Michigan residents voice concern about Line 5 tunnel

Andrea Pierce, member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, wears a “No Line 5 Oil Tunnel” shirt while speaking during public comment at the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority meeting on Thursday. Pierce was one of 13 Michigan residents who voiced concerns about Enbridge’s proposed Line 5 tunnel that would be built at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. (Journal screenshot by Dreyma Beronja)

MARQUETTE — Over a dozen Michigan residents voiced their concerns about the proposed Line 5 tunnel at a Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority meeting on Thursday.

Anger, sadness and frustration were some of the emotions expressed during public comment when 13 residents addressed the MSCA on the proposed Line 5 tunnel. Residents spoke out regarding safety, environmental and tribal land concerns if the tunnel were built at the bottom of the straits.

Built in 1953 for the purpose of transporting oil, Line 5 is a single petroleum pipeline extending 645 miles across the state. It’s a single 30-inch diameter pipe except for the section in the straits, which is a 4.5-mile section made up of two 20-inch diameter pipes that lie on the lake bottom.

Line 5 transports up to 22.68 million gallons of crude oil and other natural gas liquids per day. Some natural gas liquids are refined into propane and used in the Upper Peninsula, while other products are routed for processing at oil refineries in Detroit and Ohio. Some Michigan companies use Line 5 to transport the oil they produce.

Former Gov. Rick Snyder created the MSCA, tasked with overseeing building and operating a utility tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac, in 2018. Its board then approved an agreement with pipeline owner and operator Enbridge to create a utility tunnel in the straits that would prevent oil from entering the straits in case of a spill.

Current Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel publicly opposed the continued operation of Line 5 in the straits.

At the meeting, which was available to stream over Zoom, Michigan resident Peter, last name not given, said there is a responsibility to taxpayers that “things are done right.”

“But the essence of success is this quality control and the risk management, that is what protects us. That is what protects us citizens. Probably back in the day when this line was first placed there might not have been a whole lot of risk management and quality control done, but I don’t know. But this, intuitively, doesn’t seem like a great idea to stick a pipe at the bottom of a lake, at the bottom of a channel,” he said. “Please stay on top of that risk management, please stay on top of that quality control because that’s what’s going to make this happen correctly for the citizens of all the states that surround the Great Lakes and Canada.”

Michigan resident Rita Mitchell brought up the Kalamazoo River oil spill of July 2010 that occurred when a pipeline operated by Enbridge burst and flowed into Talmadge Creek, a tributary of the Kalamazoo River near downstate Marshall.

The Kalamazoo River oil spill resulted in one of the largest inland oil spills in United States history. She said one alternative for consideration would be to shut down the proposed tunnel.

“Don’t do it anymore,” Mitchell said. “Walk away from this project, walk away from the Enbridge greed, work with others who are working to establish renewable energy for our future so that we have a future to give to our relatives.”

Andrea Pierce, member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, voiced concerns over the proposed tunnel that would go through tribal land.

“This tunnel ignores treaty rights. All of them,” she said. “We have the right to gather, hunt and fish. (I) can’t do that with poison water, can I? I can’t teach my children this, I can’t teach my grandkids. My grandkids won’t be able to teach their kids. This is disgusting.”

Pierce also said that Michigan would face a “mitigation of risks” if the proposed Line 5 tunnel is built.

“There’s a risk to the Great Lakes, there’s a risk to the people, there’s a risk to the land. It is a risk,” she said. “We should not be consulting with people that are risking our water, our Great Lakes, that’s Michigan’s. It’s in the Constitution. The Michigan Constitution says you must protect the Great Lakes, this is not protecting the Great Lakes.”

Lifelong Michigan resident Dominic Sweeney said he spends every moment he can visiting the Great Lakes. He said over the summer, he visited the Manoomin (Wild Rice) Camp in L’Anse that is put on by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.

“It was the first time that I got to see myself, having lived here my whole life, as a tourist and a visitor on this land, and I realized the difference between being a tourist and being someone who’s actually responsible to the land.”

He said the festival was about re-creating habitats that have been destroyed on the water.

“We don’t rely on the water like other people do because we like to separate ourselves with bottled water, with all of these other things that we think that we’re protected from. When you talk about mitigated risks, whose risk are you talking about?” he said. “This is a panel of three people taking mitigated risks for millions of people and our descendants. You’re taking risks from my nieces and nephews and you’re making yourself a party to a company that refuses to acknowledge an order to remove an old pipeline.”

The Mining Journal reached out to the Michigan Department of Transportation and was told that the minutes and online public comments would be posted at a later time.

To watch the full meeting, visit youtube.com/@MichiganDOT.


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