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Friday, July 20, 2018

From Michigan Tech News: Michigan Tech Delivers Line 5 Risk Analysis Draft Report to State

Michigan Tech's Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC). Guy Meadows, GLRC director, led the team of 41 researchers who conducted an independent risk analysis of Enbridge’s two Line 5 pipelines beneath the Straits of Mackinac. Their draft report details nine different worst-case scenarios and outlines impacts for each. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

By Stefanie Sidortsova *
Published July 19, 2018, on Michigan Tech News
Reprinted here with permission

In a draft report submitted this week to the State of Michigan, a team of experts evaluates the economic, environmental and cultural impacts of a "worst case scenario" spill or release from the Straits Pipelines.

Led by Michigan Technological University’s Guy Meadows, 41 researchers conducted an independent risk analysis of the two parallel, 20-inch pipelines that form the 4.5-mile section of Enbridge’s Line 5 that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac. The draft report details nine different worst-case scenarios and outlines impacts for each.

"I am proud of the way in which our universities have come together to provide a fact based analysis of a very complex problem, under an extremely tight time frame," Meadows said. "In conducting this work, we have also advanced knowledge about the fate and transport of oil in freshwater." **

Meadows is the Robbins Professor of Sustainable Marine Engineering and director of the Great Lakes Research Center at Michigan Tech. The Agency for Energy (MAE), Attorney General’s Office (AG), Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) contracted with Michigan Tech for the risk analysis report.

The risk analysis team included 21 researchers from Michigan Tech and 20 from external organizations. Nine universities contributed to the analysis, seven of which are within the state of Michigan: Michigan Tech, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, Western Michigan University, Grand Valley State University and Oakland University. The two out-of-state universities are North Dakota State University and Loyola University Chicago.

When and How

In keeping with the scope of work published by the State, the researchers completed the following tasks:
  • Identifying and analyzing the duration and magnitude of a "worst case" spill or release of oil or other products from the Straits Pipelines into the environment.
  • Analyzing the likely environmental fate and transport of oil or other products released from the Straits Pipelines in a worst-case scenario.
  • Analyzing how long it would take to contain and clean up the worst-case release.
  • Analyzing the short- and long-term public health and safety impacts.
  • Analyzing the short- and long-term ecological impacts.
  • Analyzing potential measures to restore the affected natural resources and mitigate the ecological impacts.
  • Estimating the amount of natural resource damages that would result from a worst-case release.
  • Estimating the governmental costs that would be incurred as a result of a worst-case release.
  • Estimating all other economic damages, public and private, that would result from a worst-case release.
Members of the team also assessed what the report calls broader impacts of a worst-case scenario spill to assess the perceived risks and concerns expressed by local communities, civil society groups, indigenous communities, governmental agencies and the public at large.

Because no oil spill as large as the scenarios analyzed in the report has ever occurred in the waters of the Great Lakes, researchers reviewed a selection of other events as analogs to evaluate the potential impacts of a Straits spill. They based their approach on an accumulation of worst-case assumptions that were consistent with the federal definition of "the largest foreseeable discharge of oil," found in Title 40, section 194.5 of the Federal Code of Regulations, to determine the maximum possible volume that could be released.

By definition, the worst-case spill size is much larger than would be expected under average or typical conditions. According to the draft report, the impacts of a spill depend on when it occurs and how meteorological conditions disperse the oil. Researchers conducted a total of 4,380 oil dispersal simulations over a one-year period of meteorological, water current and ice cover conditions that are representative of seasonal conditions in the Straits. Previous hydrodynamic modeling capabilities for the Straits were updated in this assessment to include wind transport of oil, ice-cover conditions and potential effects on oil dispersal and evaporation.

The definition of a worst-case scenario also varies depending on which impacts are being assessed. For example, a winter spill would be the most difficult to respond to safely and effectively, while a spill that occurred in the spring would generate the highest economic costs. To represent this range, a total of nine scenarios were analyzed as potential worst cases for different tasks. The spring scenario is used as the representative scenario to estimate the overall liability from a worst-case scenario spill at the Straits because a spill at that time of year, just prior to the summer tourism season in the Straits, would have the largest impact overall.

The report also considers various modes of failure for the Straits Pipelines and separates these failures into five tiers. Under this model, discharge amounts range from 4,400 barrels of oil (bbl) to 58,000 bbl. Each bbl contains 42 U.S. gallons.

Next Steps

Now that the draft analysis has been submitted, the public will have 30 days to comment on the report.*** The deadline for comments is Saturday, August 18. The risk analysis team will hold a public presentation on the draft report at 6 p.m. on Monday, August 13, 2018, at the Boyne Highlands Convention Center in Harbor Springs, Michigan. When the public comment period closes, and after responding to public and State input on the draft, the team will prepare a final report to be delivered by September 15, 2018.

When the final report is issued, the State will require Enbridge Energy Limited Partners, which owns and operates Line 5, to maintain an adequate financial assurance mechanism to cover liability for all damages or losses to public and private property in the event of a worst-case scenario. The State has the authority to do so under the 1953 easement that granted permission for pipeline construction. The draft report is to date the most comprehensive cost estimate of such a worst case scenario.

The risk analysis will be paid for by funds in an escrow account the State controls and which was set up in August 2016. The funds were provided by Enbridge, but the company has no say in how the money is spent or in the findings of the independent report.

Editor's Notes:

* Stefanie Sidortsova, author of this article, leads Michigan Tech's communications strategy and serves as a special assistant for state relations endeavors. Her professional background includes experience in law, government relations, higher education administration, and creative writing. (Inset photo of Stefanie Sidortsova courtesy Michigan Tech University)

** In addition to his role as Great Lakes Research Center Director, Guy Meadows is Michigan Tech adjunct professor in Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences and research professor in Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. Before coming to Michigan Tech in 2012 to help establish the Great Lakes Research Center, he served as professor of Physical Oceanography for 35 years. Click here for his biography. (Inset photo of Guy Meadows courtesy Michigan Tech University)

*** A link for posting comments is at the top of the report.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

NOTICE: Hancock Planning Commission to hold Public Hearing July 23 on proposed Master Plan

A public hearing on the proposed City of Hancock Master Plan will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, July 23, at City Hall. (Image courtesy City of Hancock)

HANCOCK -- The City of Hancock Planning Commission will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. on Monday, July 23, 2018, at City Hall, 399 Quincy St., Hancock, MI, for the purpose of receiving comments on the proposed Master Plan.

The proposed plan is a comprehensive document, long-range in its view, and includes specific goals, objectives, and strategies regarding the future of the community. Per the Michigan Planning Enabling Act (Public Act 33 of 2008, as amended), the plan is intended to serve as a guide for future decision-making related to community development. It was last updated in 2012.

Copies of the proposed Master Plan are available for review on line here or at City Hall during regular office hours. Written comments on the proposed plan may be mailed to: Planning Commission, 399 Quincy St. Comments via email may be sent to

Necessary and reasonable auxiliary aids and services will be provided to individuals with disabilities at the public hearing upon notice to Clerk Mary Babcock prior to the meeting.