Sunday, September 13, 2015

Michigan Tech/Enbridge buoy deployed in Mackinac Straits; Gov. Snyder visits GLRC

By Michele Bourdieu

The new Michigan Tech environmental monitoring buoy for the Straits of Mackinac was deployed from the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) research vessel R 5501 with the assistance of Tech's S/V Osprey, which is pictured here with the buoy. The successful deployment occurred on Aug. 18, 2015, in the Straits of Mackinac, just west of the Mackinac Bridge, which can be seen in the background. Click on photo for larger version. (Photo courtesy Guy Meadows, Michigan Tech's Great Lakes Research Center director)

HOUGHTON -- Michigan Tech's new Great Lakes monitoring buoy, sponsored by Enbridge, was successfuly deployed in the Straits of Mackinac, just west of the Mackinac Bridge, on Aug. 18, 2015, a few days after Michigan Governor Rick Snyder visited Michigan Tech's Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) to learn about the buoy and other new technology that will be used in the Straits to provide real-time environmental monitoring of the water conditions and to improve safety for Enbridge's pipelines under the Straits.

GLRC Director Guy Meadows described the deployment of the new buoy as "flawless." He noted the buoy has been reporting every 10 minutes ever since.

Here is a closer shot of Michigan Tech's monitoring buoy near the Mackinac Bridge. (Photo courtesy Guy Meadows, GLRC director)

"The buoy (like all others), is available from the Great Lakes Research Center web site or directly at:  http://greatlakesbuoys.org/," Meadows said.*

The point of this marker's cap points to the approximate location of the new Michigan Tech buoy now deployed in the Straits of Mackinac, just west of the Mackinac Bridge. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

The buoy uses sonar to measure the flow of the water beneath the buoy. It also measures wind direction and speed, wind gust speed, air temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, solar radiation, water temperature, wave height and direction.**

The NOAA research vessel R 5501, used for deploying Michigan Tech's new buoy in the Straits of Mackinac, stopped at the GLRC for Gov. Snyder's Aug. 13 visit. (Photo by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Guy Meadows named to Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board

More recently, Meadows was named one of the 15 members of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, established by the Governor's Sept. 3 executive order. The group is expected to to ensure safety, upkeep and transparency of issues related to the state’s network of pipelines. It will also be charged with advising state agencies on matters related to pipeline routing, construction, operation, and maintenance. State officials hope to implement recommendations on Michigan oil pipeline safety included in a state report focused on Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. On this board Meadows represents public universities.

Others appointed to the advisory board include Michigan DEQ Director Dan Wyant, co-chair; Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (or his designee); Michigan DNR Director Keith Creagh (or his designee); National Wildlife Foundation Great Lakes Regional Director Michael Shriberg, representing statewide conservation groups; Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council Policy Specialist Jennifer McKay, representing environmental groups; members of the U.S. Coast Guard and Michigan State Police; Marathon Pipeline Co. and Enbridge Inc.

In addition the state and Enbridge Energy Co. signed on Sept. 3 an agreement preventing the future passage of heavy crude oil through Enbridge’s Line 5 pipelines running under the Straits of Mackinac.***

Gov. Rick Snyder visits GLRC

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials, and Michigan 110th District Rep. Scott Dianda learned about the buoy, Michigan Tech's Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) and the university's Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) for underwater research during their visit to the GLRC on Aug. 13, 2015.

GLRC Director Guy Meadows, center, talks about the features of the new Great Lakes buoy, foreground, with visitors, from right, Rep. Scott Dianda, Gov. Rick Snyder, DNR Director Keith Creagh and DNR Senior Fisheries Biologist George Madison outside the GLRC on Aug. 13, 2015. Michigan Tech President Glenn Mroz is at far right.

Michigan Tech's new Autonomous Underwater Vehicle uses ultra-high-resolution sonar to provide very high imaging resolution and full three-dimensional mapping capabilities.

"Both the new buoy and the Advanced Underwater Acoustic Sensing with the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) are supported by Enbridge," Meadows notes. "Both research efforts are designed to provide new and valuable information to help provide a greater level of safety in the Straits. The buoy provides the first real-time measurements of the ever changing currents from the surface to the bottom in the Straits and the AUV provides a very high resolution sonar picture of the bottom lands surrounding the pipeline."

Michigan 110th District Rep. Scott Dianda said he was pleased to learn about Michigan Tech's partnership with Enbridge to monitor the Straits of Mackinac.

"The Straits of Mackinac are important to shipping, fishing, ferries and tourism, so the more eyes we have looking at these waters the better," Dianda said after attending the Aug. 13 event at the GLRC. "This additional buoy will also give Enbridge more information and data to help them keep Pipeline 5 operating safely."

During Gov. Snyder's visit Meadows described the features of the new AUV:

Guy Meadows, Michigan Tech's Great Lakes Research Center director, speaks about the university's sonar technology and partnership with Enbridge to monitor environmental conditions in the Straits of Mackinac -- in order to improve safety for the company's aging pipelines that pass through the Straits. (Video by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Robert Shuchman, co-director of the Michigan Tech Research Institute in Ann Arbor, addressed the Governor and other visitors on seeking support from the Great Lakes Protection Fund for a Predictive Alert System for the Straits of Mackinac.

