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Why water and oil do not mix

“The angler forgets most of the fish he catches, but he does not forget the streams and lakes in which they are caught.” - author Charles K. Fox

We are fortunate to live in a county blessed with abundant lakes, rivers and streams in which to fish and recreate.

“Though often perceived as a pleasant pastime, fishing is more than that,” explained Dirk Peterson, retired fisheries chief of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “It’s an economic engine that supports 43,000 Minnesota jobs and contributes more than $640 million a year in tax revenues to the treasuries of our state and federal government.” Only Florida and Texas anglers spend more money than Minnesota anglers. The economic impact of Minnesota fishing exceeds $4.7 billion per year when adjusted for expenditures on gas, lodging and the services purchased by fishing-related businesses, a 2007 study concluded. “It is humbling to realize so many livelihoods are linked to water quality, fish quantity, and the health of our lands and waters” said Peterson.

While this year’s opener in the Park Rapids area will not be the media event it was last year, since the Governor will have moved onto Brainerd this year, many anglers, both local and visiting will enjoy fishing our exceptional waters.

“Our challenge is sustaining that quality in an era of on-going habitat loss and detrimental aquatic invasive species (AIS),” Peterson said. Indeed Hubbard County, especially spearheaded by the gallant efforts of Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations (HC COLA) is seen as a leader in protecting our lakes from the dual threats of habitat loss and AIS.

But there is another invasive threat to our water resources, including our precious groundwater. A few miles downstream from Itasca, a 30-inch diameter pipeline, named Sandpiper, will be bored under the Mississippi river. Enbridge and the North Dakota Pipeline Company (NDPC) will pump 375,000 barrels of oil through it every day. This oil will pass through some of the finest lake country in the USA. It’s time we start asking why these companies can plow pipelines through our 10,000 lakes with so little environmental review. Enbridge claimed in a recent press conference that their pipeline bypasses our lakes. This is not North Dakota. You don’t have to be an angler to know that a pipeline crossing northern Minnesota will need to cross dozens of rivers, streams (which flow into lakes) as well as crossing the watersheds of these same lakes.

HC COLA voted to support a request that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission relocate the Sandpiper Pipeline away from Enbridge’s proposed route through our lake country. Indeed, studies indicate that pipelines spill this toxic oil into our environment with surprising frequency and worse, due to our very coarse soils, the lost oil is very difficult to recover. Bakken crude and Canadian tar sand oil contain many chemicals that can kill a plant or animal outright, or cause injury to the extent that it has less chance of surviving. Recent research studies by scientists have shown that even small amounts of petroleum hydrocarbons can impair the successful development of fish eggs and embryos.

Dealing with a major oil spill is a huge effort, sometimes requiring billions of dollars and involving hundreds, even thousands of people. Is this the type of economic “development” we want in Hubbard County?

“Some day the earth will weep. She will beg for her life, she will cry tears of blood. You will make a choice, if you will help her or let her die. And we will die with her.” - Black Elk, Oglala Sioux medicine man