Corps of Engineers to begin Line 5 pipeline scoping process
By Journal Staff
DETROIT — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it was to begin the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline tunnel project Environmental Impact Statement scoping process with the Notice of Intent publishing in the Federal Register on Monday.
The NOI informs the public of the upcoming environmental analysis and describes how the public can become involved in the EIS process for the Enbridge’s Line 5 Pipeline Tunnel project proposal to cross the Straits of Mackinac in Lake Michigan.
“The Notice of Intent starts the scoping process, the 60-day period in which the Corps of Engineers solicits tribal nation, agency and public input to help define the range of issues and potential alternatives the EIS should address,” Detroit District Commander Lt. Col. Brett Boyle said in a news release. “The Corps of Engineers will ensure all voices are heard in an open, transparent and public EIS process.”
Tribal nations, agencies, communities, organizations, citizens and other stakeholders can provide input during the 60-day scoping process, open now through Oct. 14. Submissions are accepted via mail, through the project website or at in-person or virtual public meetings held during the scoping period.
“The scoping process is not a vote,” Boyle said. “Comments should help identify areas for in-depth review, including historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects and other public interest factors. This is a great opportunity to have an impact in the Corps of Engineers scoping process for developing the Draft EIS.”
For more information on developing effective scoping comments, submitting comments or public meeting information, visit www.Line5TunnelEIS.com. All comments, oral or written, are weighed equally.
The Corps of Engineers said it is committed to ensuring meaningful and robust consultation with tribal nations occurs. Several tribes are assisting in preparing the EIS as cooperating agencies and USACE will continue consulting with tribes throughout the process to gather information and follow regulations and policies.
The Detroit District is the lead federal agency for the EIS with the following cooperating agencies: Bay Mills Indian Community, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the State Historic Preservation Office of Michigan
In March, the Detroit District selected Maryland-based Potomac-Hudson Engineering, Inc., as the third-party contractor to prepare the EIS for Enbridge’s proposed Line 5 Tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac.
Enbridge pays for the EIS, but the contractor is under the Corps of Engineers’ direction while preparing the EIS. The Corps of Engineers is responsible for the EIS scope and content to ensure an independent review, with assistance from cooperating agencies.
In June 2021, then-acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jaime A. Pinkham announced that the Corps of Engineers would proceed with an EIS, concluding an EIS is the most appropriate level of review because of the potential for impacts significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.
“Per Mr. Pinkham’s announcement, it is extremely important the Corps of Engineers ensure all potential impacts and reasonable alternatives associated with this project are thoroughly analyzed as it will ultimately support the permit application decision,” Boyle said.
Detroit District previously conducted two public comment periods, May 15-July 14, 2020, and Nov. 6-Dec. 17, 2020, receiving more than 15,000 public comments and tribal input on the proposed project during those periods. The EIS process requires additional public comment periods.
Corps of Engineers officials will consider comments received during all public comment periods in the EIS preparation pursuant to National Environmental Policy Act. Comments are also used to determine whether the activity is contrary to the overall public interest. The EIS will in turn help determine whether the Corps of Engineers issues, issues with conditions or denies the permit request.
For the Line 5 tunnel project, Enbridge Energy is proposing to construct a tunnel under the bed of the Straits of Mackinac between Point LaBarbe, St. Ignace and McGulpin Point in Mackinaw City. The tunnel would house a new 30-inch pipeline for light crude oil and liquid natural gas, replacing the existing dual submerged pipelines crossing the Straits of Mackinac, which have been in operation since 1953.
The application is being evaluated under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act in accordance with federal regulations and policies. Corps of Engineers authority is limited to the proposed crossing of the Straits of Mackinac and adjacent wetlands.
Corps of Engineers officials estimate a Draft EIS will be available for public review and comment in the fall of 2023.