AITKIN – The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Thursday issued numerous crucial permits and licenses moving the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline replacement project closer to construction.
The $2.9 billion project replaces an aging pipeline currently operating at about 50 percent capacity with 337 miles of new pipeline stretching across northern Minnesota.
“This is very good news, it brings this long-awaited project ever closer to becoming reality,” said Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin. “The permitting process has been exhaustive applying exceptionally stringent requirements to ensure the environment is protected. The replacement of this old, obsolete pipeline is long overdue and will inject billions of dollars of private investment into northern Minnesota’s economy. When completed the new system will generate millions of dollars in new property tax revenue for counties, townships and school districts across our part of Minnesota.”
The MPCA issued a 401 water quality certification and approved the capped air emissions and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System wastewater permit necessary for the Line 3 project. The DNR issued permits for work in public waters, wetlands, water appropriation permits for dust suppression, trench and construction dewatering, hydrostatic testing, horizontal directional drilling, and a threatened and endangered species taking permit. Utility crossing licenses were issued also for crossing state lands and public waters.
“In our part of Minnesota the project includes approximately 5 miles of the new pipeline in the very northwestern corner of Crow Wing County, 46 miles of pipeline in Cass County and 34 miles of pipeline in Aitkin County, as well as construction of a pump station in Macville Township just south of Hill City,” Lueck said. “Gaining 401 certification, air emissions and water discharge permits, as well as the award of 10 DNR-related permits, licenses and approvals is a major step toward starting construction on this important project.”
The MPCA indicates “401 certification requires Enbridge to take every precaution to safeguard 730 acres of wetlands and more than 200 streams in northern Minnesota. To protect water quality, the 401 certification requires 35 specific conditions to ensure compliance with state water quality standards, including extensive mitigation and post-construction restoration requirements, seasonal restrictions, and protections for wild rice waters.”
The DNR work and water appropriations permits ensure waters, wetlands, aquatic plants, reptiles and fish are protected and that water use is sustainable. The threatened and endangered species taking permit addresses activities that may impact any state-listed threatened or endangered species. The permit requires over $2.5 million in compensatory mitigation for incidental takings affecting nine plant species. These funds will be used for research, conservation planning, surveys, land protection and/or land management activities that contribute to the recovery of these species.
Gaining a construction stormwater permit, which involves the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issuing a Section 404 permit, is the final step before Enbridge can begin construction. The MPCA has that application under review. The storm water and federal Section 404 permit is another element of environmental protection that require effective measures be in place to prevent construction stormwater from harming lakes, streams, and wetlands.