Coast Guard OKs permit for Moroun’s bridge to Canada

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The U.S. Coast Guard has approved a permit for Manuel “Matty” Moroun’s proposed bridge between the U.S. and Canada that would run over the Detroit River.

The Coast Guard said Tuesday that it has “completed its review and evaluation” of the Detroit International Bridge Co.’s application for its Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project over Riverside Park in Detroit.

“A permit approving the location and plans of the proposed bridge, issued in accordance with the appropriate laws and regulations governing the Coast Guard’s bridge program, was sent to DIBC Tuesday,” the agency said in a news release announcing the decision.

“The Coast Guard’s permit action is based on the potential impacts of the project on navigation and the human environment.”

The Coast Guard determined the project would not have a significant impact on the environment after completing an environmental assessment in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

The Coast Guard added it “also determined the navigational clearances of the proposed twin span would meet the reasonable needs of the current and foreseeable future navigation.”

The agency warned that plans for a second bridge between Detroit and Canada will still have to be approved by officials north of the border — as well as domestically by other state and federal officials.

“The agreement, as it currently stands, does not provide DIBC with legal title to the park property because it must be approved by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. National Park Service,” the Coast Guard said.

Officials in Detroit have pushed for a new crossing that would be separate from the Ambassador Bridge.

“We are pleased to obtain the Coast Guard navigation permit,” said Mickey Blashfield, spokesman for Detroit International Bridge Co. “This is important another step forward, after much delay, and we are very encouraged with this development. We look forward to moving forward on our second span.”

Meanwhile, the Canadian-owned Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority has been pushing for construction of a new, $2.1 billion bridge named after hockey legend Gordie Howe two miles downriver from the Ambassador Bridge..

Moroun and his family have been pushing the federal government to approve a second span, which would cost $400 million, they say, even while Canada and the United States continue plans for a new publicly owned crossing. That span is slated to open in 2020.

The bridge company submitted an application for a permit in 2006, according to the Coast Guard.

Residents on the city’s southwest side, meanwhile, have long expressed concern over health implications associated with the project, saying higher traffic volume linked to the expansion and the future Howe bridge should be studied.

“I’m disappointed that the Coast Guard decided to issue the permit to the DIBC to continue its plan to build a bridge,” said Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, a Detroit City Councilwoman. Castaneda-Lopez and state Rep. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, had requested a Full Environmental Impact Statement, which they said would provide a more thorough evaluation of the project’s potential impact.

“There are still many unanswered questions about potential impact on the environment,” Castaneda-Lopez said. “Will this be a replacement span or a twin bridge? It’s unfortunate that (the impact statement) was not required, considering the Coast Guard is granting a permit based on a 2009 study.”


Staff Writer Candice Williams contributed.