mackinac straits

Stateside
5:33 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

We've got (some) answers to your question on the oil pipeline under Lake Michigan

Credit NWF / screenshot from YouTube video

Michigan Radio's MI Curious project puts our journalists to work for you: We investigate questions you submit about our state and its people.

One of the MI Curious questions was submitted by listener Justin Cross from Delton, Michigan. He asked: "What's the status of the Enbridge pipeline in the bottom of Lake Michigan running through the Straits of Mackinac?"

Michigan Radio's Mark Brush has been working to find an answer to the question. Brush says what he found is that Enbridge holds all the cards. The company is willing to talk, and they are aware of people's concerns. 

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The Environment Report
10:57 am
Thu October 9, 2014

What's the status of the old oil pipeline under Lake Michigan? We need more information to know.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent.
Credit an Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

We've been working to find an answer to the question, "What's the status of the aged Enbridge oil pipeline running through Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac?"

It was posed by Justin Cross for our M I Curious project.

One of the first things we discovered was that the company holds all the cards.

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Environment & Science
10:26 am
Fri September 5, 2014

Securing this Enbridge pipeline is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world

Chris Bauer, a project manager for Ballard Marine Construction, points out the crew that supports the diver.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Over the last month, Enbridge has been working to secure their two 20-inch pipelines to the lake bottom, and weather permitting, officials say they should finish their work over the next few days.

Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline runs 645 miles from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario. At the Straits, the single 30-inch pipeline splits into two 20-inch pipelines.

Enbridge says Line 5 carries natural gas liquids and light crude oils. They say it does not carry the heavy dilbit crude that proved so difficult to clean up in the Kalamazoo River oil spill.

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Environment & Science
5:46 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

State orders Enbridge to fix pipeline through Mackinac straits

Enbridge says it will comply with the state's request to better secure the pipeline that runs along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac.
Credit James Marvin Phelps / Flickr

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and the state Department of Environmental Quality have sent a warning letter to Enbridge Energy. It says the company has to do a better job of securing an oil pipeline that runs through the Straits of Mackinac.

“We just want to make sure that this pipeline’s going to be safe," said Dan Wyant, director of the DEQ. He says a leak in the pipeline would have implications throughout the Great Lakes.

“A lot of concern about this pipeline. Sixty years it’s been safe, but we’re in a position, Attorney General Schuette, I as the chief environmental officer of this state, to ensure we don’t have a problem on this pipeline,” he said.

Enbridge quickly responded it would add more anchors to its pipeline. Four years ago, a break in an Enbridge pipe dumped about a million of gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River.

Transportation
8:55 pm
Sun January 12, 2014

Coast Guard icebreaker back at work after crash in the Straits of Mackinac

U.S. Coast Guard cutter Hollyhock (file photo)
Petty Officer 2nd Class George Degener/US Coast

MACKINAW CITY, Mich. (AP) - The U.S. Coast Guard says one of its icebreakers has returned to service after sustaining damage in a collision with a freighter in the Straits of Mackinac.

The accident happened Jan. 5 in Lake Michigan, about 20 miles west of the Mackinac Bridge.

The Coast Guard says the 225-foot cutter Hollyhock was breaking ice when it hit a hard spot in the ice. It says the 990-foot Mesabi Miner hit the Hollyhock's stern.

The Mesabi Mine sustained damage to its bow. It was hauling iron ore to Gary, Ind.

Stateside
4:08 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Battles over unemployment benefits, Mackinac’s oil pipeline gain federal attention

The Mackinac Bridge.
Julie Falk Flickr

Emergency unemployment benefits and senatorial "jitters" over an Enbridge oil pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac: Both are issues consuming attention from Michigan's congressional delegation.

More than a week ago, a federal unemployment benefits program expired, leaving 1.3 million jobless Americans without aid. Some 45,000 of them are here in Michigan.

The program is the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. In Michigan, the EUC added 36 more weeks to the state's regular 20 weeks of benefits.

On Capitol Hill today, Democrats are trying to pressure House Republicans to extend the program for three more months.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is trying to ease concerns over an oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.

Detroit Free Press Washington reporter Todd Spangler joins us now to tell us more about these issues.

Listen to the full interview above.

