Line 5

Home to the “Everglades of the North,” the Bad River Watershed in Northern Wisconsin is an environmentally sensitive region that drains into Lake Superior. The existing Enbridge Line 5 endangers this region, as would the proposed Line 5 Extension.

The entire Bad River Watershed is structured like a bowl, with water from headwater streams draining quickly into the wetlands below. Any spill of oil in this region puts the entire wetland complex and Lake Superior at risk. 

The region of Northern Wisconsin which abuts Lake Superior assumes great risk with no benefit from Line 5. Here, the pipeline runs entirely in the Lake Superior Basin. 

Thirteen miles of Line 5 cross the Bad River Reservation just south of the Kakagon and Bad River Sloughs Complex. This complex includes 16,000 acres of wetlands, designated as “wetlands of international importance” by the RAMSAR Convention. The Wisconsin Wetlands Association has recognized this area as one of 100 Wetland Gems in Wisconsin. It contains “the only remaining extensive coastal wild rice bed in the Great Lakes region,” according to the RAMSAR website.

The Bad River Reservation has had multiple problems with erosion and changing paths of the rivers within the borders of the reservation.

In 2013, several easements between the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and Enbridge expired, and the tribe decided in early 2017 not to renew them. In 2019, due to the continued use of Line 5 through the Bad River Reservation, the tribe filed a federal lawsuit seeking the removal of Line 5 from the Reservation. 

In 2019 Enbridge began moving forward on a proposed extension of Line 5 which skirts around the Bad River Reservation, but is still within the Bad River Watershed, despite Bad River demanding they leave the watershed (which is part of their ceded territory). This proposed expansion does nothing to diminish the potential devastation from any oil spill in this region, and also adds further problems from any new digging and blasting in this environmentally sensitive region, with its many Class 1 trout streams. 

With the help of 80 Feet is Enough!, the WiSE Alliance, and Wisconsin Easement Action Team, 31 landowners joined together to oppose Enbridge’s application to the Public Service Commission to use eminent domain to secure the property needed for the pipeline.  After the landowners and 8 organizations intervened in the case, Enbridge withdrew their application, but they are moving forward anyway.

Multiple municipalities and organizations have passed local resolutions against Enbridge Line 5 in this area, including the City of Ashland, the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the League of Women Voters of Ashland and Bayfield Counties, and 350 Chequamegon Bay. In July 2020, 1605 people submitted public comments to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources regarding Enbridge and its application for the proposed Line 5 Extension. Over 94% of the speakers testifying at the July 1 hearing asked the WDNR to deny Enbridge wetlands and waterways permit, maintaining that it would place the Bad River Reservation, the Bad River Watershed, and Lake Superior in jeopardy.

The WiSE Alliance has joined a number of organizations in opposing Line 5.  You can learn more about the work of the groups in the area here.