MI Senate OKs Line 5 utility tunnel

The state Senate on Wednesday voted to move forward with legislation allowing construction of a utility tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

Senate Bill 1197 would establish the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority (MSCA), which would be responsible for acquiring, constructing, maintaining, and operating the new utility tunnel.

“The pipeline is needed,” said state Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “This is the best way to keep the Great Lakes safe while also ensuring residents are able to get the supplies they need. Many residents in my district rely on propane from Line 5 to heat their homes and businesses.”

The original version of the bill tasked the Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA) with responsibility for the tunnel and Schmidt said his constituents, including current and former members of the MBA, were not pleased.

“My office has gotten several calls about this. I have discussed this issue at length with folks in my district. The overall message was clear that the bill as it stood was not an ideal situation,” said Schmidt. “To remedy this, I offered an amendment to the legislation that would instead create a new authority responsible solely for the tunnel’s construction, maintenance and operation.”

The amended version of the legislation gives the three-member board of the MSCA the responsibility of overseeing the tunnel’s construction and daily operation once completed. Members are appointed to six-year terms by the governor.

“Many people that I have spoken with are relieved with the direction that we decided to go with this bill,” Schmidt said. “I think this was a tremendous example of our system of government at work. People came out, voiced their opinions, held discussions, and in the end, we were able to listen to folks and reach a compromise that is in the best interest of our state.”

SB 1197 will now go to the Michigan House of Representatives for approval.