U.S. Sen. Gary Peters has released a video and photos showing how a 2018 anchor strike damaged Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac.
In April of last year, a ship’s anchor strike damaged electric lines owned by Wisconsin-based American Transmission Company, releasing hundreds of gallons of mineral oil into the Straits.
Enbridge says the mishap also caused three dents — the longest being 23 inches — on its 66-year-old twin pipelines, which environmentalists want shut down.
Enbridge released the video and photos to Peters, a Bloomfield Township Democrat, and others amid an ongoing U.S. Coast Guard investigation into the incident. Peters published the video on May 8 after the Coast Guard assured doing so would not harm its investigation.
“Michiganders deserve to know the full extent of the damage to Line 5 from last year’s anchor strike – because there’s simply too much at stake,” Peters said Wednesday in a statement.
Enbridge Energy’s dual Line 5 pipelines in the Mackinac Straits were damaged by an anchor strike last year. This photo shows a section of western pipeline had dents and scrapes. (Photo provided by U.S. Sen. Gary Peters.)
“I urge the Coast Guard to swiftly conclude their investigation into last year’s anchor strike and to release the investigation’s results publicly given Michiganders understandable concerns.”
Testifying last year at a field hearing Peters convenied, David Bryson, Enbridge’s senior vice president of operations, liquid pipelines, said the company quickly inspected the pipelines after learning of the anchor strike and searched for leaks.
“We had confidence that the structure of the integrity of the system was intact,” he said.
Ryan Duffy, an Enbridge spokesman, told Bridge on Wednesday that the company had finished “reinforcing” impacted parts of the pipeline by early summer of 2018.
Mike Shriberg, executive director for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes region, said the released footage shows “the incredible risk these pipelines, which are beyond their design life, pose to the Great Lakes and our economy.”
“The images are shocking – the pipeline is clearly in poor shape and the damage from the anchor strike is extensive. The Great Lakes barely dodged a bullet,” he said.
The video’s release comes amid uncertainty over whether Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will greenlight Enbridge’s plan to replace the pipelines in the Straits and bury in a bedrock tunnel — a plan Enbridge says would protect the pipeline from future anchor strikes.
“The Line 5 tunnel project in the Straits would eliminate the possibility of an anchor strike, because the pipeline would be inside a tunnel with foot-thick concrete walls, approximately 100 feet below the lakebed,” Duffy told Bridge.
Enbridge last year signed a series of agreements with then-Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration to pursue the tunnel, which environmental groups oppose. In March, however, Whitmer ordered state agencies to stop work on the project amid questions surrounding the deal’s constitutionality.
On Tuesday, the Democratic governor told reporters she may have more clarity on the tunnel deal and Line 5’s future “in the next few weeks.”
On Wednesday, she directed the Department of Natural resources to file an emergency rule to requiring large vessels to verify they aren't dragging anchors when passing through the Straits. Snyder's administration last year barred ships from anchoring in the Straits and the Coast Guard proposed similar rules. But in a letter to DNR Director Dan Eichinger on Wednesday, Whitmer called the previous efforts "an important first step" that "did not address the core threat" of the 2018 anchor strike.
Beth Wallace, Great Lakes partnership manager for the National Wildlife Federation, said building a tunnel doesn’t go far enough to remove the threat of Line 5.
“Our state leadership needs to take every step possible to remove the current and ongoing risk Line 5 poses to the Great Lakes and the governor has a duty to protect that resource on behalf of Michiganders,” she said.