Wind farm opponents: Not against wind energy

Roman Kahler photo A view of the Huron Mountains, including Mount Arvon, the highest point in Michigan. The Summit Lake Wind Project proposed by RES would erect 50 wind turbines at the site.

“We’re not against wind turbines. We’re not against renewable energy,” said Burt Mason, chairman for the Friends of the Huron Mountains (FOHM), a nonprofit group that formed around local concerns about the Summit Lake Wind Project.

Mason said the group formed of residents who were concerned the township wasn’t taking due diligence when investigating the potential impacts of wind energy development in the area. Township officials were passing zoning changes simply at the request of RES and Weyerhaeuser, the land owner, he said, without investigation into the significance of the changes and ignoring citizen concerns.

The project, proposed by Renewable Energy Systems (RES), consists of around 50 wind turbines spread across the area surrounding Mount Arvon east of L’Anse.

“People are being elected and paid to do this, and we’re doing this of our own free will,” FOHM member Wayne Abba said.

Mason said FOHM’s objections are against taking a forested wilderness area with no pre-existing infrastructure and industrializing it.

“We thrive on tourism,” he said. “People object to the siting.”

FOHM believes that allowing turbines to be built will put that tourism at risk, and not just for L’Anse Township, but for the entire county.

As evidence, they point to a study commissioned by the Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland to see if the government support of turbines would impact tourism.

“…We might expect a negative reaction from a small percentage of the tourists (about 5 percent)…,” the study concludes.

Lodging rates also might be lowered, the study suggested.

Another survey done in Scotland also found 25 percent of respondents said they would avoid areas with wind developments.

The government of Ontario, Canada, recently took up legislation to cancel a project slated for construction in Prince Edward County.

“Industrial wind turbines simply do not fit with this environment and would be detrimental to the natural beauty and historic charm of South Marysburgh,” county Mayor Robert Quaiff said.

Maine’s governor declared a moratorium on wind energy development in the state in January, until the impacts on tourism could be more fully explored.

“We cannot afford to damage our natural assets in ways that would deter visitors from returning to Maine,” Gov. Paul LePage said, according to an article from Utility Dive.

Mason also pointed out that the township master plan, last revised in 2012, puts an emphasis on eco-tourism.

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