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Debt ceiling law raises questions on timeline of Line 5 tunnel environmental review

The view of the Mackinac Bridge from the site where Line 5 enters Michigan's Lower Peninsula.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
The view of the Mackinac Bridge from the site where Line 5 enters Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

The federal debt ceiling deal signed into law last weekend sets a hard deadline — just two years — on federal environmental reviews of infrastructure projects.

But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees permitting for the project, announced in March it was extending the environmental review for the tunnel to allow for a more “thorough analysis.”

The Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority met this week and questioned what the new law means for the permitting process of Enbridge’s proposed Line 5 tunnel.

The extension added an extra year-and-a-half to the review process, pushing the final permitting decision into 2026. But under the new law, the timeline could be shortened again.

Paul Novak, the corridor authority chair, raised the question of a potentially expedited timeline to the authority and Enbridge.

“If you guys just want to wave off and say, 'It’s been 48 hours [since the law was implemented], we haven’t had a chance to figure it out yet,' that’s fine," Novak said. "I see heads nodding, it might be a little too soon to give a legal analysis. Let me identify that as an item of future discussion.”

Andy Doctoroff, one of the corridor authority members, said the group needs to know as soon as possible if the law will shorten the Corps’ timeline.

“The implications of the answer are quite significant on the timing of this project and the ability to protect the interests of the lakes in the state,” Doctoroff said.

The Army Corps was not at the meeting, and told WCMU they’d follow up.

Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority members also discussed their oversight role, heard industry opportunities for fiber optic cables in the tunnel, and asked Enbridge for a more detailed analysis of risks associated with the tunnel.

For a full recording of the meeting, visit MDOT's YouTube channel.

Enbridge Energy is among Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.

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