By Will Callan, Michigan Radio
The Great Lakes News Collaborative includes Bridge Michigan; Circle of Blue; Great Lakes Now at Detroit Public Television; and Michigan Radio, Michigan’s NPR News Leader; who work together to bring audiences news and information about the impact of climate change, pollution, and aging infrastructure on the Great Lakes and drinking water. This independent journalism is supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.
Two bills introduced last week in Lansing would increase the legal penalties for large boat operators who don’t pass cautiously through the Straits of Mackinac.
Representative Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor), a co-sponsor on both bills, calls them “absolutely critical.”
“We cannot allow for our water, our way of life, to be threatened by negligence on the part of the shipping industry,” he says.
If the bills are passed, large boat operators who knowingly drop anchor or drag a chain, cable, or other equipment in the Straits of Mackinac would be held criminally liable. They could face a felony charge, serve up to four years in prison, pay a fine of up to $10,000, and cover environmental cleanup costs.
Exempt from those rules would be tribal fishing boats protected by the 1836 Treaty of Washington.
Piloting a large boat through the Straits without special state approval could also result in a felony, punishable by up to four years in prison or a $5,000 fine (or both).
HB 6307 would also require pipeline operators, like Enbridge, to mark their lines so large vessels could avoid them.
“We do…require that the pipeline operator buoy the line each year and make the investment in making sure that the buoys are operational,” says Rep. Hood.
An anchor strike in 2018 damaged electrical lines and Enbridge’s Line 5.
Last spring, the pipeline was dented by a dragging chain. A Coast Guard investigation found that Enbridge’s own contracted vessels were likely responsible for that latest incident.
Editor’s note: Enbridge is one of Michigan Radio’s corporate sponsors.
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Featured image: Mackinac Bridge (Credit Mark Brush / Michigan Radio)