Line 5 and Utility Corridor Update

The existing Line 5 pipeline and proposed utility corridor have been in the news a lot over the last couple of weeks, here’s what you need to know.

The Governor and Enbridge have met several times over the last few weeks in an attempt to find a path forward for Line 5. The negotiations are currently focused on the timeline of the existing pipeline’s closure. Last Thursday, Enbridge announced that barring any permitting delays, it could complete a tunnel to house Line 5 by 2024. This 5-year time frame for construction of the utility corridor is significantly shorter than the 7-10 years originally estimated, but even then, it may not be fast enough for the Governor and Attorney General.

On Friday, May 31st the Governor addressed several questions from reporters on the future of Line 5. When asked about the time-frame for tunnel construction, she said, “I think we’ve got a duty to get it out quicker than that, and I think that the Attorney General feels the same way and that’s my goal”. These comments come on the heels of the Attorney General’s own press release, in which she said she would move by the end of June to begin the process for decommissioning Line 5 if the Governor and Enbridge cannot reach an agreement.  

While the 5-year timeline does not appear short enough for Gov.  Whitmer, she acknowledges the cost and uncertainty of litigation. When asked, she told reporters, “One of the things I’m concerned about is being locked in litigation in an unending way where that pipeline stays exposed and we run the risk of a leak in the Great Lakes”.

In response, Enbridge spokesmen Michael Barnes said “Enbridge still believes the tunnel is the safest, quickest option for removing Line 5 from the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, and negotiations are ongoing regarding the timeline for its closure”.

“Enbridge has committed to construct the tunnel as quickly as prudently possible and to advance a number of additional protective measures while we construct the tunnel. We are committed to working with the governor absolutely and finding a path forward for the tunnel project," Barnes said. "I believe that we all have a shared vision to reduce risk.”

Along with their statement, the company also released a a background and proposed timeline document that can be found below, 

Line 5 Backgrounder and Timeline

In brief, here is the proposed timeline for the design and construction of the proposed utility tunnel.

May 21, 2019: On-shore rock and soil sampling work begins on the South shore of the Straits.

June 2019: Underwater rock and soil sampling work begins.

July 2019: Deep water rock and soil sampling work begins.

2020: Concurrent contracting with tunnel design/construction company and completion of final tunnel design.

2020: Procurement and construction of unique tunnel boring machine.

2020-2021: 18 to 24 months anticipated to obtain all necessary federal, state and local permits.

Fourth quarter 2021: Boring and construction of the tunnel begins.

2021-2023: Approximately two years to bore and construct the tunnel at an anticipated average of 40 feet per day

First half 2024: Testing and commissioning of new Line 5 crossing at the Straits contained within the new tunnel.

Enbridge has secured the permits to begin rock and soil sampling work, but any delays in additional permitting could push the proposed completion date beyond 2024. After a busy week last week, it appears that discussions will be ongoing as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told reporters Friday that she’ll be meeting with Enbridge again this week.

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