At the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, a set of 2 aged pipelines conveys ~23 million gallons of oil each day. The pipelines operated by Enbridge Energy, known as Line 5, were built to last about 50 years. That was 69 years ago. In the years between 1999-2013 alone, millions of gallons of oil have been spilled from Enbridge pipelines, including a 226,000 gallon spill in Crystal Falls, MI and a 1 million gallon spill on the Kalamazoo River. With regard to the section that crosses the Straits, a number of groups contend that the pipelines as currently operating are not in compliance with the easement agreement.
There is no question that an oil spill in the Straits would be disastrous. A study published by the University of Michigan, which is a follow up to an earlier study they published in 2014, shows that a oil spill in the Straits could impact over 700 miles of coastline, with impacts above and below the water.
Three Great Lakes Chapters - Chicago, Milwaukee, and Lake Michigan - have banded together and joined with the Oil and Water Don't Mix coalition to call for a shut down of Enbridge Energy's oil pipelines across the Straits of Mackinac. A victory was secured here in 2020, when the State of Michigan decided to revoke and terminate the easement for Line 5 across the Straits of Mackinac, and has ordered Enbridge to cease operating the twin pipelines by May 2021. HOWEVER, Enbridge continues to operate the pipelines across the Straits in defiance of this order, and furthermore has sought to secure permits to construct a tunnel under the Straits to house newer, larger capacity pipeline segments.