New State Agreement: Enbridge to Shutdown, Replace Line 5 Pipeline Under the Straits of Mackinac

The state announcing a new plan for the future of the controversial Line 5 pipeline.

The state and Enbridge Energy reached an agreement on Wednesday.

The state says the Line 5 pipeline that runs through the Straits of Mackinac will be shutdown permanently.

Enbridge will be required to construct a multi-use tunnel to house a new line.

Walking along the shores of the Straits of Mackinac you can find concrete slabs, that take you back more than 65 years ago to when the pipeline was first put in.

“Back in the ‘50s I witnessed the construction of the original pipelines and it was an interesting engineering event,” Mackinaw City Resident John Childs, said.

A modern marvel 65 years ago, but in recent years the aging pipeline has operated under a storm of controversy.

The state’s new agreement with the company will last for the next 99 years and brings about mixed feelings for many.

“I’m gratified that they are going to recognize they should take out the old one,  I’m not sure I support putting it in a tunnel, because none of us have seen enough detail about how that tunnel will be constructed,” Childs, said.

The plan is to put the new line inside a tunnel, under the lake bed.

Enbridge will pay the entire $500 million estimated cost of the project, which will take 7 to 10 years to complete.

The company will also enhance their safety monitoring.

“Obviously no one wants any kind of oil spill, it would be disastrous for everyone, we are trusting that this new change will put to bed the fears of any kind of disaster happening,” Mackinaw City Resident Greg Teysen, said.

Governor Rick Snyder says this agreement will do that and eliminate nearly every risk of an oil leak in the straits.

“I’m glad they are taking steps to help be proactive in keeping a disaster from happening,” Teysen, added.

But some still don’t buy it and say any line in, near, or under fresh water, is a disaster waiting to happen.

“We don’t need oil pipelines in any of The Great Lakes,” Childs, added.

Wednesday’s decision is garnering cheers from some, while others call it a breach of public trust.

“The tunnel being built under this agreement will help keep our Great Lakes safe for generations to come. Importantly, the construction and maintenance of the multi-use tunnel will be paid for entirely by Enbridge and not Michigan taxpayers,” 37th District State Senator Wayne Schmidt, said.

While the environmental group Oil and Water Don’t Mix says…

“This gift to Enbridge does not solve the threat of Enbridge’s oil pipelines. The state’s own studies document better energy alternatives for Michigan than Line 5, but instead Gov. Snyder wants to gift wrap an oil tunnel for Enbridge.”

In a statement released to 9&10 News Enbridge Energy says:

Today, Enbridge entered into a second agreement with the State of Michigan on the future of Line 5. Under the agreement, Enbridge has committed to a range of measures to protect the Straits of Mackinac and the Great Lakes – including exploring with the State a new pipeline in a tunnel deep under the Straits.

The agreement protects the waters of the Straits and the Great Lakes in several ways, and makes a safe pipeline even safer. It will:

  1. Increase coordination between the State and Enbridge;
  2. Enhance safety on Line 5 water crossings other than the Straits;
  3. Provide financial assurances from Enbridge to meet the costs of a Straits worst case scenario;
  4. Further commitments based on the Nov. 2017 agreement between Enbridge and the State:
    • Replace the Line 5 St. Clair River crossing;
    • Discontinue Line 5 operations in the Straits during sustained adverse weather conditions;
    • Use technologies to enhance leak detection and condition of coating;
    • Implement measures to mitigate potential vessel anchor strikes.
  5. Explore the replacement of the Straits section of Line 5 with a tunnel under the lakebed that would contain a new pipeline.

Included in the agreement is a commitment to explore the replacement of the Straits section of Line 5 with a tunnel under the lakebed that would contain a new pipeline. Placing a pipeline in a tunnel would reduce the likelihood of a release of oil into the Straits to near zero and eliminate the potential for an anchor strike.

The agreement with the State reflects Enbridge’s steadfast commitment to protecting the Great Lakes while safely meeting Michigan’s energy needs.