The Line 5 Decision: It’s a tunnel

The Line 5 Decision: It’s a tunnel
October 3, 2018 Sandra Svoboda
Straits of Mackinac pipeline - known as Line 5, image courtesy the University of Michigan

Enbridge to pay $350- 500 million

A utility tunnel buried into the bedrock 100 feet under the Straits of Mackinac would replace the existing Enbridge Line 5 pipeline under a preliminary plan announced today by Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration.

The proposal – agreed to by state officials and Enbridge Inc.  —  has dozens of other provisions for safety, assurances for energy supply, protections for the environment, and governance of the tunnel, many of which require permits, contracts and agreements from other agencies.

For example, the Mackinac Bridge Authority needs to agree to own the tunnel and lease operations to Enbridge, said Keith Creagh, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, who spoke to reporters on a conference call.

“We’ve been focused on the Straits as a critical point,” he said. “It’s low probability (of a spill) but high consequence.”

Enbridge officials were not on the call, but the company’s website posted a statement. An Enbridge spokesman, in an email to reporters, called the agreement “a commitment to explore the replacement of the Straits section of Line 5 with a tunnel.”

Under the proposal, Enbridge would pay for the construction of the tunnel, estimated at up to $500 million, which would contain a new oil-and-natural-gas pipeline and be able to house other utilities including electrical and broadband. The Canadian company also would make improvements to the land-based sections of the existing pipeline, which traverse both of Michigan’s peninsulas, said Heidi Grether, director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, who also spoke to reporters on the call.

“The taxpayers of Michigan will benefit greatly from this project, but won’t have to pay for it,” she said.

The Line 5 Pipeline is 645 miles long. It travels from the Wisconsin border near Ironwood to Marysville where it then crosses to Sarnia, Ontario. It transports 23 million gallons of oil and gas liquids every day. 

State officials said  today the goal is to have a more complete agreement in place before Snyder leaves office at the end of the year. The governor is term-limited and will be replaced after November’s election. The MDNR’s Creagh said the Democratic and Republican candidates – Bill Schuette and Gretchen Whitmer – have been briefed about the deal.

“It wasn’t an input conversation at this time,” Creagh said.

Click HERE to read the full agreement

1 Comment

  1. John harper 6 years ago

    “The Michigan tax payers will benefit”, she said. How much does Enbridge pay and will pay the State or Michigan and/or the various counties the pipe line traverses to use the land, receive protection, bear the risk, etc.? The refineries in Sarnia and Enbridge need to make it worth the risk and costs we bear by having it traverse the state.

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