Public meeting about Superior Harbor dock renovations gets coated in subject of oil

By KBJR News 1

November 26, 2013 Updated Nov 26, 2013 at 9:30 PM CDT

Superior, WI (NNCNOW.com) - It was supposed to be a public hearing that focused solely on an application by Superior based Elkhorn Industries to repair an existing shipping dock in Superior Harbor.

But for those present Tuesday, it became unavoidable to delve into the controversial topic of shipping Tar Sands crude oil across the Great Lakes--a move some say the project would only open the door for.

The proposed project at the Elkhorn Industries' dock site, in Superior Harbor, would reconstruct 703 feet of dock wall along water's edge.

Currently the Wisconsin DNR is evaluating the proposal, and says they're seeking public input to help consider whether to grant, modify, or deny a permit.

The DNR says they'll most likely approve the permit with conditions.

Elkhorn is contemplating several future shipping uses, including a possible sublease to allow Superior–based Calumet oil refinery to load Tar Sands crude oil onto tankers to ship across the Great Lakes.

Some present at Tuesday's meeting praised the project as an economic generator.

"You're talking about a $5 million project, construction jobs," said Superior Planning & Port Director Jason Serck, "and then you're talking about a potential to load material, including wood products, [and] things of that nature."

"This is an industrial, working, manufacturing, trans–shipment... community," said Superior Mayror Bruce Hagen during the public comment period. "We play integral roles in this world with regard to providing the products from all natures, and walks of life."

Others at the meeting, however, felt a piecemeal approach to approving projects that open the possibility of shipping oil across the Great Lakes was an issue that just couldn't be avoided.

Bayfield, Wisconsin Mayor Larry MacDonald, also of the Chicago-based Alliance for the Great Lakes, says now is the best time to address what the project could bring in the coming years.

"One of my concerns [is] that if we don't start looking at this in the beginning, in 5 years from now whoever's going to promote... Tar Sands oil shipping [will say], 'we've already spent $5 million on this dock, now you have to let us do a permit for oil," said MacDonald.

Christopher LaForge, of the grassroots organization South Shore Area North Guard, called the meeting to discuss dock renovations a form of "compartmentalizing" the bigger picture.

"Seeing a large project in miniscule parts misses the entire issue," said LaForge. "The big issue is that Tar Sands oil [is] having a very hard time being exported because of public opposition to the continued destruction of our climate."

The Alliance for the Great Lakes has requested that an environmental impact assessment be done by the DNR regarding every possibility the project would bring with it.

Public comment on the Elkhorn dock revitalization project may be submitted until December sixth.

A final decision on the permit is expected by the end of December.

To submit a written comment, send your message to:

Steven LaValley
1701 N Fourth St.
Superior, WI 54880

Billy Wagness

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