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Great Lakes Article:

Manistee area residents voice concern over new power plant

By Don Reid
The Daily Reporter

MANISTEE -- The first decision on where Coldwater might get its future electrical power was delayed last week after a three hour public hearing.

The Manistee Planning Commission's public hearing on the controversial issue of building a 425-megawatt coal-fired electric plant on the shore of Manistee Lake did not hear everyone. There was not nearly enough time for the 120 people who signed up to speak their minds about the proposal.

More than 500 filled the Manistee Middle School's gym and overflowed into the hallway during Thursday's public hearing.

"I don''t know if we'll even complete it next week, but everybody will get a chance. I want that understood," said planning commission chairman Roger Yoder.

Michigan South Central Power Agency (MSCPA), which includes Coldwater and Union City as members, along with 14 other cities who belong to the Michigan Public Power Association (MPPA), are in the second phase of planning to construct a new plant to meet power needs after 2008.

Failure to secure a new source of power by the time a contract for power ends in 2008 could force MSCPA to buy on the open market which could ultimately raise local electrical rates.

The prime proposal is a power plant which would cost about $700 million to build and would burn about 1.8 million tons of coal a year to produce electricity. It would be built in association with Tondu Corporation of Houston.

Consultants say the Manistee project would provide the cheapest of any of the four plans considered.

Some people support the plant because the company promises good-paying jobs and economic benefit for the community.

Others oppose the plant because it would increase the amount of coal burned in the county and could cause environmental problems.

Municipalities do not pay property taxes, so representatives of the city and Manistee Saltworks have been negotiating a possible community service fee the company would pay in lieu of taxes

Tondu Corporation president Joe Tondu said Manistee fits the project needs because it has a port so coal can be brought to the plant by Great Lakes freighters; Manistee Lake water that can be used in the cooling process; has close access to an electrical power transmission grid; and it has an industrial site with 50 acres.

The county board of commissioners now opposes construction of the plant. The commission took action earlier this week to state its opposition, months after taking action to support construction of the plant.

The Manistee County Economic Development Commission and a representative of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation said the state supports use of the existing industrial sites for use by new plants, rather than building the new plants on green land.

DEQ is expected to approve the air quality permits for the plan. Representatives of the Sierra Club and other environmental groups oppose the project because of air quality and fear of harm to water quality of Lake Manistee.

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