The United States Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District has opted to complete an Environmental Impact Statement regarding the proposed Line 5 tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac. The process is the most comprehensive review of its kind conducted by the agency.
The permit review is only for the changes near the Mackinac Bridge, connecting Line 5 between the UP’s St. Ignace and Mackinaw City in the Lower Peninsula. Bill Dowell says there will be plenty of opportunities for public comment. He suggests those passionate about the issue be active in tracking what those are.
The process is expected to last two years. Line 5 is subject to multiple treaties and is tied up in Federal Court. An eventual ruling could have an effect on the permitting process as it will decide whether the State of Michigan or various tribes can force an eventual shutdown of operations. Governor Gretchen Whitmer tried that tack in November 2020 citing “incurable easement violations.”
The full release is below.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, expects the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process for Enbridge Line 5’s tunnel permit application to begin soon following its selection of a contractor to prepare the EIS.
The Detroit District, responsible for the tunnel project permit request review, selected Maryland-based Potomac-Hudson Engineering, Inc. as the third-party contractor to prepare the EIS for Enbridge’s proposed Line 5 Tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac.
An EIS is a thorough and comprehensive National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) document the Detroit District will use in making a permit decision.
A key EIS component requires gathering public input. Tribal nations, agencies, communities, organizations, citizens and other stakeholders will have opportunities to provide input.
In June 2021, then-acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jaime A. Pinkham announced USACE will proceed with an EIS for the application.
“I have concluded that an EIS is the most appropriate level of review because of the potential for impacts significantly affecting the quality of the human environment,” Pinkham said in a press release June 21, 2021. “USACE will ensure all potential impacts and reasonable alternatives associated with this project are thoroughly analyzed and will ultimately support a decision on the permit application.”
While Enbridge will pay for the EIS, the contractor is under USACE’s direction while performing the EIS. USACE is responsible for the EIS scope and content to ensure an independent review.
In the coming months, Detroit District will initiate the scoping process by publishing in the Federal Register a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an EIS. A special public notice and press release will also announce the NOI. The NOI will invite public comment on impacts and alternatives the EIS should evaluate in depth.
USACE will ensure all voices are heard in an open, transparent and public process for the EIS, and is committed to ensuring meaningful and robust consultation with tribal nations occurs per President Biden’s Memorandum on Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships, dated January 26, 2021. USACE is committed to producing a thorough EIS that rigorously explores and objectively evaluates all reasonable alternatives to render a decision within the scope of its authorities. USACE expects the EIS process to take about two years to complete.
Detroit District has already held two public comment periods, May 15 – July 14, 2020, and November 6 – December 17, 2020, receiving more than 15,000 public comments and tribal input on the proposed project during those periods. The EIS process requires additional public comment periods.
All comments received are considered in USACE’s determination on whether to issue, modify, condition or deny a permit for this proposal. To make this decision, comments are used to assess impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects and other public interest factors. Comments are used in the preparation of an EIS pursuant to NEPA. Comments are also used to determine whether the activity is contrary to the overall public interest.
For the Line 5 tunnel project, Enbridge Energy is proposing to construct a tunnel under the bed of the Straits of Mackinac between Point LaBarbe, St. Ignace and McGulpin Point, Mackinaw City, Michigan. The tunnel would house a new 30-inch pipeline for light crude oil and liquid natural gas, replacing the existing dual submerged pipelines crossing the Straits of Mackinac, which have been in operation since 1953.
The application is being evaluated under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act in accordance with federal regulations and policies. USACE authority is limited to the proposed crossing of the Straits of Mackinac and adjacent wetlands. For more information visit https://www.lre.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory-Program-and-Permits/Enbridge-Line-5-Tunnel/.