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      SEMCO fuels the Keweenaw

      The conversion to SEMCO natural gas in the Keweenaw was made official Wednesday morning in a ceremonial turning of the valve.

      Nearly 20 miles of pipeline from Kearsarge up to Mohawk will give more than 700 homes and businesses the opportunity to switch.

      SEMCO president James Larsen said after the successful changeover in Painesdale last year, the company decided to invest over $3.2 million in the Keweenaw to make the project possible.

      â??What made Keweenaw work this year was the community involvement and support,â?? said Larsen. â??We really had a lot of local support and people rallying around for the low prices of gas.â??

      By winter, the 330 residents already committed to the switch will have natural gas to heat their homes. Keweenaw County Commissioner Del Rajala said heâ??s preparing for a full house conversion and helped rally the community behind the project because he felt it couldnâ??t be passed up.

      â??Natural gas to the area is huge,â?? said Rajala. â??Itâ??s a definite savings for homeowners and businesses alike and the local governments that are in the area. It makes sense to convert over to natural gas.â??

      Homeowners will have to do some work to make the conversion, but the savings are expected to be high.

      â??Itâ??s going to be huge cost savings,â?? Rajala explained. â??An average of $400 a month for fuel oil; that could come down to maybe $80-$90 a month for savings, and itâ??s going to boost their property values, and itâ??s going to foster more business in the area, I believe.â??

      â??Compared to propane or fuel, especially, people are going to save anywhere between 50 to 75 percent of their heating bill each year with natural gas,â?? Larsen added.

      Larsen said in the next few weeks, the pipelines on the side roads will be turned on as well. He said he hopes to be able to fund similar projects down the road.

      â??Weâ??re going to be looking at seeing if we can springboard off the Keweenaw project for any other areas that might be surrounding that we might be able to get to in the coming years,â?? he said.