Is the Proposed Bridge Between Detroit and Canada Off?


We have heard so little about the proposed New International Trade Crossing between Detroit and Windsor since the November 6, 2012 election, and we begin to wonder whether the federal government will approve the crossing.

The answer remains a certain “yes.” However, part of the answer is “yes” only to the extent of asking the next question. When?

There are numerous theories on the cause of the delay. One is that the delay is intended to be retribution to the state legislature for allowing enactment of the Right to Work legislation in Michigan. This is unlikely. Both Michigan U.S. Senators supported the proposal to build the NITC project.

A more likely theory relates to simple international politics. Our dealings with Canada are indeed international, for Canada is its own separate and functioning political body, separated by a war that occurred 240 years ago and ratified by the War of 1812.

There is a likelihood that we have two conflicting political decision-making processes relating directly to Canada, which may be more closely attached than one would first think.

The first is the bridge crossing. A very powerful corporation, being the Detroit International Bridge Co., and its ownership, the Moroun family, is vehemently opposed to the NITC, which would directly competing with the Ambassador Bridge. Without question, the Ambassador Bridge will be the auto-crossing bridge and the new bridge will be the far more lucrative truck-crossing bridge. Please remember that trucks pay far more than the $4 toll per auto fee.

The second international agreement discussion between the United States and Canada relates to the Keystone Pipeline and its traversing through the far Midwest, from Nebraska to Texas. The Keystone will bring Canadian tar sands crude oil through a pipeline to refineries in Texas.

The state of Nebraska now looks like a spaghetti bowl with all of its pipelines. However, after the Marshall, Mich. Enbridge pipeline failure, citizens are far more concerned about pipelines in their communities. Given this, the Nebraska farmers are extremely concerned that the pipelines may leak into the Ogallala Aquifer. This aquifer supplies the water needs for farming. Farmers in Nebraska use what are called pivots, utilizing the water supply in the aquifer below the farms.

Due to environmental objections, President Obama delayed, and, by his delay, effectively rejected, at least for the time being, the installation of the pipeline through Nebraska.

The Nebraska route has now been modified so it has less potential to affect the aquifer. Under the most recent proposed route, the pipeline will not slash through the middle of the aquifer. The President is closely reviewing the process, and the Nebraska government reversed its prior position and has now recommended that the pipeline be installed in the fashion now proposed. President Obama is considering two transactions, each of which creates tremendous conflict in our existing relationship with Canada. What he does with one may affect what he does with the other. Given this, it would make sense for both issues to be resolved at one time.

Originally, many thought that the approval of the bridge would occur even before the 2012 election. However, it would have made little sense to create a conflict should the voters have supported a proposition that would have barred the bridge proposal. Subsequent to the election, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was prepared to leave her position. Given that it is the Secretary of State, and not the President, who approves the bridge, Secretary of State Clinton would have been charged with the authority. One who potentially has an interest in running for President in four years has no reason to exercise a prerogative that can be exercised by the succeeding Secretary of State John Kerry.

We are currently in the position that we do not know when the bridge will be constructed. However, time is of the essence. We know that for public safety we need a second bridge and the delay will only take its toll in 2020 or 2021. The decisions we make today will have huge effects then!

NOTE: Ackerman Ackerman & Dynkowski represents several property owners impacted by the NITC project.