The construction to replace Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline is moving forward. Environmental studies, public comments, and court decisions have cleared a path for this venture.

However, disruptive protests continue at an enormous cost and use of emergency resources.

The pipeline is 60 years old and reduced to half-capacity use. Recognizing the need to ensure a safe and efficient vessel to transport oil, Enbridge has made the responsible decision and financial commitment to replace this aging structure.

With many large projects comes opposition in the form of peaceful and sometimes-dangerous protests.

The city of Virginia is a proud and progressive community. We are cognizant of our commitments to our citizens and surrounding towns and cities. We never hesitate to assist our neighbors when they are in need. The city of Virginia, with the leadership from our Emergency Management Team in Fire and EMS, secured funding to establish an Urban Search and Rescue Team, or USAR Team. This team is comprised of specialized personnel trained from across this region. Ours is one of only two in the state of Minnesota.

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Recently, this team responded to a Line 3 protest in Carlton County. At a construction site, a protester jumped into a deep trench filled with silt and water and another climbed atop an overhanging pipe. This posed an incredible risk for the protesters, workers, and first responders who were working to safely extricate the protesters without injury. In this case, the USAR team deployed and organized a safe and peaceful conclusion to the incident.

This team is designed to respond to unforeseeable accidents, emergencies, and disasters. Unfortunately, while the USAR team was in Carlton County, members from the Virginia Fire EMS were not available to respond to a fire here at home. These types of protests have other repercussions and affect other communities.

We all believe in and support one’s right to speak out in protest and disagreement — but not at the risk of injuring others. Our fire and EMS personnel should be focusing on real emergencies.

I implore those protesters who are passionate about their beliefs to rise above the nonsense before situations escalate to where someone is gravely injured or loses their life.

Larry Cuffe, Jr., is mayor of Virginia, Minnesota. He wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.