DNR temporarily suspends some of Enbridge's Line 3 surface water permits

The ongoing drought has led to worryingly low stream flow levels in some areas.
Line 3 construction in Palisade, Minnesota.

Line 3 construction in Palisade, Minnesota.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has temporarily suspended some of Enbridge's surface water-related permits for Line 3 construction.

The suspension of these water appropriation permits, which relate to the taking and use of surface water, are part of the DNR's response to ongoing severe drought conditions in Minnesota. The agency has suspended surface water appropriation permits in several watersheds, mainly in the northern half of Minnesota, because of low stream flow levels in these areas.

"DNR is taking the current statewide drought situation very seriously and has a robust monitoring and response plan," the DNR told Bring Me The News in a statement. "Part of this plan is monitoring stream flow and lake levels and adjusting water appropriation permits as necessary."

Related: How much rain does Minnesota need to end the severe drought conditions?

Among those currently impacted is Enbridge, which has two water appropriation permits that allow it to use surface water as part of Line 3 construction work: one for dust control, the other for hydrostatic testing and horizontal directional drilling, the DNR says

Here is a map provided by the DNR, showing where there are surface water restrictions (the pink areas on the map) with the Line 3 route for reference.

Starting July 15, Enbridge's water sources within the Crow Wing River, St. Louis River, Pine River and Mississippi River-Brainerd watersheds are suspended. This suspension impacts 10 water sources used in dust control, and 13 water sources used in the types of testing and drilling mentioned above.

That includes along the Shell River, where the group Honor the Earth said more than 40 water protectors were on the scene Monday. A news release from the group said seven women who were protesting at the site, including Executive Director Winona LaDuke, were zip-tied and arrested.

The group and its supporters argue this new pipeline — which, once completed, will replace one constructed in 1961 — fuels the ever-worsening climate crisis, as it will transport 915,000 barrels of tar sands crude oil from Canada, through Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin.

They also say it violates the rights of sovereign indigenous tribes, and that a leak or spill could be catastrophic for nearby wetlands and wild rice beds. 

Related: 80-100 gallons of drilling fluid spills into Willow River during Enbridge Line 3 construction

The DNR's permit suspensions don't necessarily prevent Enbridge from legally continuing Line 3 work at these sites. It simply means that, for the time-being, the company cannot use surface water from these specific water sources that the DNR has marked as off-limits. 

Enbridge still has authorization to use surface water from other sources, the DNR notes, as long as they are not in these drought-impacted watersheds and do not affect surface water.

A DNR spokesperson told Bring Me The News the agency is using "Independent Environmental Monitors" to keep tabs on compliance at the Line 3 work sites. DNR staff also conduct site visits "periodically."

Here's a list of water sources for Line 3 impacted by the DNR's suspensions:

For dust control:

  • Installation # 22, Island Lake
  • Installation #24 Hay Creek
  • Installation #26 Shell River
  • Installation #18 Shell River
  • Installation #31 Big Swamp Creek
  • Installation #46 Stoney Brook
  • Installation #47 Big Lake
  • Installation #33 Pine River
  • Installation #34 Louise Lake/Blind Creek
  • Installation #35 Unnamed Creek (CA_118-200aWB)

For hydrostatic testing and horizontal directional drilling:

  • Installation #16 Shell River
  • Installation #17 Shell River
  • Installation #20 Shell River
  • Installation #32 (Well #232423)
  • Installation #33 (Well #707830)
  • Installation #25 East Savanah River
  • Installation #27 St. Louis River
  • Chub Lake, contingency source
  • Installation #21 Pine River
  • Installation #36 Pine River
  • Installation #37 Daggett Brook
  • Clear (Eagle)Lake, contingency source
  • Lake George, contingency source

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