Enbridge is a Decade Away from a Lease Crisis in Minnesota; Line 3 Reroute is its Escape Hatch

It turns out Enbridge might reroute a number of its pipelines through the Mississippi River headwaters.

An under reported aspect of the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline debate is how the state’s Line 3 decision will affect the four other crude oil pipelines in Enbridge’s mainline corridor — a corridor passing through both reservation lands and treaty territory.

This debate isn’t just about Line 3, but Lines 1, 2B, 3, 4 and 67, all crude oil pipelines. (A sixth pipeline, Line 13, carries diluent north to Alberta, a product used to make the tar sands flow more easily through the pipes.)

Enbridge faces an easement crisis in the mainline corridor in a little more than a decade. Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly says in her recently released report and recommendations to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC):

In 2029, Enbridge’s easements with the federal government, allowing it to run six pipelines through the two Indian Reservations [Leech Lake and Fond du Lac], will expire. Thus, sometime before 2029, [Enbridge] will need to either renegotiate those easements with the Tribes and the federal government; or remove those lines from the Reservations. Approval of the Project, as proposed, would result in a partially new oil pipeline corridor being created in the State where Applicant could someday request to relocate its other pipelines. This is especially true if negotiations with the Tribes before 2029 are unsuccessful. (page 10)

We wrote in an earlier blog that Enbridge quietly started plans to relocate multiple pipelines in this new corridor: Enbridge’s Secret: It Has Easements Allowing for More Pipelines in the New Corridor. By rerouting Line 3, Enbridge seems to be trying to create a new route for all of its pipelines and avoid the 2029 lease negotiations. It’s highly unlikely that Leech Lake and/or Fond du Lac would approve new leases.

This is no argument to approve the new route. This is making transparent Enbridge’s plans to build lots more pipelines through our cleanest waters and then abandon them in the coming decades as the fossil fuel industry dies out. It’s also important to note that while the new Line 3 would not cross reservation lands, it would still cross treaty protected lands where Ojibwe have rights to hunt, fish and gather — rights that the pipeline would impact.

The PUC is expected to vote on Line 3 by late June.

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Episcopal Church Returns Land to the Ojibwe; Praise for Closing the Upper St. Anthony Lock

The Episcopal Church in Minnesota is giving its Cass Lake Episcopal Camp (CLEC) property to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Bishop Brian Prior announced this month.

In a December 7 email to church members, Prior acknowledged that the announcement would come as sad news to those who, like him, found camping ministry important to their spiritual development. However, he noted that the Episcopal Church had not used the camp for well over a decade and the property was in disrepair. The decision came after a lengthy review. He wrote:

The resurrection news, the Good News that Jesus calls all of us to, is that the property that CLEC was privileged to enjoy for a good long season is once again in the loving hands of those who first enjoyed this amazing piece of God’s creation.

As an aside, it’s worth nothing that Leech Lake has suffered as much as any reservation in the country from the effects of “checker boarding,”  the government policy of dividing tribal-held land into individual allotments to make it easier to sell. Cris Stainbrook of the Indian Land Tenure Foundation spoke at a Healing Minnesota Stories event in early 2015 and explained the process.

The Leech Lake Reservation is one of the worst examples of the effects of allotment of any reservation in the country — and I mean any. The Leech LakeBand and individual allotees own 4 percent of the reservation. In terms of economic development, Leech Lake is the poorest tribe in Minnesota.
May the camp land be a benefit to the Leech Lake community.

Praise for the Closing of the Upper St. Anthony Lock

The Circle Newspaper has a great article by Jon Lurie this month with a Native perspective on the closing of the Upper St. Anthony Lock in Minneapolis. The piece is titled: A History of Owamni Yomni: Lock Closures Signal Healing for Mississippi River.

It begins by noting that the Dakota name for the waterfall is Owamni Yomni, or whirlpool, a place revered for centuries for its tremendous spiritual power and inspiration.

The article traces the waterfall’s history, noting:

In the years that followed Hennepin’s visit, a series of white explorers, missionaries, business tycoons and politicians came through the area and – following Hennepin’s lead, renamed sacred sites to reflect their claims to the area and erase the memory of the Dakota’s special relationship to the land and water.

The Upper St. Anthony Lock opened in 1963. The article notes that Dakota spiritual leaders predicted its downfall at the time, warning that people should leave spiritual places alone. Towards the end, the article concludes:

By closing the Upper Saint Anthony Falls Lock, Congress has acted to return Owamni Yomni to function as it had for centuries, as a divide between the upper and lower Mississippi River’s unique natural systems. At least one important food supply to Minnesota’s Native population will now be protected from invasive carp: 90% of Minnesota’s wild rice grows north of Saint Anthony falls within the Mississippi watershed.

After three centuries of destruction, and the remaking the Dakota homelands in their own image, it appears efforts are underway by the non-Indian population to repair at least some of the damage.

Read the full article.