U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opens Line 5 environmental review

Citizens may submit comments until Oct. 14

By: - August 15, 2022 1:46 pm

Mackinac Bridge | Allison R. Donahue

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Detroit District on Monday formally published a notice of intent for its forthcoming draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on the embattled Line 5 tunnel project.

Those who wish to submit public comment regarding the proposed EIS scope may do so by Oct. 14.

Written comments: Line 5 Tunnel EIS, 16501 Shady Grove Road, P.O. Box 10178, Gaithersburg, MD 20898

Electronic comments: https://www.Line5TunnelEIS.com

The EIS process means that the plans to replace the aging pipeline will be scrutinized by the highest level of federal environmental review for such a project. The USACE will consider its alternatives, cumulative impacts, geographic context and more under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).

USACE is one of several permitting bodies that Canadian pipeline company Enbridge needs approval from before constructing the tunnel-enclosed replacement pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

Line 5, built in 1953, originates in Northwest Wisconsin and continues for 645 miles into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, under the Straits of Mackinac and out into Canada near Detroit. Both the current pipeline and its proposed replacement are opposed by environmental organizations and tribes in both Michigan and Wisconsin; proponents for both include the Canadian government and oil and gas groups.

USACE first announced in June 2021 that it will prepare an EIS for the tunnel project. Jaime A. Pinkham, acting assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, had noted the agency’s emphasis on ensuring tribal consultation. 

Pinkham is a citizen of the Nez Perce Tribe rooted in North-Central Idaho and has previously been on record as being against the now-scuttled Dakota Access Pipeline.

Enbridge’s Department of the Army permit application before USACE is pursuant to the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 and the Clean Water Act. It must gain federal approval because the tunnel project involves discharging dredged or fill materials into waters of the United States, as well as the construction of structures and/or work that may affect navigable waters.

The USACE is also preparing an ethnographic/traditional cultural landscape study as part of the EIS and its responsibilities under the National Historic Preservation Act.

After considering public comment and issuing the EIS, the USACE will then decide whether to issue, issue with modification or deny the Department of the Army permit altogether.

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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).