Question 1: Why is the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society [GLSHS] pressuring Senator Levin for special legislation?
The GLSHS want to change their land patent by inserting language that recognizes the Human Use/Natural Resource Management Plan for Whitefish Point. This flawed plan is the result of the Michigan Audubon Society lawsuit against GLSHS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about overdevelopment and commercialization of Whitefish Point. The plan is a living document subject to the whims of the three Whitefish Point stakeholders who seldom meet to discuss the many loopholes and problems of the plan since it was adopted in 2002. The process that produced this plan was so contentious that GLSHS sued the facilitator of the plan, along with Michigan Audubon Society in an attempt to bleed them of resources. One of the main supposed "concessions" that GLSHS offered up in th Settlement Agreement that led to the plan was the abandonment of a plan to add a large parking lot next to their property. Now, GLSHS has found a loophole that could result in the creation of this parking lot--they have pressured the township government to request permission from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to have the lot constructed. They have the audacity to claim that it was the township's idea, even though GLSHS has offered to pay for the acquisition and have the lot come under GLSHS's insurance policy. IF LEGISLATION RECOGNIZING THE 2002 MANAGEMENT PLAN PASSES THE U.S. CONGRESS, GLSHS COULD END UP WITH ALL THE PARKING IN THE NEW PLAN AND THE PARKING LOT THEY PROMISED NOT TO BUILD WHEN THEY BEGAN NEGOTIATIONS FOR THE 2002 PLAN. There is NO habitat mitigation in the 2002 plan for the new parking planned to go along Whitefish Point Road, nor is there any mitigation planned for the newly re-proposed parking lot next to GLSHS property, in spite of the GLSHS claim that destroyed habitat will be mitigated by a 2:1 ratio.
Question 2: What is wrong with the 2002 Human Use/Natural Resource Management Plan for Whitefish Point?
This plan, and the Settlement Agreement that led to it, is filled with loopholes favoring GLSHS commercial development of a National Historic Register site. There was so much negative public response to the plan that the plan had to be amended to include a section where GLSHS could respond to "Allegations of Past Transgressions". These responses range from laughable to demonstrably untrue. Is U.S. Senator Carl Levin willing to stand up for/stake his reputation on the veracity of these responses? Loophole example: Page 55 of the plan states that a study of the efficient use of the buildings at Whitefish Point be done by a consultant recommended by Michigan's State Historic Preservation Office. The plan states that GLSHS will "fully consider and agree to" any recommendations "at GLSHS discretion". There is no such thing as "agreeing to something at your discretion". With this phrasing, they are attempting to sound like they are concerned about historical interpretation, while really they are thumbing their nose at the historical community. Placing this sort of loophole into federal law would be an embarrassing stain on U.S. Senator Carl Levin's legislative legacy.
Question 3: Why should the Secretary of Interior revoke the GLSHS federal land patent for the Whitefish Point Light Station?
The Whitefish Point Light Station is on the National Historic Register and sits next to the Whitefish Point National Wildlife Refuge. The GLSHS is destroying the history of the Whitefish Point Light Station and robbing precious habitat from a world class migration flyway. GLSHS claims that habitat destroyed will be "mitigated in a 2:1 ratio" do not consider that habitat destruction immediately off-site will not be mitigated AT ALL and that "habitat" is narrowly defined so that areas with past human disturbance are not considered to be habitat. The current law states that the property is supposed to be kept in its "predominantly natural, scenic, historic, and forested condition"--GLSHS should be held accountable for maintaining habitat on the property we gave them, not "creating" habitat in exchange for more development. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society holds the Whitefish Point Light Station in trust for the people of the United States. THIS SOCIETY VIOLATED THE PEOPLE'S TRUST many times over many years through their overdevelopment and commercialization of the site, not promptly reporting mercury spills, facilitating the extirpation of a rare plant species (the Douglas Hawthorn), diminishing the historical integrity of a National Historic Register site, and attempting to ban citizen watchdogs from accessing the site.
