MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Representatives with the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community were at Northern Michigan University Monday, speaking out against the proposed Summit Lake Wind Project in the Huron Mountains. They spoke before a class and members of the public on what they believe to be dangers posed by the project.
"It's important that we are taking native of the negative impacts it may have on our treaty resources as we have them today and as we enjoy them today," said KBIC president Warren Swartz Jr.
The project, according to the developers, Renewable Energy Systems would build between 35 to 50 wind turbines across a total of 120 acres of Weyerhauser Land, located just east of L'Anse village. The KBIC believes industrialization of this area could impact their way of life.
"Our way of life means our ability to hunt, fish, trap, and gather the things that we've been afforded to all these years,” said Swartz. “My people and I want to protect that."
Not everyone agrees with this belief.
"They're still going to have rights to hunt and fish and gather on that land and, yeah, there are some areas that won't be wooded anymore, but there are different ecosystems that support different species of animals," said Michael Martin, an associate professor of engineering technology at NMU.
Another fear from the KBIC is that construction in the area could then lead to mining in the future.
"Obviously once that door is opened, they're going to kick it wide open and there goes our way of life," said Swartz.
Swartz says that the KBIC had done feasibility studies for wind power in the area in the past.
“If it's all about money, to me, I look at the feasibility studies and those say that if you can't afford it, solar is more economically feasible than wind," said Swartz.
Martin says that the lower costs to build and maintain wind turbines could make them profitable.
"Obviously that's why RES is doing it,” said Martin. “They're doing it to make money, they're not just doing it for the fun of it. They thing they can make enough power there to make money and that's mainly because the cost in those systems is coming down."
A public referendum open only to the residents of L’Anse Township will be held May 7. That vote could overturn zoning changes on wind turbines.