MichMash: A Light At the End of The Tunnel For Line 5 Pipeline?

The plan would bury a new section of pipeline in a tunnel under bedrock. But not everyone is thrilled.

The Line 5 pipeline carries petroleum products 645 miles from Wisconsin to Ontario in two pipes that sit in the water along the lake bed.

The Line 5 pipeline carries petroleum products 645 miles from Wisconsin to Ontario in two pipes that sit in the water along the lake bed.

WDET Digital

A controversial pipeline that carries crude oil and natural gas liquids under the Straits of Mackinac is on its way toward being decommissioned. Sort of.

On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration announced an agreement with Enbridge, the owners of the decades old Line 5 pipeline. The plan is to have a new pipeline built under about 100 feet of bedrock through the Straits of Mackinac with a tunnel around the line. Enbridge would pick up the multi-million dollar price tag to build and maintain the line and tunnel for the duration of a 99 year lease.

As part of the weekly series MichMash, hosts Cheyna Roth and Jake Neher talk about some of the unanswered questions surrounding the plan.

Click on the audio player above to hear that conversation.

Keith Creagh is the director of the Department of Natural Resources. He said this is a safe way to transport the oil and natural gas liquids.

“What happens is as you construct that tunnel, that tunnel actually acts as secondary containment,” he said. “It’s about a hundred feet into the bedrock. So that separates, in my words, commodity and resource.”

But it’s not a done deal yet. Other agreements have to be made. And with a new governor and attorney general on the horizon, it’s unclear how permanent this solution could be.

Creagh said he hopes the agreement will be kept no matter who takes office.

“Good policy makes good politics and good environmental policy is what this state needs,” he said.

Environmental groups say this isn’t enough to prevent a potential catastrophic oil spill into the Great Lakes. They want the line shut down right away, without a new line.

“This agreement is a nonstarter to us because it fails to do the most important thing that the governor can do, which is set a date certain by which Line 5 would be shut down in the Straits,” said Mike Shriberg, Great Lakes Regional Executive Director of the National Wildlife Federation.

The state House also passed a series of pipeline related bills. They would increase reporting requirements for pipeline owners. Those are now headed to the Senate.


  • Cheyna Roth
    Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She's also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.
  • Jake Neher
    Jake Neher is senior producer for Detroit Today and host of MichMash for 101.9 WDET. He previously reported on the Michigan Legislature for the Michigan Public Radio Network.