LANSING, Mich. — An administrative law judge has ruled that the Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River can be named an aggrieved party in a contested case petition on a wetlands permit issued to Aquila Resources.

Judge Daniel L. Pulter of the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules determined that the Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River can be mentioned with Thomas Boerner and the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin in the petition.

Aquila Resources, of Canada, is seeking to construct an open pit mine (Back Forty Mine) in Lake Township in Menominee County. 

The Water Resources Division (WRD) of the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) issued a permit on June 4, 2018, to Aquila Resources. That agency action was challenged by Boerner by filing a Petition for Contested Case Hearing on June 11, 2018. The Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River filed a similar petition on Aug. 1, 2018, and the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin did the same on Aug. 3, 2018.

On Sept. 27, 2018, a stipulated order was entered consolidating the three contested cases.

Aquila Resources was seeking to have the Coalition removed from the case because it was not “aggrieved.”

The Coalition submitted affidavits from 15 of its members. Timothy C. Landwehr notes that he is the owner of Tight Lines Fly Fishing Company, which is involved in as many as 600 guided fishing trips on the Menominee River every year.

“Mr. Landwehr contends that the permit will affect his right to make a living by fishing on the Menominee River,” the ruling states. “Therefore, in the event that the public trust was adversely affected by the Permittee’s proposed project, Mr. Landwehr would have a ‘special injury’ or ‘right’ or ‘substantial interest’ that will be detrimentally affected in a manner differed from the citizenry at large.”

Affidavits were provided by members of the Coalition who own property on the Menominee River, including Joan Burie, Ronald Henriksen, Joseph Korch and Andrea Piontek. “These parties are concerned that the proposed project will affect their riparian rights,” the ruling stated. “In the event that their riparian rights were adversely affected by the Permittee’s proposed project, these individuals would have a ‘special injury’ or ‘right’ or ‘substantial interest’ that will be detrimentally affected in a manner different from the citizenry at large.

“Based on the testimony of these individuals, members of the Coalition are aggrieved by the proposed project. Therefore, the Coalition has representational standing to present the interests of its members.”

The case is scheduled to proceed to a hearing on June 3.