Weather Forecast


Activists gather to inspect Enbridge pipelines in northern Minnesota

Sarah Littleredreather stops to document an exposed portion of an Enbridge-owned pipeline near Highway 2 and Strawberry Lake on Sunday. (Grace Pastoor | Bemidji Pioneer)

CASS LAKE—About 3 miles from the Cass Lake Rest Area, multiple oil pipelines lie partially buried beneath reeds, cattails and water. Every so often, portions of the lines can be seen by those who know what to look for, and are willing to risk a trip into the soggy swamp.

About 30 people gathered in Cass Lake Sunday afternoon, hoping to set eyes on the controversial Line 3, an oil pipeline owned by Canadian energy company Enbridge.

"People are, you know, they're against the Line 3 and ... they're against the pipeline, and I just think that it's really good to just see it for yourself," said Annie Humphrey, who organized the event. "This is more real when you see it."

Line 3, built in the 1960s, runs from Alberta, Canada, through northern Minnesota to Superior, Wis. Enbridge plans to replace and decommission the aging line, a move opposed by multiple local environmentalist groups and community activists.

A draft of an environmental review of the proposed replacement was scheduled to be released last week, but has been delayed; the review is now expected to be made public in mid-May.

Humphrey—who works with environmentalist group Honor the Earth—and fellow organizer Marty Cobenais led the group of 30 to a location near U.S. Highway 2 and Strawberry Lake. Portions of the pipeline were visible there, and a handful of participants walked on top of the structure, inspecting the portions that could be seen.

Sarah Littleredfeather, who also works with Honor the Earth, said she wanted others to see what the group has observed.

"The public isn't aware, because they really don't understand and see all this," Littleredfeather said, gesturing to a moss-covered portion of pipeline sticking out from beneath a cover of reeds. "We wanted everybody to see this."

Two more pipelines run adjacent to Strawberry Point Road Northwest. These are less visible, but the portions not covered by swampland still concerned members of the group.

"It's pretty powerful to see exposed pipelines through swamps and stuff like that," Cobenais said. "I think people just automatically become more engaged and more outraged by it, and looking at it and just kind of going, 'This is not right.' "

A statement provided to the Bemidji Pioneer by Shannon Gustafson, a communications supervisor for Enbridge, states that Enbridge is "fully aware of the segments of exposed pipeline near Cass Lake." He said segment like the ones near Cass Lake are frequently monitored and that Enbridge's "internal and external monitoring program" shows that all pipelines in the area are operating safely.

Christine Popowski, who lives in south Minneapolis and traveled to Cass Lake to attend the event, said she hopes to learn more about pipelines and use that information to help resist their construction.

"For me personally, I want it to be a learning experience," she said. "I want it to be something that I can take back and maybe talk to (Gov. Mark Dayton) and tell him what I saw, and how we need to not allow any more pipelines."

Grace Pastoor

Grace Pastoor covers crime, courts and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. Contact her at (218) 333-9796 or

(218) 333-9796