Bad Axe, Michigan – Local State Rep. Kurt E. Damrow, from Port Austin Michigan introduced proposed legislation creating a unique tax for commercial wind, biomass and solar systems. This proposal is being reviewed by the Michigan House Committee on Tax Policy. House Bills 5278 and 5279 to create an Alternative Commercial Energy Systems (ACES).
The new tax introduced by Damrow would be the greater of; a yearly flat tax based on capacity, or $4 per megawatt hour generated for sale that year. The minimum tax for any commerical system would be $15,400 a year for one megawatt systems. If passed this would affect small commercial operations occuring on several farms in Michigan.
The bills are viewed as a response to replacement for the personal property on tax wind developments which reduced local tax revenue. ACES would effectively replace a portion of those lost revenues.
While lagging behind the rest of the country, Michigan is showing strong growth in commercial wind farm projects. A survey of Michigan wind energy projects showed that in 2011 there are 205 turbines producing 340 Megawatts. Estimates of additional wind projects underway look to add another 205 turbines producing 340 Megawatts over the next two years.
ThumbWind.com is finalizing a survey on this growth and will publish its findings in the next few days.
The US Army Corp of Engineers is forecasting lower water levels for Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron. High temperatures coupled with lack of snowfall in the upper Great Lakes are contributing factors to the decline. Lake Superior is expected to continue to face lower water levels from 2011 and is expected to drop another two inches over the next month. Currently lakes Michigan and Huron are 7 inches above the water levels measured in 2011.
NOAA’s National Ice Center is reporting that most of the Great Lakes region has not frozen over and open water is reported on all the lakes except for Lake St. Clair.
Overall the water level of the Great Lakes’ basin continues to approach historic lows. Low water levels in the 1930’s and again in the 1960s was weather related. Will lake levels continue to decline because of evaporation during these warmer winters?
In the February issue of BoatUS there was a special report on activity taken by several states to ban copper marine anti-fouling bottom paint by 2020. Copper is added to bottom paint as a biocide to prevent slime, plant and zebra mussels from attaching onto the hull. The typical recreational boat sits in her slip much of the time the copper coating in the paint slowly leaches into the water and settles in the bottom. While copper is a naturally occurring element, especially in Michigan, the concentrations in the silt since its introduction in the late 1980s has created a poisonous wasteland in the basins in some of ports and marinas according to the EPA.
Michigan has over 200 marinas and over 900,000 registered watercraft. It’s only a matter of time before the issue hits our shores. Currently only Washington and California are actively taking steps to curb the use of copper bottom paint.
Current alternatives to copper based anti-fouling paint are being developed but have serious environment and cost concerns. Switching to a non-biocide or organic requires stripping the existing coating from the hull. This can cost thousands of dollars and create a copper laden dust which is considered hazardous waste. Application of the new coating requires the use of a sprayer. However has the commodity cost of copper skyrockets environmentally friendly alternatives may be cheaper in the long run.
It may be several years before Michigan lawmakers consider taking similar steps. In the mean time paint manufactures will continue to develop and refine non copper alternatives. Boaters should keep this issue in mind when they prepare their craft for the next boating season.