“Manoomin is just as central to our future survival as our past. While we try to overcome tremendous obstacles to our collective health, the sacred food of manoomin is both food and medicine. … Joe LaGarde puts it plainly, ‘If we lose our rice, we won’t exist as a people for long. We’ll be done too.’” — Erma Vizenor, Tribal Chairwoman, White Earth Nation, in “Natural Wild Rice In Minnesota: A Wild Rice Study,” Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (February 15, 2008).
Five Ojibwe tribes (the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, White Earth Band of Ojibwe, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and Red Lake Band of Chippewa) have recently taken the unusual step of intervening as parties in Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (“PUC”) pipeline routing and need proceedings, as have a number of environmental non-profits and others. The Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Project (“L3R”) is a crude-oil pipeline the company proposes to run 337 miles across northern Minnesota, partly following an existing pipeline corridor and partly along a new right of way—one that is hydrologically connected to dozens of precious wild-rice waters. And while the company’s preferred route does not cross any reservations, it cuts through areas where, under different treaties, a number of Ojibwe tribes retain off-reservation hunting, fishing, and gathering rights.
Many tribal members in northern Minnesota today rely on wild rice, maple syrup, venison, fish, and other wild resources for subsistence, as well as for income from sales of these products. For these and many other reasons, the intervening tribes are very concerned with potential project impacts—or a spill—on wild-rice waters, historic sites, water quality, and a host of other natural resources in their historic homelands.
Therefore, the intervening tribes and others argue that Enbridge has not justified its preferred route, nor has it shown a legal need for the project. The PUC is expected to make its decision on these questions as soon as June 2018. If the project is approved as proposed, Enbridge could begin construction on the parts of the line subject to state permits shortly thereafter.
DLO is proud to be part of the team representing the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in these proceedings. For more information, see this recent Star Tribune article on this matter here.