Line 5

Help us #RejectLine5

Enbridge Line 5 is a ticking time bomb.  Built in 1953, it is well past its prime, and has already spilled over a million gallons.  There is a movement in MI to shut it down because it endangers the Great Lakes, and in Wisconsin a rupture could devastate Copper Falls State Park, the Kakagon Sloughs with its wild rice beds, Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands.  

If you care about any of these places, if you want to protect our clean drinking water and the air we breathe, please help us convince the Evers Administration to #Reject Line 5!  Click here to sign up to participate in our campaign by attending a virtual DNR (Department of Natural Resources) hearing, writing a public comment, phonebanking, and much more!

To learn more about all the reasons why the Chequamegon Bay area should not be home to any oil pipeline, and how folks have been resisting the Enbridge Invasion of Northern Wisconsin, scroll down.

Line 5

The history of the proposed Line 5 extension

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, which heighten the danger of a pipeline rupture during an intense precipitation event.

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. 

Enbridge sought to sign voluntary easements with landowners along their proposed pipeline route, but many people refused to sign, and Enbridge was forced to alter the route, and finally, to ask the WI Public Service Commission (PSC) for the power to condemn private property. This power, called “the right of eminent domain” was only used by governments to create things for public use (like schools, parks and hospitals), until the Supreme Court decision in 2005 in the case of Kelo vs New London.  Today, many people consider the use of “eminent domain for private gain” to be unconstitutional.

With the help of 80 Feet is Enough!, the WiSE Alliance, and WEAT (Wisconsin Easement Action Team), 31 landowners joined together to oppose Enbridge’s application to the Public Service Commission. WEAT Attorney Brian Jorde filed a comprehensive legal brief to intervene and dispute Enbridge’s application, and 8 organizations also went on record opposing it.  Facing the possibility of a precedent-setting ruling against the use of eminent domain for private gain, Enbridge asked for and received an x-week extension from the PSC. It’s not known what Enbridge offered holdout landowners, but apparently they spent what it took to get easements signed along an altered route.  Enbridge then no longer needed eminent domain and withdrew their application to use it.

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 permits to build the proposed Line 5 extension. Over 94% of the speakers testifying at the July 1 hearing asked the WDNR to deny Enbridge a wetlands and waterways permit, maintaining that it would place the Bad River Reservation, the Bad River Watershed, Copper Falls State Park 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.