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Resolution supporting Enbridge tunnel circulates among Michigan counties

Noelle Riley
Interlochen Public Radio
Kaye LaFond interviews Gogebic County Commissioner Joe Bonovetz at the Michigan Counties Annual Conference in Traverse City

At least eight counties have passed resolutions supporting Enbridge Energy’s proposed tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac. The tunnel through bedrock would replace the Line 5 twin oil pipelines that currently sit on the lakebed.

Dickinson County passed their resolution first, on June 24. Houghton passed theirs in early July. Iron and Gogebic counties adopted nearly identical versions in the second week of August. Grand Traverse and Cheboygan counties followed suit on August 21 and 27, respectively.

According to a press release from the Michigan Oil and Gas Association, Ontonogan and Delta counties have also passed resolutions. 

Dickinson county commissioner Barbara Kramer says her board pursued a resolution after Enbridge appeared at the spring meeting of the Upper Peninsula Association of County Commissioners.

"They're anxious to promote this and we're anxious to support it,” she says. “It's hands down the best way to go."

She says Enbridge did not suggest specific language for the resolution. She thinks Enbridge has been forthcoming, and sees a tunnel as a more environmentally protective option.

Joe Bonovetz, a commissioner from Gogebic County, says it’s common to share resolutions between different U.P. counties.

“It was a resolution that we received from Dickinson County,” says Bonovetz. “They had passed it prior to us.”

Enbridge spokesperson Ryan Duffy says the recent spate of support reflects the company’s engagement efforts.

“We've had several open houses, we're talking to people, we're talking to elected officials and answering questions, and we're seeing a lot of support for the tunnel project,” he says. “I think that's what you're seeing here."

The Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners first introduced the resolution at their last meeting, but voting was postponed after dozens of constituents attended and expressed opposition.

*This post was last updated on Sept. 5 at 2:30 p.m.

*Correction: An earlier version of this story said that, at the time of publication, 3 Upper Peninsula counties had passed resolutions in support of Enbridge's Line 5 tunnel. That number was actually 6. The post has been corrected above to include those 3 other counties -- Delta, Houghton and Ontonagon. It has also been updated to include the passing of a resolution by Cheboygan County.

Editor's note: Enbridge is a corporate sponsor of Michigan Radio.

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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