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Federal review of Line 5 tunnel project moves forward

The Straits of Mackinac separate Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas
Michigan Technological University
The Straits of Mackinac separate Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had entered the next stage in assessing the environmental impact of the Great Lakes Tunnel project.

The proposed tunnel would encase a new section of Line 5, which carries crude oil and natural gas liquids along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. It would replace the 69-year-old dual pipes that currently run along the lakebed.

Over a year ago, the USACE announced it would prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed tunnel — a rigorous review used for projects that could affect the quality of the human environment.

On Monday, it published a Notice of Intent which begins the “scoping process.” The agency will collaborate with the public to define the range of issues and potential alternatives that will be addressed.

Proponents say the tunnel project eliminates the risk of an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac.

Environmentalists and Tribal Nations say the tunnel poses risks of its own: specifically to fisheries, water quality and — potentially — underwater archaeological sites.

The Army Corps of Engineers will accept public comments through October 14th. Information on submitting comments can be found at Line5tunnelEIS.com.

Patrick Shea was a natural resources reporter at Interlochen Public Radio. Before joining IPR, he worked a variety of jobs in conservation, forestry, prescribed fire and trail work. He earned a degree in natural resources from Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, and his interest in reporting grew as he studied environmental journalism at the University of Montana's graduate school.