Public hearing on Oneida Co. ordinance changes turns into attack on miningSubmitted: 06/06/2018
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter

Public hearing on Oneida Co. ordinance changes turns into attack on mining
RHINELANDER - Wednesday night's public hearing in Rhinelander was designed to take public comments on specific proposed changes in Oneida County's mining ordinances.

Instead, it turned into a lopsided public assault on metallic mining in general.

The county's Planning and Development Committee is considering a complete overhaul of its metallic mining rules, as prompted by a new state law. The law, which repeals Wisconsin's so-called mining moratorium, gives counties until July 1 to make changes to their standing ordinances.

Mining ordinances are of special interest to Oneida County. A potentially valuable deposit of zinc, lead, copper, and other minerals lies below county forest land in the town of Lynne. Companies first began considering projects in Lynne decades ago.

But a large majority of people speaking at Wednesday night's hearing rejected any notion of open-pit mining in Oneida County.

"Be warned. If mining is allowed in our forestlands, this will become a different place," Sarah Juon told the committee.

Under the proposed changes, any mining exploration or bulk sampling would have to be approved by the Planning and Development Committee. A mining permit would need simple majority approval from the full county board.

Currently, a special conditional use permit for mining requires three-fourths support from the county board.

Some wanted county ordinances to read much differently.

"Today I am proposing that Oneida County be the first county in Wisconsin to ban all metallic mining," said Mark Pflieger, who lives in Harshaw. "Our waters are too precious to even risk the chance of a mine."

Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) wrote the bill repealing the state mining moratorium. Gov. Scott Walker signed it in Rhinelander last December.

"It is about jobs and it is about northern Wisconsin. We have a comparative advantage here in northern Wisconsin over the rest of the state," Tiffany said at Wednesday's hearing. "It's billions of dollars of wealth that's underneath the ground."

Among a small handful of supporters of mining exploration at the hearing was Dr. George Karling, the superintendent of the Three Lakes School District.

"The best way to keep our young people and families in the Northwoods is to develop these resources appropriately," Karling said.

Several members of the Lac du Flambeau tribe, the tribe with a reservation closest to the Lynne deposit, registered strong opposition to mining.

"This is a promise from me. We will expend [our tribe's monetary] resources the best we can to litigate and to fight any type of mining," said Brooks BigJohn, a member of the Lac du Flambeau Tribal Council.

The county committee will begin deliberations on the proposed mining ordinance next Monday. They will continue Tuesday and Wednesday, if needed. If the proposed ordinance passes, it will move to the full county board for approval by the July 1 deadline.

"We have been in a hurry, but we tried to take into consideration public comments as best as we could," said Oneida County Planning and Zoning Director Karl Jennrich. "Our intent is to get something in place."

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WOODRUFF - Ascension Wisconsin Spirit Medical Transport hosted a fun-filled day for family and friends on Saturday.

This comes about five months after one of its helicopters crashed, killing three Spirit employees.

Regional manager Charles Kotke said those men were in mind today,

"Today is a day of bringing people together, as well as a celebration of our 25 year anniversary," said Kotke. "This team did an amazing job getting us back to caring for our patients and doing what we need to do to care of our community."

Flight paramedics showed off the aircrafts to people and the helicopter was a big hit.

"They definitely like to look at the aircrafts. See how we transport patients from point A to point B," said Northern Region Supervisor Ryan Short.

Next Saturday, Spirit is celebrating with more associates. The second part of the celebration will be in Stevens Point.

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RHINELANDER - Kids ran throughout the Woodpecker Bar and Grill in Rhinelander on Saturday for the third annual Harvest Hoedown.

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A 16-year-old girl is missing from Sawyer County according to the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Angel Marie Simonson is reported as an endangered missing person. She is a white female, 5'7", and 220 lbs. 

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RHINELANDER - A house fire in Rhinelander left one man dead Friday.

Emergency responders got the call around 7:30 p.m. for a home near Hodag Park.

Steve Smith heard a dispatch call over his step-sons radio about the fire at his neighbor's home on Rose Street.

"We walked out the front door and it was plain as day," said Smith. "The flames were rolling out of the front window."

At first, Smith wasn't sure if anyone was in the home. "There was a man they brought out," said Smith. "unfortunately, I heard he was deceased,"

Police Chief Lloyd Gauthier confirmed the victim was found dead on the scene.

"Life saving measures were done by the paramedics. Unfortunately, the male had passed away," said Gauthier. "At this point, it appears that it was due to something left on the stove."

Gauthier says more details about the victim will be released on Monday. 

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THREE LAKES - After 30 years, Dr. George Karling decided it's time to retire as the Three Lakes District Administrator.

He plans to leave after the school year ends, but the school board is already preparing to find his replacement.

Early next month, the Three Lakes School District will host two input sessions for the public.

Three Lakes residents can go to give their opinions on what they want in a replacement. 

Karling's decision to retire comes about a month after he faced criticism for allowing the district to be featured in a campaign ad for Gov. Scott Walker. 

People who can't make it can still send their thoughts to the Three Lakes Board of Education. People can submit comments by writing to:

Board of Education, Three Lakes School District
6930 West School St. 
Three Lakes, WI 54562 

or email: tr@threelakessd.k12.us.

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