Oil & Water: A New Pipeline Is In The Works Across The St. Croix River’s Headwaters

Enbridge tells investors it wants to build a “Line 61 twin” to carry tar sands oil across Wisconsin.

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Line 61 oil pipeline crossing the Totogatic River, a tributary of the Namekagon River.
Line 61 oil pipeline crossing the Totogatic River, a tributary of the Namekagon River. (Greg Seitz, St. Croix 360)
Map of Line 61 pipeline's route across the St. Croix River headwaters
Map of Line 61 pipeline’s route across the St. Croix River headwaters, which Enbridge proposes to match with a second pipeline carrying heavy crude oil.

The company that owns and operates a controversial oil pipeline across four rivers in the St. Croix’s headwaters announced last week that it is planning to build a second pipeline along the same route. Senior leadership at Enbridge say the “Line 61 Twin” project is in the early stages of development.

The new pipeline has been a rumor since Enbridge sent a letter to landowners along the route in the winter of 2014 informing them of upcoming survey work. In February 2015, Enbridge spokeswoman Rebecca Haase told members of the public that she had no knowledge of more pipelines the company was planning to build across the St. Croix River watershed. Haase repeated the denial to the Sawyer County Record in May.

Then, at its annual investment conference this week, Enbridge’s president of liquid pipelines Guy Jarvis said the second pipeline would be an approximately $3 billion investment necessary to keep up with carrying capacity that will soon be available from the Canadian oil sands region to Superior, Wisconsin. There will be a bottleneck from there if expansion in Minnesota is not matched by a second pipe from Superior to terminals in Illinois.

Enbridge documents show the company anticipates it could transport about 23 million gallons of oil per day through the new pipeline.

“To unlock the potential of the entire reach of Mainline expansion opportunities we would need additional capacity from Superior to Flanagan which could conceivably come in the form of a twin of our Southern Access pipeline. The scope could again be up to a 42-inch pipeline… We are conducting early development work to assess the opportunity and industry interest because we think it is a compelling set of solutions in the current environment,” Jarvis said.

A slide from a presentation delivered to investors on Oct. 7, 2015 by Enbridge president of liquid pipelines Guy Jarvis
A slide from a presentation delivered to investors on Oct. 7, 2015 by Enbridge president of liquid pipelines Guy Jarvis

Line 61’s existing route has already been cause for concern and controversy. Built in 2007-2008 and expanded this year to 50 million gallons per day, the pipeline carries heavy crude under the upper St. Croix, Eau Claire, Totogatic, and Namekagon rivers. It was subject to several lawsuits when it was built, and the company received record fines for damage caused by construction. Enbridge also was responsible for the largest inland oil spill in United States history when one of its pipelines ruptured and dumped more than 800,000 gallons of oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010.

The recent project to triple Line 61’s capacity with new pump stations was done with almost no public input, no environmental review, and no analysis performed to ensure the pipeline is buried deep enough under the rivers to survive flooding. Running a second pipe next to Line 61 (and three older Enbridge pipelines in the corridor) could once again help Enbridge avoid oversight.

“Twinning projects have even fewer handles to influence them than new lines, simply because they sometimes don’t need any new easements at all,” said Rebecca Craven of the Pipeline Safety Trust.

This spring, Wisconsin made it easier for Enbridge to cross land without the property-owner’s permission. The legislature passed and Governor Scott Walker signed a bill in May that Enbridge helped write which ensures the company can use eminent domain.

Expansion of the pipeline system from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast could benefit the future export of oil to foreign markets. Such trade has been banned since the 1970s, but the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill last Friday that would lift restrictions. The legislation was supported by the American Petroleum Institute, which Enbridge is a member of. President Obama has said he would veto the bill.

When St. Croix 360 first reported about Line 61 route and risks last October, the pipeline expansion was almost done and there was little opportunity for citizen input. A new pipeline should require extensive review and public participation, and St. Croix 360 will follow the issue closely and continue to report on developments. Stay tuned.


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5 responses to “Oil & Water: A New Pipeline Is In The Works Across The St. Croix River’s Headwaters”

  1. Susan Klatt Avatar
    Susan Klatt

    How unfortunate that one giant company can endanger the natural resources for a precious natural resource that is so important to the people of Wisconsin and other states that benefit from this critical watershed.

  2. Kristin Tuenge Avatar
    Kristin Tuenge

    There should be a limit to the amount of endangerment of our rivers that is allowed. Is this pipeline really needed at this time??? The need to build it is not a matter of national security but protecting the health of our rivers is.. Unbridled capitalism will kill us.

  3. Dan Hooley Avatar
    Dan Hooley

    Another good article, Greg. Lots to be troubled by in this Enbridge action, but this is clearly a back door for tar sands oil transport (a bad thing), a get-around with the Keystone project on hold. Exporting the already horrific damage of tar sands extraction, and imperiling our river to boot (and honestly the company couldn’t care less about the river). Wisconsin’s obsequious roll-over for Enbridge is a travesty; government by and for the corporation. There is little public good served here–seems all anyone can do is get the word out, as you’re doing. Grateful for that, at least.

  4. Harlyn Rohr Avatar
    Harlyn Rohr

    Enbridge has proven time and again to be a dishonest broker in their negotiations thru out the country Including Canada , Michigan , Minnesota , North Dakota and Wisconsin , the list of Enbridge’s repeated failures to perform as originally agreed has been a ecological disaster of epic proportions (OIL SPILLS) on lands , lakes and waterways never to be restored to their original condition . Saint Croix 360 should point out to the good people of Wisconsin and the honorable Governor Walker that based on overwhelming evidence and past experience that any consideration of either negotiating and or contracting with Enbridge for pipeline replacement , extensions or expansions is a NON-STARTER and the search for a new reputable contractor to replace Enbridge should begin forth-with !

  5. Larry Whitaker Avatar
    Larry Whitaker

    The construction specifications pertaining to soil, stream conditions, wetland and other geologic issues must be examined and strengthened where needed. These specifications must be addressed at the local, state, and federal levels. Contact your government officials and demand timely
    reviews.

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Oil & Water: A New Pipeline Is In The Works Across The St. Croix River’s Headwaters