Interested, Pensive and Pissed

By Chalk

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Here’s a quick update on how things have been going…

Iona, camped and cooking in Iron River.
Iona, camped and cooking in Iron River.

We’ve canvassed communities and a few institutions from Crystal Falls all the way to Watersmeet.  In terms of schedule, things have started to lighten up, our daily schedule is not as stressful as it has been in the eastern UP.  Folks in the western UP seem particularly friendly… people have invited us into their homes to discuss Line 5 in the comfort of their kitchens, and we’re seeing a lot of interest in talking about Line 5.  Even folks who don’t agree that Line 5 needs to be shut down have engaged with us in thoughtful conversation.

One person we spoke with was the only Republican in a family of Democrats, which put her in an interesting position.  When we talked about the dangers of Line 5, she spoke of how if fuel prices went up as a result of Line 5 being shut down, the poor would be hardest hit by that.  We stressed that weighing what’s at stake involves taking into consideration that this crude oil pipeline is constantly putting *the entire Straits of Mackinac*, as well as lakes Michigan and Huron, at risk, and that the two can thus not really be compared.  I also emphasized that industrialized societies tend to be wasteful, pointing out that 40% of US food goes to waste.  If we can be even just a little less wasteful, we definitely could do without a pipeline through the Straits.   But then she countered with examples of how grocery stores attempted to give away food that was going to waste, but got sued in the process and henceforth couldn’t do it.  We backed-and-forthed for a while that way, but ended in agreement that social change is needed, and that it only happens when people push.

We met one elderly woman who had lived on her property her entire life, and was even around when Line 5 was installed.  She considered signing our shut doen Line 5 petition but was fearful of what the consequences could be.

Another woman we met told us of how she and her husband contacted Enbridge when a change on their land indicated the pipeline was sagging.  Enbridge came to fix it, but even after the fix it sagged again.  When the couple contacted Enbridge yet again, Enbridge failed to correct the issue.  This was a year and a half ago.  The couple is now fearful of doing machinery-based work on their own land, for fear of the pipeline breaking.

One of the bikes, sitting in one of the forests we camped in.
One of the bikes, sitting in one of the forests we camped in.

Multiple folks complained about how, because there’s a pipeline easement running through their land, and because Enbridge and/or other companies (such as TransCanada and DTE) with pipelines also running through the same area need to clean up their easements from time to time, they have to deal with other community members driving through the easement along Line 5 using All-Terrain-Vehicles (ATV’s).  We ourselves, while biking by have seen people on ATV’s drive right into the Line 5 easement.  Folks don’t like that because it’s not safe for the pipeline, also because by doing so, people are driving right through other people’s property without their consent.

People have been calling Line 5 “a mess”, or “a disaster”.  Because the pipeline was installed so long ago, it appears to be only 3 feet underground, and that makes it virtually impossible for many community members we spoke with to do any kind of machinery-based work on their land.  Folks have complained that they can’t move wood across their own property, can’t work on tractors to farm, etc.  One community member described pipelines coming through their property as basically a “steal”, forever.  And it’s very much true, when on a practical level you’re no longer allowed to do what you want with the land you possess.

In one case, a community member spoke of how a neighbor was using a construction machine… he wasn’t even working anywhere near Line 5, but was being hounded/harassed in some way by a patrol helicopter flying overhead which was trying to make sure the construction machine wasn’t going to come near the Line 5 easement.  So in a very real sense, folks are actually being harassed because of the presence of this pipeline.

So, by and large, folks in the western UP seem to be quite pissed about this pipeline.

Open road in US-2... maybe monotonous, but always beautiful.
Open road on US-2… maybe monotonous, but always beautiful.

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I’m writing right now at the Lac Vieux Desert Resort and Casino, where just last night we presented on the issues surrounding Line 5 (specifically, the broader issues surrounding the Straits of Mackinac crossing).  The group we presented to was very welcoming, and so genuinely interested, they were full of questions that we fielded all throughout the presentation.  They definitely kept us on our toes!  We’re hoping to stay in touch to further explore Line 5’s relationship to Lac Vieux Desert.

***

I’m getting enough sleep on a day-to-day basis, but we’re biking significant distances almost every day and my body is offering clear signs that it’s aching for some sort of deeper, more intense rest.  Thankfully, we’ve got just one and a half weeks left. 🙂  Onward to Wakefield, Bessemer, Ironwood, and into and through Wisconsin!

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