Line 5 Pipeline: Michigan Tunnel

Line 5 crosses more than 280 rivers and streams, many of which are interconnected and flow to the Great Lakes and the Straits of Mackinac, and throughout which Bay Mills has treaty-protected fishing, hunting, and gathering rights. The Great Lakes are the largest source of surface fresh water in the world, supplying drinking water for 48 million people.

Case Overview

Earthjustice, in partnership with the Native American Rights Fund, represents the Bay Mills Indian Community in the Tribal Nation’s fight to protect the Straits and the Tribe’s treaty rights throughout waters in Michigan.

In 2020, Bay Mills Indian Community became the first Tribal nation to intervene in a proceeding before the Michigan Public Service Commission to contest Enbridge’s proposal to build and reroute the Line 5 oil pipeline with a tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac, a 4-mile-wide waterway that connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

The Public Service Commission is one of the agencies that will determine whether Enbridge can build a massive tunnel to house a new segment of its Line 5 pipeline.

In 2010, Enbridge was responsible for the largest inland oil spill in our nation’s history when another of its pipelines (Line 6B) released nearly one million gallons of oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River.

In a related case, the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa is challenging the environmental review of a plan by Enbridge Energy to relocate part of the Line 5 pipeline where it runs through the Bad River watershed. Earthjustice is representing the Bad River Band in its legal fight.

Bob Gravelle, Bay Mills Tribal citizen, fishes on Spectacle Lake in Bay Mills.
Bob Gravelle, Bay Mills Tribal citizen, fishes on Spectacle Lake in Bay Mills. (Whitney Gravelle)

Case Updates

February 20, 2024 In the News: Inside Climate News

Enbridge Wants Line 5 Shutdown Order Overturned on Tribal Land in Northern Wisconsin

Debbie Chizewer, Managing Attorney, Midwest Office: “It would really limit the ability of state governments and tribal nations and others to protect the interests that have been widely accepted for many years. If you can’t protect your land from a trespass because of the oil pipelines, what’s the point of having your own land?”

January 2, 2024 In the News: WLUC

Great Lakes tribes appeal MPSC permit for Line 5 tunnel project

Christopher Clark, Senior Attorney, Midwest Office: “In the contested case, we had a tunneling expert and a pipeline safety expert raise significant safety concerns about this tunnel. The concern is that there would be a leak of product within the enclosed tunnel that would create an explosive environment underneath the Straits of Mackinac, which just creates another risk of an oil spill. In essence, the tunnel is trading one set of risks for another.”

The Pipe Out Paddle Up Floatilla Against the Line 5 pipeline in Mackinaw City, Michigan, on Sept. 3, 2022.
December 22, 2023 Press Release

Statement: Four Michigan Tribes Appeal Line 5 Tunnel Permit

Enbridge’s proposed tunnel project is opposed by Tribes, businesses, and environmental groups.