U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued a permit to install 54 steel supports along the underwater Line 5 pipeline in Michigan’s Straits of Mackinac, Enbridge Inc., said. Line 5 is a critical part of Enbridge’s Mainline network and ships 540,000 barrels per day of light crude oil and propane.
Enbridge suggests to build a tunnel under the Straits to house the pipeline, but the state of Michigan has rejected that. Under the easements granted by the state of Michigan, the limit for each span or gap between the pipe and the lake-bed was 75 feet. In August, Enbridge identified a span exceeding 75 feet.
“Enbridge believes that the tunnel project is the best long-term solution for Line 5 moving forward. Placing the pipeline inside a tunnel, 100 feet below the lake-bed, would eliminate any span issues, and the need for supports,” said company spokesman Ryan Duffy in an emailed statement.
Duffy said that Enbridge had been waiting 17 months for the permits and upon receiving them started work immediately to install a support at that span. Work on that section is expected to be completed later this week, weather permitting, and the other steel supports will be placed at different locations along the pipeline.
Environmental campaigners, who fear the underwater portion of the 66-year-old pipeline could leak oil into the Great Lakes has shown fierce opposition and state of Michigan is suing Enbridge to have the underwater portion of Line 5 shut down and decommissioned.