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Commenters oppose new Line 5 anchor supports, accuse state of ignoring concerns

A man sits in front of an old tractor. Signs read "This tractor is the same age as the Line 5 pipeline. Both are as good as new. Not"
Kaye LaFond
Michigan Radio
Dale Giddings is a member of the Straits Area Concerned Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment. The group opposes a permit to allow Enbridge Energy to install new anchor supports on the Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality held a public hearing on Wednesday evening in Mackinaw City, taking comments on proposed new anchor supports for the Line 5 oil pipelines.

About 60 people showed up, including concerned local residents, members of Michigan indigenous communities, and local environmental groups. 

Commenters spoke for about two and a half hours. Every speaker was opposed to permitting the work.

Enbridge Energy has applied for a permit to add 48 more anchor supports securing the twin oil pipelines to the lakebed under the Straits of Mackinac.

Enbridge started installing anchor supports in 2002 to deal with the problem of lakebed erosion. Strong currents in the Straits have washed out sections of the bottom in the past, leaving long spans of pipeline unsupported. Enbridge's easement with the state of Michigan requires there be no unsupported spans of pipeline longer than 75 feet. 

An aerial image of the straits of Mackinac is overlaid by a schematic of two oil pipelines, with markers pointing out where 48 new proposed anchor supports will go.
Credit Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Enbridge Energy wants to install 48 more anchor supports securing the Line 5 oil pipelines to the lakebed under the Straits of Mackinac.

Enbridge treats the installations as pipeline maintenance, which means any environmental impact assessment is restricted to areas immediately surrounding the supports.

Opponents say the addition of anchor supports amounts to a full redesign of the pipeline and should go through the same, more rigorous, permit process. Leonard Page is the chair of the Straits of Mackinac Alliance, a local environmental organization. He says the new supports shouldn't be looked at individually. 

“It’s like missing the forest for the trees," he says. "With now almost 200 of these anchor supports, that’s 400 anchor screws. This is a new structure.”

The Grand Traverse Bay Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians has filed a petition challenging a permit for 22 anchor supports approved earlier this year. The Straits of Mackinac Alliance has filed a similar petition.

Many people who spoke recalled a similar meeting last year about the previously approved anchors and were angry with the DEQ, accusing officials of not listening. Lynn Fraze, a local resident and member of the Straits Area Concerned Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment, called the public comment hearings a farce.

Basically [Gov. Rick] Snyder and [Attorney General Bill] Schuette go behind closed doors with Enbridge and do whatever they want," she said. "But we’re not gonna give up. We’re not gonna stop coming to these meetings.”

In addition to being opposed to new anchor supports, most commenters wanted Line 5 shut down altogether. 

Public comments can be made using the DEQ’s website until July 22.

Editor's note: Enbridge Energy is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.

Doug Tribou joined the Michigan Public staff as the host of Morning Edition in 2016. Doug first moved to Michigan in 2015 when he was awarded a Knight-Wallace journalism fellowship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Kaye is an alumnus of Michigan Tech's environmental engineering program. She got her start making maps for the Traverse City-Based water news organization Circle of Blue, and, since then, she's been pretty devoted to science communication and data visualization.
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