© 2024 Interlochen
CLASSICAL IPR | 88.7 FM Interlochen | 94.7 FM Traverse City | 88.5 FM Mackinaw City IPR NEWS | 91.5 FM Traverse City | 90.1 FM Harbor Springs/Petoskey | 89.7 FM Manistee/Ludington
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Up North lawmakers want a say in Camp Grayling proposal

(From left to right) Cam Cavitt (R-Cheboygan), Ken Borton (R-Gaylord), John Roth (R-Interlochen) and Sen. John Damoose (R-Harbor Springs).
(From left to right) Reps. Cam Cavitt (R-Cheboygan), Ken Borton (R-Gaylord), John Roth (R-Interlochen) and Sen. John Damoose (R-Harbor Springs).

A handful of Up North lawmakers want Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to let them have a say in the proposed expansion of Camp Grayling.

State Reps. Ken Borton (R-Gaylord), John Roth (R-Interlochen) and Cam Cavitt (R-Cheboygan), along with state Sen. John Damoose (R-Harbor Springs), are the first lawmakers to publicly express concern with the proposal.

In a letter to the governor, they highlighted their constituents' concerns, including what they feel is a lack of transparency from the Michigan National Guard and a concern for natural resources, should the proposal move forward.

“It is our belief that proposed expansions have the potential to threaten the health, safety and general welfare of the people in this region,” the letter states. “We should therefore be granted some authority on the expansion with respect to the protection of the air, water, wildlife, and other natural resources of the state from pollution, impairment and destruction.”

Read the full letter on the Michigan House Republican's website.

If a long-term lease is approved by the state Department of Natural Resources, 162-thousand acres could be added to what is already the largest National Guard Training Facility in the country.

The Guard previously told IPR the land would be used for low-impact cyber and electromagnetic warfare training that require long distances.

The lawmakers cited groundwater contamination concerns, which likely refers to the history of PFAS contamination that was traced back to the training facility after a plume of the dangerous chemicals was discovered in 2016.

Most recently, Randall Rothe, a supervisor in the state's Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, or EGLE, wrote that the DNR should reject the expansion of Camp Grayling based on the Guard’s “inability to take timely action to investigate, mitigate, and remediate significant areas of contamination at Camp Grayling.”

The proposal was announced in May 2022, and ever since, hundreds of nearby residents have expressed concern for how the expansion would affect the environment and local economy.

As of this week, over 30 townships and county boards in the proposed expansion area have passed resolutions opposing the plan.

“We started out slowly and continued to branch out to Lewiston in Otsego County down to Missaukee County,” said Jim Knight of Bear Lake Township, one of several leaders in local opposition. “We’re hoping that because of the exposure we’re getting, more townships and counties will get involved. We’re certainly inviting anyone from downstate who comes up to recreate to get involved.”

Whitmer has not yet publicly voiced an opinion on the proposal. IPR reached out to the governor's office for comment but did not receive a response before publication of this story.

“I really thought maybe we could resolve this here in Lansing. But, it finally got to the end of our public comment period, and I thought it was time to put some pressure on the governor to reach out,” Borton told IPR. “They were unwilling all along to let me know what their stance was on this. And I thought it was time to force their hand.

The actual ask for land comes from the leadership of the Michigan National Guard. Since the request is for public land, DNR Director Shannon Lott has the final say on whether the proposal should move forward.

DNR officials previously told the Record-Eagle that there's no set timeline for a decision.

“I would just hope that the governor and the DNR director would let us come and talk with them to get a little more communication,” Roth said. “Maybe we can put our constituency a little more at ease.”

Michael Livingston covers the area around the Straits of Mackinac - including Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties as a Report for America corps member.