City of Mellen says no to Enbridge

by Eric Hjertstedt Sharp

Screen capture from enbridge.com.
Screen capture from enbridge.com.

For the second time in as many months, Enbridge Energy officials left a Mellen, Wis. city council meeting Tuesday night, Oct. 1, with no clear path forward. 

Enbridge seeks an alternative route to the east of Bad River for Line 5, an oil pipeline that runs from Ontario through Michigan to Superior, Wis. But the Mellen City Council failed to garner enough votes to allow a general, environmental and cultural survey of a city-owned lot in the town of Morse.

Several Enbridge officials attended the meeting, but left quickly after the vote.

Enbridge had asked city officials to consider a possible alternative route due to a federal lawsuit brought by the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. The tribe wants the nearly 70 year-old pipeline removed from its land.

Last month, in a meeting attended by more than 55 people, held at the Legion Memorial Library in Mellen because of size constraints at City Hall, the council declined to act on Enbridge’s request.

Mayor Joe Barabe limited public input at Tuesday’s meeting, due to almost two months of public discussion around the controversial proposal. But he invited Dr. Susan Lee, a Mellen-area property owner from Madison, to speak briefly because she was not able to attend last month's meeting.

"This will make an imprint on the community," Lee said. "It is a moving target we're not ready for. This is obviously a bad idea. It will establish no jobs to local people and there will be no permanent jobs.

"No one here will gain, we will all lose. This is about property rights. This is about safety. We as a community do not have the infrastructure to support this," she added.

Jennifer Smith, Enbridge’s public affairs, communications and sustainability manager, said that Enbridge provides “a vital link to North American energy supplies. We are an experienced company with a long history in Wisconsin and we are committed to safe and reliable operations.”

Mayor Barabe cast the tie-breaking “no” vote, against allowing Enbridge to survey the lot.

Joining the mayor in voting no were councilors Joe Ricker, Jim Markee and Angela Nimmer. Voting yes, to allow Enbridge to conduct the survey, were Nathaniel Delegan, Jessica Jokinen and Barb Jusula. 

Enbridge also conducted a public meeting Monday night at the Morse Town Hall, adjacent to Mellen, a population of slightly more than 700 citizens about five miles west of the popular attraction Copper Falls State Park. No official presentation was conducted at the Morse Hall meeting, but citizens were able to talk to Enbridge officials and ask questions or voice their concerns.

Bad River Chairman Mike Wiggins and other tribal officials held a much-publicized public meeting at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center near Ashland Tuesday night, the same time as the Mellen meeting, but no action was scheduled to come out of that meeting.

Line 5 passes under the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Numerous Michigan municipalities and counties have called for the line to be retired, citing environmental concerns.