A northern Wisconsin tribe says a Canadian energy firm’s pipeline running through its reservation is at risk of becoming exposed. The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has been pushing Enbridge to remove its aging Line 5 pipeline from its lands.
Line 5 carries up to 540,000 barrels per day of light crude oil, light synthetic crude oil and natural gas liquids from Superior to Sarnia, Ontario. Around a dozen miles of the pipeline crosses through Bad River’s reservation.
Two years ago, the Bad River tribe decided not to renew easements on some tracts of land with Enbridge. Tribal Council Member Dylan Jennings said the tribe has been working with independent experts that recently provided a report to the council assessing the pipeline’s integrity among other things.
Jennings declined to say who wrote the report or what it contained except to say that changes to the river over time are prompting concern over the pipeline’s location.
"What we’re finding is as the river begins to oxbow off right in this area where the pipe is — the pipe is getting dangerously close to the eroding shore," said Jennings. "What some of the reporting and work that’s been done along the line is showing is that the pipe is not at the depth to cover that it should be, and it’s also being put in a very vulnerable spot."
Jennings said the pipeline, which runs underneath the Bad River, is at risk of being exposed to increasing water flows and debris during the spring and flood events.
"The council and the tribe maintains its stance. We want the pipe out. We’ve made that well known to Enbridge," said Jennings.
The Ashland Daily Press reported Tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins Jr. told tribal members at a Bad River community meeting it’s examining legal options to protect the watershed. Wiggins didn't immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.
Jennings declined to comment on whether the Bad River Band is exploring or pursuing legal action against Enbridge.
"Everything’s on the table right now," he said.
An Enbridge spokeswoman said in a statement that the two parties had been discussing renewing easements for Line 5 before the agreement between them expired in 2013.
"Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline has been safely operating through the Bad River Reservation since 1953, providing a vital link to propane and other energy supplies for northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula," the company said in its statement.
Enbridge said the majority of its easements within the reservation last until 2043 or beyond and that it hopes for a "mutually beneficial" resolution with the tribe.
The energy firm has faced opposition in Michigan where the administration is now pursuing legal action to shut down its aging Line 5.
Wisconsin Public Radio can be heard in the Twin Ports at 91.3 FM or online at wpr.org/news.