As reported by the Associated Press, Michigan's environmental agency is approving construction of an underground tunnel to house a replacement for a controversial oil pipeline in the Great Lakes.

However, The project ultimately requires permits from the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Liesl Clark, director of the Michigan agency and a Whitmer appointee, said the company’s application satisfied state legal requirements.

"We have issued permits designed to ensure that if a tunnel is constructed, it will be in strict compliance with relevant statutes and adhere to stringent protections against impacts to the Great Lakes," she said.

The tunnel "will make a safe pipeline even safer," spokesman Ryan Duffy said, describing the permit approval as "an important milestone" for a project "virtually eliminating the potential for any release from Line 5 into the straits."

Enbridge has pledged to cover all costs of the $500 million project, which it says will be completed by 2024.

According to the company, the project would create 250 pipeline jobs in Michigan, and 1000's of jobs in total.

State officials say the tunnel is a separate issue from the fight over the existing line. They say Enbridge's application for the project satisfied legal requirements.