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Development or danger: Enbridge pipelines discussed

Friends of the Headwaters president Richard Smith discusses the Sandpiper and Line No. 3 replacement projects Thursday night at Northwoods Bank. Forty people attended. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

By Sarah Smith

Presumptuous.

That word kept coming up at an informational meeting for Enbridge Inc.’s pipeline projects Thursday night in Park Rapids.

As the pile of pipes grows east of Lake George, some concerned citizens in the crowd of 40 expressed thoughts that the Canadian oil company was moving faster than regulatory approval on the projects.

Two projects, the Sandpiper Pipeline, and the Line No. 3 replacement of a 50-year-old line, are in the planning stages.

The educational session, put on by Friends of the Headwaters, laid out the projects that will go through Hubbard County’s lakes area and take a sharp right turn at the Wadena County border, heading to Superior, Wis.

FOH president Richard Smith faulted the company for omitting the Mississippi River on most maps of the project.

That’s crucial because plans call for the pipeline to be nestled closely to the Headwaters, Smith maintained.

“The Headwaters is one of the greatest rivers in the world,” Smith said,

Native American tribes have opposed the project because it cuts through sacred wild rice beds.

“Prime Anishinabe wild rice beds would be right by the pipeline,” he said.

Smith said $2 billion in property values in the Fishhook watershed are potentially at stake from Hay Creek to downtown Park Rapids, if a pipeline were to burst.

“If there was a spill, property values would fall ten to 40 percent,” Smith told the crowd.

The company has maintained that state-of-the-art technology and construction would prevent such a spill.

“Hubbard County has soils most susceptible to contamination,” Smith said, pointing out the abundance of potato crops and wells.

“Imagine a leak, even a slow leak.”

Smith criticized the Line 3 “rebuild,” which can be done without a full environmental assessment. FOH and another group have filed suit to force the company to undergo an environmental review.

He criticized Enbridge for doing “an end run” on the project “and they’re doing it through our state.”

Smith said 3.8 million gallons of water pours over the Headwaters boulders daily, but “four times as much oil is going underneath the river” if the projected pipelines go through the regulatory process.

Some in the room questioned the need for the pipeline, initially planned to transport Bakken crude oil to ports in Wisconsin.

Oil prices have tanked since last summer, slowing production of shale oil in the Bakken Formation of western North Dakota almost to a standstill.

Smith suggested since most pipelines head to Chicago, why not circumvent lakes country and position the pipeline in a more southerly route that would avoid Hubbard County.

“Our PCA (Pollution Control Agency) found 28 crossings they could not access if there was a leak,” Smith said of the proposed routes.

He urged the group to oppose the pipeline as citizens and good land stewards.

“There are places where a barrel of water is worth more than a barrel of oil,” the FOH literature says.

“Line 3 is over 50 years old,” Smith suggested. “It’s weeping oil.”

Human error, he suggested, will ensure a leak.

“Why would they put that pipe there before approval?” questioned one member of the audience.

When that question was directed to Sue Tomte, who was recently hired to staff a Park Rapids Enbridge office as a community relations liaison, she responded, “I don’t represent the company.”

Enbridge has framed the pipeline argument as one of jobs and economic development. A decision on the Sandpiper is expected in the spring.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

(218) 732-3364
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