By Sarah Smith

If and when Enbridge Energy gets approval to build the Sandpiper 600, pipes are being stockpiled near Lake George for the project.

The Canadian energy company is finalizing plans to build the 600-mile pipeline from Tioga, N.D., to Superior, Wis., part of which is now scheduled to skirt Hubbard County’s western and southern borders.

A firestorm of opposition has arisen, but simultaneously pockets of support have sprouted as well.

In August, Hubbard County’s Regional Economic Development Commission voted to support the pipeline. Executive director David Collins has spoken in favor of the project.

Enbridge spokeswoman Christine Davis said with a project the “size and complexity” of the Sandpiper, pipes must be ordered years in advance. The pipes are just coming in now, she added, to several pipeline yards throughout the project route. Their presence in Hubbard County doesn’t mean the company will build there. The Lake George location is simply a temporary pipe yard, she said.

The company has notified Hubbard County commissioners, the sheriff and other individuals, Davis said.

Two routes in the $2.5 billion project have been considered but the company favors the route that runs from Clearbrook to Hubbard County, near the Mississippi Headwaters area, around Park Rapids, then east to Wisconsin. That is the most cost efficient route, company officials have said.

Meanwhile, regular delivery of pipes from the railroad spur near Highways 200 and 2 have been moving toward Lake George, piling up on a field there. Hubbard County officials said the pipes are for the Sandpiper.

Company officials had estimated a project start in late 2014 or early 2015, said spokeswoman Christine Davis. The project would employ up to 3,000 workers in the two states, Davis said.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has instructed the company to notify property owners along each route.

According to the Friends of the Headwaters, “ultimate design capacity” from Clearbrook to Superior would be 711,000 barrels per day. This number is important, because it can be used to estimate the maximum amount of crude oil that could be pumped out of the Sandpiper Pipeline each minute if it ruptures into lakes, creeks, or rivers while the pumps are still operating. 

“Since there are 1,440 minutes in a day, if the Sandpiper is operated with full pumping power up to the limit established by federal law, it could pump out 493.75 barrels or 20,738 gallons of crude oil during each minute of full operation (divide 711,000 barrels per day by 1,440 minutes per day).

“By way of comparison, a typical semi tanker truck holds about 9,000 gallons. So, another way to think of this is that the Sandpiper at worst could pump out over two semi tanker trucks of oil each minute before its pumps are shut off. So you know Enbridge will not be able to shut off the Sandpiper Pipeline instantly... This is a very large mass of liquid with a large momentum that cannot be stopped instantly,” the group indicated.

The “ultimate annual capacity” from North Dakota to Clearbrook would be 365,000 barrels per day, and from Clearbrook to Superior 640,000 barrels per day. This the maximum average amount that the pipeline could move each day if Enbridge installs its maximum number of pumps and operates them at maximum capacity, taking into account downtime for maintenance, repairs, and other practical operating limitations,” FOH said.

The company has said it will not install the maximum number of pipes immediately.

According to FOH, Enbridge proposes 250,000 barrels per day for the 24-inch pipeline to Clearbrook and 417.000 barrels per day for the 30-inch pipe leaving Clearbrook.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, “the State Department posted documents that show Enbridge has hatched a scheme to almost double the flow of tar sands into the Great Lakes region along its Alberta Clipper pipeline (also known as Line 67), in contradiction to its existing permit.

“This is a substantial change in how tar sands enter the United States. Federal law requires the State Department to approve any such change only if the following requirements have been met: (1) public notice and involvement, (2) a detailed environmental review, and (3) a national interest determination.

“This is the process governing review of the Keystone XL pipeline,” the NWF said.

“But here, none of these requirements have been followed,” the group indicated.

Meanwhile, pipes are filling up on the landscape along Highway 71 east of Lake George.

“We never know when they are milled after we order them,” Davis said. “The order was placed years in advance.”