UMERC moves ahead with plans to build power plants

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NEGAUNEE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WLUC) -- Milwaukee-based utility company We Energies bought the Presque Isle Power Plant in 1988. But current federal emission regulations mean the coal-powered plant will close in 2020, which would leave many areas in the Upper Peninsula without power.

The Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corporation (UMERC) is moving forward with plans to build two new natural gas generating stations in the U.P.

Now the Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corporation (UMERC), which replaced We Energies in January, is moving forward with plans to build two new natural gas generating stations to fill the gap.

"It essentially sets the framework for the replacement of the Presque Isle Power Plant. Presque Isle currently provides the lion's share of power to the U.P.," project manager Terry Carroll said. "It's a major source, and this will be a replacement for that."

UMERC held informational meetings in Baraga and Marquette counties in late May to update the public on their progress.

"Every step of the way, we've been letting them know where we're looking to put these plants, how we might improve their roads, how it will affect their daily lives," UMERC spokesperson Amy Jahns said. "So we're committed to continuing to do that, and that's what we're doing here tonight."

The Marquette County plant will be built at the site of the industrial park in Negaunee Township east of County Rd. 492. A smaller plant will be built near 16107 Sarya Rd. in Pelkie.

They'll produce a total 180 megawatts of electricity. The Negaunee plant will also supply power to the Tilden Mine, which is paying a portion of the estimated $277 million total project investment.

But it's going to be a while before the project is done.

"The plans are in the process. We still haven't completed all of the refinement of the water needs, but we're working on it," Negaunee Township Supervisor William Carlson said.

Construction is estimated to take around 18 to 24 months and employ about 200 workers, starting in autumn 2017. Schedulers said they were aiming to complete the plant in summer 2019.

Residents will not see a utility rate increase, and noise pollution also won't be a problem. The closest homes to the plant will hear a noise level of 40 decibels, about the volume of a refrigerator running.

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