Construction Prompting Continued Backlash for Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Project
Ground Broke for the Final, Minnesota Portion of the Project in December of 2020
CARLTON COUNTY, Minn. – A project six years in the making has officially broken ground.
It was back on Oct. 24, 2014, when Enbridge Energy filed its notice plan with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to begin moving forward on a massive 2.9 billion dollar replacement project of its Line 3 pipeline responsible for transporting crude oil.
Ground broke on the Minnesota portion of Line 3 replacement in Dec. of 2020.
Enbridge reports success in the first few months, after years of work to obtain dozens of permits for the project.
For seven years, the project has received backlash from many indigenous communities, and those in support of protecting the environment.
It’s no surprise, the controversy surrounding the route of the replacement line is igniting fury from those in its path, especially those with ties to sacred indigenous lands.
“We’re out here drawing awareness to the destruction of this cultural ground known as Grandma’s Table,” said Taysha Martineau, a member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
The sacred site is situated on the reservation of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Carlton County.
“Many people are ready and prepared to do whatever it takes to stop Line 3,” said Martineau.
Yet two months in, and crews continue to work as planned chaos and commotion play out in the distance.
“These are the lands that my children will be a part of and the lands of my grandchildren,” said Martineau.
The cultural significance and worry of what could happen are what prompts Martineau to be vocal and make a routine visual presence.
“As an Anishinaabe person, I’m taught to look seven generations ahead, but I can’t even see a future for my grandchildren if they build this pipeline,” said Martineau.
She fears the worst and expects the Enbridge Corporation to understand her concerns and common hope among members of her tribe.
“I hope that we continue drawing awareness to the anti-pipeline movement and continued efforts to stop Line 3,” said Martineau.
It’s a goal that most likely won’t become a reality unless action is taken on the federal level.
Barry Simonson is the go-to-guy for anything Line 3.
As the project director, he knows what it took, and what it will take to see the completion of this closely monitored, massive overhaul.
Safety is priority number one,” said Simonson. “In terms of construction, it’s very different depending on where you’re at within the 340 miles of replacement.”
The winter weather has been crucial in the first phases of the project. Now it’s crunch time as spring starts to show itself once again across Northern Minnesota.
“We need to have a certain amount of frost driven to safely build the pipeline in the winter areas,” said Simonson. “There are about 23 plus miles of areas that the DNR has conditioned us to do in the winter.”
The technique of ground freezing is used where the soil needs to be stabilized so it will not collapse next to excavations, and also to prevent contaminants spilled into the soil from being leached away.
“The process is very diligent,” said Simonson. “At the heart of it all is safety and environmental stewardship.”
Enbridge is well aware of the sensitivity the project provokes. They say the careful and thorough planning leading up to construction will continue to be followed as the new and improved pipeline is put in place.
“A lot of the activities that have occurred so far have included safely identifying underground utilities, creating access roads, clearing of the right-away, as well as preparation of them right away to have the pipes strung out, welded, ditching and lowering in,” said Simonson.
The existing, corroding Line 3 pipeline simply isn’t safe anymore. Constructed in the 1960s, the pipeline was put into service more than 50 years ago, in 1968.
“Replacing Line 3 is the most widely appropriate thing to do from a safety perspective and environment,” Simonson explained.
The existing line runs nearly 11-hundred miles from Alberta, Canada to the main terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. The replacement comes with man-engineered enhancements to help ensure safety decades down the road.
“This is brand new, high-grade, high-strength steel. It’s thicker, much thicker than the existing Line 3 that’s operating right now,” said Simonson. “It has fusion bond epoxy coating which is state of the art in terms of the pipeline itself.”
Enhanced block valves will also ensure swift action is taken if there were to be a major spill.
“If there ever was a release, we’re able to shut the pipeline down. We have power, communications, and permit access to each of those valves across all 340 miles of the pipeline,” said Simonson.
It’s the progress of ingenuity that’s helping Enbridge reassure those skeptical of the new 340 miles worth of pipeline currently being installed in Minnesota.
“It is the safest way to transport crude oil,” stated Simonson.
This statement continues to be supported by The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
“The existing Line 3 was able to and did flow around 760,000 barrels per day previously,” said Simonson.
Those in opposition to Line 3 replacement argue it’s time to move forward with more sustainable, renewable sources of energy.
“We need a Green New Deal — We need to start moving forward toward a more sustainable future,” said Martineau. “There are permits that he could do away with, with the stroke of a pen.”
Martineau, referring to President Joe Biden and his recent executive action taken to halt the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline project projected to run from Western Canada to Steele City, Nebraska.
“It gives me hope and I hope my brothers, uncles, and relatives who are fighting KXL will join me here to stop Line 3,” said Martineau.
The hope of the new Line 3 project being halted is not something much middle-class, unionized workers take lightly. Enbridge says they commit to employing skilled workers throughout many diverse communities.
“There’s a commitment to Enbridge to provide a highly-skilled union workforce with over 50 percent coming from the local union halls in the State of Minnesota,” said Simonson.
A project labor agreement is already in place with the national unions to build the replacement pipeline, creating new jobs and boosting the local economies in many Minnesota communities.
“We have a 100 million dollar commitment with the PUC for tribal spend, which is labor on the project as well as businesses. So we have many tribal contractors working across the project and it’s important for their businesses to grow,” said Simonson.
Simonson says Enbridge is proud to provide a project that will help infuse wages back into the economy, especially during a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is creating economic turmoil for many.
“This project provides a boost to the economies from our union workforce on the project,” said Simonson.
Moving forward, Enbridge hopes the process will continue with little to no disruptions like this suspicious package incident that took place on February 19th, posing a threat to the residents of the Fond du Lac Reservation, Northern Big Lake Community, and the workers involved with Line 3.
A statement was released by Band Chairman Kevin R. Dupuis, Sr. regarding the incident:
“Although we as FDL people have a long tradition of extending hospitality to respectful
visitors, family and friends, last week’s incident was a betrayal of our openness and has
forced us to remind FDL Band members and non-members, alike, that FDL leadership will not tolerate violence or threats of violence within our community,” said Band Chairman, Kevin R. Dupuis, Sr.
“It goes back to relationships, it goes back to understanding that we’re here in your community, we have been in your community for 70 plus years, and this is a different route for Line 3, but we want to make sure that landowners are the first defense also in preventative maintenance,” said Simonson.
As for protesters, they say don’t expect them to let their guard down anytime soon.
The Canadian portion of the replacement project is already complete.
Construction on the 100 million dollar, 13.3 mile Wisconsin segment of the project wrapped up in Dec. of 2017.
Click here for a full review of permits acquired by Enbridge Energy for the Line 3 replacement project.