Tugboat Blamed For Damage To Electric Cables And Pipeline In Great Lakes

Michigan Attorney General Seeking Civil Action Against VanEnkevort Tug & Barge

Straits of Mackinac
The Straits of Mackinac is the site of an underwater section of a pipeline operated by Enbridge Inc. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard

A Michigan company blamed by the state’s attorney general for damage to underwater electric cables and oil pipelines says it’s cooperating with the investigation.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said Tuesday his office is bringing a civil action against VanEnkevort Tug & Barge, based in Escanaba, Michigan.

Schuette says a VanEnkevort vessel dragged an anchor through the Straits of Mackinac shipping channel April 1 during which two submerged cables and two oil pipelines were damaged. The straits connect Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.

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Company spokesman Darrell Wilson says a VanEnkevort tug and barge were in the area that day.

The cables leaked 600 gallons of insulation fluid containing mineral oil and benzene.

Enbridge Inc.’s twin Line 5 pipelines carry crude oil and liquefied natural gas. The company has said that the pipelines were dented, but said the integrity of the lines weren’t compromised.

The Canadian firm restarted operation of Line 5 on Monday afternoon, which had been temporarily shut down after weather conditions posed concerns over the twin pipelines.

“Enbridge is committed to protecting the waters of the Great Lakes while ensuring families, manufacturers and other businesses safely receive the energy transported through Line 5,”
said Enbridge in a statement Monday.

Wisconsin-based American Transmission Company is preparing for an underwater inspection of its six electric cables on the lake bed in the Straits of Mackinac to get a better idea of the damage to its lines.

Editor’s Note: American Transmission Company is an underwriter of Wisconsin Public Radio.