Question 4: Why is there so much controversy surrounding the GLSHS?
Because of the GLSHS's apparent corruption and manipulation of our government and political leaders.
Question 5: Just how much money do the top employees of the GLSHS make?
We don't know. Even though the GLSHS is a 501(c)3 organization that is supposed to reveal how much key figures in the organization earn, this information has only very rarely been disclosed on their tax return (which is a public document).
Question 6: Why is the Shipwreck Society using our gas tax dollars to survey shipwrecks?
Because both the U.S. and Michigan Departments of Transportation [MDOT] deemed this is an appropriate use of our gas tax dollars even though in a 2003 meeting with the Whitefish Point Preservation Society they stated they would never again award gas tax dollars for an underwater project. The program the money comes from [TEA-21] takes a portion of gas tax dollars and uses it for non-road projects such as sidewalks and bike-paths that somehow involve non-road transportation. When MDOT turned down their first request because it did not benefit the public, GLSHS offered to publish a booklet for the public so they could get this $225,000 in grant money to pay them to revisit the shipwrecks they removed artifacts from in the 1980's and 90's. So not only did Michigan forgive GLSHS for stealing artifacts from these shipwrecks, we're currently paying for them to return to these wrecks every time we fill up our gas tanks! GLSHS claims that "art" being produced from pictures taken at these sites is worth the expenditure of public money. Thus the small band of shipwreck divers who lead the GLSHS have found a way to get the public to subsidize their expensive hobby.
Question 7: Why hasn’t the GLSHS paid back the gas tax grant that they were later ineligible for and just who was stuck with the bill?
There was another gas tax grant that GLSHS was found to have been ineligible to receive $124,406 after it had been awarded in which GLSHS used our gas tax dollars to renovate a historic building at Whitefish Point. The Federal Highway Administration ruled that it was okay to use this money for the exterior of the building because the public could go up to Whitefish Point and view the outside of the building(and therefore get their money's worth).The inside, however, is reserved for paying guests and other people of the GLSHS's choosing, and the federal government ruled that this money ($124,406) should not have been spent.The Federal Highway Administration ordered the money returned and MDOT complied; MDOT got the money from the Chippewa County Road Commission, who was the conduit for the grant. But nobody in Chippewa County government is interested in recovering the $124,406from GLSHS, so CHIPPEWA COUNTY TAXPAYERS ARE STUCK WITH THE BILL. It's interesting to note that that while the County Prosecutor sees no reason to try to recover this money from GLSHS, he has decided to prosecute the person who almost single-handedly exposed the GLSHS misuse of funds. The crime: "trespassing" on property that the public gave possession of to GLSHS.
Question 8: Why did GLHS use our gas tax dollars to build a sauna for shipwreck divers?
This was included in the renovation of the Crews Quarters Building, mentioned in the last question. In other words, because our government let them get away with it. You can bet that the Chippewa County leaders who failed to recover the money for this from GLSHS are welcome to use the sauna the gas-taxpaying public built for the GLSHS.
Question 9: Is the Whitefish Point Preservation Society [WPPS] trying to “shut down Whitefish Point”?
No. When WPPS formed in 2002, they developed a mission statement that was presented to the Whitefish Township Board of Trustees and the community. WPPS supports tourism and responsible economic development that protects and preserves the remote, historic and ecological setting of Whitefish Point. (See WPPS’s mission statement)
Question 10: Did the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society [GLSHS] save the Whitefish Point Light Station from vandalism?
No. Gary Shumbarger, a GLSHS officer when they moved into the Whitefish Point Light Station, reports that there was no vandalism. Lois Mace, resident of Whitefish Township and wife of the last Master Chief at the Whitefish Point Light Station, reports that no vandalism occurred after the light station was closed and that the U.S. coast Guard not only maintained the light but also the buildings, including painting them. A Freedom of Information request to the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed that there is no record of vandalism at the Whitefish Point Light Station.
