U.P. mining company looks to build a solar farm on recreation land

According to state officials, an Upper Peninsula mining firm is attempting to convert a piece of land from recreation to solar power generation.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the proposal would close a recreational area in Marquette County in return for generating electricity for 35,000 to 40,000 homes annually.

Although Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Co. owns the 1,080-acre piece in Sands Township, it must be open for public enjoyment under a 42-year-old land exchange agreement with the DNR. Cliff and Superior Solar Project applied to amend the deal, deleting the recreational use condition since it was incompatible with solar development.

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The DNR estimates its study of the request to take roughly six months, comparing the value of outdoor public recreation versus the possible public benefits of solar production. Members of the public will have multiple opportunities to provide feedback along the process.

Superior Solar Project would compensate the DNR for the loss of public recreation use rights if approved.

A 150-megawatt solar farm is proposed, which will give energy to 35,000 to 40,000 houses each year. Including the public recreation area, the solar farm covers 2,472 acres.

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The Ground Exchange Review Committee will recommend to the DNR director in about six months. The Michigan Natural Resources Commission will decide this matter in a public meeting.

Throughout the review process, the public will have the opportunity to comment on the proposal, including at a Natural Resources Commission meeting and a DNR public hearing hosted locally.

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