The St. Paul District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has received a permit application from Enbridge Energy, Limited Partnership (Enbridge). This application has been submitted pursuant to Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbor Act of 1899 (Section 10) for work under a navigable water of the United States and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (Section 404) for discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States.
The existing Enbridge Line 5 pipeline is a 645 mile long, 30-inch diameter crude oil/natural gas liquid pipeline that has been operational since 1953. It originates at Enbridge’s Superior Terminal in Superior, Wisconsin, continues through northern Wisconsin and the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan, and terminates near Sarnia, Canada. In Wisconsin, the existing Line 5 pipeline crosses Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland and Iron counties. Within Ashland County, the existing Line 5 pipeline crosses through 12 miles of the Bad River Reservation. In 2019, the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians filed a federal lawsuit to require Enbridge to remove 12 miles of pipeline from their reservation.
Enbridge developed the proposed Line 5 Wisconsin segment relocation project to reroute the existing Line 5 pipeline around the external boundaries of the Bad River Reservation while still maintaining current deliveries of oil and natural gas liquids. The proposed project would replace approximately 20 miles of the existing Line 5 pipeline, including approximate 12 miles of pipeline within the Bad River Reservation, with 41 miles of a new 30-inch diameter pipeline segment that would be located entirely outside the boundaries of the reservation. The proposed project route begins 4.5 miles west of the western boundary of the reservation near the intersection of State Highways 137 and 112 in Ashland County and ends 3.3 miles east of the eastern border of the reservation near the intersection of U.S. Highway 2 and State Highway 169 in Iron County. Enbridge proposes to cease pipeline operation within the reservation once the proposed Line 5 Wisconsin segment pipe is in service.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulates work or structures in, over or under navigable waters of the United States under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899. Section 10 authorization is required for the proposed horizontal directional drill of the White River.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulates discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States, including wetlands, under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Section 404 authorization is required for proposed permanent and temporary discharges of dredged or fill material in waters of the United States for the construction of aboveground facilities and for the placement of construction matting, trench and backfill activities, and additional workspace. For purposes of Enbridge’s permit request, the St. Paul District is treating all aquatic resources along the route as waters of the United States.
Under the authorities listed above, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, does not regulate the overall construction or operation of pipelines, nor does it regulate the siting of any type of pipeline/utility line, or any substance being transported within a pipeline. The Corps of Engineers does not have control over the entire pipeline and is one of several permitting agencies to review the project; no federal agency has congressional authority to regulate construction of oil pipelines.
Proposed project impacts to aquatic resources, review mechanism
Enbridge is proposing the permanent discharge of fill material into 0.02 acre of waters of the United States, and temporary discharges of dredged or fill material into 101.08 acres of wetlands and 0.2 acre of non-wetland waters of the United States associated with the construction of the proposed Line 5 Wisconsin segment relocation project. In addition, Enbridge proposes horizontal directional drilling (HDD) under the White River, a navigable water of the United States. Once activities resulting in temporary discharges are completed, 67.13 acres of wetlands would be allowed to revert to the original cover type. The remaining 33.95 acres of wetlands, originally forested and scrub-shrub, are proposed to be maintained as emergent wetland within the permanently maintained right-of-way. Enbridge proposes to provide compensatory wetland mitigation for the proposed permanent wetland fill of 0.02 acre, the conversion of 33.95 acres of scrub-shrub and forested wetlands to emergent wetlands, and temporal loss of wetland functions.
The St. Paul District is evaluating the request for Department of the Army authorization using a standard individual permit process. The evaluation includes opportunity for public comment and preparation of an Environmental Assessment.