Protect the Mackinac Bridge, not Enbridge

A proposed bill would expand the mission and focus of the 1952 charter for the Mackinac Bridge Authority, giving it the ability to take ownership of a tunnel housing Line 5 for Enbridge, should be scrapped.

The bill, dropped in early November into the state senate by Senator Tom Casperson — long known for his dislike of anything that protects the environment — is being fast-tracked through the legislature in hopes that it will be a done deal before the end of this year, when current Governor Rick Snyder leaves office.

According to the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, the Snyder/Enbridge agreement and this bill would:

— It would change the focus and responsibility of the bridge authority, compromising the effectiveness of the authority to manage the Mackinac Bridge.

— The authority would be required to defend Enbridge and the agreement in court, which could require a significant investment of money that could be otherwise used on bridge operations.

— The authority would subject to appropriations by the Legislature to fulfill its responsibilities related to the tunnel. This would subject the authority to political pressure and partisan politics, something it has always been immune to. It could also greatly impact the finances of the authority.

— Bridge assets and revenues are dedicated to the bridge operation and maintenance, but bonds are not. Bonds meant for the Mackinac Bridge could be diverted for the tunnel.

Everything about this plan, part of a backroom deal between Snyder and Enbridge, stinks. It could hurt the Mackinac Bridge Authority and the Mackinac Bridge. The Snyder administration and its supporters are putting all their energy into seeing this deal through to end, including appointing four new members to the Mackinac Bridge Authority who would rubber stamp the plan for the outgoing governor.

But some members of the board are fighting back against Snyder, Casperson, Enbridge and their supporters, such as board vice chair Barbara Brown. Brown has been a vocal opponent of the authority taking ownership of this tunnel.

“This bridge is owned by the people of the state,” Brown said in an interview with the Petoskey News-Review. “It is is not Gov. Snyder’s to give away.”

Brown has been critical of the notion for involving the bridge authority in the tunnel plan, calling it a “shotgun wedding” between Enbridge and the bridge authority. As she sees it, adding extraneous responsibilities to the bridge authority would make the body less effective at its primary objective — maintaining the bridge.

Brown said, “The very reason the Mackinac Bridge Authority has been able to do its job so well is because its been able to maintain its authority and independence.”

Former chair of the authority and Charlevoix resident, Bill Gnodtke, is also speaking out. He is a member of the group called Friends of the Mackinac Bridge, who are fighting against Casperson’s proposal in the senate.

“We strongly urge all those in Lansing and elsewhere to protect the Mackinac Bridge and to end attempts to significantly expand the Authority’s role by assigning it responsibilities that have absolutely no relationship to the fundamental mission it has successfully carried out for 68 years,” Gnodtke said at a press conference recently.

Brown said it is important the people of Michigan speak up about Casperson’s and Snyder’s proposal now.

“When that bill is passed I would anticipate an emergency meeting pursuant to the Open Meetings Act would convene. Anybody thinking we have until February is mistaken. Time is of the essence to convince the legislature and the governor that this is not in the state’s best interest,” Brown said.

While we wish Snyder best in his “retirement” as Michigan’s governor, the State of Michigan and the Mackinac Bridge could do without his going away present.

— Petoskey News-Review