- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

WHITE EARTH, Minn. (AP) - White Earth tribal members are expressing their opposition to Enbridge Energy’s plan to reroute a 50-year-old oil pipeline near the tribe’s reservation, saying natural resources could be harmed.

The Calgary-based energy company wants to deviate part of the pipeline known as Line 3 from its current path along Highway 2 to the proposed Sandpiper pipeline corridor, which likely will run near White Earth, where the tribe’s reservation is located.

About 100 people attended a public hearing on the proposal Tuesday night at Rice Lake Community Center on the White Earth Indian Reservation. Most of the tribal members voiced concerns over the potential for the oil pipeline to leak and damage the tribe’s land.

White Earth member Leonard Thompson was among many who are worried about the possible impact of the new Line 3.

“Eventually something is going to go wrong with a pipeline,” he said, “and then our land is ruined.”

Enbridge plans to replace 1,031 miles of an old pipeline across Minnesota from Canada to Superior, Wisconsin, Minnesota Public Radio News (https://bit.ly/1J3KmKe ) reported. About 300 miles of the line, stretching from Clearbrook to the Wisconsin border, would be rerouted to follow proposed Sandpiper route and would cut through a large area of lakes and forests in northern Minnesota.

The company plans to leave the old Line 3 in the ground.

“They’re just going to let it rot,” said White Earth member Frank Bibeau, who lives along the current Line 3 and wants the old line torn out when it’s replaced and rerouted. “It’s guaranteed to be a problem at some point.”

Even if the abandoned line sits safety for 50 or 100 years, it eventually will break down, he said.

White Earth spiritual leader Michael Dahl argued that the issue comes down to wild rice, because the proposed line would run close to Lower Rice Lake, where 200,000 pounds of wild rice is produced every year.

“Rice is everything,” Dahl said. “It’s the first solid food our children eat, and the last meal of our dying elders.”

Almost everyone in White Earth rices in that lake, he said, and the wild rice is sold, consumed and factors into tribal legends and ceremonies. An oil spill wouldn’t just damage the land, it also would bankrupt the spiritual and physical resources of the community, according to Dahl.

He hopes the treaties giving tribes the right to hunt, fish and gather in northern Minnesota will allow tribal members to protect the wild rice and stop the pipeline.

“I wouldn’t take on a fight I didn’t think I could win,” Dahl said.


Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org

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