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Local View: Line 3 route threatens our water, lake properties, jobs

Mary Ackerman

The public hearings concerning the need and route for Enbridge's proposed Line 3 Replacement Project are nearly over. I've attended several in opposition to the proposed route. Should it prevail, there is much at stake. As a lake property owner and resident of Cass County, there are facts I have to consider.

This route originally was proposed for the Sandpiper pipeline, which would have carried a much smaller and cleaner product than will Line 3. Line 3 will carry a tar-sands product for which there is no current clean-up technology available in a water route.

This new route would cross 192 bodies of water, including the Mississippi River twice. Pipelines leak. They age. They can have major spills. It's not "if;" it's "when."

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are on record in opposition to the route and asked the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to consider alternatives that would skirt our lakes region.

The DNR has estimated that the southern and central nearly 60 percent of Minnesota lakes are "badly impaired and cannot be restored" or that "restoration is mostly unrealistic." No swimming and no fishing.

Our north-central portion of the state has the last 40 percent of lakes with "good quality — that can be protected." It's imperative we protect these waters.

Where I live — which includes Cass, Hubbard, Crow Wing, and Aitkin counties — is connected by watersheds and culture. In the four-county area are more than 122,000 second homes. The Minnesota Department of Revenue estimates that second-home owners spend nearly $3,300 locally and close to $10,000 annually with property taxes included. In Aitkin County, when the walleye season was cut short in one lake because of invasive species, the loss was estimated at more than $25 million in assessed property valuation alone.

I have given testimony in support of jobs, as has Enbridge. The company estimates around 2,500 construction jobs and up to 20 permanent jobs when the pipeline is running. The current employment estimate for my four-county area is at more than 17,000 full-time jobs. The University of Minnesota Extension Service estimated in 2008 that more than $700 million was spent in travel and tourism in this four-county area, exceeding every other county except for Hennepin and Ramsey counties in the Twin Cities.

Think of the lost jobs in our resorts, fishing services, restaurants, and small businesses if our lakes are impacted.

Seasonal homes are estimated to make up more than two-thirds of Crow Wing County's tax base. I'm guessing other counties would take a similar "hit" should there be a spill of tar-sands oil.

Another concern — and not a small one — is that the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Line 3 indicated that Native American populations would be "disproportionately impacted." The route threatens family and tribal incomes dependent on wild-rice harvesting. Why in the world would we knowingly discount our Native American residents instead of altering this route?

And there is an alternate route — "Route SA-04," which would go further south through land without water hazards, with soils more easily cleaned, and with a topography that's more open and visible so a leak could be more easily spotted. This alternative route would be a bit longer but have fewer bends and turns, meaning less potential for corrosion leaks. It's a better route.

Join me in urging the Public Utilities Commission to choose alternative Route SA-04. The commission is accepting public comments until Nov. 22. Email publicadvisor.puc@state.mn.us or comment online at mn.gov/puc/line3/participate/comment. Or you can write to Scott Ek of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commissions at 121 Seventh Place East, Suite 350, St. Paul MN 55101. If emailing, be sure to include docket number 15-137 (Route) and 65-2500-33377 (Route) in the subject line.

Mary Ackerman of Hackensack, Minn., is a founder of the Northern Waters Alliance of Minnesota (nwa-mn.net).

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