Editorial Roundup: Michigan

Detroit News. Oct. 21, 2021.

Editorial: Protest exposes Line 5 security risk

The protest at a Line 5 pumping station in Michigan’s Thumb appears to have been frivolous — a dozen or so young activists mostly hanging out in a parking lot listening to music — but it exposes serious security risks for the petroleum pipeline.

A group calling itself “Up Hell’s Creek Camp” descended on the pumping station and were left alone there for more than an hour by both the operator, Enbridge Inc., and local authorities in Tuscola County.

One of the group shimmied under a locked, chain-link gate with a pipe wrench, which he applied to a fixture that may or may not have been a shut-off valve — Enbridge isn’t saying — while the rest of the bunch, mostly teens and young adults, watched from the lot. One of them played an electric guitar and sang.

When they arrived, they alerted both Enbridge and the Tuscola County sheriff of their intentions and began a social media live-stream.

Sheriff deputies were initially uncertain where to find the site, while Enbridge temporarily shut down the pipeline and says all appropriate steps were taken to secure the line. The pipeline has an automatic shut-down system in case of tampering.

By the time the Tuscola officers arrived, the protesters were gone. A few apparently were stopped in their vehicles and questioned, but there’s no indication anyone was arrested or charged. The sheriff’s department has not returned phone calls from The Detroit News.

It’s not what actually happened Wednesday, but what might have happened that is worrisome. Line 5 carries 540,000 barrels of petroleum products a day from Canada through Michigan.

And yet this pumping station was so loosely secured that it was breached by an unsophisticated band of kids.

Imagine the damage that could have been done by a more malicious group intent on disrupting the pipeline’s flow, or even destroying it.

Enbridge is embroiled in a legal fight with the Whitmer administration over the section of Line 5 that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac. The governor wants to shut it down; Enbridge wants to encase it in a concrete tunnel deep below the lakebed.

The dispute moved to the U.S. State Department after Canada filed a treaty complaint.

Enbridge doesn’t help its case by being so careless with security. It should know Line 5 is a target, and should have better safeguards in place at all of the facilities along the pipeline.

It certainly should respond with more urgency when a threat is telegraphed in advance, as was the case Tuesday.

Likewise, law enforcement in communities that host Line 5 infrastructure should have emergency response plans in place to deal with threats. Given the animosity toward Line 5, anything can happen at any time.

The Woodstock nature of Tuesday’s protest may be amusing. But next time, the pipeline attackers might not be so mellow.

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Traverse City Record-Eagle. Oct 21, 2021.

Editorial: International, migrant workers lend hands to Grand Traverse region

The current — and still growing — worker shortage is no secret. Coronavirus-related restrictions and shutdowns removed millions of Americans from the workforce. Pretty much everyone believed those idled workers would crowd back into the workplace when pandemic restrictions lifted. But the situation is more complicated than anyone predicted.

Experts and amateurs alike are tossing around possible reasons five million Americans haven’t yet come back to work. Employers are brainstorming for ideas about how to attract the workers who have returned.

The situation in which we find ourselves involves a complex web of factors: health, school schedules, child care options, family dynamics, government support programs, changing pay levels, differing expectations, deep thoughts about career options — and the fear that COVID-19 has still more surprises in store for us.

All those elements are intertwined like a box full of slithering vipers. It’s anybody’s guess which snake moves where, anybody’s guess which factor next takes a bite at the economy.

It’s ironic that those segments of the workforce that many of us tend to think would be the first to crumble in this maelstrom of uncertainty have proven to be reliable and sturdy throughout the pandemic.

International workers for decades have helped seasonal resorts in northern Michigan handle the workload through the busy summer.

In a typical season, thousands of international workers come to the U.S. via the H2B (temporary, seasonal, non-agricultural workers) visa program.

In 2021, all 66,000 H2B visas allowed by the federal government were claimed. Properties including Grand Traverse Resort and Spa and the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island rely on H2B visa workers to fill some staff positions.

