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Gov. Walker not opposed to EPA involvement in proposed mine; OK if for science not politics Submitted: 07/02/2014

Adam Fox
10 p.m. Anchor/Reporter
afox@wjfw.com


RHINELANDER - Gov. Scott Walker (R) says he wouldn't oppose involvement by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during the state permitting process for a proposed iron ore mine in the Penokee Hills.

Northern Wisconsin's six Chippewa tribes want to go around the state's mining regulation process and turn to the EPA.

The tribes say they can't rely on Wisconsin's regulatory process to protect fish, wildlife, wild rice, or water quality in northern Wisconsin.


The tribe hopes the agency will stop a four mile long proposed iron mine in Iron and Ashland counties.

Walker said at a campaign event in Rhinelander on Wednesday that isn't opposed to EPA as long as their involvement wouldn't be political because he believes the state's mining process would pass any federal inspection.

"It's one of those (things) where we wanted to have a process for safely and environmentally sound mining," Walker said. "We think if the EPA is actually using science based technologies, then ultimately we believe you can both have the operation."

Republicans passed a mining bill signed by Gov. Walker in March 2013 that paved the way for the mining operation. The partisan bill was seen by Democrats as a piece of legislation that weakened environmental safeguards. Republicans argued it cut bureaucratic red tape and simplified the states permitting process.

Gogebic Taconite wants to dig the mine. It would be the largest iron ore mine in North America.

Leaders for the project say it could bring more than 500 permanent jobs to the area that is lagging behind the rest of the state in employment.

According to May unemployment statistics from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Iron County has 11.3 percent unemployment, while Ashland County has an 8.5 percent unemployment rate. Those rank 70th and 71st out of Wisconsin's 72 counties. Menominee County has the state's worst unemployment rate at 15.1 percent.

Governor Walker believes the mine would benefit more than just those counties.

"In the end, for the people particularly in Iron and Ashland County, and also all throughout the state of Wisconsin, who would benefit from both the jobs and the construction, the jobs related to the ongoing operations for many cases are generational," Walker said.

Leaders from Gogebic Taconite and the Wisconsin DNR are working on a multimillion dollar environmental impact study right now. Gogebic Taconite is paying for EIS project.

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RHINELANDER - Rhinelander's softball coach approached the city to build a second softball field at Pioneer Park earlier this year. 

When the City approved the softball association's request to look into the possibility of another field, people on both sides of the argument spoke up. 

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PHILLIPS - Police want to figure out what caused the death of a 16 year old girl in Phillips.

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The call was made about 6:00 Thursday morning, after the girl was found not breathing and unresponsive.

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MADISON - President Barack Obama is making a fundraising plea for Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold.

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CRANDON - Pounding rain, howling winds, and flashing lightning�"not the most ideal conditions for camping on Saturday night.

In fact, Saturday night's bad weather couldn't have picked a worse time for thousands of people to set up camp at the Crandon Race Track.

"We were holding onto the awning last night," said Keegan Kincaid, a racer from Crandon. ."It was pouring."

"Our canopy [got] rained [on] so much we had to keep pushing it up so it wouldn't collapse," said Paul Posbrig, a fan from Green Bay.

"It was coming in all over," said Jessie Braden, a fan from Richfield.

But for Crandon fans, the rain certainly didn't dampen the weekend.

"But we made the best of it," said Braden, who comes to Crandon every summer for the Brush Run.

"We had a canopy at one point and put up tarps on the walls as we got downpoured on and it was all windy," Braden said. "If we're going camping, it's going to rain!"

The fans also got their fair share of noise because the rain didn't really affect the race schedule.

"We just had to wait a little bit longer before we could put crews out on the track," said the raceway's announcer, Dave Mullins. "So needed it to dry off a little bit first. But really it was only about a half hour."

But it certainly changed the racers' strategy.

"And so you'll see a lot of changes in trucks and driving styles," Kincaid said.
"Figure out the track, sort out where the grip is, where it's wet, where it's dry," said Arie Luyendyk, Jr., a racer from Arizona.

But Crandon's track is pretty resilient.

"Most tracks we wouldn't be able to race on it the next day, but Crandon has a lot of clay," Kincaid said.

"Because this is a clay track, it doesn't absorb the water as much, it makes it more like a mud pit," Mullins said.

Sunday's nice weather quickly brought the track's conditions back to normal.

"I thought we were going to be racing in the mud, but turns out because of the sun and wind we're actually going back to our setup we had yesterday," Luyendyk, Jr., said. 

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