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Public engagement, planning important for steam plant

Ever since the Marquette Board of Light and Power’s coal-fueled Shiras Steam Plant was retired last March after being placed in layup status in June 2018, many area residents have been wondering what the future might hold for the plant and its site along Lake Street in south Marquette.

At this point, we know the seven-story power plant and its smokestacks will be demolished in the coming years, but the roughly 19-acre site will retain an MBLP substation, back-up generators, a public fishing pier, and several other features.

At a recent meeting, the MBLP’s board of directors discussed the steps it would need to take leading up to the plant’s demolition, according to a recent Journal article.

A critical step in the long process of preparing for its demolition, the article reported, will be to hire an experienced engineering consultant to draft a plan.

This plan will help the MBLP fully understand the scope of the task and develop bid materials to seek a qualified contractor for the complex task of demolishing the seven-story power plant.

It’s important to seek a qualified engineering consultant and demolition contractor, MBLP Executive Director Tom Carpenter said in the article, as the MBLP wants to ensure the building will be torn down safely and in an environmentally responsible manner.

“We are in the business of building things, we don’t tear things like that down hardly ever, so we had to reach out to some external sources to help us do that properly,” he said in the article.

The entire process is likely to take two to three years, with a great deal of work taking place in the building’s interior before there are visible changes on the outside, Carpenter said previously.

We support and commend the MBLP’s efforts over the past year to approach the project in a careful, responsible manner. We recognize the demolition of a coal-fueled power plant is a complex task to be taken seriously and approached with the utmost caution.

While no formal votes were taken or decisions made regarding the demolition at the meeting, we believe it’s wise that MBLP regularly discuss the task of demolishing the power plant in a public forum and continue to gather input from area residents and local entities.

As a November work session between the Marquette City Commission and the Marquette Board of Light and Power showed, there are many different ideas and opinions regarding the site’s future use.

Some want to see the area retain an industrial purpose, while others hope to see it become green space or residential area.

Here at the Journal, we plan to closely watch the plans for demolition as they develop and hope to see regular updates from the MBLP on the process. We believe the extensive public input and cooperation among various entities regarding the plans for the site will be critical to ensuring a vital, responsible use of the lakefront property.