White Iron Chain Of Lakes Association

News & Updates Blog

DNR – State Launches PolyMet Permitting Portal

By the Minnesota DNR

The State has launched a web portal dedicated to Minnesota's permitting process for PolyMet's proposed NorthMet mining project at www.mn.gov/polymet. This project is very complex and it would need permits from several state agencies in order to proceed. The web portal provides basic permitting information and directs users to agency websites with more detail.

If you would like to receive updates on the permitting processes you must take action: Go to www.mn.gov/polymet and sign up with your email address.

If you have been receiving updates on the PolyMet environmental review process please note you will no longer receive updates from that list. You must sign up again at www.mn.gov/polymet in order to receive future information on PolyMet permitting.



​ The Ely Area Invasives Team      Dedicated to preventing the spread of Invasive Species to and from the Ely Area.

The Ely Area Invasives Team is a local group that is organizing to bring together technical knowledge and public awareness in an effort to prevent the spread, manage the impacts and mitigate the effects of invasive species. Current partners in this effort include the Ely Field Naturalists, Burntside, White Iron Chain, Eagles Nest and Vermilion Lake Associations, Shagawa Lake Marina, Ely Community Resource, Lake and St. Louis County SWCDs, and the 1854 Treaty Authority.

As an Ely conservation officer stated recently, "...it will come down to resort/lakeshore owners policing their customers and visitors (friends/relatives) that are coming in from other areas. No equipment should go un-checked from other areas! "It will take diligent efforts from all of us to stop the spread of AIS in our lakes.

You are invited to join the Ely Area Invasives Team, a group interested in keeping our lands and lakes free from Invasives. We meet at the Ely Folk School on the third Thursday of every month at 11:00 am to share information, efforts and stories. We also have an email group set up to communicate timely information. You can request access at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Governor, Lt. Governor Call on Minnesotans to Take Water Action

During Water Action Week, Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith are urging Minnesotans to take four simple actions – individual efforts to collectively improve the quality of Minnesota's waters.

1. Learn About Your Water Quality – Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith are encouraging all Minnesotans to learn more about the water around them, including the challenges facing our lakes, rivers, and clean drinking water systems, and the actions they can take as individuals to make a difference – because Minnesotans who understand the problems facing our waters will be better-equipped and motivated to be part of the solution. This week, the Office of the Governor and Lt. Governor has launched a one-stop web page that provides a number of helpful links Minnesotans can use to learn more about water challenges in Minnesota. Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith are also encouraging Minnesotans to do their own research, to test the water in their wells, and to learn more locally about the water infrastructure and systems their families rely on.

2. Teach Your Children about Clean Water, and Let Them Teach You – Establishing an ethic of responsible stewardship needs to start early. That is why Governor Dayton and Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius will be visiting an elementary classroom this week, to meet with students who are learning in school what they can do to protect and improve the quality of water in their communities. Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith urge all Minnesota parents and teachers to talk with their children and students this week about the importance of water in our lives, and what Minnesotans can do – even as children – to leave a lasting legacy of clean water for this generation, and generations that follow. A great place to start is www.h2oforlifeschools.org where parents, teachers, and children can find simple lesson plans, watch short videos, and find new ways to make a positive impact on water quality in our communities, across our state, and around the world.

3. Set a Water Conservation Goal – Whether fixing leaky pipes in your house, turning off the water when brushing your teeth, taking a shorter shower, or using less fertilizer on your lawn, all Minnesotans can make small changes in their lives that will collectively have a significant and positive impact on Minnesota's waters. Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith encourage Minnesotans this week to think about the way their lifestyles impact the water around them, and set a specific goal to make positive changes in their lives that will contribute to cleaner, safer, more affordable water for all Minnesotans.

4. Contact Your Legislators – While government alone cannot solve the multitude of challenges facing Minnesota's lakes, rivers, and drinking water systems, state and local leaders do play an important role. The actions of the State Legislature can, and must make a significant difference in assuring clean, affordable water for all Minnesotans. Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith encourage Minnesotans to contact their legislators to encourage them to support needed investments. Minnesotans can find out how to contact their legislators by using the "Who Represents Me?" tool on the Legislative Coordinating Commission's website.


