Public hearing sought over tunnel concerns

On Tuesday May 26, 43 environmental and civic organizations, businesses, and Tribes, representing millions of citizens throughout Michigan and the Great Lakes Basin, sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) requesting an extension of the public comment period for the
Enbridge Energy Tunnel Project. The letter also asked for a public hearing once it is safe to convene members of the public after the risk of COVID-19 transmission subsides. On May 15, 2020, the USACE issued a public notice for Enbridge’s application for a proposed pipeline tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac between Mackinaw City and Saint Ignace, Michigan.

The notice provides a twenty (20) day public comment period, which currently closes on June 4, 2020. “Public participation contributes to better decisions because decision-makers have more complete information in the form of additional facts, values, and perspectives obtained through public input,” said Jennifer McKay, policy director for Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council. “This highly technical and complex proposed project that could have significant impacts upon the abundant natural resources of the Straits of Mackinac area, including 47 state- and federally listed threatened and endangered species and approximately 60,000 acres of habitat classified as critically imperiled, imperiled, or at risk, deserves more than a 20-day comment period.”

“Protecting the Great Lakes needs to be the top priority of the USACE, not quickly rubber stamping Enbridge’s permit. The only way to accomplish that is to provide a comprehensive environmental review and allow the public a meaningful opportunity to provide comments on this plan,” said Anne Woiwode, of the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Our request may well protect the Straits of Mackinac and Lakes Michigan and Huron from many decades of cleanup from a slipshod tunnel plan due to an expedited permitting process.”
“USACE has been criticized in the past for moving very slowly and deliberately to review large projects. For instance, it took them years to review proposed solutions to the Asian Carp issue. It is troubling that they are currently moving at such an accelerated pace to review a proposal that has huge impacts for the future health and safety of the Great Lakes,” said Sean McBrearty, campaign coordinator for Oil and Water Don’t Mix. “We strongly urge the Army Corps to allow for more robust public engagement than a twenty day public comment period.”
“Enbridge’s energy tunnel proposal is highly technical and poses high potential risks to the Great Lakes, and having less than one month to review and comment during a global health crisis is unacceptable,” said Sean Hammond, policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council. “The USACE allowed for significant and robust public dialogue on the Brandon Road Lock and Dam invasive species barrier project, which also had the potential for irreversible ecological impacts to the Great Lakes. We request that the same opportunities be allowed for Enbridge’s permit request.”
The proposal involves many complex technological and scientific issues related to tunnel construction beneath in the bottomlands of the Great Lakes, petroleum transportation, and the ecology of the Great Lakes, including the Straits of Mackinac and adjacent wetlands.
Development of thoughtful comments in the time provided is clearly unachievable and is therefore inconsistent with providing adequate or lawful public participation.

Enbridge Request for Ext., public hearing

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