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Activists gather to oppose pipelines: Love Water Not Oil Tour ends in Bemidji

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Aug. 03--BEMIDJI -- Environmental activists and supporters gathered in Bemidji on Tuesday evening to voice their objections to two proposed oil pipelines and recognize participants in Honor the Earth's

annual Love Water Not Oil Tour.

This is the fourth year Honor the Earth, an organization directed by activist Winona LaDuke, has held the tour, a response to Canada-based pipeline company Enbridge's two proposed lines: the Sandpiper pipeline and a replacement for Line 3, which was installed in the 1960s.

Line 3 currently runs directly through the Bemidji area; the proposed replacement would travel through land Honor the Earth says includes "irreplaceable wild rice lakes and rivers" with cultural significance to the Chippewa. The Sandpiper line would follow the same route.

Enbridge and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reached a settlement last month for 2010 oil spills in Michigan and Illinois that released more than 1 million gallons of oil from a different pipeline into the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Mich. The settlement also indicated that Line 3 must be replaced; opposition groups believe its inclusion signals that the federal justice department is trying to avoid state regulation of the pipeline.

The Love Water Not Oil Tour, which started July 18, involved a horseback ride along the proposed Sandpiper and Line 3 routes in Minnesota, as well as stops along the way to conduct ceremonies and raise awareness of the pipelines. Enbridge's proposed route follows its existing pipeline routes into Minnesota to Clearbrook, before heading south of Bemidji and then east cutting through Minnesota's lakes country before ending in Superior, Wis.

This year the tour included 13 riders. Interest in the cause is growing, LaDuke said.

"More people are concerned and outspoken about the Enbridge lines than each previous year," LaDuke said.

Supporters arrived at Bemidji'sRail River Folk School with food to share Tuesday. Musicians, including local performer Sonny Johnson, entertained the crowd of at least 50, and the tour's riders were honored.

"We're honoring a lot of our riders and what the just went through, and we're grateful to the musicians," LaDuke said. "We wanted to give people in the Bemidji community an opportunity to join with us."

In an email statement to the Pioneer, Shannon Gustafson, Enbridge's media relations manager for U.S. liquids pipelines and projects, said the company encourages discussions of its projects "as long as those conversations are held in the appropriate forum and are respectful to those who live and work near our pipelines."

"Enbridge will continue to engage in conversations with individuals and communities in areas where we have operations or active projects," the statement reads.

Jim Reents of Hackensack, Minn., participated in the ride and attended the Bemidji event, the last stop of the tour. Reents said he was concerned about the impact the two pipelines could have on northern Minnesota's water.

"Anyone who lives in the north country knows about the importance of water, whether it's the water we drink or the lakes we live by or where we recreate," Reents said. "Northern Minnesota really is all about water, and one of the biggest threats I see to the preservation and purity of that water is pipelines through the north country."

Explore related topics:NewslocalWinona LaDukeHonor the EarthLove Water Not OilEnbridgesandpiperLine 3

Grace Pastoor

Grace Pastoor covers crime, courts and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. Contact her at (218) 333-9796 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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