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Underwater craft headed to the Straits of Mackinac for damage inspection

The Mackinac Bridge
Mark Brush
Michigan Radio

An electrical cable that leaked hundreds of gallons of mineral oils into the Straits of Mackinac will be inspected – as soon as the weather clears up.

Unified Command is a team of local, state and federal officials that responded to the spill reported earlier this month. The owner of the cable line, American Transmission Company is also on the team.

The plan is to send a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) under the water to inspect the line.

“Right now, because we don’t know the extent of the damage, that’s what’s so important about the ROV to actually get eyes on it and see what actually the situation is down there,” said spokesperson for Unified Command, Pamela Manns.

There are two damaged lines under the Straits of Mackinac, but only one will be investigated by Unified Command.

Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 – which also runs under the Straits – was recently dented. But Enbridge will send its own craft to inspect dents in the pipeline.

“Since they haven’t reported any pollution to the Coast Guard, there’s not a response effort going on to look at those lines as well,” said Manns.

Enbridge – a Michigan Radio sponsor – shut down the line Sunday due to bad weather. A spokesperson says they restarted the line this afternoon.  

Manns said a primary concern is mitigating pollution.

“The ROV will provide that imagery to help us plan for the future and what we’re going to do next to eliminate that pollution threat,” she said.

Manns says Unified Command will send the rover to the line as soon as the weather is better, hopefully the end of the week.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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