A final state-commissioned report on alternatives to Line 5 is out. People are looking for those alternatives because the pipeline runs under the straits of Mackinac, and a spill could be catastrophic. The highly technical report from Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems claims the overall risk of a spill from Line 5 is very small. Most people worry about the pipeline losing its protective coating, or metal fatigue caused by stresses from the strong currents, but the report claims the greater threat is a ship anchor striking the pipeline. The alternatives considered range from an expensive $2 to $3 billion new pipeline that avoids the Great Lakes altogether to constructing a new section of the pipeline across the Straits in a trench or tunnel. That alternative would cost between $30 to 150 million, according to the analysis.
Another alternative is just shutting Line 5 down and dealing with the consequences, which could mean losing about half the state's current source of propane. The clock is now running on public comment on what the state should do about the situation. People can submit their ideas until December 22. There will also be three public hearings:
- Wednesday, Dec. 6, in Taylor, beginning at 6 p.m., at the Heinz C. Prechter Educational and Performing Arts Center, Wayne County Community College District, Downriver Campus, 21000 Northline Road.
- Tuesday, Dec. 12, in St. Ignace, beginning at 6 p.m., at the Little Bear Arena & Community Center, 275 Marquette St.
- Wednesday, Dec. 13, in Traverse City, beginning at 6 p.m., West Bay Beach Holiday Inn Resort, Leelanau Banquet Rooms, 615 E. Front St.
The report can be viewed here in its entirety. Meanwhile, Dr. Guy Meadows of Michigan Technical University, one of the members of the state's pipeline task force, is in the process of forming a team of academic experts to perform a separate risk analysis of the current pipeline. That process began after the contract with the state's chosen contractor for the risk analysis was terminated, after a undisclosed conflict of interest was discovered.