Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline Replacement Project

Enbridge is currently constructing a crude oil pipeline across Minnesota. The project will replace and expand the capacity of the existing Line 3 pipeline. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission issued a Certificate of Need and Route Permit to Enbridge for construction of the Line 3 Pipeline Replacement.

A number of permits, licenses and other approvals from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources were required for the project. See DNR Decisions section below for further details on these permits. The project also received additional approvals from other agencies and entities, including the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

map of minnesota with line across northern half showing route of pipeline
Click to view route map

Recent Developments

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Orders Enbridge Energy to Pay $3.32 Million for Failure to Follow Environmental Laws

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has ordered Enbridge Energy to pay $3.32 million for failure to follow environmental laws. Enbridge breached the confining layer of an artesian aquifer, resulting in an unauthorized groundwater appropriation during the construction of the Line 3 replacement project near Enbridge’s Clearbrook Terminal.

DNR’s civil enforcement orders require Enbridge to pay mitigation and penalty funds of $3.32 million. This includes a restoration order requiring $300,000 in initial mitigation funds to pay for the loss of groundwater resources, $250,000 for DNR monitoring of calcareous fen wetlands near the area of the aquifer breach and a $20,000 administrative penalty order (the maximum allowed under state law). The DNR has also ordered Enbridge to place $2,750,000 in escrow for restoration and mitigation of any damage to the calcareous fen wetlands. DNR will determine what restoration and mitigation is required.

DNR’s restoration order also requires Enbridge to implement a restoration plan to stop the unauthorized groundwater flow within 30 days. The order requires the company to conduct additional groundwater and site monitoring and report the results, as well as to develop a Calcareous Fen Management Plan. Additionally, to ensure that violations haven’t occurred elsewhere, the DNR is requiring Enbridge to fund a re-inspection of any and all areas along the entire route where construction depths deviated from plans (as they did at the Clearbrook Terminal site).

Separately, the DNR has also referred this matter to the Clearwater County Attorney for criminal prosecution. The DNR has determined that Enbridge Energy violated Minnesota Statute 103G.141, subdivision 1, which makes it a crime to appropriate “waters of the state without previously obtaining a permit from the commissioner.”

The criminal referral and civil enforcement orders resulted from an investigation of Line 3 construction activities near Enbridge’s Clearbrook Terminal. Should the company violate the DNR’s restoration order, it would be subject to additional misdemeanor charges under state law.

“DNR is committed to its role as a regulator on this project and is taking seriously our responsibility to protect and manage natural resources within existing state law,” said DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen. “Enbridge’s actions are clear violations of state law and also of public trust. This never should have happened, and we are holding the company fully accountable.”

Background

Enbridge began work at the Clearbrook Terminal site in early 2021 but did not follow the construction plans it had provided to DNR. The DNR relied upon these plans in determining that proposed work at the Clearbrook Terminal could proceed without effecting nearby calcareous fen wetlands. A calcareous fen is a unique type of wetland, with stringent statutory protections, that relies upon upwelling of mineral rich groundwater to thrive. The company’s plans called for the use of traditional trench construction methods at a depth of 8-10 feet. The company instead constructed the trench at a depth of approximately 18 feet with sheet piling installed to a depth of 28 feet. This deviation led to a breach of the confining layer of an artesian aquifer, resulting in an uncontrolled flow of groundwater into the trench. Enbridge failed to notify DNR of the groundwater situation at the Clearbrook Terminal.

Independent Environmental Monitors (IEMs), working on behalf of DNR and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), first observed unusual amounts of water in the trench at the construction site in late January 2021. This and subsequent inspections over the next several months focused on managing the water in the trench. Under the Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) route permit, the IEMs’ role is to monitor compliance with the terms and conditions of the PUC, DNR, and MPCA permits. They do not monitor construction plans. Therefore, these inspections did not identify that Enbridge’s construction activities had deviated from the company’s plans, breaching the aquifer’s confining layer. 

On June 15, 2021, during discussions with the IEMs, the DNR identified that there was a potential breach of the aquifer’s confining layer at the Clearbrook Terminal construction site. The DNR immediately commenced an investigation and informed Enbridge that it must suspend construction at the location until DNR had approved a plan to stop the flow of groundwater. Resolving an uncontrolled flow from an artesian aquifer is technically complex and requires good data and a comprehensive plan. The DNR required Enbridge to investigate the groundwater conditions at the site and submit a plan to correct the unauthorized flow conditions. On July 8, Enbridge submitted a Groundwater Investigation Plan that the DNR approved in revised form on July 12. On August 15, using the results of the groundwater investigation, Enbridge submitted a Remedial Action Plan outlining actions needed to stop the groundwater flow conditions. The DNR approved this plan on August 18.

Through September 5, 2021, this violation has resulted in an estimated release of approximately 24.2 million gallons of groundwater from the aquifer. This water has been pumped from the trench, treated to remove sediment and released to a nearby wetland.

