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Shipping Season Brings Renewed Line 5 Rupture Threat


Thursday, March 25, 2021


Opening of 2021 Straits of Mackinac Shipping Season 

Brings Renewed Threat of Enbridge Line 5 Failure 

Halt in shipping from Line 5 anchor strike carries $45 billion price tag

More information:  David Holtz 313-300-4454/[email protected]

This week’s official seasonal opening of the Soo Locks in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula means shipping resumes through the busy, turbulent Straits of Mackinac along with the renewed risk of an Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline failure from another damaging anchor strike.

Any anchor strike halting shipping would exact a heavy economic toll on the Great Lakes regional economy.

“A Line 5 rupture would trigger an oil spill disaster in the heart of the Great Lakes and our shipping-dependent regional economy,” said Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director of FLOW.  “Shutting down Line 5 by the governor’s May deadline would defuse this ticking time bomb in the Straits of Mackinac.”  

A 2017 State of Michigan-commissioned report identified anchor strikes as the most likely cause of a future Line 5 failure.  Since then, Line 5 has been struck at least twice by a 12,000-pound anchor and cables from ships and barges, prompting a court-ordered temporary shutdown of the twin pipelines in the Straits in 2020. 

The domino effect of a Line 5 oil spill disrupting Great Lakes commercial shipping and steel production would slash jobs and shrink the nation’s Gross Domestic Product by $45 billion after just 15 days, according to a 2018 report commissioned by the public policy and legal organization FLOW. 

Annually up to nearly 1,500 large ships travel through the Straits during a typical shipping season, according to the state-sponsored Alternatives Analysis for the Straits Pipeline.  

The report said Line 5’s elevation above the lakebed, along with typically lengthy anchor chains on large ships, means the old, damaged and deteriorating pipeline is susceptible to being hooked by a ship’s anchor that is unintentionally deployed, as was the case in an April 1, 018, anchor strike that damaged Line 5

Following the 2018 anchor strike, the U.S. Coast Guard, which has jurisdiction over navigation in the Straits, adopted new rules that banned anchoring in the Straits without permission.  However, the rules still allow ships’ captains and pilots to deploy anchors in emergencies. 

“With the 2021 shipping season upon us, Enbridge must stop its delay tactics and begin an orderly transition away from operating Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac,” said David Holtz, spokesperson for Oil & Water Don’t Mix.  “Michigan doesn’t need Line 5, but we do rely on a healthy shipping season to help drive the state’s economic recovery.”

In November, Gov. Whitmer and the state Department of Natural Resources revoked Enbridge’s decades-old easement to operate Line 5 in the Straits under the public trust doctrine due to repeated violations of the easement .  Since then Enbridge has stated it will  ignore Michigan law and continue operating the pipeline.


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  • David Holtz
    published this page in News 2021-03-25 14:10:27 -0400

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