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Public Weighs In on Reroute of Controversial Line 5 Project

Natural gas pipeline construction work. A dug trench in the grou
MaxSafaniuk - stock.adobe.com
Natural gas pipeline construction work. A dug trench in the ground for the installation and installation of industrial gas and oil pipes. Underground work project

On Wednesday night, Wisconsinites had a chance to weigh in on Enbridge's controversial Line 5 project, which skirts around tribal territories in northern Wisconsin.

The public hearing on the pipeline's Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) lasted more than 10 hours, stretching from Wednesday afternoon into the wee hours of Thursday morning.

Mike Wiggins, tribal chairman of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, said the proposed rerouting would endanger tribal waters.

"The only thing we have ever asked of the oil company is to get out of our water," Wiggins stated. "And that has been rejected, that has been disrespected and essentially ignored."

The roughly 40-mile reroute was drafted after the Bad River Band rescinded Enbridge's right of way through their tribal territory in 2017. Enbridge argued the rerouting is necessary to keep a significant portion of its U.S. operations up and running.

Labor unions and Republican lawmakers say the move will create 700 new jobs in the region.

Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Wis., who represents the area the proposed rerouting will pass through, contended it will provide important economic stimulus for northern Wisconsin.

"Remember, there are two major pipeline companies in Wisconsin that employ your neighbors in constructing pipelines here in America," Tiffany pointed out. "Everything about this project is a win-win."

Several environmental groups argued the current impact statement fails to address several areas of concern.

Michael Isham, executive administrator of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, said the document should be revised and reissued for further public comment.

"This Draft EIS fails to provide the most basic level of critical analysis on the impacts of the proposed project," Isham asserted.

According to the statement, the rerouting will cost Enbridge about $450 million. The DNR has extended the public comment period for the impact statement through March 18.

Jonah Chester is Wisconsin Public Radio's 2022-2023 Mike Simonson Memorial Investigative Reporting Fellow embedded in the Wisconsin Watch newsroom. He most recently worked at Public News Service, a national radio news service, where he covered Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. He previously produced the 6 O'Clock News at WORT 89.9 FM in Madison, where he won numerous awards from the Milwaukee Press Club and Wisconsin Broadcasters Association for his reporting on issues in Dane County and south-central Wisconsin.
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