Lake “Ice Out” Observations from members; April 20th 2016

​It has been reported to the DNR; "Ice out on April 20, 2016".

Let's go fishing, boating and canoeing while enjoying and preserving these wonderful waters we call "The White Iron Chain of Lakes".


“Spring” Lake Ice Observations from members; April 18th 2016

White Iron Lake

There is still lots of open water at Silver Rapids, but some stubborn ice remains. On the western portion of White Iron, most of the ice is gone, but remains in some of the bays protected from wind and current. Tuesday's forecast is calling for sunny and pleasant with a high of 61. Ice could be out by end of day tomorrow.

Garden Lake

On Garden Lake there is a large swath of open water well beyond the influence of water flow from the Kawishiwi River. Ice remains in some bays with some open water close to the shore.


“Spring” Lake Ice Observations from members; April 15th 2016

White Iron Lake

There is lots of open water at Silver Rapids. On the other end of the lake there is also quite a bit of open water where the South Kawishiwi River enters White Iron and flows around Beargrease Island. There is also open water where the Bear Island River enters White Iron. Ice is now moving out from shore in many locations. With the warm weather and wind expect ice out in a few days.

White Iron Lake near the Bear Island River


“Spring” Lake Ice Observations from members; April 13th 2016

White Iron Lake

Although the ice is still frozen to the shore, the Silver Rapids area is very open. The current going through the Ring Rock narrows is eroding the ice despite the cold nights of last week. With the predicted warm weather over the next few days, ice out could come to White Iron within a week.


Water Monitoring Training

WICOLA volunteers report that they enjoy the water monitoring because it makes them feel more connected to the lakes. They get to explore the lakes and learn about them in more intimate detail. If you would like to join us for water monitoring, contact Chris Chandler at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and join us for the training session at Vermilion Community College, Rm CL 122, on April 19 from 10-12.Enter your text here ...


DNR To Host Public Information Meeting – PolyMet

DNR to host public information meeting in advance of PolyMet permit application

DNR NEWS – March 17, 2016

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is hosting a public information meeting on Tuesday, April 19, about PolyMet Mining, Inc.’s potential permit to mine application for its proposed NorthMet project. The meeting will be at Mesabi East High School, 601 North 1st St. W., Aurora, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The purpose of the meeting is to inform the public that PolyMet might submit a permit to mine application and to provide an overview of the permitting process. Under state rules, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Environmental Quality Board, St. Louis County and the cities of Babbitt, Aurora and Hoyt Lakes, which are near the proposed mine, have been invited to participate. The meeting is in Aurora to enable local government participation.

The meeting will include a formal presentation and an open house. The formal presentation, which begins at 6:30 p.m., will provide an overview of the proposed mining project and the permit to mine process. It will also include a brief summary of the other state permits that may be required for the project. State agency staff and PolyMet representatives will be available during the open house to answer questions about the permit to mine process and other permit processes, such as tailings dam safety, water quality, air quality, wetlands and others.

Project permit applications have not yet been submitted. Formal public comment on permits will not be taken at this point. However, if applications are received, there will be future opportunities to both obtain information about the applications and review and comment on draft permit decisions.

State agencies are currently developing a centralized website for the PolyMet permitting process. The DNR will announce when the website is ready through its email system and will post the presentation material from the meeting on April 19. The website will also include directions on how to sign up for updates on the permitting process.

About the NorthMet mine proposal

The proposed NorthMet mine project would be located in the St. Louis River watershed on the eastern edge of the Mesabi Iron Range, about 6 miles south of Babbitt and about 1 mile south of the existing iron-ore Northshore Mine. The ore would be processed at a former industrial site, the LTV plant in Hoyt Lakes.

The total project area would include the open pit mine, a processing plant, tailings basin and an existing 7-mile-long railroad corridor for ore transport between the mine and the processing plant.



NorthMet Mining Project - Update

NorthMet Mining Project and Land Exchange EIS

– Record of Decision March 3, 2016 Page 47 of 85

Protected Areas. Regarding potential impacts to the BWCAW and Voyageurs National Park watershed, no direct, indirect, or cumulative effect for surface water flow or surficial groundwater flow are predicted.

