We’ve heard a lot about the Line 5 pipeline running through the Great Lakes. It may feel like you have only two choices: protect our environment or keep heat bills affordable. But we can protect both Michigan’s environment and your family budget.

Since 2016, I have advocated building a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac like the “Chunnel”, the 31.5-mile tunnel under the English Channel connecting England to France. People are likely riding through that as you read this, safely, quickly and without disruption to the waters above.

A Mackinac straits tunnel (MST) would connect our Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula and be much shorter at only four miles long. Instead of transporting people it would serve as a utility tunnel containing a new pipeline that transports energy for Michigan’s family and business needs.

A tunnel is the solution that both protects our environment and your budget. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Safeguarding the Great Lakes: The Line 5 pipeline today rests on the floor of the Great Lakes near the convergence of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. A tunnel would instead run beneath the floor of the straits, utilizing 21st century technology to fulfill Michigan’s ecological responsibility by allowing for easy visual pipeline inspections that protect our waters while providing the safe transmission of our state’s necessary energy supplies.
  • Providing affordable propane to heat Michigan’s homes: 55% of Michigan’s propane arrives via Line 5 (including 65% of the Upper Peninsula’s), heating family homes during Michigan’s winter wonderland months. Closing Line 5 and canceling the tunnel infrastructure project would raise costs, essentially imposing a “heating tax” on Michiganians. A tunnel would permit affordable propane to be piped into our state to heat homes and businesses.
  • Michigan energy production and jobs: Our oil and gas industry provides thousands of direct and in-direct jobs that create a significant positive economic impact. An MST would continue to provide Michigan energy producers a competitive means to get their product to market. Shutting down Line 5 could grind production to a halt and put people out of work.

Despite these good reasons and more, the tunnel project is stalled. Why? Probably politics.

The 2018 election was a hotbed of extreme environmental rhetoric but that campaign is over. Michigan families need solutions, not drama. Endless litigation aimed at stopping the tunnel infrastructure project will simply waste years and years of time, legal fees and unnecessarily set our economy back.

Instead, Michigan must follow the bold example set by Governor Soapy Williams and GOP legislative majorities in the legislature in the 1950s when they worked together to build the iconic Mackinac Bridge.

Likewise, building a Mackinac straits tunnel would be a bold and shining example of Michigan technology, fortitude and forward thinking. If the English and French can build a 31.5-mile tunnel that safely transports people beneath the Strait of Dover, certainly the leaders of Michigan can put politics aside and build a Mackinac straits tunnel for Michigan’s economic and energy future.

Bill Schuette is a former Michigan attorney general.

Recommended for you