Mackinaw City — Environmental activists from across the state, led by indigenous water protectors attended the fourth annual Water Is Life Festival over the Labor Day weekend. The festival has become a place for water protectors and allies to gather to share environmental victories from around the state and the world, enjoy art and music and warn of the dangers posed by the continued operation of Enbridge Line 5.
After holding the third annual festival online, the festival returned to an in-person event this year. The day began with a sister event called “Pipe Out, Paddle Up Flotilla” where activists in kayaks and Jiimaan, a canoe built by the Little Traverse Bay Band tribe head out into the Straights of Mackinac to draw attention to Line 5 that runs below the straights and has been cited as a danger to all of the Great Lakes by both environmental groups as well as Governor Whitmer and Attorney General Nessel. This year, roughly 30 kayaks and about 50 people took part by paddling out.
The festival was held at Father Conkling Park in Mackinaw City and featured numerous musical performances, panels about best practices for protecting our water and community art projects. Featured performers included Great Lakes Brass, Samuel Nalangira and Seth Bernard & Dan Rickabus Music.
Enbridge Line 5 is a 30-inch diameter pipeline that runs 645 miles including across the environmentally sensitive Straights of Mackinac. The line was completed in 1953 with an expected lifespan of 50 years which means the pipeline has operated for 18 years beyond its original intended lifespan. The pipeline also runs through an area that five tribes use for fishing and hunting that was guaranteed in the 1836 Treaty of Washington. These two issues have led to a coalition of tribal members and environmental activists who made up a majority of the attendees of the Water Is Life Festival.