DULUTH - The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa will allow Enbridge Energy to route the new Line 3 oil pipeline through their reservation.
In a joint letter filed Friday, Aug. 31, Enbridge and Fond du Lac agreed the pipeline could follow the existing corridor through the reservation, referred to as Route Segment Alternative 22, or RSA 22, rather than the route around it, RSA 21. RSA 22 has been Enbridge's preferred route.
"Financial terms are confidential," the letter said.
In late June, the five-member Public Utilities Commission unanimously granted the 340-mile long pipeline across Minnesota a certificate of need, but gave Enbridge and Fond du Lac two months to negotiate whether the pipeline will travel through or around the reservation.
Terms outlined in the letter include an extension of easements through 2039 for the corridor's existing six pipelines, an assurance by Fond du Lac they will not oppose the project and an agreement between Fond du Lac and Enbridge they'll share all consent and approvals for the project's construction.
"The benefits to the Band far exceed those of potential alternatives, and the agreement was
the result of months of extensive consideration and strong advocacy on behalf of the Band," Fond du Lac chairman Kevin Dupuis said in a statement Friday.
Earlier in the month, Dupuis expressed frustration with both options. Dupuis said Fond du Lac was "being forced to choose between two evils as both routes pass through our lands - the Fond du Lac Reservation and the 1854 Ceded Territories."
RSA 21, while avoiding the reservation, would pass through the 1854 Ceded Territory, an area that had never had a pipeline before.
"There is no perfect outcome here, all remaining options threaten the environment for all and livelihood of the indigenous people of Minnesota," Dupuis said in early August after the News Tribune reported the band was "willing to consider" routing the new Line 3 through the reservation.
In a statement, John Swanson, Enbridge's vice president of major projects, called the negotiation "a mutually beneficial agreement that assures construction of the Line 3 Replacement Project through the reservation, while protecting vital natural and cultural resources for tribal members."
In the lead-up to the PUC's decision, Fond du Lac had argued against the approval of the Line 3 replacement project.
Enbridge still has to obtain a number of permits before construction can begin.
Once completed, the pipeline will carry 760,000 barrels of oil per day across northern Minnesota on its route from Alberta to the Enbridge terminal in Superior, Wis. Enbridge began working three years ago to get the project approved.
Though the company maintains the new pipeline is needed to replace the existing and aging Line 3, opponents argue the line contributes to climate change, violates indigenous rights and is ultimately unnecessary.