Enbridge Project and Higgins Eye Pearlymussel

DNR Statement Regarding Enbridge project and Higgins eye pearlymussel (8/7/21)

Enbridge Construction and Water Appropriation Suspensions

Update regarding Enbridge construction and water suspensions (7/23/2021)

Some Line 3 surface water appropriations have been suspended

Enbridge has two separate water appropriation permits that authorize water use from surface water. One permit is for dust control (#2018-3421) and the other is for hydrostatic testing and horizontal directional drilling (#2018-3690). These appropriations are subject to suspension or modification during low streamflow periods. The permits authorize water use from a variety of sources across the state. As of August 31, 2021, sources located within the Crow Wing River, St. Louis River, Pine River, Mississippi River-Brainerd, Mississippi River-Grand Rapids, Clearwater River, Red Lake River and Lost River watersheds have been suspended due to low streamflow conditions. Enbridge is still authorized to appropriate water from some other surface water sources that are not located within watersheds experiencing low streamflow and from sources that do not affect surface water.

Dust control (#2018-3421) water sources that have been suspended:

  • Installation #12 Clearwater River
  • Installation #13 State Ditch 61
  • Installation #14 Unnamed Ditch
  • Installation #15 Lost River
  • Installation #16 Silver Creek
  • Installation #17 Clearwater River
  • Installation #18 Walker Brook
  • Lost River, contingency source
  • Pine Lake, contingency source
  • Installation #11 Red Lake River
  • Installation #22 Island Lake
  • Installation #24 Hay Creek
  • Installation #26 Shell River
  • Installation #18 Shell River
  • Installation #31 Big Swamp Creek
  • Installation #46 Stoney Brook
  • Installation #47 Big Lake
  • Installation #33 Pine River
  • Installation #34 Louise Lake/Blind Creek
  • Installation #35 Unnamed Creek (CA_118-200aWB)
  • Installation #37 Moose River
  • Installation #38 Moose River @ CR-29
  • Installation #39 Willow River
  • Installation #40 Mississippi
  • Installation #41 Unnamed Stream (M-120-005-001-005)
  • Installation #42 West Savanna River

Hydrostatic testing and horizontal directional drilling (#2018-3690) water sources that have been suspended:

  • Installation #9 Clearwater River
  • Installation #10 Clearwater River
  • Installation #11 Clearwater River
  • Installation #12 Clearwater River
  • Installation #7 Red Lake River
  • Installation #8 Red Lake River
  • Installation #40 Red Lake River
  • Installation #16 Shell River
  • Installation #17 Shell River
  • Installation #20 Shell River
  • Installation #32 (Well #232423)
  • Installation #33 (Well #707830)
  • Installation #25 East Savanah River
  • Installation #27 St. Louis River
  • Chub Lake, contingency source
  • Installation #21 Pine River
  • Installation #36 Pine River
  • Installation #37 Daggett Brook
  • Clear (Eagle)Lake, contingency source
  • Lake George, contingency source
  • Installation #22 Willow River
  • Installation #23 Mississippi River
  • Installation #24 Mississippi River

 

 

Click to enlarge

Map of watersheds where appropriations have been suspended

Map of watersheds where appropriations have been suspended (09/23/2021)

Trench and Construction Dewatering Permit Amendment

On June 4, 2021, the DNR amended Enbridge’s Trench and Construction Dewatering Permit (#2018-3420) to increase the authorized volume of dewatering from 510.5 million gallons to 4,982.7 million gallons. Enbridge requested this amendment after winter and spring construction required significantly more dewatering than was anticipated.

By its nature, trench dewatering is only needed when groundwater seeps into a construction trench. The trench dewatering itself has very little impact in terms of affecting water resources in the construction area. Dewatering occurs at any single location for only a few days. The shallow water table in that area is temporarily lowered during dewatering operations. This water is then infiltrated back into the ground in close proximity to where it was removed, to help mitigate the temporary impact. Temporary dewatering of trenches for the Line 3 project is not expected to have any significant impact on nearby wetlands or other surface waters.

DNR Decisions

These decisions mean that the proposed project meets the applicable State of Minnesota environmental regulatory requirements to receive these approvals.

*Signed versions of these permits are available upon request.

Decision Documents

November 12, 2020: The DNR has made decisions granting an additional eight of ten required DNR permits, licenses and approvals for the proposed Enbridge Line 3 pipeline replacement project. After careful consideration of applicable state laws, all input received and the administrative record, the DNR has issued the following eight permits/approvals:

Utility Crossing License for Public LandUtility Crossing License for Public WaterThreatened and Endangered Species Taking PermitWork in Public Waters for Willow River Bridge Permit*Work in Public Waters for Public Water Wetlands on Private Land PermitWater Appropriation for Dust Suppression Permit*

October 19, 2020: The DNR has made decisions granting two of ten required DNR permits, licenses and approvals for the proposed Enbridge Line 3 pipeline replacement project. After careful consideration of applicable state laws, all input received and the administrative record, the DNR has issued the following two permits/approvals:

Notice of Gully 30 Calcareous Fen Management Plan PermitGully 30 Fen Water Appropriation PermitWater Appropriation for Hydrostatic Testing and Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) Permit*

On June 4, 2021 the DNR issued an amended water appropriation permit to Enbridge for trench and construction dewatering. The amendment was issued in response to an Enbridge request due to encountering greater amounts of groundwater during construction than was anticipated. The original October 19, 2020 permit and October 19, 2020 decision may be accessed. The amended permit and decision document are below.

