LANSING — The state and Enbridge Energy have reached an agreement to pursue construction of a tunnel underneath the Straits of Mackinac, a move designed to mitigate the environmental risk of a leak by containing the spill within the tunnel. Under the agreement, Enbridge would fund the construction of the new tunnel and pipeline. The new tunnel would house other utilities lines crossing the straits. The agreement also requires Enbridge to maintain financial coverage of at least $1.878 billion, the estimate from the independent risk analysis of a worst-case scenario cost if Line 5 were to rupture. Additionally, the agreement contains measures designed to reduce the possibility of a vessel's anchor striking Line 5 until it is decommissioned. In response, state Rep. Sara Cambensy (D-Marquette) issued the following statement:

“Any step to decommission the current pipeline and protect our Great Lakes is a step in the right direction. Given the vast infrastructure of pipelines throughout North America and our state, I know that families and our regional economy depend heavily on these resources. I’m pleased to hear the cost of this tunnel will fall solely on Enbridge rather than the taxpayers, and that Enbridge is required to certify it has funds to cover any worst-case scenario. In addition to eliminating the risk of future spills, the Enbridge tunnel will also allow the other electric and gas utilities that run under the straits to utilize this corridor, which could significantly improve the reliability of our U.P. electrical grid. The upgraded connection between the two peninsulas will allow us to explore new opportunities to lower energy rates, especially in the central and eastern U.P.”

While the agreement still awaits approval from the Mackinac Bridge Authority, which would own the newly constructed tunnel, the terms of the project should be finalized by the end of this year. Joining Cambensy, state Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) issued the following statement:

“When it comes to protecting our Great Lakes, creating jobs and improving the energy reliability of the U.P., this deal is a great compromise. We can work to mitigate the possibility of a spill and hire more of our highly skilled workers to build a state-of-the-art utility tunnel underneath the bedrock, ensuring affordable propane to heat our homes and businesses and the chance to solve our energy issues. I see this as win-win for the environment, Michigan taxpayers and our economy.”