

According to Aquila, Judge Dan Pulter determined Aquila’s groundwater model does not provide a reliable identification of wetland impacts and therefore found the permit application to be administratively incomplete. The judge also determined that Aquila did not provide a complete assessment of potential alternatives to its proposed plan.

“The Company is evaluating its alternatives, which include the submission of an updated permit application or appealing the decision to the EGLE environmental review panel. Aquila has worked diligently to limit impacts to surrounding wetlands and is only directly impacting 11.2 acres of regulated wetlands,” said Barry Hildred, President and CEO of Aquila Resources.

Click here to read the full press release from Aquila about the decision.

The Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River says in a statement that it is very pleased with the decision.

“One of our big arguments was that the application should never have been considered administratively complete by EGLE because the wetland impacts were not reliably identified, which deprived the public of its right to review and comment. Judge Pulter agreed,” said Dale Burie, coalition president. “Another issue we raised was that Aquila did not properly assess the alternatives to avoid wetland impacts. Again, the Judge agreed. And, on the big question of whether EGLE could issue a permit with conditions that would have allowed Aquila to submit new and updated modeling to support the wetland impacts, the Judge said such conditional permits are not allowed.”

Read the full press release from The Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River:

“The Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River, Inc. is very pleased with Judge Pulter’s decision in our Contested Case to deny Aquila Resources’ Wetlands Permit. His decision validates many of the objections the Coalition raised with respect to the Permit.

One of our big arguments was that the application should never have been considered administratively complete by EGLE because the wetland impacts were not reliably identified, which deprived the public of its right to review and comment. Judge Pulter agreed.

Another issue we raised was that Aquila did not properly assess the alternatives to avoid wetland impacts. Again, the Judge agreed.

And, on the big question of whether EGLE could issue a permit with conditions that would have allowed Aquila to submit new and updated modeling to support the wetland impacts, the Judge said such conditional permits are not allowed.

The decision itself is over 70 pages long, and our attorney is still assessing what it all means. We do understand that the next step, should any of the parties so choose, would be to seek review from the Environmental Permit Review Commission. That request would have to be made within 21 days.

Respectfully submitted,

Dale Burie, President

Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River, Inc.”

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