Gov. Rick Snyder yesterday thanked the United States Coast Guard for approving a Straits of Mackinac “no anchor” zone, which builds on measures announced by the governor to add protections and safeguards to Michigan’s waters and the utility infrastructure in the area.
“I want to thank the U.S. Coast Guard and Ninth District Commander Rear Admiral Joanna M. Nunan for taking this important action,” Gov. Snyder said. “This is one of many critical measures to provide robust short-term protections as we move forward with our long-term plan of putting Line 5 in a utility tunnel and decommissioning the existing pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.”
Gov. Snyder in May approved a temporary emergency state rule prohibiting anchoring in the Straits, since no such prohibition was in place. Boats dropping anchors in the area where there is utility infrastructure could cause severe environmental damage and threaten to disrupt critical energy and communication services between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas.
The new “no anchor” zone, known as a regulated navigation area, goes into effect Oct. 31 and prohibits vessels from anchoring or loitering without permission within a designated area. The boundaries are longitudes 084°20′ W and 085°10′ W and latitudes 045°39′ N and 045°54′ N (NAD 83), including Grays Reef Passage, the South Channel between Bois Blanc Island and Cheboygan, and the waters between Mackinac Island and St. Ignace.
Vessels will be prohibited from anchoring over any charted, submerged cable and pipeline within the “no anchor” area unless the crew has received permission from the Captain of the Port of Sault Ste. Marie, or a designated representative. The Coast Guard said loitering does not include brief stops by companies offering sight-seeing, ferrying, or tourism services.
The state of Michigan and Enbridge Energy Partners, LLC, which owns Line 5, entered into an agreement this month for construction beneath the Straits of a tunnel for multiple utility connections between the peninsulas. The agreement also calls for the permanent shutdown of the current segment of Line 5 in the Straits and safety enhancements along the entire length of Line 5 in Michigan.
Additional safety measures in the Straits under the agreement include installing cameras, paid for by Enbridge, to support the Coast Guard’s new regulation prohibiting ships from dropping anchor. The company also will suspend operation of the pipeline when high winds would severely hamper response to a potential oil spill. Enbridge also agreed to have at least $1.8 billion available to respond to a potential spill in the Straits or anywhere along Line 5 in Michigan. The state will provide a provide a radar system to measure real-time wave heights.
Line 5 is 645 miles long and transports up to 540,000 barrels a day of light crude oil and natural gas liquids, including propane. Below the Straits of Mackinac, the pipeline splits into two lines that lie on the lake bottom within an easement issued by the state of Michigan. A new pipeline in the tunnel would not increase volumes or alter the types of products transported through the existing Line 5.
Read the full text of the Coast Guard rule here.