The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources issued a press release July 23 responding to questions asked about the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Project as well as current construction activity.
From the release:
• How can Enbridge continue with construction given drought-related restrictions on its water appropriations permits?
The Minnesota DNR has temporarily suspended surface water appropriations for some permittees in watersheds where flow conditions meet certain triggers. These suspensions include Enbridge’s water appropriations for dust control, horizontal directional drilling (HDD) and hydrostatic line testing in some locations. Enbridge’s surface water use is currently under suspension in Crow Wing River, Pine River, Mississippi River – Brainerd and St. Louis River watersheds.
“The Minnesota DNR has not suspended Enbridge’s HDD activity itself in these watersheds, or elsewhere, due to drought conditions,” the release read. “Much of the pipeline route traverses areas where water appropriations permits are not currently subject to suspension. Within the watersheds where Enbridge’s surface water use has been suspended, the company may continue to conduct HDD activity if it is using stored water previously appropriated or obtains water from another appropriate and available source.”
The DNR added that it continues to monitor and manage the drought situation statewide in accordance with its drought management plan and will temporarily suspend or modify additional appropriations as necessary.
• Why is Enbridge being allowed to continue its trench dewatering in watersheds where its water permits have been suspended?
The DNR said it is “aware of questions and concerns” regarding a process called trench dewatering and an amended water appropriations permit granted to Enbridge for this process June 4, 2021.
“This permit allows Enbridge to pump and temporarily store groundwater in order to keep construction trenches dry,” the response read. “The Minnesota DNR’s water permit suspensions described above apply to surface waters, not groundwater. Groundwater permits are not generally suspended during a drought, unless there are specific concerns, such as impacts to associated surface waters or well interference issues.”
The DNR added, “By its nature, trench dewatering is only needed when groundwater accumulates in a construction trench. The water is stored, treated and then returned to the area near the construction activity, where it seeps back into the ground and the water table. The dewatering activity occurs over a few days at any one location.
Any localized impacts to natural resources due to the temporary lowering of the water table are short‐term and minimal.”
The Enbridge groundwater appropriations permit that was amended on June 4 allowed an increase in the volume of temporary dewatering from 510.5 million gallons to approximately 4.9 billion gallons.
This volume is for the entirety of the pipeline route. Prior to granting the amendment, the Minnesota DNR evaluated the requested volume increase and determined it would not threaten groundwater sustainability or have other unacceptable natural resource impacts. To the extent current drought conditions are affecting the water table along portions of the pipeline route, the company’s dewatering needs may be lower than anticipated (i.e., if the water table is lower due to drought, the company won’t need to pump and store as much groundwater to keep excavation sites dry).
The Minnesota DNR said it will continue to monitor the situation.
ARRESTS IN HUBBARD COUNTY
Winona LaDuke was one of seven arrested Monday in Hubbard County.
LaDuke and six others, who were protesting the continued work of the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Project along the Shell River, were arrested according to a press release from Honor the Earth late July 19.
The press release said that LaDuke and the others were peacefully protesting the pipeline work, but she and the others were arrested when they refused to leave. The seven were booked into the Wadena County Jail and charged with trespass on critical public service facilities.
According to a Facebook video statement, LaDuke was released three days later.
Activists planned a “riverwalk” event for Sunday in hopes of gaining the attention of Washington to shut down the project.
According to a press release from Honor the Earth’s Martin Keller, the Sunday event was part of the “Red Road to DC,” a cross-country tour highlighting indigenous sacred sites at risk.
Tribal members and indigenous activists said the pipeline is a violation of the Treaty of 1855 and a threat to their sacred waters. Organizers of the Red Road tour stopped in Minnesota to display a totem pole by Lummi Nation carvers to highlight sacred sites at risk due to development and infrastructure projects.
A temporary restraining order against Hubbard County, Sheriff Cory Aukes, and the local land commissioner in northern Minnesota was granted last week.
In a release from the Center for Protest Law and Litigation, it was stated that local law enforcement had blockaded access to a camp serving as “a convergence space and home for indigenous-led organizing, decolonization and treaty rights trainings and religious activities by water protectors seeking to defend the untouched wetlands and the treaty territory of the Anishinaabe peoples.”