BEMIDJI, Minn. — Enbridge staff and supporters took a virtual victory lap Thursday, Dec. 10, as construction on Line 3 gets underway in Minnesota.

In a digital construction kick-off event, elected officials and Enbridge leadership spoke about their excitement in getting the work started and the expected impact on the economy. The event comes after Enbridge received the last of its needed permits last month after about six years of review and legal work.

Enbridge's project will build a new oil pipeline to replace the current Line 3, which was installed in the 1960s. Currently, the existing pipeline is operating at half capacity because of its age and condition.

Unlike the existing pipeline's 34-inch diameter, the new Line 3 will be 36 inches. More than 1,000 miles long, the new pipeline will carry an average of 760,000 barrels of oil per day from Edmonton, Alberta to Superior, Wis., where a terminal is located. In Minnesota, 337 miles of pipeline will be installed.

"The Line 3 replacement project is a safety driven project and it's the largest in our history, spanning over 1,000 miles on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border," Leo Golden, vice president of the Line 3 replacement project, said during Thursday's event. "Almost 700 miles of the pipeline are already in service and operating safely. We're about to take that experience and build on our success as we start construction in Minnesota."

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"This project is going to be done right," said U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber. "It's going to help our economies in all of the counties that it goes through. Especially those counties where the unemployment rate is higher, this is going to help rejuvenate them and bring some much-needed investments."

The total investment for the Line 3 project is estimated at $2.9 billion. In Minnesota, 8,600 jobs are anticipated from the project, with 4,200 of them being union.

Gordon Jallen, general manager of EWC, construction manager at Red Lake Builders and a member of the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe, was enthusiastic about the project during Thursday's presentation.

"I can tell you we are certainly excited to get started on replacing Line 3," Jallen said. "The partnerships with Enbridge are strong and will benefit all parties for a long time. The tribal community will benefit by having band members work on the project and bring a good paycheck home."

Both the original and new pipelines follow a route from Canada to North Dakota and through northwest Minnesota until they reach Clearbrook. The original pipeline takes a more direct path east toward Superior, going through the Leech Lake Nation.

The new route will instead go south from Clearbrook, to the border of Hubbard and Wadena Counties, and then extend east toward Wisconsin. Once the new Line 3 is operational, the current pipeline will be decommissioned and remain Enbridge's responsibility to monitor and maintain.

"We've been looking forward to this for five years," Clearbrook Mayor Dylan Goudge said. "Line 3 for our community is unbelievably important. The project that will be happening here is going to help the economy substantially. All of the people that live around here who are in the construction industry will be working, and they'll be bringing in money and spending more locally."

In his comments, Enbridge CEO Al Monaco said the company's priority is to keep employees safe as the project moves forward through the coronavirus pandemic and be environmentally secure.

"Starting construction is a pretty big deal for all of us," Monaco said. "I want to thank the thousands of Minnesotans who supported us and Line 3. Now it's in our hands to build this project together safely. We're using the industry leading standards here for testing and screening. We'll also need to work safely in communities to protect the environment as we go."

The project has been met with opposition over the past several years, which has continued in recent months. For example, recently the White Earth Nation and Red Lake Nation filed a motion to stay, or pause, the project from starting in Minnesota. However, that motion was voted down 4-1 by the Public Utilities Commission on Dec. 4.