There were regulatory hiccups during the pandemic, but as soon as those were ironed out, international workers showed up for work, as usual.

Migrant workers for a century have helped northern Michigan farmers harvest cherries, apples and other crops.

Farms all over the nation depend on migrant labor in the field. Not many locals clamor for seasonal jobs, because such jobs typically last only a few weeks. Way back when most people grew their own crops for personal consumption, migrant labor hardly existed. But it became an essential part of the formula when the U.S. population shifted toward cities and individual farmers became responsible for feeding, not just their family, but hundreds of strangers.

Despite the invention and use of machinery, harvest time for many farmers still requires many hands — hands that farmers can’t afford to keep on the payroll all year. That means they need migrant labor, people willing to relocate by the season, year after year.

Many migrant workers have contributed to our seasonal workforce in northern Michigan for decades — they’re part-time residents, not unlike cottage owners who reside here just a few weeks every year.

Cottage owners spend money. Migrant workers earn money. Both groups play essential roles in northern Michigan’s economy.

Farms and resorts across northern Michigan deal every year with a bit of uncertainty as they arrange for migrant or international workers. But those workers have helped keep the region’s economy pumping through the pandemic.

Employers in nearly every sector of the economy this year are getting a taste of that uncertainty as they compete for pandemic-displaced workers coming back to the workplace.

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The (Marquette) Mining Journal. Oct. 23, 2021.

Editorial: Precautions needed after deadly mosquito-borne illness detected in bird

The Marquette County Health Department recently released an alarming announcement that all residents of the region need know about: A ruffed grouse in Marquette County has tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis, one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne illnesses in the U.S.

Infection by the virus that causes Eastern Equine Encephalitis in people and animals occurs through the bite of an infected mosquito and can be deadly, with a 33% fatality rate in humans.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE, has been diagnosed in four ruffed grouse in the Upper Peninsula over the past few years, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

“The presence of EEE in wild bird populations is a strong indication that EEE is carried by local mosquitos in Marquette County and throughout the U.P.,” health department officials said in a news release announcing the EEE case in the ruffed grouse.

Mosquito-borne illness will continue to be a risk in Michigan until late fall when nighttime temperatures consistently fall below freezing, health department officials said.

This means that there is a need for precautions right now, as many of us have seen mosquitos flitting about during these recent warm fall days.

It’s critical to stay vigilant and protect yourself from mosquito bites this fall and in the coming spring and summer seasons, as EEE can be an incredibly serious and devastating disease.

Signs of EEE include the sudden onset of fever, chills and body and joint aches. Illness can eventually develop into severe encephalitis, resulting in headache, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis.

Permanent brain damage, coma and death may also occur in some cases, health department officials said.

The disease is not spread person-to-person, meaning that the best course of action is to focus on protection from mosquito bites.

Marquette County Health Department officials recommend the following steps to avoid mosquito bites:

— Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, or other U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved product, to exposed skin or clothing, and always follow the manufacturer’s direction for use.

— Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Apply insect repellent to clothing to help prevent bites.

— Maintain window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes outside.

— Empty water from mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitos may lay eggs.

— Use nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.

To safeguard horses, owners are recommended to take the following measurers:

— Talking to a veterinarian about vaccinating horses against EEE.

— Placing horses in a barn under fans, as mosquitoes are not strong flyers during peak mosquito activity from dusk to dawn.

— Using an insect repellant on the animals approved for the species.

— Eliminating standing water on the property-i.e., fill in puddles, repair eaves, and change the water in buckets and bowls at least once a day.

— Contacting a veterinarian if a horse shows signs of the illness: mild fever and stumbling, which can progress to being down and struggling to stand.

For more information about mosquito-borne diseases, visit Michigan.gov/emergingdiseases.

We urge our readers to protect themselves and their animals from mosquito bites and encourage others to do the same, as the deadly disease does not have an approved vaccine or antiviral treatment.

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