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Minnesota officials hear Enbridge pipeline plans

CROOKSTON, Minn. -- Already Polk County's biggest taxpayer at $2.7 million annually, Enbridge Pipelines soon may be paying twice that much.

That's because the Canada-based pipeline construction company has plans to add a second pipeline that runs from western North Dakota to Superior, Wis., through the heart of the county.

"With that money, it means we're spreading the dollars out and reducing everyone else's share," said Michelle Cote of the county's finance department. "It doesn't mean we'll have another ($2.7 million) to spend."

Two Enbridge representatives visited county commissioners Tuesday, answering questions and outlining the plans for building the Sandpiper Pipeline, mostly in the same footprint as the first one, which crosses the Red River just south of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.

The project will bring growing supplies of western North Dakota crude oil to refineries in the United States and eastern Canada. The Sandpiper is a 560-mile pipeline that daily will transport 225,000 barrels to Clearbrook and 375,000 barrels to Superior, Wis. The 24-inch steel pipe costs $2 million per mile, according to Katie Haarsager, a community relations advisor.

'Glad it's Enbridge'

Planning, design, outreach and permitting are scheduled for now until late 2014. Construction is slated to start in late 2014 and end in 2016, when oil will start flowing. In the Red River Valley, construction is expected in early 2015.

Despite Enbridge having two small leaks in the last month, Polk commissioners said their dealings with Enbridge always have gone well.

"We've never had any trouble with the pipeline in its 30 years in the county," said Warren Strandell, commissioner from East Grand Forks. "They've been good at keeping us informed. And we like the tax base."

Board President Craig Buness of Crookston had similar thoughts.

"They've provided a lot of revenue for our county," Buness said. "We have to balance that with safety, but they have been a good company to do business with. If a pipeline is going across our county, I'm glad it's Enbridge."

Landowners along the pipeline receive a one-time payment in an easement agreement and also money for crop damages in the pipeline's footprint.

Haarsager said the existing pipeline meant $30 million in property taxes to Minnesota units of government in 2011.