ROGERS CITY – A proposed Molke Township wind farm project could have a significant impact on Rogers City airport and its airspace.
The Federal Aviation Administration has determined the height of the proposed wind turbines would be too tall and penetrate restricted airspace. The turbines would also present safety issues during landings and takeoffs unless alterations to the plan are made.
Presque Isle County Airport Manager Al Stiller said the FAA notified the county-owned airport of its findings and said nine of the 66 proposed turbines are in direct line with airport approach lines and would be an issue. All of the turbines, which would rise 574 feet above the ground, exceed the high structure guidelines set for aviation in the area.
The company behind the wind turbine project, 5Star Ridge Run Energy, could not be reached for comment.
Stiller said the airport can help convince the FAA to allow the project to move forward. He said there are some simple fixes, such as adding the structures to aviation charters to alert pilots of their location, putting lights on the turbines, or painting them a bright color.
If the towers are erected as currently designed, the airport could see major changes that would hurt its business model and slow financial progress.
If the nine towers in question are built as designed, Stiller said, one of the airport’s two instrument approach runways would lose its ability for electronic GPS landing assistance. That would force pilots to do more landings after circling the runway, which is more tricky and potentially dangerous, Stiller said.
He said losing the instrument approach would likely lead some pilots to simply bypass the airport and land at others nearby that offer instrument approach on its runways.
“The turbine’s height presents a hazard for navigation and the loss of instrument approach will decrease the usefulness of the airport,” Stiller said. “Pilots don’t like the circle-the-runway approach, so they will just go to Cheboygan, Alpena or Gaylord.”
The airport has seen an uptick in traffic the last several years. He said the number of planes landing is up 30% in 2020 when compared to the same time frame in 2019, and fuel sales are up 40%.
Losing customers and revenue could mean less federal funding, Stiller said.
“Less planes equals less funds, means less of a chance you have an airport,” he said. ” This could threaten the future of it. Things are looking up, and I think we have turned a corner. We’re doing good, and I don’t want to go backwards.”
Stiller said he wasn’t necessarily opposed to the project, but added that the airport is his first priority. He added he has had meetings with administrators of 5Star Ridge Run Energy to find a possible solution, and more talks could take place, but no date is set.
“This is an issue that needs to be discussed seriously, but, right now there is no timetable on anything,” he said.
The Presque County Board of Commissioners will receive an update from Stiller at its meeting at 9:30 a.m. today.