Sanilac County officials are part of an ad hoc group of municipal leaders from across Michigan’s Thumb urging the state to go slow on legislation calling for offshore wind turbines in Lake Huron.
“We were not familiar with or notified of the bill,” said Carl Osentoski of Ubly, who launched the Thumb Regional Energy Collaborative Group in summer 2010.
Rep. Dan Scripps, D-Leland, introduced House Bill 6564 at the end of the 2010 legislative term. It proposes installation of electricity-generating offshore wind parks in areas considered best for development, to be leased by private developers.
Osentoski’s group wants to understand the effects potential wind-energy projects will have on the region, and isn’t enthused about how the legislation was proposed.
“It doesn’t give enough time to react,” said Osentoski, who is executive director of Huron County’s Economic Development Corporation. “Especially with the amount of shoreline Michigan has, we thought community input was necessary.”
The group includes four Sanilac County leaders – Minden Township Supervisor Terry O’Connor and Trustee Donald Kolar, county administrator John Males and county commissioner John Merriman. Officials from Huron and Tuscola counties also are included.
An October 2010 report by the Michigan Great Lakes Wind Council deemed southern Lake Huron near Sanilac County as a priority wind resource area – one of five such areas within the Great Lakes that border Michigan.
The lake area’s qualifications included 20 continuous square miles of shallow water, up to a depth of 45 meters.
The bill asks county boards and planning commissions to determine zoning laws and to conduct hearings at their own expense.
Merriman said he’s interested in the opportunities wind energy presents to the local economy.
“From what little I know, there are a multitude of opportunities for dollars to come into the community through this whole thing,” Merriman said of wind energy initiatives. “I think the impact and implications of tax dollars coming in would benefit everyone.”
However, Merriman said he was unsure of the need to develop wind energy facilities in Lake Huron, considering the amount of available land in Sanilac County.
“If we didn’t have land to put them on, and if we were in dire straits, I might consider it,” Merriman said of offshore wind parks.
Land-based wind turbines are slated for installation this spring in Minden and Delaware townships, Merriman said. It will be the first wind-energy project in Sanilac County. Huron County has about 75 wind turbines, all from private developers, Osentoski said.
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