Conservation Minnesota

Pipeline Expansion Threatens Wild Rivers

JohnHellandbiopicIn previous blog posts – June 3, April 17 – I wrote about the increasing pipeline expansion concerns and spill threats in our water-based environment of lakes and streams.  Now our neighbor Wisconsin is experiencing the same concerns because of the same company, Enbridge.

A pipeline completed in 2008, Line 61, that runs from Superior in a southeast diagonal through Wisconsin, is proposed to carry twice as much crude oil as originally conceived.  New pumping stations have been built in the St. Croix river headwaters area that could allow 50 million gallons of oil a day to flow though Line 61 sometime in 2015.

This amount would be more than expected in the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

The oil mainly would be bitumen crude, tar sands related, which needs chemicals like benzene to help dilute the flow through the pipeline.  If a spill occurred in the St. Croix watershed, or another watershed downstream, bitumen crude would sink to the river bottom because of its thickness.

The same oil characteristics existed in the Kalamazoo river spill in Michigan four years ago that is still being cleaned up at great expense.

Line 61 now runs through four of the cleanest, most scenic and highly recreational rivers in northwest Wisconsin:  the St. Croix, Namekagon, Eau Claire, and Totogatic.  The first two are part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act designation, and the last is one of only four state wild and scenic rivers named in Wisconsin.

A nonprofit called Friends of the St. Croix Headwaters, along with the St. Croix River Association, is trying to spread the word and organize about the Line 61 expansion.  No environmental impact statement is authorized for the project, only an environmental assessment was done on the original pipeline construction in 2007-08.

An engineer familiar with the project has said that Enbridge is using the cheapest pipeline steel, which makes it more corrosive over time.  Since the St. Croix is an important border river between our state and Wisconsin, and many Minnesotans have seasonal cabins in the St. Croix headwaters area, it behooves us to pay attention to another pipeline oil spill threat.

After all, doesn’t the St. Croix, with its national identity and heritage, deserve the greatest degree of sensitivity and protection?

Additional information available here:

Oil & Water: Pipeline To Triple Flows Under St. Croix Headwaters

October 12, 2014

About John Helland

John Helland
John Helland is a history graduate of the University of Minnesota. He served as the nonpartisan legislative research analyst for the Minnesota House of Representatives after graduation. He worked extensively on environment and natural resources legislation and issues, and was the primary nonpartisan research staffer for the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance committees from 1971 to 2008.
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