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MINNESOTA LINES: Reactions varied to request for two additional pipelines

STEPHEN, Minn. - Five pipelines sit in a corridor that cuts diagonally across northwestern Minnesota. Plans are to add two more by the end of 2009. For some landowners in that path, that familiarity has bred contempt. For others, the familiarity ...

STEPHEN, Minn. - Five pipelines sit in a corridor that cuts diagonally across northwestern Minnesota. Plans are to add two more by the end of 2009.

For some landowners in that path, that familiarity has bred contempt. For others, the familiarity has meant greater trust and easier acceptance of the proposed additions.

Enbridge, formerly known as Lakehead Pipeline, needs state and federal approval to add two lines and a wider right of way on the same route. Because it's along the same path and because of the hearty appetite for Canadian oil, approval seems highly likely.

"If they say they're coming, they're coming," said Dave Clark, whose family's farm is in the pipelines' path. "The big things are to get fair reimbursement for damages done and to make sure they put the land back the way it was."

Clark was among multiple landowners at an informational meeting in Stephen in August who expressed unhappiness with the work when the last pipeline was added, in the late 1990s.


"The last time, they had more shoddy work," Clark said. "They didn't put the land back correctly, and they caused drainage problems."

Brian Jensen of Stephen had similar problems. "Last time, they made a mess that took four years to clean up," he said. "They messed up the ditching and left lots of junk around.

"But, 99 percent of the time, you don't even know the pipelines are there. If they clean things up, I don't have a problem with more lines going in."

Gordon Wetterlund Jr. of Warren, Minn., said his experience with Enbridge has been different.

"They've always been good to pay up any damages, and they work with the landowner," Wetterlund said. "Nobody wants it on their property, but life doesn't work that way. All of us want our energy, and how else do we get it in an economical way?

"We want to deal as little as we can with the Middle East because we know what they think of us."

Howard Person, who has worked in county extension in the region for 20 years, said Wetterlund's experience is the more common one.

"By and large, the company does their best to be fair," Person said. "They don't finagle with farmers and try to cheat anyone out of a buck. And there are lots of rules in Minnesota they have to follow."


But some landowners are annoyed at the likelihood of having their land disturbed once again.

The first line was built in 1950. Each of the five lines was installed separately, as will the two additional ones.

"But the familiarity helps," Clark said. "You know how they operate and know what to expect."

Major expansion

The first work will begin in the spring and be finished by late fall 2008.

A 20-inch crude oil line will run between Clearbrook, Minn., and Cromer, Man. There are 108 miles of the line in Minnesota, 28 miles through Pembina County in northeastern North Dakota and 177 miles in Manitoba.

Next will be a 36-inch crude oil line running from the oil sands of Alberta to Superior, Wis. Work begins in the fall 2008, with a completion date of late 2009.

A third line will run between Clearbrook and Chicago, with work starting in the fall 2008 and scheduled for completion in mid-2010.


All of them will be constructed in the same corridor. In most areas, an additional 75 feet of right of way will be needed, as well as increased temporary work space.

Informational meetings were held in August, with Minnesota Public Utilities Commission hearings for public testimony scheduled for the last week in November and the first week in December. The PUC, comparable to North Dakota's Public Service Commission, needs to grant permits for work to begin.

Decisions on all three are expected in early 2008. With the permits, easements can be acquired by eminent domain.

"Our hope is not to use eminent domain," said Kevin O'Connor of Enbridge. "Because we've followed that route for many, many years, we have relationships with these landowners and are confident we can negotiate (with) the vast majority of them."

Property taxes

Local government coffers will benefit from the improvements.

"We're currently paying $9.3 million in property taxes annually in Minnesota, and the expansion will nearly triple that number," O'Connor said.

The other specifics of the economic impact haven't been computed yet. But O'Connor said the capital costs of the projects are expected to exceed $2 billion, adding that construction jobs in 2008 through 2010 will number in the thousands.


Ken Borowicz of Stephen is a Marshall County commissioner who has pipelines on the family's farmland. One stretch of that land sustainedan oil spill in 1971.

"As a landowner, I say, 'Let 'er come,'" he said. "And as a commissioner, I see that the county will benefit from the taxes. I'm glad it's coming through."

Reach Ryan Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or rbakken@gfherald.com .

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