Supporters of the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline replacement project gathered Tuesday at the C’Mon Inn in Park Rapids for a stop on the Safest Way tour.

Representatives of state and local government, a member of Congressman Pete Stauber’s staff, and spokespersons from unions and advocacy groups gathered to speak in support of the project and encourage residents to sign a petition in favor of the pipeline replacement.

Among the attendees was Park Rapids Mayor Ryan Leckner. “I want to keep as informed as I can about the pipeline, and to see what the new pipe looked like, and get the updates on it so that I can inform the citizens,” he said.

The tour offered guests a range of Line 3 merchandise, a catered lunch and an opportunity to sign a traveling section of pipeline. An Enbridge booth displayed pieces of pipeline from the 1960s, when the original Line 3 was built, to compare with the thickness and quality of today’s materials.

“I just wanted to come out and see how it’s coming along,” said Gary Korsgaden, the zoning administrator for Henrietta Township. “We’ve had some people come to the meetings in protest. I support it.”

An avid outdoor sportsman who serves on statewide committees relating to fisheries, Korsgaden added, “I am concerned about water quality, too.”

His concern was echoed later by Louis Crombie, a member of Congressman Pete Stauber’s (R-8th Dist.) staff. Crombie quoted Stauber as saying, “We are all environmentalists, and that is why we need to see this project completed.”

The pipeline tour, starting early Tuesday morning in St. Cloud, was themed “Safest Way” in comparison to transporting oil by road or rail.

“Enbridge is in the process of replacing a line that’s been in the ground for over 60 years,” said Chris Tiedeman, a spokesman for the Minnesota Ag Energy Alliance. “It’s time to upgrade it to a newer, safer, cleaner pipeline.”

Tiedeman said the Alliance has received “a tremendous amount of outreach” from farmers and grain elevator operators in the area who “really want to see this oil moving safely and cleanly through pipelines, rather than on rail or in trucks.”

“We’re just advocating for the safest possible way for the environment,” said Mike Schoneberger with Minnesotans for Line 3. “I think the opposition knows that. ... It just shouldn’t be delayed any further.”

State Rep. Steve Green (R-Fosston) said opposition to the project “doesn’t make sense.” He said the Line 3 replacement represents “the technology ... to move this oil in the safest fashion that there possibly is,” while allowing Minnesotans to benefit from a boom economy.

“The amount of jobs that this could provide for our people, here, is unbelievable,” said Green. “On two of our reservations alone, we could be looking at 80 families to be lifted out of poverty.”

Park Rapids City Planner Andrew Mack called the Line 3 replacement “an important project for Minnesota, in particular the Park Rapids area. There’s a lot of jobs and economic development opportunities that will flow out of this.”

Randy Rice, director for the Line 3 replacement project on the facilities side, stressed that Enbridge isn’t going to disappear when the project is done. “We have plans to build a pipeline maintenance (PLM) shop in Park Rapids,” he said, “and having members of our family, our team, here in this community.”

Mack noted that Enbridge bought property from the city last year for the PLM shop.

Enbridge has already signed labor agreements with welders’, teamsters’, operators’ and laborers’ unions for the project, Rice said.

Kipp Hanson, political organizer for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49, said their agreement with Enbridge means a skilled workforce will build the pipeline to the highest standards.

The exciting thing, Hanson said, is that “this is going to be generating jobs in Minnesota. These are family-sustaining jobs with pensions, health insurance and benefits.”

“My husband works in North Dakota a lot,” said Christa Munson, who brought her two sons to the event. “I’m hoping that the revenue that this will bring in will cause him to be able to be home more.”

Hubbard County Commissioner David De La Hunt called Enbridge “great community partner for our area,” recalling a clean water grant Enbridge awarded to Henrietta Twp. to repair a stormwater runoff issue on Long Lake.

The five-member Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will consider the revised environmental review for Line 3 next month. Oral arguments and deliberations will be held Feb. 3-4 in St. Paul.