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Two alternate pipeline routes proposed

By Sarah Smith

Friends of the Headwaters has come up with two alternate pipeline routes and has submitted both to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

Both skirt lake country in central Minnesota, particularly Hubbard County, and one nearly bypasses the state entirely.

And as the enhanced comment period comes to a close, May 30, Administrative Law Judge Eric Lipman, who is hearing the pipeline case, has dealt a blow to Native Americans, ruling last week that 19th Century tribal treaties don’t give Honor the Earth standing to contest the Sandpiper route.

“The treaty does not forbid creation of new rights of way on the land that was sold in 1855,” Lipman wrote in a seven-page order. He said there’s no evidence the treaty rights will be harmed, but if they are, Indians would be compensated.

But Native Americans have vowed to keep the fight going, in state and federal courts.

Meanwhile, Friends of the Headwaters proposed several alternate routes to the Public Utilities Commission. The submitted routes avoid Minnesota’s Headwaters and lake country.  The rationale for these routes (included on the PUC e-docket) focuses on avoiding wild rice beds, fragile wetlands, shallow aquifers, lake country, and the Mississippi Headwaters.

“Our proposed routes also utilize already existing pipeline corridors and provide Enbridge with the opportunity to connect the Sandpiper and Line 3 ‘rebuild’ with existing Enbridge operations,” said Melodee Monicken in an email.

“The notion that Enbridge ‘has’ to go to Superior (Wisconsin) is not a contention they can prove with any rationale they want to share (since their preference for expedient routes and huge profits shouldn’t really be a factor in the PUC’s approval process).

“Maybe Enbridge insistence on the Superior destination is a prelude to the oil industry’s interest in Great Lakes shipping?  Or a sign of reliance on overseas markets?” she asked.

The Enbridge preferred route cuts right through the Mississippi Headwaters and lake country.

Friends of Headwaters contend the Straight River aquifer is already compromised. The routes proposed avoid shallow aquifers and other sensitive areas.

FOH worries that one pipeline leak during the lifespan of the Sandpiper could be catastrophic to the region’s ecosystem. The pipeline’s lifespan is projected to be 25-30 years.

Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman recently informed White Earth Chair Erma Vizenor that a set of formal hearings will commence this fall.

“We have asked the Public Utilities Commission to include at least one hearing on the White Earth Reservation and have been assured this will be the case,” Rothman wrote this month.

Rothman said form hearings will take place after an environmental review document has been completed by the department.

“The environmental review document will consider a comprehensive set of impacts from the proposed project,” Rothman wrote.

Sarah Smith

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

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