Traverse City’s Mayor Michael Estes urged Gov. Snyder in a letter this week to take action as the state’s primary trustee and to regulate twin 61-year-old pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac that transport about 23 million gallons of oil every day.
Traverse City’s letter follows a similar letter that Mayor Doud of the City of Mackinac Island sent to the governor’s office just last month. A catastrophic oil spill in the Straits would surround Mackinac Island and affect an 85-mile stretch from Lake Michigan’s Beaver Island to Rogers City in Lake Huron, according to University of Michigan’s recent dispersion model.
“Due to our proximity to the pipelines, a spill of almost any size would surround the Island in oil, shut down all ferry service, and leave residents without a viable drinking water supply for an indefinite period of time,” stated Mayor Doud in her letter to the Governor. “As Mayor of this unique community, I cannot stand by and simply hope that the pipelines pose no threat.”
Mayor Estes heralded the importance of water to Traverse City’s economy and way of life in his letter to the governor: “Lake Michigan’s clean water and magnificent shores are the backbone of Traverse City… In 2013, tourism alone generated more than $1.23 billion in economic activity and was responsible for maintaining nearly 12,000 jobs in the Traverse City area. Allowing the integrity of these waters to fall by the wayside would thus have dire consequences for the economy of the Traverse City area and subsequently the State of Michigan.”
This issue is a high priority for Mayor Estes who is a U.S. Michigan Advisor to the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission, which issued a resolution in the spring for the replacement of Enbridge’s pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac.
The State of Michigan issued an easement to pipeline owner and operator, Enbridge, in 1953 to place two twenty-inch-diameter oil pipelines on the state-owned bottomlands and waters of Lake Michigan. As owner and trustee, the state has a perpetual duty to the public to protect these waters and public uses of drinking, swimming, fishing, navigation, and recreation. This means the state must ensure that that these private oil pipelines never harm or impair the state public waters.
Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW, commended both Mayors Estes and Doud saying, “Mayor Estes and Mayor Doud are serving their cities well by taking this leadership role and raising this important Great Lakes issue before the Governor who is our primary state trustee and steward of our waters.”
FLOW is a lead partner in the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign – comprised of over 17 environmental organizations, businesses, and tribes – that authored a letter to the Governor, Attorney General, and Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Director in July, calling on state leaders to ensure Enbridge is in full compliance with the State’s 1953 easement. The letter requested the state to require Enbridge to file an application under the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act and conclude that these oil pipelines will not impair or substantially harm the public trust waters or bottomlands in Lake Michigan.