Enbridge Energy is getting ready to replace a pipeline under the St. Clair River that cuts through Marysville.
But it may be more than a year before local residents notice.
Right now, it’s mostly about the paperwork.
Line 5 is just one of several the company has that travel through the state from Canada and is one of two that cross the Blue Water Area. Line 5 keeps making headlines for the segment that crosses the Straits of Mackinac.
Enbridge and Marysville officials sat down last week to go over its agreement with the state and plans to replace the line where it leaves the river on the north end of River Road.
“The agreement says (as) expeditiously as practicable,” said Paul Meneghini, a senior manager at Enbridge. “We have made a commitment to put all of our applications in by the end of February. So we are working with the various city departments for any type of city-level permits that we would need.”
Meneghini told Marysville City Council members the timeline for the project, which is on North River near where the road curves toward Busha Highway, would depend on permitting on the Canadian side.
That is something, he said, that is expected to take longer — “a year, if not more, or so.”
“Throwing a dart right now, but I wouldn’t really expect the construction project itself until late, late ’19,” Meneghini said. “All dependent on permitting. But the intent is to move forward as soon as we can, as practical as we can once all the permits are in hand.”
Activists and officials across the state have called for decommissioning Line 5, and the energy company has faced questions about the line’s condition.
Meneghini said the company has had “no indications of any integrity concerns of the Line 5 crossing” under the St. Clair River.
Kellie Randolph’s family lives in a house next to the pipeline on North River Road. She said they are concerned about the construction time line. She said she initially believing it would start this year.
“We were concerned about safety and are still concerned about safety,” she said. “… Just the concern that it’s a pipeline and I don’t know what’s going to happen with that.”
Meneghini said Enbridge will use a horizontal, directional drill to tunnel under the river for the new pipe, which will be welded together on the Canadian side.
The pipe will then be pulled through the tunnel from the Marysville side.
Enbridge already holds a narrow strip of land from the riverfront and across the street between homes, heading west right up to Marysville’s bike path, as well as a larger swath on the other side of the path close to Busha.
The current pipeline, laid in 1953, lays “anywhere from four to 15 feet below” the river’s bottom, Meneghini said. The new pipeline, he said, would 30 feet or more below the bottom of the river.
Once the work starts, he said, it would take about two months to complete. “Maybe a couple weeks more, a couple weeks less,” he said. “But that’s a good rule of thumb if everything goes well.”
Mayor Dan Damman questioned the hours of work. Meneghini said contractors would try to be good neighbors. However, there is “one critical activity that we suggest is a 24-hour activity” — pulling the pipe.
“They pull like crazy and they slide (the pipe) into that tunnel that they created and tie it into the existing system,” he said, adding construction won’t have “as much impact on this side.”
Work on the Marysville side also won’t require acquiring any more property, Meneghini said. He said Enbridge would work with adjacent landowners if they needed any additional “elbow room” for the project.
Randolph said they were a little concerned with the space issue. But it may too soon to know.
“The space that is their property isn’t a lot of space. So they’re going to need some to probably park their equipment,” she said. “That’s a question that I have. Are they going to need some of my property? Which is fine. We can talk about that.”
“I’m sure they’ll do a nice job, and they’ll clean it up and everything else,” Terry Whiting, Randolph’s neighbor, said. “I just wanted to know what they’re doing. In years past — when they dug this pipeline up last, my mom and dad took pictures of it — when they did a pressure test, they would come over here and knock on the door and offer to put my parents up in the Thomas Edison Inn for three days. … But as far as I’m concerned, I’m concerned about the gas pipeline and the environmental (impact).”
Meneghini had said Enbridge is a partial owner in the Vector natural gas pipeline that runs through the area.
He and two other Enbridge officials spoke with City Council members during a goal setting session Jan. 16. Earlier that day, City Manager Randy Fernandez said they had also spoken with Enbridge, particularly on noise issues, security and cleaning streets impacted by the construction.
“Everybody’s got their marching orders,” he said. “… Again, they’ll be back. As they mentioned, 2019, but I think we have a good base, city administration does, of who we’re going to be dealing with.”
“The good news for Marysville,” Fernandez added, “old pipe is going to become new pipe with better technology.”
Despite the Line 5 controversy around the Straits, Meneghini admitted Enbridge has “done a poor job” communicating with the general public.
“It’s technical stuff that we do,” he said. “When you start talking about integrity data and corrosion, or lack thereof, and coating on a pipeline that’s 200 feet deep, we just haven’t synced up well with the average Michigander’s understanding, if you will, of what the current condition is with those lines in the Straits. That is going to (require) more coordination with the state.”
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