Michigan Lawmakers Propose Ban on Offshore Wind in Great Lakes


Two reps want to draw a red line across plans for wind turbines in Michigan's Great Lakes. Photo by Phil Hollman.

Yeh. That's right. No offshore wind turbines on Michigan's Great Lakes. Coal-fired power plants are much more appealing: Beautiful shoreline smokestacks and piles of toxic ash. Something to protect, for sure. Two Michigan lawmakers, from the west shores of Lake Michigan, want to make sure offshore turbines don't muck up the views and aesthetics of Michigan's wondrous natural resources. For sure. The state needs more trainloads of coal brought in, and mercury emitted by coal plants just makes fish taste better.

Of course, that's a little sarcasm. But it kind of sums up a proposal from Michigan Reps. Ray Franz and Jon Bumstead. Not Dagwood. The two have introduced legislation to ban wind turbines in Michigan's Great Lakes. They don't even want wind testing done on the water.

Bumstead said offshore turbines would diminish property values, create unacceptable views from shore and are not cost-effective, according to The Muskegon Chronicle.

"It's not good business and I don't think there is a return on the huge investments," Bumstead said. "It's not worth the risk of putting them in the lakes."

Bumstead adds that the lakes are "our greatest asset" and "industrialization of them is a hazard to nature and the economy."

Sure thing. Because Michigan has always protected its lakes from industry. None of the waters or shorelines in Michigan have been used for industrial purposes like shipping or energy production. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative isn't based at all on cleaning up messes from legacy pollution.

And Michigan Sea Grant didn't recently release an economic analysis showing that more than 1.5 million jobs are directly connected to the lakes, generating $62 billion in wages.

That report also didn't say that, basin-wide, many of those jobs are connected to shipping and that power plants are "the largest user of surface water in the region," adding that "Nuclear, coal and natural gas power plants are often located on a coast where they have ready access to water for facility cooling."

Granted, there are property owners in Western Michigan who don't want to see wind turbines on their horizon. Maybe they prefer new coal plants for the next 50 years, or climate change effects. That should be fun.

Of course, wind farms shouldn't be located just anywhere in the Great Lakes. Siting is important. That's why a Michigan wind council proposed a bunch of zones last year, to spur this alternative energy, create jobs, help ween the state of dirty power. Oh well. We'll see how Michigan House Bill 4499 plays out with a new governor and Legislature.

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