LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan’s governor on Thursday approved an emergency ban on most vessels dropping anchor in a Great Lakes waterway where oil, electric and other infrastructure cables rest, following an anchor strike that caused a potentially toxic leak.
The move prevents environmental damage to the state and the Straits of Mackinac, Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement. The Straits of Mackinac connects Lakes Michigan and Huron.
“Anchoring in the Straits of Mackinac poses a serious threat to the welfare and protection of Michigan and our vital natural resources,” Snyder said. “Anchoring could cause severe environmental damage and threatens to disrupt critical energy and communication services between the Upper and Lower peninsulas. This emergency rule will help us better protect Michigan waters and residents until a permanent solution is in place.”
The eastern boundary of the no-anchor zone is defined by the Mackinac Bridge. The western boundary is defined by a line beginning at the western edge of McGulpin Point in the Lower Peninsula to the western edge of an unnamed island immediately southwest of Point La Barbe in the Upper Peninsula.
The rule puts into state law a previous informal anchor restriction and was issued under the Marine Safety sections of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. It will remain in place for six months and can be renewed for another six months. The state and the Coast Guard are discussing permanent anchoring measures that would complement Michigan’s temporary ban.
The rule allows exceptions for emergency situations, vessels operating under tribal authorities and written requests that have to be approved.
“I believe this emergency rule should be permanent,” said state Rep. Lee Chatfield, a Republican from Levering. “Let there be no confusion: From this day forward, dropping anchor in the straits will be an illegal act and should be treated with the full weight of the law. A spill would endanger and affect the well-being of people living in the entire region.”
On April 1, twin oil pipelines beneath the straits were dented and about 600 gallons (2,270 liters) of mineral oil insulation fluid leaked from two electric cables. The Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board investigated. The state attorney general said a tugboat anchor was the cause.
Crews capped and sealed the leaking the cables in late April.
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