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Part of the shoreline near the Straits of Mackinac that could be damaged by an oil spill. Mark Miller Photos / Photolibrary / Getty Images

The state of Michigan and Canadian pipeline company Enbridge announced a deal Wednesday to replace controversial aging pipelines that environmental groups worried put Lakes Michigan and Huron at risk for an oil spill, The Detroit Free Press reported.

Under the new plan, the existing 65-year-old pipelines, which are part of Enbridge's Line 5 carrying oil and liquefied natural gas between Wisconsin and Ontario, will be replaced with a new pipeline in a tunnel to be drilled into the bedrock beneath the Straits of Mackinac connecting Lakes Huron and Michigan, The Associated Press reported. The project will take seven to 10 years to complete and cost as much as $500 million. Enbridge will foot the bill.

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Straits of Mackinac, Mackinac Island. Jeff Lefevre / NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

Two environmental groups have filed suit against the U.S. Coast Guard in a Detroit federal district court, arguing that their plan to respond in the case of a Great Lakes pipeline oil spill is inadequate, The Detroit News reported on Aug. 22.

The suit is part of a larger push to shut down Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac between Lakes Huron and Michigan and comes as indigenous activists have set up camps protesting the line that could damage 400 miles of shoreline in a spill.

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The Mackinac bridge spanning the Straits of Mackinac. Julie Falk / Flickr

Environmental groups are attacking an agreement between Michigan and Canadian oil transport company Enbridge, Inc. that set a timeline to determine the future of a controversial pipeline running across a channel where Lakes Huron and Michigan come together.

The 645-mile pipeline, Line 5, lies at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, a five-mile-long environmentally sensitive stretch of water that serves as a center piece in Michigan's tourist industry. It cuts through the state as it runs from western to eastern Canada, bringing 23 million gallons of oil and liquid natural gas across the straits between Michigan's Upper and Lower peninsulas—an area noted for its choppy waters, unpredictable currents and subzero temperatures.

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Below the Mackinac bridge runs Enbridge Line 5, transporting 23 Million gallons of oil and liquid gas every day. Conor Mihell

By Beth Wallace

In June, the state of Michigan released a draft report on alternatives to Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline, which pumps up to 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids (NGLs) per day along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. The draft report, written by Dynamic Risk, was met with heavy criticism from all sides, and the National Wildlife Federation joined with many others to suggest numerous and substantive changes. On Nov. 20, the final alternatives report was released to the public. As per an agreement with the state to obtain funding for the report, Enbridge has had five days to review this report before it is released publicly.

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A diver with the National Wildlife Federation examines Line 5, Enbridge's oil and gas pipeline running along the bottomlands of the Straits of Mackinac. National Wildlife Federation

An aging oil pipeline moves 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids per day along the bottomlands of the Straits of Mackinac, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron crash into each other in the heart of the Great Lakes.

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By Conor Mihell

At dawn, I launch my kayak and paddle into a velvety expanse of turquoise water. Here, in northern Michigan's Straits of Mackinac, Great Lakes Michigan and Huron meet like the middle of an hourglass. To the east, the rounded form of Mackinac Island is the centerpiece of an archipelago in Lake Huron.

According to an Ojibwe creation story, this is Mishee Makinakong, the Great Turtle, whose surfacing shell became a refuge for plants and animals as floodwaters surged in the days before time. Today, droves of ferries buzz to and from the island, a bustling summer tourist destination replete with kitschy fudge shops and horse-drawn carriages.

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