Line 5 runs under the Mackinac Straits. Photo by Michael Barera.
By Howard Meyerson
Darrell Lawson loves birding at the Straits of Mackinac. There are miles of open water and the Michigan lakeshore is gorgeous. Thousands of birds fly along Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsula shorelines and funnel through the Straits during annual spring and fall migrations.
There are waterbirds, waterfowl, raptors and warblers, woodpeckers and plovers, to name just a few. More than 200 bird species have been observed at Pointe La Barbe, just west of St. Ignace. Those listings appear on eBird, the Internet site by Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.
“I lead all kinds of trips for Audubon and spend quite a bit of time up there,” notes Lawson, a software engineer and president of Petoskey Regional Audubon Society. “I go there 25 to 30 times in the spring and the fall. On one of my best days we saw 40-some Great Egrets. We might normally see a couple in a year. To see that many is incredible.”
Enbridge Line 5. Map by NOAA.
Given the abundant and diverse bird life found at the Straits, Lawson and other Petoskey Audubon members have grown increasingly concerned about the 63-year-old Enbridge Inc. oil pipeline, known as Line 5. It runs along the lake bottom between the peninsulas.
Thousands of birds
Should either of the two 20-inch-wide, five-mile-long pipes rupture, the impact on birds could be devastating. Endangered Piping Plovers are known to nest in the area, to say nothing of the thousands of eagles, hawks, falcons, and turkey vultures that migrate across the Straits annually and the untold damage that could occur to fisheries, recreation, boating, and tourism.
Petoskey Audubon sent Governor Rick Snyder a letter in December 2015 requesting that the line be shut down until its safety and integrity can be verified, Lawson said.
“If we have an oil spill there, that oil could end up in a lot of places like Waugoshance Point (at Wilderness State Park), which is a huge birding area,” Lawson elaborated. “There is a nesting tern colony on the Coast Guard pier that is worrisome…. A huge raft of redheads also hangs out in the Straits area every fall.” Continue reading