LCO Members Visit Enbridge Integrity Dig Site; Council Releases Timeline of Negotiation Process
Enbridge officials show tribal members site where the pipeline was once exposed.
Several tribal members accompanied LCO Chairman Louis Taylor and council member Tweed Shuman on a visit to the Enbridge Line 6A integrity dig taking place just off Right of Way Road in the southwest corner of the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation.
Officials from Enbridge Energy Partners showed the members the area where the digs took place on Thursday, October 19, the last day of the project and answered questions about why the dig took place and the safety measures in place regarding the two lines that cross the reservation.
Safety inspectors explained to the members that the reason the two integrity digs took place at this site were the result of microscopic hairline cracks detected in the pipe by Enbridge’s inline inspection tool, known as “Pig,” a highly complex machine that is sent through the pipes regularly, inspecting the pipe millimeter-by-millimeter, with a level of detail similar to that provided by MRIs, ultrasound, and X-ray technology in the medical industry.
Enbridge did an integrity dig at each spot where the hairline cracks were detected, less than a hundred feet apart, and, according to a safety inspector on site, “a concrete pipe sleeve was welded around the pipe in the area of the crack and there wasn’t any leak in the pipe, nor was the integrity of the pipe ever in question.”
“Enbridge takes the safe operation of our pipelines very seriously,” the inspector said. He added that the Pig is sent through the pipelines on regular intervals, for example, the Pig that detected the two cracks at this site was sent through two years ago and since then, the Pig has been through twice.
Another 100 feet up the line from the integrity digs, a small portion of the pipe was exposed, first noticed by tribal hunters who alerted LCO tribal government. They notified Enbridge and asked them to cover the exposed pipes.
Enbridge also put a sleeve around part of that exposed Line 6A that showed some corrosion from being exposed. The Enbridge safety inspectors explained the reason for the exposure is because that part of the line runs through some wetlands and most likely due to the heavy rains in recent years, the ground was washed away.
The Enbridge officials told the members that the area where the three jobs took place will look better than prior to the digs within a year.
Once the work is done, the area of the excavation is backfilled, the affected landscape is restored and the mats used for the equipment over the wetlands is removed and the company takes them back to their yard,” the official explained.
He said every step is taken to ensure the area is restored to its natural pristine setting. He said inspectors will return next year to make sure the landscape is restored.
LCO Realty Officer, Nita Kemp, said Enbridge has been very great at communicating with the tribe in-regards-to inspection and maintenance of the line. She said they contact her regularly about the line and when they are going to perform routine maintenance, such as the integrity digs that took place here.
One inspector told Chairman Taylor that it’s rare when an actual leak is detected in the pipes, and none have ever been detected in this particular area of the line through the reservation. He said leaks that have been detected are normally a very small drop that may fill a teacup over a year. Because of their inline inspection technologies, any anomalies are discovered quickly and repaired before they become a hazard, he added.
The section of the pipe where these integrity digs took place is part of the 3.6 miles of Line 6A and Line 14 that run through the LCO Reservation southwest corner, an easement that was just renewed by the LCO Tribe granting Enbridge the right-of-way to operate the pipes for the next 25 years.
Under the 25-year agreement, Enbridge will make an initial payment of 3.6 million dollars to the tribe followed by another payment of 3.6 million dollars in 2018 and 2019. For the remainder of the term, Enbridge will pay 2.2 million annually adjusted each year by changes in the consumer price index reflecting percentage increases for the remainder of the term, for an estimated total of $70,857,764.
The tribe and Enbridge had been negotiating the deal for the past year. The current 50-year lease expired in September of 2018.
Timeline of Negotiations
Tweed Shuman said he wanted the tribal membership to know that the negotiations with Enbridge began September 26, 2016, when Enbridge officials approached the previous tribal council about renewing the easement.
