Keweenaw Bay Indian Community concerned about wind turbine proposal


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L’ANSE TOWNSHIP — Renewable Energy Systems has proposed to build forty-nine, 500 foot tall wind turbines on forest land in L’Anse Township. A move that is said to bring in millions of dollars in tax revenue. Members of the L’Anse community are less certain of this Summit Lake Wind Project…

People are concerned that the addition of the turbines could lower their property values, drive out tourism, and become a real safety concern. Just a couple of weeks ago a turbine caught fire downstate in Huron County. L’Anse community members are concerned that if one of the 49 turbines was to catch fire on the forest land, it could easily start a forest fire.

Additionally, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) says that the building of these turbines would directly affect their Tribes’ rights.

“In 1842 and again in 1854 our ancestors stood on Madeline Island and ceded tens of millions of acres of land in exchange for the creation of the L’Anse Indian Reservation and certain rights. The right to hunt, fish, and gather. It’s not a gift, it was a deal. We will protect those rights with everything we have,” says Jeffrey Loman, KBIC Tribal Council Member.

The KBIC allege that the building of these turbines would affect their hunting, fishing, and gathering abilities — as laid out in their treaty. 

KBIC President, Warren Swartz, Jr., says he has tried to get assistance from both the Federal Government as well as the State Government to protect the KBIC treaty, but has so far been unsuccessful. Mr. Loman says the only way for the treaty to be nulled is by the President and Congress.

The KBIC Tribal Council says they are committed to finding clean energy to power their community but they say, after a feasibility study was done 10 years ago, wind energy isn’t the answer.

“Wind isn’t very feasible here on or near the L’Anse Indian Reservation. So we decided to go with solar,” explains Warren Swartz, Jr., President, KBIC.

The community put up 100 foot wind tunnels to measure wind energy but found that there was not enough wind power in the area to create energy. However, Swartz acknowledged that their study was only done with 100 foot tall tunnels while the turbines would be 500 feet tall and this may create different outcomes. 

Another meeting on this topic is being held Wednesday night, April 17, at 6pm at the Zeba Community Hall in L’Anse. The meeting is hosted by “Friends of the Huron Mountains” and the KBIC Natural Resources Department.

In order for RES to move forward with their proposal, a zoning ordinance referendum must be passed by the community. This will be on the May 7th ballot.

Local 3 reached out to Renewable Energy Systems for their statement on the concerns made by members of the L’Anse and KBIC communities. A statement provided by Marketing & Communications Manager, Alicia Rivera, can be found below:

“The Summit Lake wind project is currently on hold, pending the outcome of the referendum on the township ordinance on May 7. We are grateful for the support we have received from the community and appreciate and respect the willingness of the community to voice their view and listen to others’ opinions.”

Further information on this project and the community’s reaction can be found here.

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