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Public comment period closes for Enbridge Line 5 tunnel proposal

October 21, 2020

Independent consultant retained for technical review

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) announced today that the public comment period for Enbridge Energy’s permit applications to build a utility tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac and relocate the Line 5 oil pipeline officially closed on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020.

EGLE will now review several thousand comments regarding the proposed project’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Wastewater Permit (NPDES) and wetlands and resource permit applications. EGLE is expected to reach a decision on both applications by early December.

Under Michigan law, EGLE is the regulatory agency responsible for environmental permitting for the tunnel project, while the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) has siting authority for pipelines that carry crude oil and petroleum products.

EGLE also announced today that the state has retained international civil engineering firm McMillen Jacobs Associates to provide independent technical review and guidance on the proposed tunneling project.

Staff from McMillen Jacobs will provide technical advice to EGLE, MPSC and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) as they review Enbridge’s applications.

Specializing in the engineering and construction of deep tunnel projects, McMillen Jacobs has global experience in engineering challenges such as tunneling below water bodies and through complex geological structures. The firm served as the lead consultant on the five-mile-long Bay Tunnel project beneath San Francisco Bay which involved tunneling through a complex mix of bedrock and other materials within an active earthquake zone.

McMillen Jacobs will review the geotechnical data report submitted to the state by Enbridge and assist in the evaluation of issues raised though the public comments process.

Separate from the work being conducted by McMillen Jacobs is a review of potential cultural sites by the State Historic Preservation Office which is examining Enbridge’s archeological assessment of the proposed tunnel route and other documents brought to their attention.

As part of the effort to keep the public informed, EGLE has also partnered with the MPSC and MDOT’s Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority (MSCA) on the state’s Line 5 in Michigan website.