North Flow Path. During development of the Final EIS the Co-lead Agencies became aware of a potential for a north flow path of bedrock groundwater from the NorthMet Mine site to the existing Northshore Mine when both facilities are in closure. After evaluating the available information the Co-lead Agencies determined that the possibility of a north flow path induced by future operations at the Northshore Mine Site is unlikely, but cannot be ruled out completely. Potential bedrock groundwater flow from the Mine Site north to the Northshore Mine is proposed to be addressed through monitoring and contingency mitigation if needed. Monitoring requirements would be implemented, and if the possibility of a north flow of bedrock groundwater is detected, it would be prevented by contingency mitigation measures.


Governor’s Statewide Water Quality Summit - Update

In November of last year, Governor Mark Dayton announced his plans to convene a statewide Water Quality Summit in February 2016.

Later this month, two WICOLA Board members, David Lee and Chris Chandler, will represent WICOLA at the Governor’s Water Summit. The Summit will focus public attention on the serious challenges facing Minnesota’s water supplies – in both rural and urban areas of the state – and continue statewide dialogue around steps that must be taken to address those challenges. It will bring together water quality experts, farmers, legislators, regulators, the business community, members of the public, local leaders, and a wide variety of other stakeholders. Unfortunately, registration for the event is now full, but we would like each of our members to complete the online survey ASAP. The information and input gathered from this survey will help inform the Administration and Legislature on Minnesota’s water quality challenges and possible solutions. It is important that property owners’ voices and concerns be heard! Open the following link or copy and paste into your browser:


OR, you can find the survey by searching for Minnesota Governor’s Water Summit.


Update on Wild Rice Sulfate Standard Revision

From MPCA Weekly Digest:

As we begin the New Year, we wanted to provide a quick update on MPCA activities related to the wild rice sulfate standard revision.

The MPCA’s Request for Comments for the sulfate standard to protect wild rice ended on Friday, December 18, 2015.  Thanks to all of you who took the time to provide comments to us; they will be very helpful as we move into the rulemaking phase of this effort. Please note there will be additional opportunities for formal review and comment when the proposed rules are published in the State Register and during public hearings.

The agency received more than 600 comment letters.  All of the comments received are now posted on the wild rice rulemaking webpage https://www.pca.state.mn.us/water/sulfate-standard-protect-wild-rice under the “Rulemaking” tab.  Identical comment letters received from more than one person or group are listed once in the summary document with individual commenters and addresses from those identical letters listed in the accompanying spreadsheet.

MPCA staff continues to work on refinements to the wild rice waters definition, list of wild rice waters and refinement of the proposed approach that will become part of the Agency’s technical support document for the upcoming rulemaking. Please note that MPCA intends to submit the underlying scientific work for peer review via the scientific journal publication process. In addition, scientists are analyzing data from this summer’s sediment sampling of wild rice beds in order to evaluate the variability of total organic carbon and extractable iron in the sediments within wild rice waters. We expect this work to continue from January through March.


MPCA is seeking early comments on its new sulfate rule

This is your chance to weigh in on the latest effort to protect wild rice which uses a complex equation to individualize standards to specific sites and includes multiple factors.

While the WICOLA newsletter has followed the process you may wish to read the specifics. A summary of the draft of the new standard and a proposed list of wild-rice lakes can be found at the MPCA website. www.pca.state.mn.us/ktqh1083

·         Scroll down a bit and find the display with tabs along the top margin.

·         The “Background” tab brings you to a link to the study summary.

·         The “Rule Making” tab will take you to “Request for Comments” There is a plain English version.

Although the rule making will not be completed until 2018 this is an early stage opportunity for public input. Comments must be submitted by 4:30 PM on Dec. 18, 2015.

You can submit directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Both of the above tabs include a sidebar enabling you to sign up to receive information on future developments and opportunities to comment.

Questions? Contact Carol Nankivel (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 651-757-2597). Or write her at MPCA IRMAD, 520 Lafayette Rd. St. Paul, MN 55155.


P.S. remember to renew your membership!


Lake Ice Observations

Several WICOLA Board members report Lake Ice Observations to the Minnesota DNR. Their observations will occasionally be posted here as a reverence to WICOLA members.

