Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority Approves Tunnel Agreement

Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority’s first Meeting was held on Wednesday Dec. 19 in St. Ignace.

The Little Bear Arena in St. Ignace was packed to the brim on Wednesday, as the first meeting of the MSCA drew a crowd of over 200 people. The Michigan Oil and Gas Association was well represented, with just shy of a dozen members in attendance.

Following presentations on the proposed tunnel agreement, the newly appointed Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority Board members heard public comment for nearly three hours on the agreement and the pipeline. Over 50 audience members had the opportunity to speak, including several MOGA Members. Among those making comments or in attendance to show their support of
the agreement and pipeline were: Cliff Roberts, Thad Shumway, Ken Prior, Erin McDonough, Mike Cornelius, Luke Miller, and Michael Kler, Tim Rudolph, Bob Parsons, and James Burmeister. Click Here to Read MOGA's Comments submitted on the Tunnel Agreement. 

Just before the conclusion of the meeting, the MSCA Board approved the tunnel agreement with Enbridge to build the multi-use utility tunnel beneath the Straits and approved the transfer of a property right that will allow Enbridge to construct the tunnel in bedrock beneath the Straits.

The fixed schedule for pre-construction work, definitive timelines, and financial penalties for missed deadlines established by the agreement, will make certain that the tunnel project moves forward expeditiously, while the independent oversight will ensure it is done correctly. The approval of the agreement ensures the safe and continued operation of the existing pipeline while design and construction of the utility corridor is underway.

“Today’s actions will result in the removal of the oil pipeline from the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, maintain critical infrastructure connections between our peninsulas, provide energy security for residents of the Upper Peninsula and northern Michigan and create good-paying jobs," Governor Snyder said. 

*The MSCA was created when Senate Bill 1197 was signed into Law as PA 359 of 2018. Click Here to Read More

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Update: New Appointees to the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority (MSCA) Board

Snyder announced Monday that East Lansing native, Michael Nystrom will replace Mike Zimmer, of Dimondale, on the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority Board. Nystrom, a Republican, is the executive vice president and secretary for the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA).

Mike Zimmer's resignation came after a possible legal conflict arose concerning his appointment. The law that created the tunnel authority states that no person "shall serve as a member of the corridor authority board during his or her term as a member of the Mackinac Bridge Authority board (MBA)." Zimmer was announced as having resigned from the Bridge Authority Board at 3:36 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12. Zimmer was appointed to the tunnel authority earlier in the day at 10:28 a.m., according to the press releases sent by the Snyder administration. To avoid any conflict, Zimmer stepped down from the position. 

"I see it as a nice opportunity to be a part of what is going to be a legacy project for the state of Michigan," Nystrom said. "I'm looking forward to being involved."

Last week, Governor Snyder appointed James (J.R.) Richardson to the Board, replacing the Geno Alessandrini who stepped down citing personal reasons.  J.R. currently serves as vice chair of the state's Natural Resources Commission through the end of the year.

Tony England, who is dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and who had been serving on the Governor's Pipeline Safety Advisory Board (PSAB) will remain on the Board. 

The Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority (MSCA) will hold their first meeting on Wednesday, December 19 in St. Ignace. 

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The Proposed Tunnel Agreement Submitted by the Gov. to the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority

The Proposed Tunnel Agreement was submitted by the Governor to the newly formed Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority (MSCA) this week.  The new Board will oversee construction and operation of the proposed Straits tunnel. Under the proposed Tunnel Agreement, Enbridge would be required to design, construct, operate and maintain the tunnel and turn over ownership of the tunnel to the MSCA once it is complete, provided certain conditions are met.
The proposed Tunnel Agreement contains measurable milestones and definitive timelines for tunnel progress as well as significant financial penalties for missed deadlines, provided delays are within the company’s control. The new law requires the MSCA to enter into this agreement by the end of the year providing the Agreement meets the requirements of PA 359.
Comments on the draft document can be made by phone at 833-367-6713 or by email to DNR-StraitsTunnelComment@michigan.gov. Comments will be accepted through December 18. The agreement is posted on the mipetroleumpipelines.com website.
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State Announces a Draft Third Agreement on the Future of Line 5

The State has announced a Third Proposed Agreement between Governor Snyder, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Natural Resources and Enbridge. This agreement would supplement the two previous agreements between the state and Enbridge – the first in November 2017 and the second in October 2018.

This draft agreement would carry forward the safety requirements of the first two agreements and require Enbridge to construct a tunnel beneath the Straits that will provide secondary containment for a replacement Straits pipeline and be capable of housing multiple utilities. It also includes interpretations of the current 1953 easement for the dual pipelines and ongoing financial assurance requirements. Under the proposed Third Agreement, Enbridge would cover all costs for design, construction, operation and maintenance of the multi-use tunnel. The agreement would also establish more stringent inspection and safety requirements in successive years for the existing dual Line 5 pipelines on the bottom of the Straits as the tunnel and replacement line are constructed.

Comments on the draft document can be made by phone at 833-367-6713 or by email to DNR-StraitsTunnelComment@michigan.gov. Comments will be accepted through December 18. The agreement is posted on the mipetroleumpipelines.com website.

