State Authority Green-Lights Construction of Planned Utility Tunnel; New Enbridge Pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac

The Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority signed off on an agreement with Enbridge, green-lighting the construction of a planned utility tunnel and a new pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.

It happened at the board’s first meeting Wednesday afternoon in St. Ignace.

The newly formed authority will oversee and own the planned utility tunnel.

It was a packed house and the board was met with nearly three hours of public comment, many wanted to know who was behind the desk making decisions.

The board is made up of democrat, Tony England and republicans, J.R. Richardson and Mike Nystrom.

All were appointed within the last week by Governor Rick Snyder.

Nystrom is the executive VP of the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, he was named Chairman just days after his appointment.

Critics who spoke at the meeting asked the board not take on ownership of the planned tunnel, many were concerned with the amount of time the existing Line 5 pipeline would remain in operation during construction.

“You have been given inadequate time and been given incomplete info. Some of you have been literally on this board for three days, essentially you are being asked to grant a stay of execution for Line 5,” St. Ignace Resident Patty Peek, said.

“I’m voicing my concern about leaving Line 5 in the straits,” Peek, added.

Supporters of the project also spoke, including a number of Enbridge employees and local union leaders.

“We would like to see this tunnel authority approve this project, not only for the jobs but the energy protection that it provides for the great lakes,” Local 1098 Business Manager Brent Pilarski, said.

Shortly after the meeting Governor Snyder, the Michigan DNR and DEQ signed off on the final agreement, making the project official.

Enbridge is now applying for permits, they hope to complete construction by 2024.

The company released the following statement:

For more than 65 years, Enbridge has safely delivered the energy resources needed to keep people in Michigan safe and warm, on the road, and moving forward. Our continued commitment to modernizing our system at the Straits of Mackinac will make Line 5 among the safest, most reliable stretches of pipeline in North America.

Most importantly, the replacement of Line 5 inside a tunnel will protect one of the most important and vital natural resources in the world. Buried 100 feet below the lakebed, the chances of a product release into the Straits are reduced to near zero.  

The agreements completed this week in partnership with the State of Michigan and the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority reflect Enbridge’s commitment to environmental protection at the Straits.

In fact, Enbridge has already applied for permits to begin taking rock and soil samples at the Straits. The results from this work will provide information that will aid in the design and construction of a tunnel.

Our target completion date for the tunnel project is 2024.  

While the tunnel is constructed Enbridge will also put in place enhanced inspection and operations protocols for the current Line 5. These important steps, some of which are part of our original agreement with the State dating back to 2017, will ensure that the pipelines will continue to operate safely.  

Additional measures that will be used right away on the current Line 5 pipelines include:

  • Providing funding for cameras to give the Coast Guard real-time monitoring capabilities of ships entering the Straits;
  • Shutting down Line 5 in the Straits during adverse weather conditions;
  • Enhancing safety at other Line 5 water crossings.

The tunnel represents an approximately $500 million investment by Enbridge. Enbridge looks forward to bringing to Michigan residents and businesses this vital infrastructure project that will help meet the region’s energy needs well into the future. 

Please visit Enbridge.com/line5tunnel for additional details, a video on the tunnel project, and a fact sheet.