Line 5


Time's Up for Line 5 from NWF Great Lakes on YouTube.

What is Line 5 and how is it a threat to our Great Lakes? Watch our new video, "Time's Up for Line 5" featuring the music of Grammy Award-winning musician Billy Strings.

The Straits of Mackinac in northern Michigan is a unique area of the Great Lakes, a four-mile-wide channel that funnels colossal amounts of water between Lakes Michigan and Huron - often called the heart of the largest freshwater resource in the world. Below the water’s surface, lie two Enbridge owned pipelines - part of Line 5 -  that were constructed in 1953. If either of those pipelines leaked, the resulting oil slick would likely devastate some of the lakes’ most bountiful fisheries (which are at the center of tribal treaty rights), wildlife refuges, municipal drinking water supplies and one of the region’s most popular tourist attractions: Mackinac Island.

Line 5 Risks Our Pure Michigan Way of Life from NWF Great Lakes on YouTube.

How does Line 5 threaten our Pure Michigan way of life? Watch our new ad featuring Emmy Award-winning actor Jeff Daniels:

In 2010, the National Wildlife Federation witnessed the first-hand devastation that a rupture from Enbridge’s pipelines can cause. Line 6b spilled over a million gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River system. That devastation, and Enbridge's behavior during the disaster, exposed the hidden risk of Line 5 and we began our work to protect the Great Lakes from another oil spill. After 10 years of leadership on this issue we know without a doubt that Line 5 can no longer operate in this location—the risk is unjustifiable.

About the Line 5 Pipeline:

Line 5 runs 645 miles from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario, taking a short cut through the Great Lakes at the Straits of Mackinac. The pipeline was constructed in 1953 with a payment by Enbridge Energy of $2,450 to the state of Michigan for an easement in the Straits - the terms of that easement, and the sovereign right for the state of Michigan to manage our land and water, provide clear authority for Michigan to ensure the Great Lakes are protected. Line 5 carries petroleum products largely from tar sand deposits in Western Canada through Wisconsin and Michigan to a refinery in Sarnia, Ontario, where most of the product continues on to refineries and export from Montreal. The original lifespan of this pipeline was 50 years—it is now 18 years beyond its expected term of service.

Why Line 5 Needs to be Removed from the Great Lakes:

Line 5 has a long history of unleashing environmental damage. In the last 50 yearsthe pipeline has had at least 33 spills, releasing a total of 1.3 million gallons of product into the environment. 

Line 5 is a ticking time bomb in our Great Lakes that is threatening to spill millions of gallons of oil into the largest freshwater lakes in the world, essential habitat for wildlife, and the foundation of local economies.

University of Michigan study concluded that this is the worst possible location for an oil pipeline in the Great Lakes. The unpredictable currents, that can be ten times the strength of Niagara Falls – and change directions every few days – make oil recovery nearly impossible

What is Being Done:

On November 13, 2020 Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer terminated the easement for Line 5 through the Straits of Mackinac because Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 risks our public trust waters and because Enbridge has failed to meet the terms of the easement, including operating the pipeline with due careTo learn more read the press release on this issue.

Enbridge is now operating Line 5 in violation of state law while Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Nessel seek a court ordered shutdown of the pipeline. Governor Gretchen Whitmer is now seeking a garnishment of profits for every day that Line 5 operates without an easement, which is estimated to be between $1.5-2 million dollars per day.

The Alternatives:

A majority of the Canadian product on Line 5 is delivered to Canadian markets. Since the 1990’s, Line 5 started delivering a small amount of natural gas liquids to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for propane (less than 1% of the product on Line 5). The small quantities are easily offset by other sources and Governor Gretchen Whitmer has put in place a roadmap for the removal of Line 5.

NWF and the Great Lakes Business Network also released a series of independent assessments that outline alternatives to Line 5. London Economics International concluded that "the cost increase from using alternatives to Enbridge Line 5 would be lost in the noise of typical crude oil price volatility". 

Want to Learn More? Check out these videos. 

Great Lakes Now: Beneath the Surface

The Kalamazoo River Oil Spill Disaster 

Seven Years and Counting: The Kalamazoo River Oil Spill Disaster 

The Kalamazoo River Oil Spill Disaster: Actions Speak Louder than Words 

Great Lakes Businesses: Line 5 "Greatest Threat" to Northern Michigan Economy

Northern Michigan Business Owners Say Line 5 Not Worth the Risk 


Additional News & Resources: 

NWF Video: Sunken Hazard 

Video: The Dirty Secret at the Bottom of the Great Lakes (Motherboard) 

US Amicus Brief - Bad River v. Enbridge (PDF)

Line 5 Pipeline: DOJ Draws Rebuke from Green Groups, Businesses (PDF)


Captions for Pictures:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Picture 1: Enbridge’s Line 6b ruptured in 2010 spewing over 1 million gallons of tar sands oil into 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River system. This 6 foot gash was not detected by Enbridge for 17 hours – a local utility had to inform Enbridge of the massive spill. Picture 2: The 2010 Enbridge spill cost over 1 billion in clean-up and oil still remains in the river system today – thousands of wildlife were impacted. Picture 3: Line 5, 15 years older than the pipeline that ruptured in 2010, is not properly supported, the required protective coating is peeling away and the pipeline has been hit by at least 3 vessels in recent years. Picture 4: In 2018, a passing vessel struck Line 5 with an anchor that left two large gouges in the pipeline with many regional experts calling this a near catastrophic event. The following year two additional strikes were discovered while Enbridge was attempting to correct coating damage nearby.

For more information about our work on Line 5, please contact Beth Wallace, Great Lakes Freshwater Campaigns Manager,

Please donate today to invest in protecting our Great Lakes HEREFor more information, please contact Leanne Chadwick, Great Lakes Regional Director of Philanthropy and Partnerships,

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Where We Work

More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. The National Wildlife Federation is on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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