ST. IGNACE, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) -- It was a packed house as the Mackinac Bridge Authority Board learned more from the state about the proposed tunnel that would house the controversial Line 5 pipeline.
An agreement between the State of Michigan and Enbridge proposes having the Mackinac Bridge Authority own and operate that tunnel.
Enbridge would be responsible for paying for the construction, operation and maintenance, leasing the tunnel for 99 years.
The state says the tunnel would take seven to 10 years to build.
The bridge authority would help secure permits and provide use of state lands.
“The Governor of Michigan is suddenly trying to fast-track a deal that could bind the people of Michigan to failing Line 5 and a risky replacement oil tunnel for 99 years," said Liz Kirkwood, the executive director of the environmental group, FLOW. "What’s the rush? Please Think.”
Kirkwood was one of dozens of people who lined up to give their take on the proposal.
“It is a blatant effort to pull this issue away from the incoming Governor, and park it in the bridge authority to make sure that it can’t be undone," said Bryan Newland, the chairman of the Bay Mills Indian Community.
Even the former chair of the board, Bill Gnodtke, came out against the current board owning the tunnel.
“Create an independent tunnel authority, if that’s your wish," Gnodtke said. "I can’t speak, and I won’t speak as to whether or not there should be a tunnel. I’m only saying it does not belong under the auspices of the Mackinac Bridge Authority.”
Only a couple of people stood up in favor of the tunnel.
“I’m extremely proud to work for Enbridge Energy, and I’m proud to work for a company that has stepped up and decided to take the necessary step to keep these waters safe," said one woman present at the meeting. "The waters that I also grew up in.”
Enbridge maintains the tunnel will be completely safe and that they will continue to improve the current pipeline.
“It really reduces the chances of any product getting into the water to near zero, because it is 100 feet below the surface, or below the lake bed, it does have those foot-thick concrete walls," said Enbridge Spokesperson Ryan Duffy.
It will likely be a while before the board makes any decision on the tunnel.