The Potluck

White Earth leaders urge Walz, Biden to cancel Line 3

By: - July 9, 2021 5:22 pm

More than 2,000 people converged on northern Minnesota to oppose further construction of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline on June 7, 2021. Photo by Rilyn Eischens/Minnesota Reformer.

Leaders of the White Earth Nation called on Gov. Tim Walz and President Joe Biden on Friday to halt construction of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline in northern Minnesota.

They shared concerns during a news conference that the project could harm wild rice — a sacred food for the Anishinaabe — especially given the drought and a recent permit change that allows Enbridge to extract 4.9 billion gallons of groundwater during construction. That’s nearly a tenfold increase from the original permit, which gave permission to remove 510.5 million gallons of water.

Enbridge said in June that the water is “immediately discharged back into the surrounding area and allowed to infiltrate; therefore, it will not reduce the amount of available groundwater in any given area.”

“We are calling upon you for your help,” said Alan Roy, secretary-treasurer of the White Earth Nation. “Our sacred food needs your help. Our water needs your help. Our people need your help.”

In late June, the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe sent a letter to Walz raising concerns that the Department of Natural Resources didn’t sufficiently engage with tribes before it approved the change to Enbridge’s “dewatering” permit.

The letter requested that Walz direct the DNR to rescind the amended permit until the department consults with White Earth and other affected tribes. The permit is still in place.

“Mahnomen (wild rice) grows everywhere right now in northern Minnesota, and it’s being starved out from water, and starved out from its nutrients. People are going to have a hard time going out and harvesting,” said Frank Bibeau, tribal attorney for White Earth, during the news conference.

Bibeau said the Line 3 project violates the tribes’ treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather on lands the pipeline will travel through. The tribe has tried working through legal and administrative systems to stop the pipeline, he said, referencing a handful of appeals filed by the tribe, along with the Red Lake Nation and environmental groups, that have been decided in Enbridge’s favor.

“So we’re asking one more time, to exhaust our administrative remedies: Please stop what you’re doing,” Bibeau said.

The 337-mile Line 3 replacement is about 60% complete and expected to be operational by the end of the year, following six years of permitting, review and litigation.

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a data reporter with the Reformer. Rilyn is a Minnesota native and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.