Meeting Notes for March 28, 2018 – The Threat of Line 5

President John clanged the Rotary Bell and everybody stood to belt out The Star-Spangled Banner to Tom Strode’s accompaniment. It sounded great.

So did Past President Beth Fitzsimmons’ Inspiration: “[Historian] Bruce Catton is best known for his many books on the Civil War, but he loved Benzie County. He writes of Frankfort, Michigan: “How could anything go wrong if there was such beautiful scenery as this? I knew I would be able to come back…” Beth’s lyrical quote from the dean of Civil War historians, Pulitzer Prize-winning chronicler of the last carnages leading to Appomattox, was a paean to the region of his birth, of its quiet forests and azure lakes, and a fitting prelude to the message of our speaker guest.

John’s usual warm greetings were made poignant by his remembrances of our beloved members Jerry Prescott and Tim Harrison who died the past week. Nancy Harrison was present, as were her son and two grandchildren, both teenagers. In addition, John informed the assembly of the passing of Betty Elkins: “I remember her red Saab and her always saying ‘Don’t mess with Texas,’” John recollected. “Her memorial service will be there, not in Ann Arbor.”

LINE 5: Part I, the Threat

Ian Bund then introduced our speaker, his son Bart, an acclaimed documentary filmmaker: “A few weeks ago I ended my Inspiration by saying that all is not sweetness and light. I mentioned the danger to our environment posed by the Line 5 pipeline. My son Bart splits his time between movies and teaching young and aspiring actors. His documentary, Line 5: Part I, the Threat, will be released April 10th. Ladies and gentlemen — Bart Bund.”

Hearty applause greeted Bart, who then introduced fellow members of his film crew. He cited the danger of the deteriorating pipeline known as Line 5 to the Great Lakes, and described the book, Paddle-to-the-Sea, written in 1941 by Holling C. Holling, which later spawned an award-winning short film in 1966. Book and film tell the story of the multiyear voyage of a child’s toy Indian and canoe through the Lakes to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. “How long would it take for oil to make the same trip [in the event of a Line 5 break]?” Mr. Bund asked his audience suddenly.

From the time-phased charts shown on screen, shockingly fast. Underwater photos revealed a decrepit, mussel-encrusted pipe that could have doubled as between-deck supply on the Titanic. “There must be something in the coating of the pipe; the zebra and other mussel invasives seem to love the warmth [it provides],” Bund declared. “Look at the pipe,” he commanded, “it’s bent!” Indeed, one portion could be seen spanning a ravine on the floor.

“The line was built to last 50 years. It’s about to turn 65,” observes a scientist interviewed in Bund’s film. “It couldn’t be in a worse spot, located 200-300 feet below the Straits of Mackinac.” Volatile, countervailing currents create the perfect engine by which to fling leaking oil, like grapeshot, in all directions.

As if that isn’t enough, the constant push and tug on the pipe exerted by Lakes Huron and Michigan’s battling currents all but guarantees an eventual break. As one expert exclaims, “[The Straits] discharge ten times the amount of water that goes over Niagara Falls.” One problem is that the original oak casing – yes, oak – that sheathed the metal pipe fell off almost immediately. “It was damaged when they laid the pipe,” Bund explained. Like a structurally top-heavy ship, Line 5 was compromised from the start.

For those who think a break can be contained, think again. As Bund asserts, “Conventional water capture doesn’t work in the Great Lakes.” The power of the aforementioned currents being the culprit. “There would be no hope to capture it all – 30% capture is considered successful by the industry,” Bart observed. “We need to know what they [Enbridge Energy, Line 5’s owner] plan to do. We need a plan!”

During the question and answer period, which was far too short, Past President Joe Fitzsimmons spoke for all when he declared, “This represents the greatest disaster that could happen to our way of life in Michigan and on the Great Lakes.” The consensus – Line 5 must be replaced.

After thanking Bart for his fine presentation, John reiterated the April 10 release date for his documentary, then reminded us of JET: “Join leaders; Exchange ideas; Take action!”


Administrator’s Notes

Weekly Meeting Statistics

Ninety-six Rotarians were in the pipeline to hear the presentation on Line 5 by Barton Bund. We also had one visiting Rotarian (Stephanie Baldwin-Ross of Parker CO) and nine guests (including members of Tim Harrison’s family). Two committees met in conjunction with lunch; Distinguished Service Award and Rotaract. A total of eleven members participated.

Makeup Cards for Roving Rotarians

None this week although John White did attend the meeting of the Hilton Head Club on March 28. The club has about 150 members and meets in a country club. About 100 members (great turnout!) and around eight guests and visiting Rotarians were on hand to hear from the director of the local arts council. Their major fundraiser for the year is contracting with the Heritage Golf Tournament to provide staffing for various positions. The Rotarians volunteer and the club receives the payment.

Weber’s Move Update

No one has yet responded to John White about last week’s article regarding the need for priority parking at Weber’s. He is sure we can use more than the five official spaces but wants to get an accurate number.

This week’s topic is bus service to our new location. AAATA’s Route 30 (schedule) goes out and back on Jackson Road past Weber’s but only stops on either side at Westgate Shopping Center and at Wagner Road. If any members would like to take the bus, we might be able to arrange a shuttle from the bus stop to and from Weber’s. An alternative may be to set up some car pools from downtown and campus. Contact John if interested.