Concern and anticipation surround possible Line 5 Pipeline Tunnel Proposal

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MACKINAC COUNTY, Mich. (WLUC) - In a teleconference briefing on Thursday, many say they are expecting a state and Enbridge agreement concerning a Line 5 pipeline tunnel as early as next Friday.

"We been hearing for some time now that the governor intends to authorize what he calls a utility corridor, which is essentially a tunnel," said Bryan Newland, the Chairman of the Bay Mills Indian Community.

According to Newland, the state DNR director has requested for a meeting with all 12 Michigan federally recognized tribes to discuss the Line 5 pipeline as the tribes are in a state partnership with Upper Great Lakes Fishery.

"We believe that next Thursday's meeting will be intended to inform tribal leaders that the state is going to go this route and that we hear it from the horse’s mouth," explained Newland.

The tunnel option would put all existing utility connections across the Straits of Mackinac into one underground concrete tunnel, in hopes of protecting the line from hazards and spills.

Those that oppose this option say it is all risk for no gain.

"There's clearly no need for a tunnel," said Jim Lively, the program director at Traverse City-based Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities. "It’s an extreme measure, estimates have that it would take upwards of a decade to have this completed, which means we would continue with the increasing risk for another 10 years if there were no rupture."

An environmental law attorney says this tunnel brings legal and political challenges to Michigan.

"Building a tunnel under the Straits cannot be approved under Michigan’s governing trust law, Submerged Lands Act, unless Enbridge can demonstrate that there’s no likely harm to public waters with an oil spill and that there’s no feasible and prudent alternatives," added Liz Kirkwood, the executive Director of Traverse City-based For Love of Water.

This leaves many asking again for the decommission of Line 5.

"Something Enbridge has been trying hard to keep us from seeing is that it’s now a shortcut pipeline for Canada so it’s not essential for Michigan," said Lively.

TV6 reached out to the governor's office who says there are no plans to announce any sort of "sweetheart deal" related to Line 5 next week.

They say discussion continues on how to best protect the Straits while continuing to provide supplies to the U.P.

When a responsible agreement is made between the state and infrastructure companies, the governor's office says an announcement will be made.

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