Great Lakes Region

Oil Spill Drill in the Straits of Mackinac 

The Straits of Mackinac Preparedness for Response Exercise Program (PREP) oil spill drill took place September 23-24, 2015, and is a NOAA cross line office initiative. The drill was a collaborative initiative in response to the the increasing risk of oil spills in the Great Lakes, especially the portion of the pipeline along the straits of Mackinac. Specifically, Enbridge Inc. collaborated with NOAA, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), federal and state agencies, as well as industry partners to model the worst case spill scenario.

NOAAs Mission in the Drill 

Participating in the Mackinac oil spill drill, NOAA further filled its mission to assist coastal community resilience to natural and anthropogenic induced disasters. NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) and GLERL’s Lake Michigan Field Station (LMFS) played a tremendous role in the full-scale drill, providing scientific expertise and logistical support.

History of Enbridge Pipeline 

Enbridge Energy Inc. is a Canadian-owned oil pipeline extending from western Canada through North America.  Enbridge’s Line 5 is a 645-mile that travels through Michigan in the Upper and Lower Peninsulas, originating in Superior, Wisconsin, and terminating in western Canada (Enbridge Inc., 2015). As it travels under the Straits of Mackinac, Line 5 splits into two parallel pipelines that are buried onshore and taper off deep underwater, crossing the Straits west of the Mackinac Bridge for approximately five miles (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Enbridge Line 5 pipeline crossing the Straits of Mackinac

NOAA’s Role in the PREP Drill 

NOAA’s mission was to provide science support to the US Coast Guard. LT Greg Schweitzer, Science Support Coordinator from NOAA’s National Ocean Service (NOS) organized the drill with the previously mentioned collaborators. GLERL’s role was to provide technical expertise in hydrodynamic modeling, i.e. use numerical models of water currents to forecast the movement of the oil spill, as well as provide ship support and data collection on the water. GLERL Physical Scientist Dr. Eric J. Anderson provided advice on the hydrodynamics conditions of currents throughout the exercise using the new Lake Michigan-Huron Operational Forecasting System (LMHOFS) and simulated currents for NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) oil spill trajectory model.

Figure 2: Map depicting the next-generation Great Lakes Observing System (GLOFS) computer model (Credit: NOAA/GLERL)

Furthermore, GLERL’s Observation System and Advanced Technology (OSAT) team collected and provided data on surface currents and water temperature profiles utilizing an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), as well as other resources, provided by GLERL’s LMFS deployed by Superintendent Dennis Donahue.

Additionally, GLERL in-house partners, Annie Johns and Terri Heatlie, representing the Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) both

Where Can I Learn More About the PREP Drill?

View the following links below for more information on the PREP drill:

Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System: Next Generation

Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System, GLCFS

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