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New electric cables to be laid in the Straits of Mackinac

Kokosing Cable Lay Barge - Port Side.JPG
New electric cables will be laid in the Straits of Mackinac this summer and fall.

New electric cables will be laid in the Straits of Mackinac this summer and fall.

This comes after a stray anchor strike damaged existing lines and caused hundreds of gallons of mineral oil coolant to leak into the water in 2018.

With some of the cables out of service, the region has been operating on electricity supplied by only one circuit, instead of the standard two.

Alissa Braatz with the American Transmission Company explains the current system is not a reliable grid.

“In the instance that something would happen to that existing line, we would need to redirect energy through the UP through a different means,” Braatz says. “In the long term, that’s not a viable approach, that’s not how the grid works.”

With permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state of Michigan, ATC is laying two new cables to restore the system back to two circuits.

Braatz also says they consulted with Michigan tribal nations for advice on the project, considering the cultural significance of the Straits.

The new cables rely on solid plastic-based insulation, so if they are ever damaged, they will not leak. As another layer of protection, they will be installed in trenches in the lakebed to protect them from future anchors or other marine hazards.

The $105 million project is scheduled to be finished by December.