Amended Water Appropriation for Trench and Construction Dewatering Permit.

Enbridge Applications

Enbridge has submitted applications for the DNR permits and licenses. The DNR has reviewed the applications for completeness and compliance with Minnesota statutes and rules.

Final Applications

Utility Crossing Licenses

Prior to crossing state land or public waters with a utility infrastructure project, companies must obtain a utility crossing license from the DNR. Utility licenses are for a term of 25 or 50 years, and may be renewed when they expire.

Utility Crossing License for Public Land

Enbridge needs a Utility Crossing License for construction and operation of the pipeline on state lands. The proposed pipeline route will cross state forests, school trust land, state trails, and an aquatic management area.

Status: Approved

Utility Crossing License for Public Water

Enbridge needs a Utility Crossing License for construction and operation of the pipeline on public waters. The proposed pipeline route would cross 68 lakes and rivers designated as public waters.

Status: Approved


Public Waters Work Permits

Proposed projects that might affect the course, current, or cross-section of lakes, wetlands and streams identified on the Public Waters Inventory may require a public waters work permit.

Public Water Wetlands on Private Land

Enbridge does not need public waters work permits for areas that are subject to the Utility Crossing License for public waters. A public waters work permit is needed for areas where the pipeline proposes to cross a public water wetland on non-state land.

Status: Approved

Willow River Bridge

Enbridge proposes to install a bridge over the Willow River for access to a proposed valve site. A work in public waters permit would be required for this installation.

Status: Approved.


Water Appropriation Permits

A water appropriation (use) permit is required for all users withdrawing more than 10,000 gallons of water per day or 1 million gallons per year.

The Line 3 Pipeline Replacement Project would require a water appropriation permit for several types of activities. The DNR required Enbridge to apply for four separate water appropriation applications based on the type of proposed use:

Water for Hydrostatic Testing and Horizontal Directional Drilling

Water would be needed for hydrostatic testing of the newly constructed pipe and also needed as a source for horizontal directional drilling. Most of this water would come from surface waters near the proposed construction activities.

Status: Approved

Trench and Construction Dewatering

Water appropriation permits would be needed to allow Enbridge to remove water from pipeline trenches and other construction areas during project construction.

Status: Approved

Dust Control

Water would be needed for dust control during construction activities. Most of this water would come from surface waters near the proposed construction activities.

Status: Approved

Construction Near Gully 30 (calcareous fen)

A specific water appropriation would be needed for construction activities near the Gully 30 calcareous fen.

Status: Approved


Threatened and Endangered Species Takings Permit

A permit is required for activities that impact endangered or threatened plants or animals.

The Line 3 Replacement Pipeline Project would need a permit for the take of endangered and threatened plant species that cannot be avoided along the route.

Status: Approved


Calcareous Fen Management Plan

Calcareous fens may not be filled, drained or otherwise degraded, wholly or partially, by any activity, unless the commissioner of natural resources expressly allows such impact under an approved management plan.

The Line 3 Pipeline Replacement project proposes construction through a calcareous fen (Gully 30) located in Polk County.

Status: Approved (An amended Notice of Decision was issued on November 10, 2020. This amendment corrected typographical errors in the previous decision. No substantive changes have been made.)

The DNR also required Enbridge to apply for a separate water appropriation permit for construction dewatering activities near the Gully 30 Fen because of the fen's sensitivity to disturbance.


DNR Access Leases

Enbridge is required to secure short- and long-term leases for construction and operation of the Line 3 Replacement Pipeline on DNR-administered land. These leases would accommodate needs such as temporary workspaces on DNR-administered land that are outside of the Utility Crossing License right-of-way.

The Line 3 Pipeline Replacement Project would need state land leases for access roads and temporary workspaces on DNR-administered land that are outside of the Utility Crossing License right-of-way.

Status: Approved

More Information

Online informational webinars

The DNR held three informational webinars focused on the project, the DNR's decision-making process and how people can comment on the company's applications. Each webinar was approximately 90 minutes and included a 30-minute question and answer period.

Webinar 1 - Project overview and DNR's role in permitting, Monday, April 29, 2019.

Webinar 2 - Project application information, Tuesday, April 30, 2019.

Webinar 3 - Project application information, Monday, May 6, 2019.

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