Public weighs in on pipeline reroute around Bad River Reservation

Most commenting in a virtual public meeting with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources opposed the pipeline.

Line 5 reroute.jpg
Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune

Opponents and supporters of Enbridge Energy’s proposed reroute of its Line 5 oil pipeline weighed in on the project, which would route the pipeline around the Bad River Reservation and through Ashland, Bayfield and Iron counties in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources took comments via the teleconference service Zoom as it considers Enbridge’s application for a waterway and wetland permit as well as the proposed scope of the environmental impact statement that will be prepared for the overall project, which would place 42 miles of new 30-inch pipeline south of the Bad River Reservation.

Members of the public who made comments in the meeting overwhelmingly opposed the pipeline and urged the DNR to reject permits over concerns for the oil industry’s contribution to climate change and the dangers a spill would have on the environment and the reservation, even though the tribe filed a lawsuit last summer to have the pipeline shut down and moved off its land.

“A rupture of this segment at the crossing of the Bad River would shoot oil down the waterfalls of Copper Falls State Park, into the Bad River Reservation and Kakagon Sloughs, the source of wild rice for the Bad River Band,” said Phyllis Hasbrouck of Dunn. “Finally, it would pour into Lake Superior, contaminating it and the shores of the Apostle Islands.”

James Dunn, a retired WDNR hydrologist, said damage from a spill would not be reversible and could seep into the area’s aquifer, which is relied upon by numerous wells for drinking water.


“You can not clean this stuff up,” Dunn said.

There were several supporters of the reroute who voiced their opinions, including Terry Hayden, president of the Wisconsin Pipe Trades Association.

He said that without the pipeline, an estimated 2,100 tanker trucks would have to leave Superior every day to make up for the loss of Line 5.

“Pipelines are and will continue to remain to be the safest and most energy-efficient means to transfer such fuels and other products,” Hayden said.

Kathy Schutte said she supported the pipeline reroute as its products remain needed by residents of northern Wisconsin.

“We here in Ashland County, and in the state of Michigan, we need fuel to run and heat our homes in the winter, you can not live in northern Wisconsin without heating your home,” Schutte said. “You need fuel, you need propane, you need fuel oil and gas.”

Written comments on the waterway and wetland permit application and the scope of the environmental impact statement will be accepted through July 11 and can be sent by email to or by mail to Line 5 Comments, DNR (EA/7), 101 S. Webster St., Madison, WI 53707.

Line 5 faces issues in Michigan

The reroute around the Bad River Reservation isn't the only segment of Line 5 under scrutiny.


In Michigan, Line 5 splits into two pipes as it travels the lake bottom for 4.5 miles across the strait where Lake Michigan and Huron meet, and runs parallel to the Mackinac Bridge.

Last week, a judge in Michigan ordered Enbridge to shut down the lines under strait after Enbridge reported significant damage to a support on one of the lines earlier in the month.

On Wednesday, a judge reversed that opinion, allowing Enbridge to reopen the non-damaged line, Michigan Live reported.

Enbridge is seeking to build a tunnel under the strait and reroute Line 5 through that.

Jimmy Lovrien covers energy, mining and the 8th Congressional District for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at or 218-723-5332.
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