... Prior to being ordained the BWCA”W”, the Superior National Forrest contained nearly forty resorts, motorized boat and fly-in fishing camps, a railroad and other roads for vehicular travel... the portage itself was a railroad bed

Dear Editor:
In recent weeks I’ve read numerous articles claiming the BWCA as being an “untouched” wilderness. Betty McCollum was one of these individuals; she’s a little light on the area’s history. Her Wikipedia site indicates she has accomplished much in her half-life and that she has a stellar education.
So why does she miss the mark so often when discussing mining issues. When reading her talking points you realize quickly that she’s being coached. She clones everyone else’s talking points. So I have to wonder, who is it that has her ear, whose voice does she hear and who is it that will eventually become her Rasputin.
According to Webster, a true wilderness is a location that has been unscathed by human interaction. The BWCA is not a true wilderness; it’s a wilderness by decree.


Two major events and Ely is represented at each one

At the State of the Union and the Super Bowl, two of the biggest events in the United States, Ely played a role. Not too many other small towns across America could have such claims to fame.
As President Donald Trump was giving his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, sitting in the gallery was Ely city council member Dan Forsman.
Minnesota U.S. House member Tom Emmer invited Forsman to be his special guest at the joint session of Congress, an honor of a lifetime to be sure.
Emmer chose Forsman after reading the much-publicized New York Times magazine article that focused on the copper-nickel mining controversy in the Ely area.
Forsman, a worker at a taconite mine, was the focus of caustic remarks in the story made by anti-mining activist and Ely area resident Becky Rom. Those comments backfired on Rom and likely helped get Forsman one of the toughest tickets in the country.


IRRRB sends money Ely’s way, table now set for more grants

The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board had a full plate during a meeting held Wednesday in Eveleth. The board carved out two projects for Ely and during the discussion on two others, it appears more could be heading this way.
The two projects include an often discussed infrastructure project and the chance to bring over 20 jobs to Ely.
The 17th Avenue project looked to be stuck in the mud just a month ago, but the IRRRB gave the go ahead for $450,000 in grant funding for the project. Couple that with an anticipated $750,000 in state funding and a $400,000 match from the city, the nearly $1.6 million project is set to go
The second project has been moved to Ely after originating in Babbitt.
Rural Living Environments, which operates similar facilities in Babbitt, will build a $500,000 structure at a location adjacent to the Grahek and Sibley apartments.


Ely schools shouldn’t play second fiddle

Across the Range right now several school districts are in the midst of major building projects that will prepare them to meet the needs of teaching students into the future. Why shouldn’t the students at Ely schools have the same opportunities?
Major projects at Mt. Iron, Mesabi East and Grand Rapids have been moved forward and are either under construction or about to be. Ely could join that group with a project that would replace our lost gymnasium space and connect the Washington, Memorial and perhaps even the Industrial Arts buildings.
With the Ely Regional Community Complex making the decision to move elsewhere, the door is open for the school district to put together its own plan.
Just what is or isn’t in that plan can be determined along the way. What’s needed now is the direction from the school board and administration to set the wheels in motion as well as being true advocates.


The “circus” has left city hall

by Tom Coombe, Echo editor -


...especially misleading was Ms. Rom’s statement that Twin Metals is proposing a mining operation

Dear Secretary Perdue and Secretary Zinke:
In January 2017 the U. S. Forest Service announced that they would conduct a two year study and prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), documenting the information and analysis necessary to support a decision on the imposition of a 20-year moratorium on mineral development in the Superior National Forest (SNF); and further, to support an amendment to the Superior National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan.
We wrote to you in October 2017 to express our opposition to the withdrawal of 234,000 acres of National Forest lands in the in Northeastern Minnesota. Our October 17, 2017 letter asserts that “The decision by the U.S. Forest Service/BLM and the Obama administration to conduct a study and prepare an EIS is a tactic employed to not only delay, but pre-emptively quash the development of Twin Metals Minnesota’s project and will replicate the EIS completed by the USFS in May 2012”.


Fire could’ve been a disaster had luck not played a role

There had already been a bad house fire on the Range this past week that ended up claiming the lives of two adults and their two grandchildren. It was a heartbreaking story, especially over the holidays.
When the fire whistle went off around 5 p.m. Wednesday, we wondered if it was our community’s turn to face tragedy. Or was it a chimney fire or a false alarm?
The fire trucks headed for Grahek Apartments where black smoke was pouring out of a window on the east side of the building on the third floor.
The Ely fire department has a Hummer truck that carries 250 gallons of water on it. The truck was able to drive up next to the building, right under where the fire was burning. Water was sprayed through the window and within minutes, the fire was out. Those 250 gallons saved lives as well as the building.


Senator Smith should look north as she heads to DC

When Al Franken announced his resignation from the U.S. Senate after being accused of a multitude of sexual harassment incidents, his time in the spotlight faded quickly.
With the appointment of Lt. Gov. Tina Smith by Gov. Mark Dayton to fill the soon-to-be vacant seat, we hope northern Minnesota isn’t lost in the shuffle.
Just when Franken will be a former senator is still unknown. His resignation speech was missing two key points: a sincere apology and a date he would be done. We’re still waiting.
Smith may well have been one of the most active lieutenant governors in the state’s history, but she hasn’t been a frequent visitor to Ely, much less north of Duluth.
When the 2015 Governor’s Fishing Opener was held at Fortune Bay, Smith filled in for a fragile Dayton and created a memorable faux pas. Smith mistakenly addressed dignitaries of the Bois Forte band as being Fond du Lac instead. Minnesota nice kicked in and her slip up was swept under the rug.


No to current ERCC plan to locate on school campus

There are two camps forming over the proposed Ely community recreation complex. Those who want it to be located on school grounds and those who want it anywhere but there.
We would propose a third camp be set up: Looking at options that enhance, not endanger the future of the school district and that strive to never use tax dollars to compete with private enterprise.
The Ely Regional Community Complex board seeks to develop a facility on the school campus that could be as large as 50,000 square feet and cost as much as $12 million. Of the $12 million, $5 million would come from state bonding money.
First, two reasons the school board should vote no.
1. The devil’s in the details.
The school board has been asking for details on how the district would be impacted. They’re still waiting for answers. Question number one: Who will own the facility? Crickets.


Does the school need a rec complex and/or vice versa?

There are two camps forming over the proposed Ely community recreation complex. Those who want it to be located on school grounds and those who want it anywhere but there.
The school board has been asking for details on how the district would be impacted. Details are still coming in but there’s plenty of unanswered questions.
As one critic said, “It’s easy to build it, but who will pay for the operation and maintenance for the next 20 years?”
While that answer is still drifting in the fog, we do have some information to share on the value the complex could bring to the district.
Athletic Director Tom Coombe (also an Ely Echo employee) provided information to the joint school board/ERCC subcommittee.
Here are some of the points he raised:


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