Water protectors take action at Line 3’s Willow River crossing, possible pipeline drilling problem found

This is a breaking story and will be updated.

Water protectors at Willow River. Photo: Keri Pickett, Honor the Earth

Early this morning, “dozens of water protectors standing in solidarity with Indigenous-led resistance shut down work at a Line 3 construction site by locking themselves to equipment and building several blockades on access roads,” according to a media release from Honor the Earth and Resist Line 3. “Two people surrounded by flowers locked themselves inside of a vehicle, while two others locked to drilling equipment inside the site.”

Willow River is one of 21 sites where Enbridge is boring a tunnel underneath the river, using a technique called Horizontal Directional Drilling, or HDD. It requires the use of drilling mud to keep the tunnel open.

Those on the ground are concerned that the HDD might have resulted in a “frac out” where the drilling mud escapes the tunnel through cracks in the soil and reaches the surface, in this case Willow River. See this video of water protector Shanai Matteson explaining what’s being seen on the ground and concerns about the drilling mud in the Willow River.

The Minnesota Office of Pipeline Safety has already contacted Enbridge about the incident, sources say.

Tania Aubid, front of the canoe. Photo: Keri Pickett, Honor the Earth

Law enforcement has water protector Tania Aubid, Winona LaDuke, co-founder of Honor the Earth and others kettled in the river. Arrests are expected. [Update: Four people reported arrested.]

“Minnesota, you will be held accountable along with the Federal and Canadian governments for the genocide of Mother Earth,” Aubid said, according to the media release.

“We have been trying for many years and moons to stop Enbridge, but here we are on the Willow River where Enbridge wants to cross it by digging underneath it,” LaDuke said, according to the media release. “But we the people are here in the river because the rivers belong to the fish, they belong to the animals, and they belong to the people. They don’t belong to Enbridge. So the people are protecting the rivers.”

Winona LaDuke in the Willow River. Photo: Keri Pickett

[Update, 2:38 p.m.: One big question is how quick and how thoroughly the state will respond to this potential frac out.

My friend and Watch-the-Line colleague Rita Chamblin called the state Duty Officer about the potential frac out. The state Duty Officer coordinates these kinds of complaints among state agencies. The complaint was already reported, the Duty Officer said. She had forwarded it to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The Duty Officer said the agencies are taking care of it. Chamblin said she pressed to see when someone from the state would be there personally. The Duty Officer didn’t know.

Chamblin called the MPCA to find out its response. (The agency is in turmoil today, as Commissioner Laura Bishop resigned this morning ahead of a Senate vote on her confirmation. The Senate was expected to fire her over the agency’s clean car policies.)

Chamblin said an MPCA staff person told her the Independent Environmental Monitors were on site. (As this blog has reported in the past, that’s not reassuring, as a number these “independent” monitors have worked for Enbridge in the past. They report to state agencies, but are trained and funded by Enbridge.)

Chamblin said that an independent monitor was not down at the potential frac out. She asked the MPCA staff if she had instructions on how water protectors could collect water samples, she said. The MPCA staff appeared taken aback, and said she didn’t think they’d ask water protectors to collect water samples.]

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