GT commissioners pass resolution supporting Enbridge

Aug 21, 2019

A resolution supporting Enbridge’s $500 million tunnel to replace Line 5 was passed by the Grand Traverse Board of County Commissioners Wednesday.

A group of peaceful protesters stand outside the government center in Traverse City.
Credit Noelle Riley

Nearly 55 people spoke out against the resolution during the public comment period prior to the vote. Two people spoke in favor of supporting the resolution.

“I have not seen any research or studies conducted by the board to explain why you think you have any expertise on a tunnel for Line 5,” one audience member said. 

Sonny Wheelock, Bryce Hundley and Betsy Coffia voted against the resolution, while Ron Clous, Gordie La Pointe, Brad Jewett and Rob Hentschel voted in favor.

The same resolution was passed by Dickinson, Iron and Gogebic counties this summer.

Almost the entire audience was upset when the vote passed. Many walked out of the room saying, "shame, shame, shame."

The commissioners discussed their feelings about Enbridge's tunnel before they voted. Jewett assurred the audience that he was not influenced by Enbridge when he proposed the resolution. 

"I know I've been accused of taking money from Enbridge or working with Enbridge and their affiliates. I know nobody from Enbridge. I have not accepted any money from Enbridge, nor has any money been sent to me from Enbridge. I just want that on the record," Jewett said. "I think all of us here want safe water, and I think a new tunnel will provide us with safe water for generations to come."

Coffia said she and the commissioners are pawns in a political chess game being played by Enbridge. She also said that since she was voted in as a new commissioner last year, she's seen Enbridge at every commissioner event. 

Enbridge was a sponsor of the new commissioner training last year hosted by the Michigan Association of Counties (MAC). Enbridge also was a sponsor of the 2019 Michigan Counties Annual Conference held in Traverse City this Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

A protest outside the county building took place around 7:30 a.m. before the commissioners meeting.

Lynne VanNess opposes a new tunnel and Line 5.

“We’re trying to prevent the board of commissioners from voting for a tunnel," she said. 

Commissioners also voted down supporting a citizen census question at the end of their meeting.