BLP turns 125

MARQUETTE – Turning on a lamp or plugging in a coffee-maker are run-of-the-mill daily tasks for most people, but the mere fact they can do them at all comes from the efforts of the Marquette Board of Light and Power.

The public had the opportunity to learn in detail how they get their power during Thursday’s 125th anniversary celebration of the BLP.

Based at the BLP offices at 2200 Wright St., the event had pole-climbing bucket truck demonstrations, a commemorative video and historical displays, which included a power plant ledger dating back to 1889-99.

Visitors also were taken via Checker bus to tour the Tourist Park Hydro Dam and the Shiras Steam Plant.

Inside the hydro dam, which went back in service in 2013 following the devastating 2003 flood, they got a close-up view of a large turbine with an electrical generator on top.

At the Shiras Steam Plant, they toured areas such as the turbine floor and live operating control room, and learned more about its operation, including the fact the utility needs about 200,000 tons of coal every year for generation purposes.

A hit with the kids back at the BLP offices was a “watt cycle,” which involved a riding bicycle connected to a light bulb that shows much energy it takes to light the bulb.

Matthew Scovronski, 8, of Marquette lit up all four bulbs in the “battle of the bulbs,” but that might not have been what fired him up the most.

“I’ve never mountained biked, so this is kind of fun,” he said.

The BLP is a self-sustaining, municipal electric utility that serves the city of Marquette and all of parts of Marquette, Negaunee, Ishpeming, West Branch, Richmond, Chocolay, Skandia, Sands and Forsyth townships.

The BLP began operating in Marquette in 1889 under the administration of the city, but in 1965, was placed under the jurisdiction of its own publicly elected board.

“Our people love working for the community,” BLP Executive Director Paul Kitti said. “They take a lot of pride.”