DRIVE BY THE Shiras Steam Plant and you’ll notice a big hole in the ground just northwest of the plant. It’s huge actually.
Crews have been excavating it for the last month and have removed about 12,000 tons of contaminated soil. They also recently came across two massive concrete vaults filled with what looked like black sludge–water and “heavy bottoms” was the terminology used. It’s all apparently the byproduct of natural gas production that took place here decades ago.
The Marquette city gasification plant, which was first licensed back in 1867, was located here. Nobody’s quite sure when the plant stopped operating but it was long ago, which means the two chambers full of sludge have just been sitting there, hopefully undisturbed, since then.
We shouldn’t be surprised by this, of course. Marquette’s coastline was an industrial slum, rife with contamination, just a few decades ago.
The sludge is being deposited at the Marquette County landfill site.
Indiana Michigan Power Company owns the property and has undertaken the environmental remediation voluntarily. The company applied for a permit to dig up the site to replace two culverts that had degraded over the years. The job is turning out to be little bigger than they expected.
Lotta questions here. What exactly is in the soil? What exactly was in the vaults? Had they been breached? Any need for concern since the site is nearly adjacent to Lake Superior? The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is overseeing the process. Answers forthcoming.
GET PREPARED TO pay higher electric rates in the U.P. starting December 1st, unless we get a last minute reprieve from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Rates will likely soar in the eastern U.P, and rise more moderately in Marquette.
The reason behind the increases is complicated but basically it’s because We Energies wants to close down its old, inefficient, coal-fired Presque Isle Power Plant but we, the customers, need to keep it open, even though it’s a dinosaur. And we’ll have to pay for it.
The rate increases will anger homeowners and possibly discourage business development.
Ah, but here’s the bright side! It’ll force us to confront reality. We need to build new, modern power plants in the U.P. to help us break our dependence on Wisconsin.
The new plants (plural) will likely be powered by natural gas. Maybe by wind, even solar. Energy companies are out there, ready to build.
But it’ll be a Michigan solution giving the U.P. the opportunity to seize control of its destiny.
That’s what U.P. legislators and the governor’s office, together, are working on now. In the meantime, unfortunately, we’ll have to pay more–maybe a lot more–to turn on our lights.
THE SHAKEUP CONTINUES at Cliffs Natural Resources.
Casablanca Capital staged a coup a couple of months ago when it assumed control of the board of directors, ousted the CEO, and promised cuts.
The cuts in personnel are taking place all across Cliffs’ North American operations, and they’ve now hit home. Jennifer Huetter, the district director for public affairs, was recently let go.
You’d know Huetter from the Cliffs’ TV commercials she’s done over the last couple of years. She also appeared recently on the U.P.’s Dancing with the Stars.
She’s smart and well-regarded. She’ll land on her feet.
As for Cliffs, which has endured turmoil and a drastic plunge in its stock price, the jury is still out.
MARQUETTE IS LOSING one of its “cool” stores.
Switchback, which specializes in used outdoor and athletic equipment–kayaks, skis, camping gear–is closing up shop this month and relocating to Grand Rapids. That’s where the owner is from.
But don’t despair. A non-profit store known as Revolutions is taking its place. It’s already up and running at the Masonic Square Mall on Washington Street.
And Revolutions offers something different: not only sales of used equipment but also programs to help youngsters learn how to repair their bicycles and skis.
Come to think of it, that might be “cooler” than Switchback.
GENERALLY YOU DON’T advertise that you’re looking for a job unless you’re actually looking for a job.
WJMN anchor Gabe Caggiano begs to differ.
His resume and resume tape are listed on Medialine, a website for broadcasters seeking employment in the TV industry.
Caggiano expressed surprise when asked about the listing and said, regardless, it didn’t mean anything. He insisted he was very happy at WJMN and had no plans on leaving.
Caggiano is a talented but well-traveled journalist who’s also done some TV acting and has cut a music album.
SPEAKING OF HOLLYWOOD, you may have noticed a vaguely familiar face on a recent episode of The League, a comedy on FX about a group of fantasy football players in Chicago.
She wasn’t on the screen very long–just a few seconds–and she didn’t say a word, but it sure looked like Regena Robinson, whose stormy tenure as news director at WLUC ended several months ago.
We’d heard she had left the U.P. for Los Angeles. It’s apparently true.
Robinson touted herself not only as a journalist but also as a poet, a pageant queen, a motivational speaker and an inspirational blogger.
Now she can add “actress” to her resume.
YOU GOTTA HAND it to head coach Jeff Olson and the Ishpeming Hematites. They’ve now won 30 straight football games–a U.P. record–and are aiming toward their third straight state championship.
Olson’s built a dynasty, and it hasn’t been because he’s got the biggest and fastest athletes around. Not even close.
No, he’s got only six players who tip the scales at more than 200 pounds, and he’s got plenty in the 130-160 range. His Defensive Player of the Year is an inside linebacker who barely stretches to 5’9″ and weighs in at maybe 175 after a hearty spaghetti dinner.
None of the Hematites is blazing fast. They’re just quick and smart and tough. They block and tackle better than their opponents. No showboating. They’re Yoopers, through and through. You’ll find kids like them all over the U.P. every Friday night in the fall.
But high school football is all about coaching. A great coach like Olson can transform modestly talented and undersized athletes into a great team.
That’s what they have in Ishpeming these days: a great team that’s rewriting football history in the U.P.
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