COVERT — Palisades Nuclear Power Plant has a huge impact on Van Buren County’s economy. 

And though the closure of Palisades was delayed from October 2018 to spring 2022, the economy will still feel a blow when the plant closes.

“Given the plant is one of Van Buren County’s largest employers and taxpayers, ripple effects are expected throughout the community,” said Zachary Morris, Kinexus’ economic development consultant for Van Buren County.

Entergy has three major parcels that account for most of the plant’s property taxes. It’s estimated that for 2016, Palisades paid about $10 million in property taxes. 

The plant accounts for about 7 percent of Van Buren County’s tax base, Van Buren County Treasurer Karen Makay told The Herald-Palladium last December when the plant originally announced the closure.

Palisades provides about $67 million in annual wages and benefits for its 600 employees who primarily live in Van Buren, Berrien, Allegan and Kalamazoo counties.

Morris said the impact of the loss of Palisades could be devastating to the public schools, libraries, transportation, law enforcement and other public services. Plant employees have houses, which they pay property taxes for. The money they make from Palisades’ payroll is spent at local restaurants, gas stations, schools as well as area hotels. The hotels and motels benefit from a lot of contractors who stay close whenever the plant deals with outages.

“Additionally, the 600 highly skilled employees, whose jobs will be impacted, are some of the leading members of their community, providing not only fiscal support to local businesses, but also philanthropic support in the ways of volunteering, serving as coaches and board members,” Morris said. 

But he said if appropriate action is taken and a strategy is laid out, the impact can be mitigated. And the extra four years to thoughtfully plan that out will help. 

Kinexus, Van Buren County Board of Commissioners and the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission started working on a plan earlier this year to apply for a federal grant.

The grant, through the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA), would examine the impact of the plant’s expected closure.

Morris said they haven’t yet submitted a grant application, but will continued to work with the EDA to determine the most appropriate time to pursue the grant, and fully expect to do so.

“We recognize that the underlying economics of the closure have not changed – just the timeline,” he said. “Which is why we will still pursue the EDA grant to conduct the study, develop a comprehensive plan from it and begin implementing the plan ahead of the 2022 potential closure.”