Opinion: Time right to build straits tunnel

Chuck Hadden

The time is right to move ahead with plans for building the tunnel that will connect Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas with the next generation of infrastructure.

State leaders have put forward a plan that answers every Michigan resident’s call to protect the Great Lakes, and addressed the need to safely deliver the energy resources Michigan needs to survive and thrive.

Importantly, it gets the Line 5 oil pipelines out of the Mackinac Straits as quickly as possible, replaces them with a brand-new pipeline and houses it inside a thickly walled tunnel buried deep under the lakebed for setting a new mark in state-of-the-art pipeline safety.

The Michigan Manufacturers Association supports this plan as the best way to move forward.

It is the culmination of nearly 10 years of public discourse, debate and input. It incorporates task force, advisory board, environmental group and business group recommendations. It benefits from the advice of globally respected experts in a variety of subjects ranging from energy to environment risk and protection to engineering, weather and geology.

It prevents a lengthy, expensive and uncertain court battle.

It calls for oversight by an experienced and trusted transportation authority, and one that is headquartered at the straits and is focused on what matters most to northern Michigan.

The Mackinac Bridge Authority would own the tunnel as a vital piece of public infrastructure in which multiple utilities could be housed to serve future needs of families, schools and businesses.

Enbridge is required to pay for the tunnel and their pipeline replacement. No taxpayer dollars will be used, and tolls and other revenues that traditionally are dedicated to the upkeep and operation of the Mackinac Bridge will continue to be solely used for the bridge.

Legislation is pending approval that will affirm and clarify the role of the Authority, provide protection against litigation and ensure accountability by Enbridge. Lawmakers should move quickly to approve it upon their return in December.

FILE - In this June 8, 2017 file photo, fresh nuts, bolts and fittings are ready to be added to the east leg of the pipeline near St. Ignace, Mich., as Canadian oil transport company Enbridge prepares to test the east and west sides of the Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Enbridge Inc. have reached an agreement they say will boost the safety of twin pipelines beneath the waterway where Lakes Huron and Michigan converge. The deal announced Monday, Nov. 27, includes a requirement that Line 5 be shut down temporarily during storms that cause high waves in the straights for an hour or longer.

The right solution is imperative. The wrong solution has consequences.

Those who want to shut down the pipeline make it sound simple, but they have no viable plan for preventing hundreds of thousands of Michigan families from being left in the cold. No plan for keeping the price of gas at the pump affordable to working people. And, no plan for continuing to meet the basic needs of Michigan’s manufacturers that produce millions of products and employ hundreds of thousands of workers.

Energy, fuels and petroleum based products are vital building blocks for Michigan’s manufacturers of every size and type, located in every corner of our state.

We believe the plan put forward to address this important issue of our time is the right one. It provides a win-win for the health of our environment, families and economy. It is time we build the Straits tunnel.

Chuck Hadden is President of the Michigan Manufacturers Association.