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Enbridge Engages Michigan Tech to Monitor Straits of Mackinac

Enbridge Energy Partners LP is calling on the expertise of Michigan Technological University’s Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) to provide real-time environmental monitoring of the water conditions in the Straits of Mackinac. Enbridge Partners is sponsoring the GLRC’s efforts to integrate another monitoring buoy into the Upper Great Lakes Observing System (UGLOS). The GLRC will deploy, operate and disseminate data from the buoy for the benefit of all who use this important waterway.

The new buoy will be equipped with standard weather and wave sensors and an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) that measures the flow of the water beneath the buoy by “looking downward” using sound waves. The ADCP will measure the magnitude and direction of currents at one-meter intervals from near the surface to the bottom.

Up to now, there have been limited real-time measurements in this environmentally and economically important section of the Great Lakes. “The Straits of Mackinac are probably the most heavily traveled portion of all the Great Lakes,” said Guy Meadows, GLRC director and leader of the Enbridge Partners-sponsored project.

Commercial shipping, the US Coast Guard, fishing, ferries and tourism all depend on the Straits, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet. The confluence of these two large lakes causes complex and constantly changing currents and other conditions that affect those using the waterway.  In addition, there are a variety of underwater structures in the area, such as Enbridge’s Line 5 and municipal utilities.

“Employing the expertise of the GLRC will provide important information to keep the Straits safe for everyone who uses the waterway,” said Dave Hoffman, senior manager of research, development and innovation for Enbridge Pipelines. “Enbridge Partners’ Line 5, which crosses under the Straits, is diligently monitored 24/7. The dual pipelines are operated and inspected using state-of-the-art tools and technologies. This buoy, also state-of-the-art, will give us additional data to enhance our legacy of safe operations that dates back for more than 60 years. Enbridge Partners is proud to be part of this project, which will benefit all who use and enjoy the Straits.”