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Gov. Snyder Makes Initial Appointments to the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority (MSCA)

MSCA Members will serve six-year terms expiring Dec. 12, 2024. They are subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. The chair will be chosen by the authority members. The Board Members are as follows;

Geno Alessandrini, of Iron Mountain, is the business manager for the Michigan Laborers District Council where he is responsible for overseeing the affairs of over 13,000 construction workers in Michigan. He previously served as business manager for Laborers Local Union 1329 in Iron Mountain. Alessandrini attended the Harvard Trade Union Program and Harvard Law School. He will represent Democrats.

Anthony (Tony) England, of Ypsilanti, is the dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan – Dearborn. England served as deputy chief of the Office of Geochemistry and Geophysics for the U.S. Geological Survey and as a senior scientist astronaut for NASA before becoming a professor at the University of Michigan. He holds a bachelor’s degree in earth sciences, a master’s degree in geology and geophysics, and a Ph.D. in geophysics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He will represent Democrats.

Michael Zimmer, of Dimondale, serves as the cabinet director for Gov. Rick Snyder. Previously, Zimmer worked as director of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Zimmer earned his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and his law degree from George Washington University. He will be resigning his appointment to the Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA) and will represent Republicans on the MSCA.

“I want to thank the appointees for being willing to serve on this authority that will have the responsibility of overseeing this critically important piece of infrastructure for Michigan,” Snyder said. “They have the expertise and the qualifications necessary to serve the state well as the MSCA brings an end to concerns over Line 5 continuing to operate in the Straits of Mackinac.”

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Senate Bill 1197 Signed by the Governor

"This pipeline and the energy resources that flow through it are utilized by hundreds of thousands of Michiganders every single day, and we need to protect these energy resources. We in this chamber with the plan that's before us cannot wait any longer, because doing nothing is not an option."

–Representative Lee Chatfield

Just after 12:45 P.M. on Tuesday, December 11, 2018 Senate Bill 1197 passed the House with a 74-34 vote. Several Democratic Representatives joined their Republican colleagues in support of the bill. This bill would create a new entity, the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority, to assume oversight of a proposed utility tunnel. 

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Construction, operation, and maintenance of the proposed utility tunnel will be fully paid for by Enbridge

Clearing up questions on cost.

There have been a lot of questions about costs related to the proposed utility tunnel that would house a replacement for Line 5 under the Straits and rightfully so, as this is major infrastructure project in Northern Michigan. With the Mackinac Bridge Authority’s oversight, this project would provide an incredible economic boost for Northern Michigan, employee hundreds of skilled trade workers, and ensure our state’s vital, safe and well-maintained transportation infrastructure will continue to support our business needs.

So who will be paying for it? Enbridge.

The October agreement mandates that the construction, operation, and maintenance of the proposed utility tunnel will be fully paid for by Enbridge. The cost is estimated to be between $350 million to $500 million for construction and design of this large infrastructure project, all of which will be paid by Enbridge. No taxpayer dollars will be used for these purposes. You may have heard that separate from these costs footed by Enbridge, the state is asking for a $4.5 M Appropriation to pay for necessary independent oversight of the project. This appropriation is a fraction of the $630 million supplemental spending plan sent to lawmakers Nov. 14. As Kurt Weiss, spokesperson for the Michigan State Budget Office puts it, "This money is really for the oversight of Enbridge, if you will, and the administration to make sure the project is managed to the state's satisfaction”.  The appropriated funds would cover the cost of installing radar in the Straits to provide real-time wave height monitoring and cover any additional staffing needs for the Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA) to monitor Enbridge’s compliance. This funding would also ensure that no bridge revenues would be used for the tunnel project oversight.

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The Mackinac Bridge Authority is the Right Choice to Oversee the Tunnel

"Because of proximity and history operating an important public asset, the MBA is the logical choice to oversee this tunnel, ensure its safe operation and continue to protect the Straits of Mackinac and the Mackinac Bridge, our state’s most iconic structure". 

The recently retired Kirk Steudle, served 31 years with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), and spent the last 13 as MDOT Director. He was re-appointed to the Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA), as a private citizen, effective Nov. 1st of this year, where he plans to continue to protect the Mackinac Bridge and the Straits. Kirk believes that the MBA is right entity to oversee the proposed utility tunnel. In a recent opinion piece featured in the the Traverse City Record Eagle, he shares his belief that the MBA should seize the opportunity to assist in safeguarding the Mackinac Bridge, the Straits, and our State. Capitalizing on its credibility and expertise to protect our state's critical infrastructure, rather than being a bystander as this project takes shape

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Click Here to Read the Full Piece 

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"A great deal for Michigan – for its environment, for its taxpayers and for its workers".

Tunnel under the Straits is the best way to handle Line 5

The proposed utility tunnel under the Straits will;

  • Ensure Environmental Protections

  • Provide Energy Security

  • Create Good-Paying Jobs.

In a recent guest column, featured in the Free Press, Secretary-Treasurer of the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council, Pat Devlin, reiterates the importance of maintaining Michigan's critical infrastructure. He, like many, believes that the tunnel would virtually eliminate the possibility of an oil spill in the Straits and provide a comprehensive solution to connect our peninsulas while protecting the Great Lakes. This substantial infrastructure plan would have an enormous positive impact on Northern Michigan communities. Providing years of high paying jobs, the tunnel plan would 

Click Here to Read the Full Story in the Free Press

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