Thousands of jobs of hard-working people that are essential to tourism in Northern Michigan are threatened by a Canadian company that cares only about profits.

The building trade unions are supporting an Enbridge tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac. They believe it will create hundreds of temporary jobs for their members.

However, a Great Lakes oil spill will decimate jobs for thousands of workers whose income depends on the tourists that flock to the Upper Peninsula and Northern Lower Michigan.

Visitors drawn to the beauty of the region will not come once Line 5 ruptures and spews oil into our waters and onto our beaches.

Drinking water for half a million people would be at risk. Commercial fishing would cease. Sport fishing and boating would suffer enormous losses as would restaurants, gift shops, grocery stores, marinas, ferry services, fudge shops, breweries, wineries, bakeries, gas stations, campgrounds. Pure Michigan will be a distant memory.

Economic devastation would be severe. Jobs will disappear, then communities.

Is this what Michigan wants for its future? What are the facts about jobs and the proposed tunnel?

According to the Michigan Building Trades Council the tunnel will require 1.5 to 2 million man-hours for construction. At 2,000 hours per year for a single worker, this amounts to between 250 and 350 workers. But compared to what?

The Michigan Economic Development Council reports that in 2018 there were 21,477 individuals that were directly employed in the tourism industry in the Northern Lower Peninsula and the Eastern Upper Peninsula. If one includes the “indirect” workers, the numbers increase to 29,965. Their labor income in 2018 was $1.04 billion!

Tourism Visitor Spending grew at an annual rate of 3.4 percent over the period of 2011 to 2018. The Michigan Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at an annual average rate of 1.96 percent during the same time period. The data emphasize that tourism spending in the counties of Northern Michigan is exceeding the overall Michigan GDP at nearly twice the pace.

The tunnel project may create 250-350 construction jobs that will last 3 or so years. On the other hand, roughly 30,000 jobs are at risk should the aging pipeline rupture. This translates to over $1 billion of income every single year that could be lost to the northern Michigan economy.

The Building Trades Council estimated that it would take at least 2 years to design and obtain permits, and another 3 years to construct a tunnel. However, it will likely take considerably longer. During that time the Line 5 pipelines will continue to operate and pose the risk of catastrophic rupture.

A tunnel in the Straits is a false promise. It endangers thousands of existing tourism jobs while a much smaller number of time-limited construction jobs. Failure of Line 5 will be a catastrophic loss of tourist income to the Straits area, resulting in massive unemployment and economic disaster.

The tunnel must not be built, and the existing pipelines must be shut down and decommissioned.

Gary Street is a chemical engineer who lives near Petoskey. Patty Peek is a nurse practitioner who lives near St. Ignace.

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