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Consumers Energy Removes Retired Cables from Straits of Mackinac

Oct. 13, 2020
Company pulled up 46-kV electric cables that had been de-energized since their retirement in 1990.

Consumers Energy recently removed long-retired energy infrastructure from the Straits of Mackinac as part of its effort to protect Michigan's environment. The company pulled up 46-kV electric cables that had been de-energized since their retirement in 1990, along with concrete mats and grounding cables associated with the lines.

Removing the cables improves safety in the Straits of Mackinac and enhances the state's waterways by reducing the odds of incidents such as an alleged tugboat anchor strike in 2018. Materials from the removed cables were salvaged and recycled to the extent possible to help offset the project cost and promote sustainable practices.

In 2018, a tugboat and barge allegedly dragged an anchor through the Mackinac Straits, striking some of Consumers Energy's retired cables, as well as active electric transmission cables owned by American Transmission Co. (ATC) and the Enbridge Energy Line 5 pipeline. No environmental damage occurred because of the Consumers Energy cables because they did not contain materials or fluids (mineral oil) that could have leaked. The cables, installed in 1956, once supplied electricity to the Upper Peninsula.

Consumers Energy worked closely with key stakeholders, including the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), to remove the exposed, retired electric cables from the bottomlands in the Straits of Mackinac. The removal project took roughly five months and was completed with zero safety incidents.

"Consumers Energy has long stood for the health and safety of the public and the protection of our state's waterways," said Dennis Dobbs, Consumers Energy's vice president of enterprise project management and environmental services. "After learning of the 2018 alleged anchor strike on our cable, we began to investigate the best way to leave the Straits of Mackinac and the entire state in a better place."

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