Question 11: Did Whitefish Township ask GLSHS to take over the Whitefish Point Light Station from them?
There is no evidence that this is true. Farnquist of GLSHS went on record stating that when GLSHS first formed in 1978, they had plans to acquire the Whitefish Point Light Station. (See Farnquist's 1988 recorded statement on You Tube.) GLSHS first leased the light station from the U.S. Coast Guard in 1983. GLSHS received a federal land patent in 1998 for the portion of the Coast Guard Whitefish Point property that included the light station.
Question 12: Does GLSHS compete unfairly with local businesses?
Yes. GLSHS is a non-profit, private corporation that developed the property it holds at Whitefish Point with millions of taxpayer dollars via grant funds. Private business cannot compete with a non-profit business that receives large sums of public funds.
Question 13: What will happen if GLSHS loses their land patent at Whitefish Point?
Whitefish Point does not need GLSHS. GLSHS needs Whitefish Point to continue their large, profitable, commercial operation. Whitefish Point will still be there for the public if GLSHS is evicted. GLSHS holds a land patent on the Whitefish Point Light Station with a reversionary clause. If the Secretary of Interior revokes their land patent, the property will revert to the Secretary of Interior and thereafter be administered though the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Question 14: Why is there a parking problem at Whitefish Point?
Whitefish Point has a limited area that is already overused. Heavy use days cause traffic hazards and septic overflows Parking along the Whitefish Point Road is prohibited by a traffic control order and a bike path. Off-site parking available in the town of Paradise is still the best proposed solution.
Question 15: Is it safe to go inside the Shipwreck Museum and the fog signal building at Whitefish Point?
The typical visitor should not be affected. Fifteen years after the mercury spills at the Whitefish Point Light Station, testing in 2004 by the Chippewa County Health Department measured mercury vapor levels inside the Shipwreck Museum up to 0.8 g/m3 and inside the fog signal up to 0.4g/m3 (See the Health Department 2004 report.) Employees working inside buildings with mercury spills should be aware of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) precautions on “sick building syndrome” for chronic exposure to indoor mercury vapor ( See the EPA’s “Indoor Air Pollution: An Introduction for Health Professionals”.)“The EPA sets a reference concentration of 0.3 g/m3 for inhalation exposure to mercury. For example, if 0.3 g/m3 mercury was measured in air inside a building, EPA would further investigate the exposure. … The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has set a minimal risk level (MRL) for inhalation exposure at 0.2 g/m3. The MRL is an estimate of the daily human exposure to a hazardous substance that is likely to be without appreciable risk of adverse health effects over a specified period of time.”(From newmoa.org)
Question 16: Is it safe to drink the water at Whitefish Point?
Two of the three wells drilled by GLSHS were capped because they were not potable or treatable (see page 19 of the Human Use/Natural Resource Management Plan for Whitefish Point.) In 2002, Ball Environmental Associates reported the likelihood of groundwater contamination and contaminant plume migration to adjacent Lake Superior. Test wells to monitor for groundwater contamination from the Whitefish Point septic systems were placed on November 8, 2007 but actual testing is not complete. Stakeholders refuse to test for hazardous substances in the ground water despite a documented history of mercury spills and diesel fuel contamination of the site.
Question 17: Is the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald off-limits to dives?
No, the site is " now only accessible for diving or archaeological study under a site-specific license issued by the [Ontario] Ministry of Culture ".
Question 18: Why is there a charge to see the bell memorial to the crew of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald?
It appears to be greed. GLSHS led the appeal to salvage the bell from the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald as a memorial for “humanitarian reasons”. Once they gained possession of the bell, they defaced it by removing Michigan State University’s careful conservation measures, placed it inside their Shipwreck Museum, and started charging the public to see it. There is no real reason why they cannot make to bell accessible to the public free of charge.