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New House bills would make anchor strikes in the Straits of Mackinac a felony

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Two bills introduced this week in Lansing would increase the legal penalties for large boat operators who don’t pass cautiously through the Straits of Mackinac.

House Bill 6307 is sponsored by Representative Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids), and House Bill 6308 by Representative Sue Allor (R-Wolverine). 


Representative Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor), a co-sponsor on both bills, calls them “absolutely critical.”


“We cannot allow for our water, our way of life, to be threatened by negligence on the part of the shipping industry,” he says.


If the bills are passed, large boat operators who knowingly drop anchor or drag a chain, cable, or other equipment in the Straits of Mackinac would be held criminally liable. They could face a felony charge, serve up to four years in prison, pay a fine of up to $10,000, and cover environmental cleanup costs. 


Exempt from those rules would be tribal fishing boats protected by the 1836 Treaty of Washington.


Piloting a large boat through the Straits without special state approval could also result in a felony, punishable by up to four years in prison or a $5,000 fine (or both).


HB 6307 would also require pipeline operators, like Enbridge, to mark their lines so large vessels could avoid them.


“We do...require that the pipeline operator buoy the line each year and make the investment in making sure that the buoys are operational,” says Rep. Hood.


An anchor strike in 2018 damaged electrical lines and Enbridge's Line 5.


Last spring, the pipeline was dented by a dragging chain. A Coast Guard investigation found that Enbridge’s own contracted vessels were likely responsible for that latest incident.


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

Will Callan, a reporter for Michigan Radio, hails from the Bay Area, where he lived in Oakland and San Francisco and reported for local newspapers and magazines. He enjoys a long swim in chilly water (preferably followed by a sauna) and getting to know new cities. That's one reason he's excited to be in Ann Arbor, which he can already tell has just the right combo of urban grit and natural beauty to make him feel at home.
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