STRAITS OF MACKINAC, Mich. - The underwater oil and natural gas pipeline between Michigan's Upper and Lower peninsulas has been temporarily shut down because of a power outage at an Enbridge terminal in Wisconsin.
Enbridge, the Canadian company that owns and operates Line 5, said in a statement Sunday that the underwater pipelines will remain down until severe weather improves at the Straits of Mackinac. Line 5 will restart as soon as possible.
Gale-force winds of about 40 m.p.h. and a mix of snow and sleet hit northern Michigan on Sunday, causing waves of about five feet in the Straits, according to the National Weather Service.
The temporary shutdown of Line 5 comes days after the discovery of three dents in the pipelines -- a revelation that raised concerns among state officials and others about the severity of the damage. Enbridge described the dents as small and indicated the pipelines' structural integrity had not been compromised.
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., said Enbridge was right to suspend Line 5's operations.
"Not only do we lack a clear understanding of the damage to Line 5, but the on-site response equipment available is completely inadequate to clean a potential oil spill under current conditions, putting the Great Lakes in grave - and unnecessary - danger,” Peters said in a statement.
Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy said the company takes environmental safety seriously. "We understand the sensitive environment in which Line 5 operates. The Great Lakes are a treasure that must be protected," Duffy said in a statement.
Line 5 moves 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids per day through the Upper Peninsula, splitting into twin, underwater pipelines through the Straits, before returning to a single transmission pipeline through the Lower Peninsula and on to a hub in Sarnia, Ontario.
Concerned citizens and environmentalists have called for the decommissioning of the 65-year-old Straits pipelines, stating a spill like the one on Enbridge's Line 6B pipeline near the Kalamazoo River in 2010 would devastate the Great Lakes, shoreline and island communities, as well as the state's economy.
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