How much damage could Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline wreak in Wisconsin? Take the tour!

Every time a new crude oil pipeline is proposed, community efforts to stop it get better and better.

Such is the case with efforts to stop the new Enbridge Line 5 in Wisconsin. People mobilizing to stop it have created a virtual tour of a critical portion of pipeline route so others can see the potential harm.

They did a fantastic job of combining a map, narrative, and photos. Check it out here.

Enbridge has proposed building a new Line 5 from Superior, Wisc. to Sarnia, Ontario, traversing northern Wisconsin and Michigan. It also would cross under the Great Lakes at the Straits of Mackinac.

The current Line 5 crosses 12 miles of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Reservation. Line 5’s easement is expired and the Band has denied requests to renew it.

Enbridge has proposed a 40-mile reroute south of the reservation. Even then, it would have a big impact on Bad River. The Line 5 reroute would cross many rivers and streams that feed into the Bad River Reservation.

The reroute also just skirts Copper Falls State Park. “Ancient lava flows, deep gorges and spectacular waterfalls make Copper Falls State Park one of Wisconsin’s most scenic parks,” the Wisconsin DNR said.

Screen grab of the online tour. The solid black line is Line 5’s current route, the dotted line the proposed reroute, and the green line the driving tour.

The proposed Line 5 reroute roughly parallels State Highways 112, 13 and 169. The photos on the virtual tour were taken from these highways. (The tour provides mile markers for those who want to drive it themselves. The markers don’t exist on the ground. They work if you set your trip odometer to zero at the start at Maslowski Beach, the west end of the tour.)

The 40+ miles of road takes you through all five sub-watersheds [of the Bad River Watershed], from the clay plains of the bottomlands to the sandy rocky outcroppings of the Penokee Mountain Range and back to outlooks near Lake Superior. …

The coming and going of the glaciers acted in numerous ways on the landscape. They scoured out the deep trenches of Lake Superior, wore down the tall Penokees and laid a “slip” of sandy loamy soils in the uplands as they receded. Springs, seeps, waterfalls, artesian wells, and cold waters emerged along the ravines of the plains and uplands, resulting in scores of trout streams and wetlands. This region serves as the recharge zone of the Copper Falls Aquifer, the region’s source of clean drinking water.

Virtual tour of the Bad River Watershed

You should check out the whole site. Here are three things that jumped out at me.

1. The Enbridge Line 5 pipeline raises the prospect of very serious treaty violations, just like Line 3 in Minnesota.

According to the site: “The 1842 Treaty of La Pointe ceded or transferred much of what is now northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula from the Lake Superior and Mississippi Ojibwe bands of the Anishinaabeg. This treaty, like previous treaties signed by the Lake Superior and Mississippi Ojibwe bands, retained tribal treaty rights of usual occupancy on lands ceded to the United States. These rights include the ability to hunt, fish, and gather.”

Pipeline construction and future oil spills could be devastating to this environmentally sensitive area and Bad River’s treaty rights to use them.

2. The proposed reroute threatens an environmental gem.

Milepost 4.1 on the driving tour.

The photo above is taken from State Highway 112, less than a half mile from where the proposed Line 5 would run.

Here’s the narrative: “Ponds on the left (east) are examples of landowner efforts aimed at preserving and restoring wetlands. Wisconsin has lost over half of its wetlands and with that the significant contribution to strong ecosystems. Many of the remaining functional wetlands exist in the Bad River Watershed.”

3. Concerns over heavy rains, flash floods.

Flood damage on Highway 13 at Mile Post 17.8 on the driving tour.

The photo above shows the effects of the July, 2016 flood on Trout Brook, a Class 2, and in places Class 3, trout stream. “It rose from the ravine to completely wash out Highway 13. Not only did the road disappear, but also the tall timbers supporting the railroad,” the description said.

It continues: “A significant concern regarding the ‘flashy’ nature of streams and the frequent 100-year floods is the relationship of Line 5 to road conditions. After the last major flood, it took the joint effort … to repair roads, most of which are gravel. Damages incurred to public infrastructure in Ashland and Iron Counties exceeded $23 million … The ability of Enbridge to respond to an emergency or oil spill, if it occurs during flooding, has been called into question. Putting an oil pipeline in the area creates great risk to the ecosystem and people of the watershed.”

Click here to view the website.

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