Spaceport tensions rise as launch site announced near Marquette

Sam Rush/NW SPACEPORT COMES TO MARQUETTE: The Spaceport is set to begin operations in 2025 and create approximately 2000 jobs across three locations. Environmental concerns have risen from citizens of these areas.

Sam Rush/NW SPACEPORT COMES TO MARQUETTE: The Spaceport is set to begin operations in 2025 and create approximately 2000 jobs across three locations. Environmental concerns have risen from citizens of these areas.

Peter Smedley

The U.P. is defined by its preservation and the surrounding nature is why many have students chose to live in Marquette, and why some stay after they graduate.

The spaceport coming to Marquette in 2025 is creating many potential jobs that would allow students and people of Marquette to work and thrive, yet there is concern that it may also threaten the preservation of nature, the very thing which makes this region so unique.

Two petitions have surfaced since the announcement of the spaceport, one in support, and one in protest.

Masters student in public administration and former Vice President of ASNMU Jake Putala has been a major advocate for the spaceport, along with two others who wish to live and work in Marquette.

“I’m excited by the opportunity to have the spaceport in Marquette county because it could lead to hundreds of good paying jobs for students, for graduates, and for people in the community. Details on the education side of things are light, but NMU and the space launch site could partner in some ways. There’s a lot of programs at NMU that could benefit. A lot of NMU graduates could find opportunities,” Putala said. “I did a site tour of the project. There are an estimated 2,000 jobs at the site in Marquette and downstate. A lot of spinoff activity as well. It could be a huge benefit to the economy of the U.P.”

The petition against the spaceport is largely concerned with the impact on the environment.

Sophomore nursing major Lauren Blosser created a petition against the spaceport that has garnered over 10,000 signatures. 

“My concern is the area of Marquette, keeping it clean, keeping it pure Michigan,” Blosser said. “The clear-cutting of the land, the forests, and the mini-ecosystems that it could create; the pH changes. It could destroy what’s in that area. Lake Superior feeds into all the Great Lakes and it could impact those too.” 

Blosser advocates for the preservation of the wilderness in Marquette and Lake Superior, rather than contributing pollution to one of the very few places that still remains relatively unpolluted.

 “I was reading a book from an Anishinabe author. It was an herbal almanac about how the Natives view the plants and Lake Superior. One of the excerpts she wrote was [about how] nature should not be viewed as something needing to be conquered, but something we view as coexisting with and worth protecting. We need to step back and ask why we are doing this. Economic development, but at what cost? We have to look at the whole picture.” 

Blosser does not represent Native Americans, nor is she an environmental studies major, but a citizen of Marquette, she said.

“If they went about it in an environmentally minded way it could be good. I feel like the way the report came out, undeveloped land, nobody living out there—  there’s neighbors next to it. I have a friend that owns land out there,” Blosser said. “It would be nice to have had a town hall to express concerns, but they were like this is it, this is what’s happening.”

Environmental concerns are a major point of contention that the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association acknowledges. In their frequently asked questions about the Michigan Launch Initiative, one discusses the impact of the environment.

“A preliminary environmental screening is being conducted as part of the ongoing site selection and feasibility studies. A comprehensive environmental review for each proposed site will be prepared by the FAA pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. NEPA, which requires federal agencies to evaluate potential environmental impacts,” states the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association.

Putala believes that the company heading the spaceport can be responsible when it comes to environmental concerns.

“I think we can balance environmental protection and economic development in a way that benefits everyone. I don’t believe it will destroy Lake Superior or the woods in Marquette,” Putala said. 

Both Putala and Blosser stressed for students to do their own research. Putala also wishes for students and community members to keep an open mind about the project, and Blosser urges everyone to keep themselves informed and not be so quick to accept news articles for face value.

Both petitions can be found on change.org, and more information for the spaceport can be found at http://www.michman.org/. The spaceport will open alongside another port in Oscoda County, and a control center in a yet to be determined location.