Snyder suffers second resignation from panel overseeing Line 5 tunnel

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Oil pipeline operator Enbridge moves under the Mackinac Bridge on their way to inspect their controversial Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac Wednesday, June 8, 2016. Using an autonomous underwater vehicle and a roving underwater vehicle over several days, the entire five-mile-long pipeline, which rests on supports along the bottom of Lake Michigan, will have been covered by both sonar and visual means.

Lansing — A second appointee to the controversial Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority has resigned, forcing Gov. Rick Snyder to find a replacement for helping oversee the construction a tunnel to house Enbridge’s Line 5 beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

Three days prior to the authority’s inaugural meeting, Snyder has chosen Michael Nystrom, executive vice president and secretary for the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, to replace the governor’s cabinet director Mike Zimmer.

Zimmer’s resignation from the Mackinac Bridge Authority to serve on the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority presented a “possible legal conflict,” Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said Monday.

“Mike believed it was better to step aside and let this vital infrastructure project continue without additional distraction because his commitment to protecting the Great Lakes is stronger than his desire to serve on the MBA or the MSCA,” Adler said in a statement.

Nystrom will function as the three-member authority's second Republican and serve a six-year term. The infrastructure association represents construction contractors who would benefit from Enbridge building a tunnel for the 65-year-old dual Line 5 pipelines.

Nystrom will join Democrat Tony England of the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Republican James (J.R.) Richardson, who was appointed to replace Democrat Geno Alessandrini of the Michigan Laborers District Council, who resigned due to “family and business constraints.”

Snyder announced initial appointments to the board Dec. 12, a day before the state released three proposed agreements that it hopes to finalize before the end of the year to facilitate the construction of the tunnel.

The authority and the final approvals for the plan have been criticized as hasty. But the governor and Enbridge have defended the timeline, noting studies and discussions regarding Line 5 have been going on for four years.

Public comment on the proposals will be accepted through Tuesday at 833-367-6713 or by email to, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority will hold its first public meeting 1-3 p.m. Wednesday, where the panel is expected to consider the proposed tunnel agreement for approval. The meeting will include a time for public comment and will take place at Little Bear Arena in St. Ignace.

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