2017-05-11 / Local News

Tribe to host pipeline symposium at Sands

By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

The eyes of a statewide environmental movement next week will fall on Leelanau County.

Everyone is invited to attend a “Line 5 Water Protectors Symposium” set for next Friday, May 19, on the reservation of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (the GTB) in Peshawbestown.

The event will focus on ways tribal, state and local governments — and private individuals — can help shut down “Line 5,” a privately-owned petroleum pipeline that transits the Straits of Mackinac underwater.

“Line 5 is, quite frankly, the most dangerous pipeline in America,” said Desmond Berry, manager of the GTB’s Natural Resources Department. “It’s a monster in our back yard.”

Berry pointed out that tribal members have long opposed petroleum pipelines crossing bodies of water and have actively supported other Native American tribes opposing a pipeline transiting the Missouri River and the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in North Dakota.

“The Great Lakes provide drinking water for 40 million people while the Missouri River provides drinking water for 17 million,” Berry noted. “Standing Rock has received a lot of attention, but we think Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac is a bigger threat and deserves at least as much attention.”

Doors will open to the Leelanau Sands Casino on M-22 in Peshawbestown at 5:30 p.m., with the program starting at 6:30 p.m. The event will be free.

Officials of the company that operates the pipeline, Enbridge, state the pipeline is perfectly safe and that steps have been taken to contain any spills that might occur.

Opponents say it’s “not a matter of if but when” the pipeline will rupture and cause damage to Michigan’s water resources. The twin pipeline is 64 years old and rests on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac for 4.5 miles.

The GTB’s Tribal Council passed a resolution calling on the State of Michigan to decommission Line 5 in 2015. Also in 2015, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said the pipeline’s “days are numbered” and that the state probably would not allow its construction were approval sought today, according to tribal officials.

The GTB’s Natural Resources Department is organizing the symposium.

Berry said that guest speakers will include two Michigan legislators who have drafted bills calling on the state to decommission Line 5. Tribal chairmen from Wisconsin and elsewhere in Michigan will also be guest speakers, as well as a tribal leader representing 43 “First Nation” tribes in Canada.

Tribal officials note that Enbridge is the same company responsible for the second-largest inland oil spill in U.S. history from their Line 6b in the Kalamazoo River in 2010. University of Michigan scientists have called the Straits of Mackinac “the worst possible place for an oil spill,” according to tribal officials.

Berry said Michigan’s Pipeline Safety Advisory Board will be releasing longawaited “Alternatives Analysis” and “Risk Analysis” reports in June, which the state will use as a guide to act on the pipeline.

“Our event next week is intended to spark public action,” Berry said. “We’re bringing together everybody who’s been fighting this pipeline in recent years and hope members of the public will show up to support those efforts.”

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