The plant has two options for its future quarry.
Extend its mining operations to property the company already owns directly adjacent to FISP and further to the south near the center of the park. St. Marys can develop Option 1 whenever it makes sense operationally.
St. Marys could move its mining operations to land currently located inside the north end of FISP, directly across Bells Bay Road from the current quarry in closer proximity to plant operations. Option 2 would require the approval of the MDNR because it would involve a property exchange between St. Marys and the MDNR/State of Michigan.
While St. Marys Cement will move forward with either Option 1 or Option 2, it is important to understand how both options would affect the park and its visitors, the State of Michigan, the plant, the environment, the community, other public stakeholders, and residents who live near the park and plant.
First, it’s important to recognize that the park would remain largely unchanged under either option. Whether SMC moves forward with Option 1 or Option 2, FISP will remain a rustic, beautiful, peaceful, scenic destination. Here’s what would not change under Option 1 or Option 2:
- Total number of FISP rustic campsites (81) at FISP would remain unchanged. The rustic nature and beauty of the park would be preserved.
- The 6 miles of lake shore and beach would remain unchanged. The shoreline and beaches remain accessible with mining nowhere near the shore. It’s important to restate that under either option, the lake shore and beach would not be mined or affected by mining operations.
- There would be no known archeological impacts.
- There would be no reduction in park trails.
The comparison of the two options below seeks to answer four questions.
How would Option 1 and Option 2 affect FISP and its visitors and the State of Michigan?
Option 1: Nothing inside FISP will physically change if St. Marys extends its mining operations to the south, closer to the center of the park. However, SMC mining operations will commence directly adjacent to the park and closer to recreation and camping areas toward the south end of the park. That means active mining will move significantly closer to the residential communities near the south end of the park and significantly closer to more campsites and prime recreation areas inside the park than is the case today or under Option 2. With a southward expansion into existing SMC property, the shared border with active mining operations adjacent to the park will increase in size from current operations and will involve more area than Option 2. Heavy mining equipment and trucks that service the quarry will move raw materials from longer distances, having a greater impact on park visitors at the southern campsite area of the park and those who travel Bells Bay Road at the same time as St. Marys’ mining trucks and equipment. Changes to Bells Bay Road also will be necessary at some point in the future to accommodate the mining operations to the south. Part of McGeach Creek on the south-end of SMC property will be relocated. The current entrance to the park will be affected by an increase in traffic from the heavy equipment and trucks servicing the south-end quarry via Bells Bay Road.
Option 2: There will be some changes to FISP. The park will gain 32 acres, increasing in size from 2,678 acres to 2,710 acres, while the cement plant’s footprint would consolidate and shrink by 32 acres. FISP will gain 4,000 feet of McGeach Creek, a designated trout stream, and significant new wetlands. The shared border of the park and plant will be smaller. The cement plant quarry and mining operations will be a far greater distance from the residential communities and the campsites and recreation areas at FISP’s south end. There will be significantly fewer interactions between park visitors in vehicles and on bikes and the cement plant’s trucks and heavy mining equipment. As the mining sequence extends beyond the current quarry in the next 10 years or so, the current entrance to the park will have to be closed and re-located to one or more new entrances.
Because it would result in some changes to the park, Option 2 would appear to create an opportunity to achieve some of the “10-Year Action Goals” and “General Action Goals” presented by the MDNR in its General Management Plan for FISP (some of those Goals are also listed on pages 4 and 5 above). In exchange for being able to consolidate our future mining operations further from our neighbors than would be the case under Option 1, St. Marys would consider providing financial and other resources to support the MDNR’s ability to make improvements consistent with the GMP for FISP and identified during public discussions in the coming weeks and months.
How would Option 1 and Option 2 affect the community, other stakeholders, and residents living close to the park and plant?
In terms of direct economic impact on the community, there are no differences between Option 1 and Option 2. Both options protect plant operations and jobs well into the next century.
As just noted, Option 1 establishes new active mining operations substantially closer to homes and communities and to FISP’s south-end primary use area. With active mining comes more noise and more heavy equipment traffic affecting south-end community residents. Conversely, Option 2 consolidates St. Marys’ mining operations (noise, traffic, etc.) near the plant and at the north end of the park – significantly farther from homes and communities at the park’s south end.
The community might also benefit from decisions made by the MDNR during discussions of Option 2. Some of those decisions could address some of the “10-Year Action Goals” and the “General Action Goals” presented in the GMP for FISP.
How would Option 1 and Option 2 affect the environment?
Under Option 1, trucks, conveyor belts and other mining equipment would transport raw materials from greater distances than is the case today (or under Option 2) since these materials are located at the south end of SMC’s property. The expanded footprint and final site configuration of the mining operations under Option 1 is likely to result in more noise, vibration and emissions particularly for the neighborhood and park visitors and campers at the south end of FISP.
Option 1 would require SMC to re-route part of McGeach Creek on the south-end property owned by the plant. Some wetland mitigation will be required under both options. Option 2 would add 32 acres of land to the overall size of FISP, and would reduce the footprint of SMC similarly. Option 2 would add 4,000 feet of McGeach Creek to FISP. Compared to Option 1, Option 2 would locate future pumping operations farther away from homeowners who live near the south end of the park, reducing the impact of future mining on residential wells. There are no Endangered, Threatened, Special Concern, or Candidate species at the state or federal level affected under Option 1 or Option 2 (includes screening of plants and wildlife). Both options fully protect the Lake Michigan shoreline and beach areas.
How would Option 1 and Option 2 affect the plant and its workers?
Both options enable the SMC plant to continue operating well into the next century, and both options preserve and protect jobs at the plant and the company’s status as one of the county’s largest employers. SMC believes Option 2 is better for the plant for two important reasons:
- Marys’ primary motivation for considering Option 2 is to minimize the impact of future mining operations on our neighbors. The plant’s future mining operations would be significantly farther from people — farther from park visitors/campers and farther from the residents of the communities at and near the south end of the park. Under Option 2, the future mine would be consolidated directly across Bells Bay Road from the current mine. Putting the mine at the north end would reduce the impact of the mine on people with homes near the park and on far more park campers and visitors.
- While not operationally significant, the plant would realize some operational cost savings. Conceptually, an expanded footprint would most likely incur higher operational costs to transport raw materials, including auxiliary supporting activates to maintain accesses and other infrastructure.