Pipeline Protesters Camp Out in Northern MN

Pipeline protesters gearing up to oppose the $2 billion Enbridge 3 replacement project have been put on notice by St. Louis County authorities. The county has issued a reminder to a private landowner about zoning restrictions on large groups, including some of whom the Duluth News Tribune reports participated in recent protests at the Enbridge construction site on the Wisconsin section of the pipeline.

The owner of the land where people identifying themselves as water protectors are camping told the News Tribune he’s “not worried” and will ignore a St. Louis County letter seeking his compliance with campground ordinances.

“What (the county) is asking for is not appropriate,” Scott Kretz said on Tuesday, before addressing the people on his property. “They’re practicing treaty rights and gathering together and I’m allowing it. I don’t have a campground here. I’m not renting spots. It’s a gathering.”

The property in question is located inside the Fond du Lac Reservation, along Brevator Road. It’s not known how many people are inside the camp, named Makwa, meaning bear.

Kretz lives in an old bus on the property and apparently has plenty of company these days.

 “They’re water protectors and (the county) would like to tell us where they can and can’t speak,” Kretz said. “I’m a man that looks to stand up within my rights too. This piece of property is like my last line in the sand too.”

He described the property as currently containing an array of tepees, yurts and waginogans to accommodate the numbers at the camp. He described himself as someone who would “fight parking tickets by looking for a jury trial.”

Enbridge is constructing a new pipeline to replace the existing 50-year-old Line 3 that crosses northern Minnesota on its route from Alberta to Superior. The replacement is currently under construction in Canada and Wisconsin, and awaiting the outcome of a review process in Minnesota.

Public hearings now underway in Minnesota will determine whether state regulators award the company a permit to replace the 50-year old pipeline in the state. But St. Louis County authorities appear to be trying to get out in front of environmental activists’ attempt to set up a base camp in the arrowhead.

Protesters have said the lockdowns in Douglas County are a preview of things to come in Minnesota should the state approve the pipeline. Line 3 approval in the state was dealt a blow earlier this month when the Minnesota Department of Commerce concluded in testimony that the state does not need another Line 3.

The county, in its letter, cited ordinances for land use fees, solid waste disposal and sewage treatment in making its attempt, it said, “to assist you in properly establishing a campground on your property.”

Kretz wasn’t buying it.

“I’m not going to get a permit,” he said. “You only get permission or a license to do something which would otherwise be unlawful.”