Transportation
5:29 pm
Sun January 5, 2014

Coast Guard ice-breaker damaged in Straits of Mackinac crash

U.S. Coast Guard cutter Hollyhock (file photo)
Petty Officer 2nd Class George Degener/US Coast Guard

MACKINAW CITY, Mich. (AP) - The U.S. Coast Guard says one of its ice-breakers sustained significant damage in a collision with a freighter in the Straits of Mackinac. No injuries are reported.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Keith Showalter says the accident happened about 10:45 a.m. Sunday. He says the location is about 20 miles west of the Mackinac Bridge, which links Mackinaw City in the Lower Peninsula to St. Ignace in the Upper Peninsula.

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Politics & Government
7:18 am
Mon July 15, 2013

In this morning's news: Rally for Trayvon, Straits of Mackinac oil pipeline, student loan debt

Morning News Roundup for Monday, July 15, 2013
User: Brother O'Mara flickr

Rally held in Detroit for Trayvon Martin

More than a hundred protesters rallied in Detroit's Grand Circus Park yesterday in response to the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder in the shooting death of black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida. Rally goers described a desire for overall social change regarding civil rights issues like education, mass incarceration and gun violence.

Oil pipeline worries Michigan environmentalists

Environmental groups have rallied to call attention to an oil pipeline that crosses the Straits of Mackinac, the area linking Lakes Huron and Michigan. Critics say the 60-year-old pipeline at the bottom of the straits is aging and risky.They also fear Enbridge will pump heavy tar sands oil through the line, although the company says it has no plans to do so. It says the line is safe and regularly monitored.

Student loan debt higher for less expensive colleges

College students who go to pricier state schools are graduating with less student loan debt than those from supposedly less expensive state schools. On average, graduates from Michigan Tech, Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan University all have more student loan debt than those from Michigan State or the University of Michigan. Debbie Cochrane, research direction at the Institute for College Access and Success, says because of the amount of financial aid that might be available, the high sticker price of a larger school might actually end up costing less than a supposedly more affordable state school.

Environment & Science
2:27 pm
Sat July 13, 2013

Environmentalists worry about oil pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits

The view of the Mackinac Bridge from St. Ignace
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Protesters are expected Sunday afternoon near the Mackinac Bridge. The protest won’t be about what travels over the bridge, but actually beneath it.

Jim Lively is the program director at the Michigan Land Use Institute. He says several environmental groups are worried about an aging oil pipeline that passes through the Mackinac Straits.

“It’s really unclear what the benefit is to the state of Michigan to take this oil that’s coming from either Canada or North Dakota,” says Lively.

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Environment & Science
1:18 pm
Thu October 18, 2012

Report: Oil pipeline plans put Michigan vacation destination at risk

The Straits of Mackinac
GoogleEarth image

A national environmental group says plans to expand an oil pipeline near Mackinac Island presents a serious ecological threat.

The National Wildlife Federation opposes Enbridge Energy’s plans to expand the nearly 60 year old pipeline that passes through the Straits of Mackinac.

Beth Wallace, with the National Wildlife Federation, said the age of the pipeline, the Straits of Mackinac's dangerous currents, and a lack of safety equipment close by threatens to put the vacation destination at risk of a major spill.

"With Enbridge’s estimates and average current speeds for the Straits, we believe oil could spread to Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island in the three hours it would take them to respond," said Wallace.

"If six hours passed, oil could spread to Wilderness State Park. Twelve hours, and oil could be all the way to Cheboygan [Michigan],” said Wallace,  “and the damage from a spill, without a doubt, would be devastating."

It took Enbridge 17 hours to realize it had a broken pipeline near Marshall, Michigan in 2010.   

That spill released more than 800,000 gallons of crude oil. The cleanup of Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River has cost close to a billion dollars.

There is still oil in the river.

An Enbridge spokesman says the Calgary-based oil company is reviewing the National Wildlife Federation's report.

Jeannie Layson, PHMSA's Director for Governmental, International, and Public Affairs, issued a written statement on the NWF report:

Pipeline safety is a top priority at PHMSA, and we hold pipeline operators accountable when they violate federal requirements. For example, Enbridge just paid thehighest civil penalty in the agency’s history for the Marshall, Michigan spill. In addition, PHMSA executed a consent agreement which imposed morestringent safety requirements for the entire Lakehead System, including Line 5.

Pipeline safety requires a combination of enforcement, information sharing and transparency and public education. PHMSA  created  the Stakeholder Communications website to provide the public comprehensive, searchable information on the safety records of pipeline companies, such as incident rates and PHMSA’s oversight actions and enforcement activities including fines, warnings, and violations. Additional information on pipeline operators in Michigan can be found on our Michigan State Pipeline Safety Profilepage.