At the GLRC Aug. 13 event, Robert Shuchman, co-director of the Michigan Tech Research Institute in Ann Arbor, speaks about a Predictive Alert System (PAS) for the Straits of Mackinac. (Photo by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

In Shuchman's presentation, this Predictive Alert System (PAS) "will dramatically improve disaster responsiveness and protect the environment using Michigan Tech's supercomputer, numerical hydrodynamic modeling, remote sensing and on site monitoring capabilities to protect this vital region of the Great Lakes."

Bob Shuchman used this diagram to outline the elements of a Protective Alert System for the Straits of Mackinac -- to prepare a united response in the event of an oil leak, vessel collision or other marine disaster in this area. Click on photo for larger version of slide. (Photo by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Shuchman said he and Meadows are working together on a $1.7 million, 3-year PAS program for the Straits of Mackinac in order to be prepared for a potential oil spill or other disaster. In Year 1 $850,000 would fund development of a Dynamic Decision Support System; in years 2 and 3, $425,000 would fund a Test and Refine System and a Simulation and Practice.

Shuchman and Meadows hope to fund the PAS through the Great Lakes Protection Fund -- a private, permanent endowment created to benefit the Great Lakes ecosystem.****

GLRC staff, students highlight marine technology

During Gov. Snyder's visit GLRC staff and students explained the capabilities of the new Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) and Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) used in their current underwater research and monitoring activities.

The AUV, an IVER 3, offers GLRC researchers access to a host of new technologies, including a high-resolution, downward-looking video/still digital camera and forward looking obstacle avoidance sonar.

Here Jamey Anderson, GLRC Marine Operations coordinator, points out the features of the Enbridge-funded AUV, which will be used to monitor the pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac:

GLRC Marine Operations Coordinator Jamey Anderson explains to Gov. Rick Snyder, DNR Director Keith Creagh and State Rep. Scott Dianda the sonar imaging system and other new technology of Michigan Tech's new Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). GLRC Director Guy Meadows adds comments on how the buoy and the AUV together will report flow information (outside the pipeline) useful to Enbridge. (Video by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

The Governor and other visitors also learned about a program for training State Police using another underwater vehicle, the Towfish.

Colin Terrell, Michigan Tech underwater operating specialist, explains the GLRC's collaboration with Michigan State Police in underwater recovery activities. (Video by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

In addition to the new AUV, the GLRC maintains and operates two Outland 1000 ROVs, which can dive to depths of more than 1,000 feet. Both are fully equipped with a collection of sampling tools, including scanning imaging sonar, one-function articulated arm for selective sampling, two color (and one black-and-white) low-light video cameras, and flood lights.

Two Michigan Tech students told visitors about their experiences with the GLRC's Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs):

Michigan Tech students Michael Poszywak (right), a mechanical engineering student with extensive experience in designing and using ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles) and Levi Rhody, a graduate student in the Peace Corps Masters International Program in geology, describe for the Governor and other visitors some uses for the GLRC's underwater ROVs in various research and educational projects. (Video by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Mike Abbott, right, GLRC operations director, and Dan Burlingane, captain of the NOAA research vessel (pictured above), observe a fish under the water of the Keweenaw Waterway through video imaging from an ROV remotely controlled from the dock outside the GLRC. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Chris Pinnow, GLRC electrical/computer engineer, is pictured here with the ROV set up for the visitors' observation. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Toward the end of their visit Gov. Snyder and other visitors took a short ride on Michigan Tech's RV Agassiz (research vessel) to learn more about some of the GLRC's research and educational projects. They also had a chance to board the NOAA research vessel R 5501, which was later used to deploy the new buoy in the Straits of Mackinac.

Gov. Rick Snyder and his entourage return from a short ride on Michigan Tech's RV Agassiz, driven by Captain Steve Roblee. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Gov. Snyder and DNR Director Keith Creagh (who is also a member of the Governor's Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force) visit the NOAA research vessel and chat with Captain Dan Burlingane and Guy Meadows about the boat. (Photo by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Finally, Gov. Snyder met with members of the media and fielded questions about Enbridge's Line 5 in the Straits, the same company's 2010 oil spill in the Kalamazoo River and more ...

Gov. Snyder replies to questions on the safety of Enbridge's Line 5, noting state officials are responding the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force report recommending actions intended to protect public health and safety and the environment from risks related to the transportation of liquid petroleum products through major pipelines within the state.***** The Governor also commented positively on his August trip across the Upper Peninsula. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

Notes:

* Click here to visit the GLRC Web site.

** Click here for recent conditions at the Mackinac Straits West buoy.

*** See the Sept. 3 announcement of Gov. Snyder's executive order creating the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board and the agreement with Enbridge.

**** Click here to read about the Great Lakes Protection Fund.

***** Read the July 2015 Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force report here. See also our June 17, 2015, article on a different report about the pipelines under the Mackinac Straits: "Scientific report on Enbridge pipeline under Mackinac Straits warns of risks; citizens call for pipeline shutdown."

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