“Tribal leadership didn’t just act abruptly,” Shuman said. “We had five community meetings and asked the public to come. We also invited members to a tour of the Edgewater Pump Station and our members were invited to Marshall, MI, site of the Kalamazoo River spill, to see what Enbridge has done to clean-up.”
Shuman said the people of LCO elected him to make decisions. “Everywhere I go I am asking the members, ‘how do you feel about the pipeline,’ or ‘what do you think,’ and I think most people support the decision.
“I’ve gone to every Enbridge negotiation,” Shuman said. “This new council has dug right in and learned all about it. We got all these assurances from them. We made them pay us the entire length of the lease when they suggested not paying if there wasn’t oil through the line anymore. We negotiated for more money up front by getting them to pay the 7.2 million because they wanted it to be less.
Shuman provided DrydenWire.com with a timeline of the Enbridge easement and negotiations.
1968 – Enbridge purchases 80 acres of land for Edgewater Pump Station
1968 – Enbridge constructs Line 6A 1/7/
1997 – LCO passes resolution to approve ROW for Line 14
1998 – Enbridge obtains BIA easement and constructs Line 14
2008 – Enbridge and LCO fail to negotiate Lines 13 and 61
2009 – Enbridge obtains permits and constructs Line 61 outside LCO Reservation boundaries
2010 – Enbridge obtains permits and constructs Line 13 outside LCO Reservation boundaries
9/26/2016 – Enbridge asks TGB to enter into negotiations for easement renewal
12/9/2016 – Edgewater Pump Station tour takes place
12/9/2016 – First negotiations meeting for easement renewal
3/13/2017 – Enbridge and LCO enter into memorandum of agreement to cover staff time and reasonable costs associated with negotiations
6/7/2017 – Trip to Marshall, MI with some TGB, faculty from college
8/5/2017 – Elder’s group meeting
8/25/2017 – Community meeting at LCO Casino
9/5/2017 – Community meeting at LCO Casino
9/6/2017 – Community meeting in Milwaukee (dates unknown) – two more community meetings held at LCO
9/21/2017 – Elder trip to Marshall, MI
9/28/2017 – Integrity dig site visit and Pump Station tour
10/10/2017 – LCO TGB passes resolution and signs easement agreement
10/19/2017 – Another integrity dig visit
dates to be determined – Enbridge submits easement permit application to BIA and approval of the easement by the BIA
Shuman remarked about the $20,000 monthly payment made to the tribe by Enbridge to cover costs for the tribe during the negotiations saying it was important for the membership to know this agreement was approved unanimously by all 7 members of the previous council in March of 2017, and that the payment went retroactive to October of 2016.
Chairman Taylor said the payments have stopped now that a deal has been made, but he said a total of $280,000 was made to the tribe and most of the money is still in an account. He said the money was intended for the legal department but now the money will be used to help the tribe balance its budget.
“I feel the new members of this council are buckling down and becoming fiscally responsible,” Shuman said. “We are constantly seeking ways to bring in more revenue and we are balancing the budget.”
Shuman said the new council is bringing integrity, honesty and full transparency back to the tribe.
Chairman Taylor said, “We are not going to rely on Enbridge to balance our budget. We have been working at bringing in as much revenue as possible since our first day on the job and even before the Enbridge deal, we are balancing our budget.”
Taylor noted that on the second day the new tribal council was at work, “We couldn’t make our payroll. And look how far we’ve come since then. We have a plan now to set aside an amount into a bank account that will always have our payroll covered so if that ever happens again and the money isn’t there to make payroll, we take it from that account. What happens is programs may have money on paper, but sometimes it doesn’t come into the tribe’s general fund quick enough, this way we take the money from that account and then replenish it when it becomes available from the programs.”
Tribal council member Don Carley added that the deal with Enbridge is going to, “help take us forward and bring financial stability to the tribe over the next 25 years. By entering into this agreement with Enbridge it will bring in annual payments to the tribe that will help us provide benefits and services to our people that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to provide.”