Tunnel for Line 5 is the best option to protect Great Lakes and meet energy needs

AMY CLICKNER

There has been much discussion over Enbridge’s Line 5 and its future. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan depends on natural gas and stable prices to meet our energy needs. Many homes and businesses are heated and operated either directly from natural gas or the energy it generates. And, as you know, heat is a necessity to surviving our beautiful U.P. winters.

More than anywhere else, we’re acutely aware of how important the Great Lakes are to our natural resources and way of life. They’re a fundamental part of our identity. However, we also understand that a reasonable alternative needs to be found to address the long term sustainability of Line 5 and the vital products it delivers, and that we all benefit from.

Recently, the state of Michigan and Enbridge formed an agreement to not only mitigate the chances of damage to the Straits, but proposed an alternative to Line 5, one that would be much safer and carry additional benefits to our peninsula.

The solution requires finding a reliable, trusted regulatory agency to oversee the proposed tunnel’s construction and long term operation. An obvious choice is the Mackinac Bridge Authority. Having responsibly overseen the iconic Mackinac Bridge since the early 1950s, the authority is a non-partisan, regulatory agency that has called the Straits of Mackinac home since it was formed. With responsibility over the area already, including the tunnel in their purview is a logical step.

The tunnel, which will be buried deep beneath the straits and surrounded by bedrock, will reduce the risk of a spill into the Great Lakes to next to nothing. The tunnel infrastructure could also be considered as an option to support many other connections, including broadband, electrical and communications.

In economic development, our job is to develop relationships, market our region, support our existing businesses and bring new business and opportunities to the U.P. Having reliable and secure energy without severe price volatility is essential to our economic development efforts. This tunnel will help ensure our connectivity and energy demands are met for generations.

We’re encouraged by efforts to mitigate the aging pipeline and safeguard the state’s most valuable resource — our Great Lakes. We believe it is important that Enbridge will be responsible for the entirety of the cost of construction and maintenance of the tunnel in the 7-10 years leading up to the completion of the project, but as important that they will be responsible for installing necessary measures that will ensure the current line operates safely. It is our understanding that new radar will be installed to monitor dangerous wave heights and conditions within the Straits, new cameras will be installed to monitor ship activity and other connections along the line where the risk to our waterways is present.

We urge all parties to swiftly resolve this issue and believe the Mackinac Bridge Authority is the right organization at the right time for this key responsibility. This necessary step will further cement the confidence of our organization and of the public that the project is in good hands and in the best interest of our great state.

Editor’s note: Amy Clickner is CEO of Lake Superior Community Partnership, an economic development organization and resource that serves Marquette County and the greater Upper Peninsula region.