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Enbridge protest camp won’t budge for St. Louis County

Enbridge Line 3 contractors were back to work following a protest at the site on Aug. 29, 2017. The Douglas County Sheriff's Office responded to County Road W outside Oliver, arresting six protestors, said Sheriff Tom Dalbec. (file / News Tribune)

Brady Slater

Forum News Service

The owner of the land where people identifying themselves as water protectors are camping told the News Tribune he's "not worried" and will ignore a St. Louis County letter seeking his compliance with campground ordinances.

"What (the county) is asking for is not appropriate," Scott Kretz said on Tuesday, before addressing the people on his property. "They're practicing treaty rights and gathering together and I'm allowing it. I don't have a campground here. I'm not renting spots. It's a gathering."

The property in question is located inside the Fond du Lac Reservation, along Brevator Road. It's not known how many people are inside the camp, named Makwa, meaning bear.

The camp is inhabited, in part, by people who have been protesting construction on the Enbridge Line 3 replacement pipeline on the Wisconsin side of the border with Minnesota. Multiple lockdown protests since the first one Aug. 21 have resulted in protesters being arrested and charged with misdemeanors for the way they have repeatedly locked onto construction equipment and blocked entrances to worksites by locking onto their own vehicles. The Douglas County Sheriff's Office and Superior Police Department have been contending with the work stoppages and making the arrests.

The letter from St. Louis County is dated Sept. 11, and informs Kretz, "It has been brought to our attention that property which you have an interest ... appears to be hosting an extended gathering of individuals. This constitutes the property effectively being used as a campground."

In giving a copy of the letter to the News Tribune, county spokeswoman Dana Kazel said there would be no further comment.

"We're letting the letter speak for itself," she said.

Kretz said the property is paid for and that he's lived on it for 15 years — currently residing in a converted passenger bus. A one-time resident of the Twin Cities, he said he's long been politically active and a friend to Native American causes.

"They're water protectors and (the county) would like to tell us where they can and can't speak," Kretz said. "I'm a man that looks to stand up within my rights too. This piece of property is like my last line in the sand too."

He described the property as currently containing an array of tepees, yurts and waginogans to accommodate the numbers at the camp. He described himself as someone who would "fight parking tickets by looking for a jury trial."

Enbridge is constructing a new pipeline to replace the existing 50-year-old Line 3 that crosses northern Minnesota on its route from Alberta to Superior. The replacement is currently under construction in Canada and Wisconsin, and awaiting the outcome of a review process in Minnesota.

Protesters have said the lockdowns in Douglas County are a preview of things to come in Minnesota should the state approve the pipeline. Line 3 approval in the state was dealt a blow earlier this month when the Minnesota Department of Commerce concluded in testimony that the state does not need another Line 3.

The county, in its letter, cited ordinances for land use fees, solid waste disposal and sewage treatment in making its attempt, it said, "to assist you in properly establishing a campground on your property."

Kretz wasn't buying it.

"I'm not going to get a permit," he said. "You only get permission or a license to do something which would otherwise be unlawful."