Leaders need to stand up for Great Lakes
Northern Michigan’s tourism economy relies on the Great Lakes, and the businessessupported by its tourists rely on Great Lakes water to produce Michiganmade products supporting thousands of jobs across the region.
The same geography and climate that produces this haven for entertainment and memories also, incredibly, produces nearly perfect growing conditions for certain fruit crops. Especially cherries. Michigan produces about 250 million pounds of cherries annually, which represents about 75 percent of the tart cherries and 20 percent of the sweet cherries grown annually in the United States. Michigan’s not only the Great Lakes state, it’s also the cherry state! And that’s really important for me and my local business (Cherry Republic), because my product is cherries —Michigan-made cherry jams, salsas, cookies, barbecuesauce and other (if Imay say) tasty treats.
Just as my business depends on the wonderful bounty of up north, many of my friends and colleagues who own and operate businesses up north depend on Michigan’snatural beauty thatattracts visitors from Michigan and across the region.
Unfortunately, there’s a serious threat to Michigan’s up north way of life — and the businesses that depend on the Great Lakes state’s namesake waters.
Two old, outdated oil pipelines operated by a Canadian company run under the Straits of Mackinac. These 4.5-milelong pipelines were built to last 50 years and now are in year 64 and counting. They pump up to 23 million gallons of oil per day through the pipelines from the Upper Peninsula, across the Straits and across the Lower Peninsula and into Canada.
Most of the oil originates in Canada and never sees the light of day in the United States. It’s for Canadian use and export,and we are assuming all the risk.
Having pipelines under the Great Lakes deeply troubles me. The lakes supply drinking water to more than 40 million people. What would happen if those pipelines ruptured?
What would it mean for the businesses? Communities? Marinas? People?
The University of Michigan shocked Michiganders by showing that more than 700 miles of Great Lakes coastline and more than 17,000 square miles of open water are potentially in the line of fire. The impact zone includes some of Michigan’s most iconic places, including Mackinac Island, the Leelanau Peninsula and Port Huron. To make matters worse, the pipeline operator has a horrific track record. The Mackinac pipeline, known as Line 5, is operated by Enbridge Energy, the Canadian company responsible the 2010 disaster that contaminated more than 37 miles of the Kalamazoo River, sickening people, killing fish and wildlife and forcing people to sell their homes. The multi-year cleanup effort is still not complete. Line 5 doesn’tlook much better.
Recent data reveals that the Straits section of Line 5 is losing its coating while the onshore sections have had nearly 30 spills: www.nwf.org/Newsand- Magazines/Media-Center/News-by-Topic/ Wildlife/2017/4-24-17-Line-5-Oil-Pipeline-System-Spanning-Michigan-Has-Had-29-Known-Spills.aspx People, businesses and even some elected officials have said, “Enough is enough” and want the pipeline shut down. That’s why I’m a proud member of a new group called the Great Lakes Business Network. We share a common commitment to the Great Lakes and a goal of decommissioning Line 5 to protect our livelihoods, lifestyle and natural resources.
It’s time for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette to stand up for water, economy and way of life by committing to shutting down the Mackinac Straits oil pipeline. A pipeline under the Great Lakes is just not worth therisk.
About the author: Bob Sutherland is president and CEO of Cherry Republic.