Chatfield, Casperson plan to form new oversight panel for Line 5 tunnel

LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) - State Rep. Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, and Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, announced Tuesday that they are working on a plan to establish a new panel to oversee the construction and operation of a proposed tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac.

Both legislators said they fully support the completion of a new tunnel and other critical infrastructure upgrades to provide more safety in the Straits.

“While the initial plan was to give the Mackinac Bridge Authority the responsibility of overseeing the tunnel, we now agree a new oversight panel would be the best choice for this important project,” said Casperson, of Escanaba. “The Mackinac Bridge Authority has done an outstanding job maintaining the Mackinac Bridge, but board members were concerned about dividing their attention by managing this new responsibility – and I completely understand.”

Chatfield said he is working to create a new entity to manage the tunnel because he does not want to see the Bridge Authority distracted by another job.

“Protecting our beautiful Great Lakes and giving Northern Michigan families the ability to heat their homes during the winter is our top priority,” said Chatfield, of Levering. “We are doing all we can to place a solution on Gov. Snyder’s desk that enables the construction of an underground infrastructure corridor with the proper oversight to hold all parties accountable. Our Great Lakes and economy need to be protected, and we cannot afford to wait any longer. This is the right plan to get it done.”

A spokesman for Gov. Rick Snyder said Monday he supports lawmakers' decision to create a new authority to oversee the underwater tunnel. The previous plan was heavily criticized at a Senate hearing last week.

The Snyder administration is working on several fronts to seal an agreement with Canadian oil transport giant Enbridge for replacing the underwater segment of its Line 5, which carries 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids daily between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario.

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