See our right-hand column for announcements and news briefs. Scroll down the right-hand column to access the Archives -- links to articles posted in the main column since 2007.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Proposed industrial rocket launch site at Granot Loma threatens pristine Lake Superior shoreline

This photo shows an overview of the proposed Granot Loma/Thoney Point launch site on Lake Superior in Marquette County as seen from the overlook on bareback mountain at Harlow Lake. (Photos courtesy Citizens for a Safe and Clean Lake Superior board members)

By Dennis Ferraro*

Most of us coming to Lake Superior’s beautiful southern shoreline to live, to study, or to visit feel a deep connection to its wild and pristine coastal habitat. Whether hiking trails, hunting, skiing, fishing, kayaking, or just wandering the beautiful coastline from Pictured Rocks to the Porcupines, we feel this connection to nature that recreates our bodies, refreshes our minds, and replenishes our spirits.

One particularly beautiful stretch of coastline -- pictured above as an overview and shown below as a water view -- is the Thoney Point promontory at an area known as Granot Loma, just 10 miles north of Marquette. Unfortunately, a Detroit lobbyist, the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association (MAMA), now wants to create a heavy industrial zone at Granot Loma for launching purely commercial rockets into space.

Here is a view from the proposed rocket launch site seen from the water about 2 miles south on the Hiawatha Water Trail.

As bait, early in 2019, MAMA publicly promised hundreds, if not thousands, of local jobs at a proposed horizontal launch site at the industrially developed KI Sawyer Airport; but then secretly, behind closed doors, made the switch to a vertical launch site, for a mere handful of jobs, on the pristine and ecologically sensitive Lake Superior coastline at Granot Loma.**

Now that Oscoda-Wurtsmith airport has been chosen for the horizontal launch site, and Chippewa County chosen for the "spaceport" command and control center, instead of gaining many jobs, Marquette County will end up with only a handful. For example, the Kodiak Alaska Aerospace site, when launching rockets like those proposed for Granot Loma, only employs five people.

Moreover, instead of a spaceport located at an already industrially developed site, this switch to the pristine and ecologically sensitive lakeshore at Granot Loma will create an extremely intense industrial use zone:

  • which will be built on fragile wetlands within hundreds of feet of the lakeshore;
  • where risk of explosion at launch will require evacuation of at least six nearby family residences;
  • where, after even successful launches, rocket parts will fall to the lake and ground, causing both hazard and pollution below;
  • where lightning and water towers will pollute the view;
  • where extensive clear cutting will strip plant and animal habitat;
  • where a deluge shock suppression system will draw tons of water from groundwater tables and/or the already eroding lakeshore;
  • where each launch blast will be seen and heard for miles around, just like the Wallops Island VA launch site, where The Washington Post notes that flights of rockets, like those planned for Granot Loma, "are visible up and down the Atlantic Coast."

This water view is within a mile of the proposed launch site.

This is a bad bargain, one that will degrade the quality of life which draws people here. Lake Superior’s coastline is not any one private or public landowner’s front or backyard. It is truly our collective lakeshore, a resource we must protect and sustain, regardless of municipal, township or neighborhood borders.

Just consider Granot Loma’s proximity to coastal areas which enhance the quality of life for all our citizens. For example, the proposed launch site would be located as follows:

These venues for outdoor recreation connect people with nature, recreate and refresh us, and promote sustainable economic growth in the UP.

Marquette already ranks as one of the the top 25 places for millennial job seekers because of the excellent quality of life provided by our beautiful UP wilderness and our pristine southern Lake Superior shoreline.

This Lake Superior shoreline view shows the pretty sandstone cliffs at the proposed Granot Loma/Thoney Point launch area.

Best Value Schools lists Northern Michigan University among the "Top 50 Outdoor Colleges" because our students "are surrounded by nature…close to Lake Superior, Marquette Mountain and other beautiful locations."

Reader’s Digest praises Marquette as up-and-coming for its quality of life created by its wilderness features and waterfront.

People come here for the beauty and connection with our still wild natural environment and the quality of life it offers. They do not come seeking an industrial hub. Creating an intense industrial zone for rocket launches, and the slippery slope into further erosive industrialization of Lake Superior’s shore, will not promote further sustainable growth. It will irreparably harm it.

This photo shows the rare black granite outcroppings at the proposed launch area.

There is simply no compelling need to locate a purely commercial, industrial launch site next to the largest surface area of freshwater on earth. Many thoroughly developed commercial rocket sites already exist elsewhere, like Kennedy Space Center’s  LC-48 complex which can launch 52 per year, Kodiak Island, or the new Wallops Island, VA, spaceport, referenced above. Rocket Lab, whose rocket is touted by MAMA, has only launched 20 rockets (2 failures) from its base in New Zealand, despite obtaining a license in 2016 allowing a launch every 72 hours for 30 years.

Spreading misinformation, and withholding facts, MAMA counts on the silence and inaction of the public, while solidifying its plans behind the scenes.

But a well organized public and vocal opposition can fight back now to influence local decision makers; and, in any future Federal Aviation Administration permitting process, it will be crucial that a large citizen coalition be already prepared to participate in public comment and hearings to argue cogently and forcefully to defeat the launch plan.

So please join us now, at citizensforasafeandcleanlakesuperior.com, or at our more easily remembered handle, everybodysbackyard.com. Protect our lakeshore!***

* Guest author Dennis Ferraro is President of Citizens for a Safe and Clean Lake Superior.

