Magazine article brings attention to local issue

The New Yorker, one of the most prestigious publications in the United States, turned its attention recently to the controversial proposed vertical-launch facility that would be located on private property in Powell Township near Lake Superior.

The lengthy article was written by David Rompf, whose articles and essays have appeared in many notable publications such as The New York Times and Newsweek. Rompf is familiar with the Upper Peninsula, having been born in L’Anse.

The plan for the facility, part of the Michigan Launch Initiative, was announced in 2020. It surprised a few folks, with K.I. Sawyer– instead of the pristine Granot Loma site — having been discussed as the facility location.

The spaceport plan comes from the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association. The Powell Township site, if built, would be part of the spaceport that would include a horizontal-launch site at the downstate Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport, with operations for both sites supported by a command-and-control center in Chippewa County.

The vertical-launch site was upsetting enough to some that they formed a group,

Citizens for a Safe & Clean Lake Superior. That organization has been keeping close tabs on the issue.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation handles spaceport operators’ licensing. However, as it now stands, the fate of the project lies in the hands of Powell Township government, which would have to rezone the property to industrial.

CSCLS now focuses on raising consciousness of the issue, and certainly, The New Yorker article, which was shared many times on Facebook, helped that goal, regardless of which side an individual stands.

It was a well-balanced piece, covering both sides of the issue, with launch proponents saying they will be stewards of the area and involve the community once work started at the site. However, the article also pointed out that others are worried about possible environmental consequences.

CSCLS President Dennis Ferraro told The Mining Journal that the proposed location in Powell Township includes wetlands and overlays fragile Jacobsville sandstone.

He expressed concerns too about rocket noise, for example, accompanying people trying to peacefully kayak on Lake Superior.

The economics of the facility also are troubling to some people.

The article references a report, commissioned by MAMA and written by the nonprofit I.Q.M. Research Institute, that indicates “the annual revenue generated from a launch cadence of one rocket launch per week in Michigan would have the same revenue impact in the State equal to the annual revenue of two additional fast-food chain restaurants.”

With such a complicated and polarizing issue, it’s wonderful that The New Yorker cast a spotlight on it, bringing awareness not to only local residents but people across the country and maybe the world.


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