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Keweenaw Development

Eagle Harbor Township
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Wind Farm Proposed For Site of Former Mt Greely Air Force Radar Base (1/12/06)

At its meeting on January 11th, the Keweenaw County Board of Commissioners, without public notice or public hearing (some old habits are slow to change), was ready to enter into what appeared to be a "boilerplate" Option and Lease Agreement with Mackinaw Power, LLC, a Lowell Michigan developer of commercial wind power projects, for the County owned former Air Force Radar Base atop Mt Greely.

The agreement granted to Mackinaw Power a three year option period (renewable at the company's sole discretion for an additional three years) to enter upon and utilize the site for the purposes of doing all things necessary to determine the suitability of the site for wind energy conversion systems. The agreement then grants to the company the right to lease the site for a five year term (renewable for such additional five year periods as the company may request, i.e. forever) for the purposes of "erecting, constructing, relocating, maintaining, and operating wind energy conversion systems of any type and for wind resource evaluation."

While supporting the overall idea of wind generation in Keweenaw County, the Supervisors of Eagle Harbor and Houghton Townships (Ed Kisiel, Eagle Harbor and Jim Vivian, Houghton), in which townships the Mt Greely site is located, urged the County Board to table approval of the agreement until more "due dilligence and public comment can be solicited". They and others at the Board meeting noted a number of specific concerns about provisions in the proposed agreement.

The County Board then adopted a motion to table consideraton of the agreement and have the County Attorney draft a new option agreement for just a feasibility evaluation. The motion also called for the posting of public notice and the involvement of the townships in the development of an option agreement. The next regular Board meeting is scheduled for February 14th. The Eagle Harbor and Houghton Township supervisiors have asked that persons with issues they feel need to be addressed in this evaluation phase forward them to the supervisors or the County Attorney.

My research on the subject discovered that the south shore of Lake Superior and east shore of Lake Michigan are considered to potentially be locations for some of the most feasible and productive wind power projects in North America. It appears that wind farms may well be a feature of our future Keweenaw landscape. While the environmental implications are yet to be determined (impact of large wind generator towers and related power transmission lines on scenic views, birds, bats, use and enjoyment of nearby properties, etc.), the development of wind farms could reduce our dependency on non-renewable fossil fuels. And lease and royalty payments might mitigate the County's cost burden for maintaing this, what some believe to be a "white elephant", property. However, is entering into an operating lease agreement before determing how valuable this site might be for wind power generation and assessing the environmental implications putting the cart before the horse? What would be the review procedure and regulatory standard precedent implications of the County Board establishing a wind farm on its Mt. Greeley property, when as our land use regulator (zoning) the Board is asked to consider wind power projects at other perhaps equally feasible locations - say Bumbletown Hill, Brockway, Bohemia, Keweenaw Point or anywhere along Keweenaw's Greenstone ridge? - i.e. shouldn't the County Board itself be subject to the same review procedure and use restrictions that it might appropriately impose on any other wind power project applicant? Is this a "clean", low impact, natural resource recovery and economic betterment opportunity, or a nuisance? Questions, questions. Stay tuned.

An excellent source for information on wind power and wind power project leasing can be found at:
Click on the "Ontario Landowners Guide to Wind Energy" link. It's 40 page PDF file, but the best resource I've located.

If you have thoughts about this important matter you would like to share with Harbor Web readers, send them to me.

Community Development Issues and Opportunities

As part of the planning process, the Township's Planning Committee has identified several issues that need to be addressed, and several development opportunities - strenghts to build on.

Statement of Planning Vision, Objectives and Strategies

Developed and recommended by the Township Planning, this statement was adopted by the Township Board on February 11, 2002.

Report On May 1, 2001 Public Meeting

About four score township residents gathered at the Shoreline on May 1st to discuss the land use planning process; list what they like about the area; identify community assets; list some Keweenaw shortcomings; think about what we have that's worth preserving; share concerns about what's going on; draft some land use planning goals; and, talk about next steps.

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