Enbridge ordered to retrieve 7½-ton anchor from Straits lakebed

State says equipment failure triggered anchor detachment

By: - July 23, 2021 12:54 pm

Laina G. Stebbins

A contractor working for Canadian oil company Enbridge left an unsecured 15,000-pound anchor between Line 5’s dual oil pipelines on Wednesday, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) disclosed Friday.

Enbridge says the contractor was conducting seasonal maintenance on Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac Wednesday when the anchor was placed on the lakebed. The contractor then attempted to retrieve the anchor, but the equipment failed in the process and the anchor was left in the Straits. Enbridge did not immediately respond to the Advance when asked for the name of the contractor.

Enbridge informed the state of Michigan of the incident on Wednesday night. 

EGLE says it has instructed Enbridge to remove the anchor from the lakebed, which the oil company says is likely to happen “within days.” The agency is continuing to gather facts and information on the matter as Enbridge develops a retrieval plan.

“There was no risk to the pipelines. The anchor was placed in between the dual pipelines in an area more than 500 feet from either pipeline per a pre-approved anchoring plan,” Enbridge spokesperson Ryan Duffy said Friday.

Damage to anchor support on east leg of Line 5 caused in 2020 | Enbridge photo

This is the second time in the last year that an Enbridge contractor has been responsible for an accident in the Straits, as an Enbridge-contracted vessel caused damage to an anchor support on Line 5’s east leg in June 2020.

An equipment failure in September 2019 also caused Enbridge to leave a long steel rod embedded in the lakebed near the pipeline for months.

“The contractor’s work that triggered this latest anchor incident is being conducted under a permit from [EGLE]. Enbridge was obligated to notify the state about the anchor accident,” said Oil & Water Don’t Mix Campaign Coordinator Sean McBrearty. “This should serve as a reminder that while Enbridge is in federal court making false legal claims that the state doesn’t have jurisdiction over Line 5 in the Straits, the fact is the Canadian oil company can’t ignore the State of Michigan’s responsibility and legal right to protect the Great Lakes from bad actors like Enbridge.”

The state of Michigan and Enbridge are currently nearing the conclusion of a federal court case that will decide whether the legality of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Line 5 shutdown order — which was effective May 12 but ignored by Enbridge — will be decided in state court or federal court.


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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).