Remember, there really is no sure answer as to when Ice is safe. You can't judge the strength of ice just by its appearance, age, thickness, temperature, or whether or not the ice is covered with snow. Strength is based on all these factors -- plus the depth of water under the ice, size of the water body, currents, water chemistry, movement of fish, and the distribution of the load on the ice.

For more information on Ice Safety, follow this link to the Minnesota DNR website; http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/ice/index.html


White Iron was not open yesterday afternoon (11/29/15). Also this morning (11/30/15) White Iron was completely covered and still covered at 4 pm. So I would call White Iron ice in and covered for 11/29 unless it opens up with warm weather this week.

As a side note, the current 5 day forecast calls for high temperatures in the lower to mid 30’s with lows generally in the 20’s.


Governor to Convene Statewide Water Quality Summit in February

ST. PAUL, MN – This weekend, Governor Mark Dayton announced his plans to convene a statewide Water Quality Summit in February. The summit will focus public attention on the serious challenges facing Minnesota’s water supplies – in both rural and urban areas of the state – and continue statewide dialogue around steps that must be taken to address those challenges. The summit will include water quality experts, farmers, legislators, regulators, the business community, members of the public, local leaders, and a wide variety of other stakeholders.

“My father believed – as I believe – that stewardship is a profound responsibility of each of us. To take what we have been given – or have acquired – and leave it in better condition for those who will inherit from us,” said Governor Dayton. “This is everyone’s challenge, and everyone’s responsibility.”

In his remarks to the Minnesota Farm Bureau this weekend, Governor Dayton elaborated on the need for a statewide Water Quality Summit, and provided some additional information about what the summit may address. Audio of the Governor's remarks can be found here.

Additional details about the Governor's Water Quality Summit will be provided in the coming weeks by The Office of the Governor.


County Aquatic Invasive Species Plans

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) are threatening Minnesota waters. These non-native species harm fish populations, water quality and water recreation. The Lake County and St. Louis County Plans outline the efforts that each county will undertake to help prevent the spread of harmful AIS.

The Lake County Aquatic Invasive Species Plan can be found on the County’s Website at: http://www.co.lake.mn.us/departments/soil_and_water_conservation_district/invasive_species.php

The St. Louis County Aquatic Invasive Species Plan can be found on the County’s Website at: http://www.stlouiscountymn.gov/LANDPROPERTY/CommunityDevelopment/AquaticInvasiveSpecies.aspx


Congratulations Jo Kovach!

Congratulations to Jo Kovach, past WICOLA President and current WICOLA Board Member, for her new appointment to the Lake Co. SWCD Board! Jo will be finishing the term as District 1 Supervisor that was recently vacated. 


GLIFWC challenges direction of PolyMet Containment Flow

The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), one of the cooperating agencies in the PolyMet project, recently challenged the model provided by PolyMet which indicated that all waters from the project would flow south to the St. Louis River. GLIFWC’s analysis of the model shows that the major contaminant flow would run north into the Rainy River Basin. For more information, see a recently published article GLIFWC



Concerns Expressed about Dunka Pit Permitting

For recent information and concerns expressed about the Dunka Pit that flows into Birch Lake and the Rainy River Basin, read the article Dunka Pit


Twin Metals Hydorgeologic Study Permit Comments Due November 21

The USFS has released notification that the Superior National Forest has completed the environmental assessment (EA) for the Twin Metals Minnesota Hydrogeologic Study Special Use Permit and is providing a 30-day comment period on the proposed activity and analysis described in the EA. The EA “discloses the effects of special use authorization permits to access, use, and occupy national forest system lands in order to collect baseline hydrogeologic (ground water) environmental data. The proposed hydrogeologic study area is located near the South Kawishiwi River and Birch Lake approximately 7 miles southeast of Ely, Minnesota.”

The EA is available for your review at http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=40756” along with instructions for providing written comments.

Note: The USFS indicates that “no mining has been proposed in the South Kawishiwi area.” As one of our members, who reviewed the proposal pointed out, this activity may not have immediate effects on our water, but could have implications in the future if mining activity occurs.

PO Box 493
Ely, MN 55731

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