The Mackinac Bridge is Michigan’s identity. For decades, this marvelous structure has stood for independence, freedom, access, and beauty. In linking Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas, it united a state and brought worlds into clear focus.
The first two stanzas in the Mackinac Bridge architect David B. Steinman’s poem capture the spirit of Michigan’s greatest achievement at the Straits:
“Generations dreamed the crossing
Doubters shook their heads in scorn
Brave men vowed that they would build it
From their faith a bridge was born
There it spans the miles of water
Speeding millions on their way
Bridge of vision, hope and courage
Portal to a brighter day”
January 8, 1956 photo of Mackinac Bridge construction
The Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA) has been an independent body with a sole focus to dutifully protect, maintain, and operate the bridge for the past 68 years. Its steadfast work has created a spectacular legacy of stewardship that is appreciated by visitors, residents, and bridge workers alike.
Michigan’s outgoing Governor Rick Snyder has different plans for the bridge. Unlike the five governors before him, he now wants to change the independence of the Mackinac Bridge Authority to include the oversight of a risky tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac that would primarily be the home of a pipeline for Canadian oil. This move is resoundingly opposed by eight past board members who represent 80 years of experience in bridge oversight.
In an urgent attempt to circumvent environmental regulations, public trust law, and plain old common sense in order to maintain the profits of a private corporation, Gov. Snyder replaced four of the seven members of the MBA board with new appointees that agree with the plan to dilute the mission of the Authority.
New legislation has just been introduced (on November 8, 2018) that would change the authority of the MBA to include the oversight and ownership of a “utility tunnel” (for Enbridge to place its pipeline that is a shortcut for Canadian oil).
The bill also includes provisions for the MBA to condemn land required to build the tunnel, and by declaring the utility tunnel to be “for a public purpose and essential government function,” it may bypass any regulation put in place to protect the environment.
Together with a third agreement between the pipeline giant Enbridge and Gov. Snyder, which has not been subject to public review, the MBA would be in the business of supervising and operating a tunnel for a private corporation to move their oil. The agreement would split the focus of the authority and places the MBA on the hook for financial liability should Enbridge go bankrupt.
This backroom deal between Enbridge and Gov. Snyder is not in Michigan’s interest. Nearly all the oil in Line 5 takes a shortcut through Michigan for delivery to Canadian refineries. New legislation would guarantee that the Line 5 pipelines would remain in the Straits of Mackinac for at least another decade.
This is a Bad Deal for the Mackinac Bridge, Michigan, and its Citizens
There is little time to act. The bill has been introduced into a Lame Duck session of the Michigan Legislature. To protect the bridge, this bill must be defeated.