Michigan senate approves bill to replace Great Lakes twin pipelines

A massive engineering project to replace an underwater pipeline is continuing ahead with Michigan senate approval.

The underwater segment of Line 5 is on the table to be replaced

The project to replace the twin underwater pipelines of Line 5 could take seven to 10 years to complete. (Dale G Young/The Detroit News via AP)

The Michigan senate have voted in favour of a deal to replace a contentious 65-year-old oil pipeline in the Great Lakes. A new authority will oversee the construction and operation of a tunnel that the pipeline will reside in.

The bill, approved on a 25-13 mostly party-line vote in the Republican-controlled chamber, has been sent to the House for consideration.

The three-member Mackinac Strait Corridor Authority would handle functions related to building the tunnel, which supporters say would better protect against a potential spill.

Outgoing governor Rick Snyder, who would appoint the initial members of the authority, is working to finalize an October agreement with Canadian company Enbridge to replace the underwater segment of Line 5. 

The twin pipeline in question carries about 87 million litres (23 million gallons) of oil and natural gas daily, traversing large sections of northern Michigan. The section is more than 6.4 kilometres (4 miles) long and lies on the floor of the Straits of Mackinac.

Replacing the twin pipes is expected to take seven to 10 years and cost anywhere from $350 to $500 million — paid for by Enbridge. Opponents of the deal say oil and liquids used to make propane should not continue flowing daily through the lines.