Fluence Forum - Enbridge Line 3 replacement project sits ready for construction

The latest Fluence Forum hosted by WCCO Radio's Blois Olson dove into the status of the Line 3 Replacement Program. The $2.9-billion U.S. portion of the program known as the Line 3 Replacement Project consists of replacing existing 34-inch pipe with new 36-inch pipe for 13 miles in North Dakota, 337 miles in Minnesota, and 14 miles in Wisconsin.

Segment one focused on the project's readiness and potential impacts in Minnesota.

"We are ready to construct this project in both Minnesota and North Dakota," Line 3 Replacement Project Director Barry Simonson said. "To date, all of Line 3 in Canada and Wisconsin has been replaced."

The project's regulatory process has been going on for six years in northern Minnesota. Lorraine Little is the Director for Community Engagement at Enbridge and told Blois, "We've gotten over 90 resolutions of support from local government and other entities. We have 99-percent of the easement agreement signed with our private landowners across the route and we've also reached agreements with the Fond du Lac and Leech Lake tribes."

Little said a letter of support from state legislators was sent to Minnesota Governor Tim Walz encouraging him to advance the final permitting for the project, which could get the project started later this fall.

Jake Reint was also part of the forum. Reint is the Managing Director of Public Affairs at Flint Hills Resources, which will use Line 3, and told Blois that Minnesota will receive immediate benefits at the project's completion.

"We're responsible for providing about half of Minnseota's transportation fuel and similar in Wisconsin," Reint said. "For us, we rely on pipelines almost exclusively to supply our refinary in Minnesota so the Enbridge system is critical for all Minnesotans. Right now, there is just more downstream demand than there is upstream capacity. There's a limited amount of space on the Enbridge system to get the crude oil that we need to meet the demand."

Aside from the increased product the project is expected to bring to Minnesota, jobs and other positive economical impacts are expected.

"Our unions are ready to build the project and it will be built by 4,200 union members who will largely be hired from Minnesota," Little said. "Northern Minnesota is experiencing some very high unemployment rates and a project of this size has tremendous economic spinoff opportunity with money being spent at places like gas stations, grocery stores, and others which we expect to be a big part of this project."

Segment two focused on conversations and partnerships between project leaders and tribes involved in the Line 3 project. Paul Eberth is the Director Strategic Intiatives for Enbridge and the Line 3 Project. Eberth told Blois that outreach began in 2013 especially with tribal reservations where the project would cross or exists today. The conversations focused on how to respect and respect tribal rights and resources during the project while achieving benefits for tribal members and their nations.

Among those benefiting from agreements made is American Indian-owned company Gordon Construction. The company is on the White Earth Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota, which will work on the construction. 

"Line 3 is a huge commitment that will help people economically and environmentally," said Matt Gordon, the company's director of operations. "We employ about 61 people, 60-percent of which are enrolled in our reservation."

The final segment took a deeper dive into the economic employment, including jobs, that would benefit from the Line 3 Replace Project commencing. Kevin Prantis with Laborers' International Union of North America said the opportunity is critical for workers, especially as COVID-19 continues to weigh down the economy.

"We have a lot of members unemployed and that number is expected to grow," Prantis said. "This will be a critical project to help people support their families.

Thief River Falls mayor Brian Holmer believes his community is filled with people that have been hit hard by the pandemic and that businesses there are in line to benefit from outside money brought in by the project getting underway. 

"Business that got hit hard are going to struggle getting tax revenue to pay their taxes," Holmer said. "It's a concern that we may lose our local government aid and we need to make sure that we have a source of tax revenue and a project like this will do that."

You can listen to the entire forum at the top of the page, and click here to see our other Fluence Forums.