** Click here to read "The Bait and Switch Behind the Granot Loma Launch Plan."

*** Dennis Ferraro's recent presentation, "Save Our Shoreline: Everybody's Backyard!" is now posted on the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition's (UPEC's) You Tube channel HERE.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Letter: Michigan voting bills not helping

By Valorie Troesch*

To the editor:

Thirty-nine bills were recently introduced in the Michigan Senate that will suppress voting rights, all done under the false premise -- aka "The Big Lie" -- of securing elections in a state where there has not been a single documented and verified instance of individual or voting machine fraud. Republicans created a phantom problem in order to pass legislation designed to curb voter turnout.

Michigan is not alone. These types of bills are being passed in Republican-controlled legislatures across the country and are targeted to make voting more difficult, especially for minority populations. However, if Senator McBroom -- who co-sponsored some of these bills -- wants to honestly represent the best interests of his constituents in Michigan’s rural western Upper Peninsula, he will exercise independent judgment and not follow in lock-step with Michigan Senate Republicans. The best interests of McBroom’s constituents are in direct opposition to what these bills will do.

For example, Senate Bill 285 will require that voters present an original or a copy of a specific type of photo ID to the clerk in order to request an absentee ballot. Think about what this means. An elderly person living in a rural area who cannot drive and who wants to vote by absentee ballot will now have to figure out how to get this ID and how to make a photocopy of it to submit with a mailed-in application for an absentee ballot. Alternatively, that voter will have to either mail in the original ID or go in person to apply for the absentee ballot. This all flies in the face of the rationale for absentee voting in the first place -- to help enfranchise voters who cannot easily leave their homes.

Senate Bill 287 will remove prepaid postage for absentee ballots and require voters to pay their own postage. On its face, this may seem fair, but this is a risky provision. In the November 2020 election, absentee ballots in their envelopes weighed slightly more than one ounce, greater than the allowed weight covered by a single first-class stamp. Voters who wrongly assume that one stamp will always cover the postage risk having their ballots not delivered by Postmaster General DeJoy’s USPS and, thus, not counted. Pre-paid postage negates this risk and is a common-sense solution.

In their overzealousness to tamp down minority voting, Republican legislators -- especially in the Upper Peninsula -- will needlessly disenfranchise their own constituents.**

Editor's Notes:

* Valorie Troesch, author of this letter, is a Copper Country resident.

** Voters Not Politicians (VNP) of Michigan will hold a virtual Voter Suppression Resistance Update w/ Letter Writing Workshop at 7 p.m. EDT TONIGHT, Wednesday, March 31. You can join from anywhere by registering here. VNP will present a statewide volunteer update on Senate Bill package 273 - 309 and the Rescue Michigan plan. Immediately following is a letter-writing workshop with tips for messaging your representatives on this important issue.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

TODAY City of Hancock to hold PUBLIC HEARING on MNRTF acquisition grant application for Navy Street Trail access

The green line on this map shows the Navy Street Trail in Hancock, along the Portage Waterway. The City of Hancock hopes to acquire public access to this waterfront property through a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) land acquisition grant. (Photo courtesy City of Hancock)*

HANCOCK -- The City of Hancock will hold a special City Council PUBLIC HEARING and Meeting at 6 p.m. TODAY, Tuesday, March 30, via Zoom, to consider the MNRTF (Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund) acquisition grant application for the Navy Street Trail. 

"The City of Hancock is  applying for the MNTRF acquisition grant to purchase 1000 feet of the Navy Street Trail," said Mary Babcock, Hancock City Manager. "The grant will allow public access to the waterfront trail that is currently unavailable. This property is owned by Carmody Lahti Real Estate and Finlandia University."

Should the City receive the grant, the trail would be non-motorized, Babcock added.

This map shows the location of the Navy Street Trail along the Hancock waterfront. At far right is the Portage Lift Bridge. Hancock Beach and Campground are pictured at far left of map. Downtown Hancock is indicated by the light blue rectangle above the trail. (Photo courtesy City of Hancock)*

Members of the public wishing to participate in the meeting and Public Hearing will need to call 312626- 6799 and enter the meeting ID (821-7759-0700). Please hit *9 to raise your hand to make a comment.

Join Zoom Meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82177590700 Meeting ID: 821 7759 0700
Dial by your location
+l 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
Meeting ID: 821 7759 0700

AGENDA

6 p.m. PUBLIC HEARING: MNRTF Grant Application

Regular Meeting
•    Call to order and pledge of allegiance
•    Roll Call and verification of quorum
•    Review and approval of agenda

Public Comment -- Anyone wishing to address the council will be recognized by the Mayor at this time. Please hit *9 to raise your hand to make a comment via ZOOM.

Old Business
1.    Consider approval of Resolution 21-05 Submission of the MNRTF Acquisition Grant application for the Navy Street Trail.

New Business
1.    Consider approval of lot split for 444 Hancock Avenue to reconcile the legal description to the property card.
2.    Consider approval of City of Hancock proposed logo design.

Public Comment -- Anyone wishing to address the council will be recognized by the Mayor at this time.
Please hit *9 to raise your hand to make a comment via ZOOM. 

Adjourn

* Editor's Note: We regret being unable to fit the entire map and labels in our column.