Experts urge cautious approach on Great Lakes fish farming

30 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Experts urge caution over Great Lakes fish farming.

TRAVERSE CITY — Experts have submitted five reports to Michigan agencies that are considering whether commercial fish farming should be allowed in the state’s Great Lakes waters.TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) – More than 400 people are gathering in Traverse City to discuss local and regional issues facing the Great Lakes, including beach litter.

A shortage of power line workers, largely due to baby boomer retirements and hiring slowdowns during the Great Recession, has utility companies and contractors scrambling for workers. Some public utilities and private contractors are paying incentives or daily bonuses to attract and retain workers, raising costs for companies and ultimately consumers. But the scientific report says if the state lets the industry proceed, it should begin on an experimental basis to allow careful monitoring of how the operations affect the environment. Now we’re paying the price for it,” said Mike Kozlowski, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 17 in Southfield. “We have guys pulling in a buck or buck-50 ($100,000 to $150,000) without even blinking,” he said, describing power line workers’ total pay, including overtime.

Another report projects that two Great Lakes fish farming operations producing a combined 2 million pounds of trout a year would employ about 17 people and create perhaps 27 spinoff jobs. Numbers for previous years were unavailable. ■Outage-prone Mackinac Island is having a hard time finding a journeyman linemen who will live on the island for $70,000 a year. The island’s electric co-op lost a longtime contractor to retirement in June. ■An emergency wage increase was approved this summer for Bay City Electric Light and Power to keep experienced workers from being lured away for higher pay.

The state requires at least 8,000 hours of apprenticeship over four years to be a licensed journeyman, which allows a lineman to work on his or her own, supervise apprentices and command better pay. Hank Johnson is the future of line workers, known best for weathering blizzards, scaling power towers and repairing damaged substations that can leave thousands of people and businesses in the dark.

Together, Johnson and his supervisor represent the industry’s conundrum: How do you attract younger workers, who require years of training, to replace experienced veterans leaving at a faster rate as business booms? The Southeast Michigan Community Alliance in Wayne and Monroe counties, with the exception of Detroit, was part of the effort: 159 people completed pre-apprentice training; 57 were placed in new jobs; and 12 retained jobs. “We have an older population and the potential and the eligibility to retire is 50 percent of those workers,” said Tracy DiSanto, manager of workforce planning and analytics at DTE Energy. DTE hires electrical workers directly and contracts for others. “To the extent we can find them we are going to hire, otherwise we have to pilfer them from contractors, if that is the right word,” she said. The emphasis will be on standardizing credentials to better meet needs of employers and increase education need to fill the jobs in colleges, officials said.

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