Will Line 5 get new anchor supports?

Will Line 5 get new anchor supports?
July 27, 2017 Mary Ellen Geist
Straits of Mackinac pipeline - known as Line 5, image courtesy the University of Michigan

Should Enbridge be allowed to add 22 new supports to its Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac?

The majority of the people who showed up at hearings this week in St. Ignace say they want to do everything they can to keep the pipeline from becoming more dangerous. But most don’t want to give a green light to Enbridge to keep operating in a sensitive area of the Great Lakes without specific conditions mandated from the State of Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Public Information Officer Melody Kindraka says the hearing was held to let the concerned citizens air their views on a permit application submitted by Enbridge Energy to install the almost 2 dozen anchor support structures on the Line 5 pipeline, which rests on the Lake Michigan bed between Emmet and Mackinac counties.

She says about 80 people showed up and 30 people spoke.

Kindraka tells Great Lakes Now the application indicates that Enbridge is interested in installing the supports as a preventative measure. She says, “The easement that allows the pipeline to be under the Straits of Mackinac requires that there be no unsupported spans of the pipeline of more than 75 feet. So Enbridge, in their analysis, submitted this as a preventative effort in case of future changes in the lake bottom. “

At a recent hearing in Holt, Michigan, engineers with Dynamic Risk who spent almost a year conducting an Alternative Risk Analysis on the Line 5 Pipeline said they discovered that despite state of Michigan requirements that the pipeline must have anchor supports across gaps greater than 75 feet, they found some areas of the Enbridge pipeline with unsupported spans greater than 130 feet.

Kindraka says the MDEQ will make the final decision on whether to let Enbridge begin construction of the supports. She says the MDEQ is looking at the impact the construction would have on the lake, the lake bed and habitat.

She says, “Should the permit be approved, the construction should begin before the weather goes bad, so we’re trying to balance a thorough review of the information with the necessity of the industry, should it be approved.”

The Line 5 pipeline carries an average of 23 million gallons of oil a day. It was built in 1953. The pipeline stretches from Sarnia, Ontario to Superior, Wisconsin, and is underwater for 4.5 miles between the Lower and Upper Peninsula of Michigan near the Mackinac Bridge.

New documents just released show Line 5 is bent and deformed in 7 places where Line 5 wants to construct the supports. Enbridge says the deformities are nothing to worry about and that pressurized testing shows the pipeline is safe.

David Holtz, chair of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter who spoke at the hearing tells Great Lakes Now, “I think the message to the state was that there is a need for some of those anchors to keep the pipeline from rupturing and keep it secure, but almost everyone I heard agreed that the state shouldn’t just write a blank check to Enbridge.” He says, “There are so many concerns about the structure and safety of that pipeline that, as a condition of that permit, the state should take a comprehensive look at that pipeline and its condition.”

Holtz says he’s worried about the safety of doing massive construction under the Straits of Mackinac. He says some engineers have testified that the 22 anchors could cause a disturbance on the pipeline, and he says Enbridge still has not revealed whether it will stop the flow of oil during construction.

Holtz says the pipeline simply isn’t safe. He says it’s time for the Governor and the Attorney General to act and decommission the Line 5 Pipeline.

(From greatlakesnow.org bureau chief Mary Ellen Geist: Great Lakes Now contacted Enbridge to get a response. No comment so far. As soon as we hear from Enbridge, we will post the company’s response.)

If you would like to weigh in on Enbridge’s permit application to construct 22 new support anchors on the Line 5 pipeline, go to the MDEQ MiWaters website at https://miwaters.deq.state.mi.us/miwaters/#/external/publicnotice/search. Written comments can also be delivered or mailed to the MDEQ Gaylord Field Office at 2100 West M-32, Gaylord, MI 49735.

The public may submit comments on the application for those new support anchors until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, August 4, 2017.

Kindraka says this week’s hearings in St. Ignace also marked the end of public hearings on the Alternative Analysis report on Line 5 which was released to the public at the beginning of July.


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