Steel rod found resting against Line 5 pipeline after water currents moved it 150ft

Jan 2, 2020

Enbridge Energy has retrieved a 45-foot steel rod it left in the Straits of Mackinac in September. Strong currents moved the rod 150 feet during its time underwater.

The company dropped the rod while sampling bedrock in preparation for building a tunnel under the straits.

The tunnel would replace Enbridge’s 66-year-old oil and gas pipelines that currently sit on the lake bottom.

Enbridge notified the state of Michigan about its debris in November, two months after the fact, and at the time, said it couldn’t be removed until spring.

However, unseasonably warm temperatures allowed a remotely operated vehicle to remove the rod Saturday night.

Joseph Haas of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy says he thinks both the state and Enbridge were surprised by how the currents had moved the rod.

“We just didn't see it as a real urgency that it get out of there in an instantaneous or super-urgent manner,” he says. “In hindsight, they reported upon removal that that rod had migrated 150 feet and was leaning against the west leg of the pipeline. I don't think anybody expected that such a low-profile, heavy, probably 250 pound piece of steel would have migrated 150 feet.”

Enbridge technically violated the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act by dropping debris in that location, but Haas says it’s not the kind of thing his agency would normally impose a fine for. It was an accident and no infrastructure was impacted.

He does, however, call it a “lesson learned.”

“Wow, that pipe moved 150 feet since Sept. 12,” says Haas. “That’s a pretty big deal. We need to be paying close attention to things in the straits.”

Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy confirmed in a press release that the company had retrieved its debris.

“The rod never posed any safety or environmental risk to Line 5, the water, nor ship traffic in the traits,” said Duffy.