Hard to believe, but I’ve been in the Upper Peninsula for almost six years now. It was in July of 2004 that my dog and I headed north from Atlanta. I did the driving and she sat in the passenger seat, shooting me occasional glances as if to ask me when we were going to stop.
We finally stopped in Marquette where I’d taken the job as news director at TV6. As quickly as possible, I tried to immerse myself in news stories of the UP. Two of the most prominent and controversial were the Founders Landing development and the proposed Kennecott mine.
Well, they’re still with us today and they’re still in the news, but they seem, for better or worse to finally be winding down.
Founders Landing, after a few false starts, plenty of delays, and some serious political turmoil, actually has a few buildings on it now, with the promise of a hotel and more in the year ahead. All in all, a good thing, even though there are some who’d like to keep the shoreline clear. But the fact is, we need reasonable development because we need the tax revenue.
As for the nickel and copper mine that Kennecott is planning to build on the Yellow Dog Plains, things are a bit more uncertain and still remain, after all these years, controversial. I attended a concert the other night which was devoted, in large part, to opposition to the mine. Cynthia Pryor, who was recently arrested for trespassing at the mine site, spoke at the concert, pleading with people not to give up the cause.
Some Native Americans have begun camping out there to express their opposition to the mine, and in spite of a series of court victories for Kennecott, some of the diehards are still holding out hope that the mining giant can be stopped legally.
If I were a betting man, I’d tell you the odds are heavily weighted in favor of Kennecott. The company has too much money, too many lawyers, and in all likelihood, probably too much local support, for the mine to be blocked.
My hope now, after these last six years, is that we all do what we can to make sure Kennecott toes the line and respects the environment as it drills at the site, and that the company provides the hundreds of local jobs it has promised during the construction and operation phases of the mine.
It’s probably time to move on to other news stories and other challenges in the U.P., but we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to either the Kennecott mine or Founders Landing. Both projects will have a major impact on what is inarguably our greatest natural resource in the U.P.: our land and our water.