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There are new developments this week on Enbridge’s Line 5 and its proposed replacement under the Straits of Mackinac. A group surveying the bottom of the lake in the area with concerns about the proposed replacement tunnel says they’ve found what they believe could be an Ice Age cultural site.  The group, most of them native American women, were using a remote operated underwater vehicle when they made the discovery.  They say they have also learned that state officials new about this in February and that an Enbridge contractor first made the discovery, but was told to ignore the finding.  What have they found down there?  “Linear stone alignments” similar to Ice Age caribou hunting grounds discovered in Lake Huron in 2009.  There is concern these artifacts could be harmed by vibrations from the drilling process. The State Historic Preservation Office is reviewing the findings and will advise EGLE, the state agency reviewing Enbridge’s plans, about them.  EGLE says it will take that into consideration in its review of the tunnel proposal.  Enbridge says it was unaware of the presence of the artifacts.  

This issue joins concerns raised by geologists who say the lake bed won’t support the proposed tunnel. The concerns surfaced late last month as part of the state’s review of the tunnel plan. Geological engineer Brian O’Mara, who has reviewed the plan, sys there are challenging geological conditions such as poor rock quality, solution cavities and fault zones. “They’re going to hit some difficult drilling conditions,” O’Mara said. “Now, I don’t think it’s impossible but they’re going to have to plan for it. And since the amount of study that they did was so minimal, it’s a recipe for disaster, because they’re not going to be ready for the unknown.” O’Mara said the risk assessment done for the project is inadequate, and contends Enbridge’s permit proposal falls short of industry standards. An Enbridge spokesman told reporters experienced geologists and engineers consulted on the tunnel plan, and the company is confident in its geological analysis.

Meantime, bills have been introduced in the State House this week concerning use of anchors in the straits.  One would ban large vessels from anchoring there or using any equipment that could come in contact with Line 5. There would be stiff fines for violators and Enbridge would be required to mark the Line’s path with buoys. The other bill would make anchoring a large boat there a felony. The proposals follows one or more suspected anchor strikes earlier this year that briefly shutdown both of the dual pipes that run as Line 5 under the straits, with one of the shut for most of the summer and only reopened in early September.

This story was originally prepared for WVBI and includes material supplied by the Michigan Bureau of the Public News Service.

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