There’s a new – but not necessarily unexpected – development on a proposed iron ore mine for northern Wisconsin. The Army Corps of Engineers is not willing to work with the Department of Natural Resources on an Environmental Impact Statement.
“This is what we expected to hear from the Army Corps of Engineers,” said Ann Coakley, Waste and Materials Management Program director with the DNR. She noted that officials with the Corps testified during public hearings on legislation that eventually became the state’s new mining law that the differences in state and federal environmental requirements would preclude the two agencies working together on an EIS.
A letter from the Corps to DNR Deputy Secretary Matt Moroney said as much. “The reason we received the letter is because we sent them a letter at the end of November, asking them to collaborate with us,” said Coakley. “The statute says that we need to cooperate with federal agencies, and we want to.”
Still, the diverging timelines of two separate Environmental Impact Statements could very well prolong the process of permitting a controversial open-pit mine proposed by Gogebic Taconite in Iron and Ashland Counties. The new state law directs the DNR to complete that process in a year.
“It’s possible that their EIS would be finished a year or more after ours,” said Coakley. “That would mean the company couldn’t get started until the federal process is complete. We will definitely keep working with the Army Corps of Engineers. We have all of this year, and we’ll keep in close contact and participate in meetings with them.”
Staff at the Army Corps of Engineers St. Paul District office, which has oversight for Wisconsin, were not available for comment Thursday.