Minnesota is about to get a taste of the North Dakota oil boom.
Pipeline operator Enbridge Energy filed detailed plans Friday for the planned $2.6 billion Sandpiper pipeline slicing 299 miles across northern Minnesota that will carry oil from the Bakken region to a Superior, Wis., oil terminal.
The Minnesota portion of the project will cost $1.2 billion and create 1,500 temporary pipeline jobs during a tight construction schedule starting in the fourth quarter of 2014 and ending in early 2016, according to a filing with the state Public Utilities Commission.
The pipeline, which also will cross North Dakota, initially would carry 225,000 barrels of oil per day into an expanded Clearbrook, Minn., terminal, and 375,000 barrels of oil per day from there to Superior.
Enbridge's preferred route for Sandpiper follows the path of an existing pipeline into Clearbrook, then goes south, avoiding Bemidji and Grand Rapids. Then it passes the outskirts of Park Rapids and turns east, crossing parts of two counties before bisecting Aitkin and Carlton counties. About three-fourths of the Clearbrook-to-Superior segment follows existing railroad and transmission lines, Enbridge said.
Park Rapids Mayor Pat Mikesh said he is pleased that the line won't run through the city, and sees an economic upside.
"It might bring a bit of a job opportunity for people," he said. "The pipeline workers will be looking for lodging and it will bring in a little bit more money into the area for a while."
With the southern alignment, Enbridge also avoids crossing national forests and tribal lands, which would require additional approvals. But the pipeline still would cross eight state forests, three state wildlife management areas, the North Country Trail and 13 trout streams, most of them in Carlton County. About 45 miles of wetlands also lie along the southern route, according to an Enbridge's environmental filing.
Enbridge said the line is designed to be upgraded with extra pumps in the future to nearly double the amount of oil it carries. Enbridge has a separate, $159 million plan before state and federal agencies to add pumping stations to another pipeline across Minnesota, boosting its capacity to carry Canadian oil by 40 percent to 800,000 barrels per day.
Several endangered or threatened plants and animals are believed to live in the vicinity of the proposed Sandpiper line, including the Henslow's sparrow, Blanding's turtle and the Dakota Skipper butterfly, according to the company's environmental report. Enbridge also filed a lengthy plan to address environmental issues.
Under state law, the PUC must approve the project before Enbridge can move ahead. That process can take months, and involves public meetings, hearings and opportunities to submit comments electronically via the agency's website, puc.state.mn.us.