There has been considerable discussion in our communities the last several months regarding the proposed Sandpiper pipeline. As representatives of the people who live in the proposed pipeline route, we have attended township association, county board, and other local meetings regarding Enbridge's Sandpiper project. We have heard from our constituents. The feedback has been overwhelmingly in support of the Sandpiper project. In response, five counties — Aitkin, Carlton, Clearwater, Polk and Red Lake — have passed resolutions or signed letters in support of the Sandpiper project.

We believe this is the best route for our counties and the state of Minnesota. The oil-handling facilities located at Clearbrook, Minn., and Superior, Wis., are the two most important points along the preferred Sandpiper route. Building this project anywhere else and missing either or both of these facilities simply does not make sense. Other proposed alternatives add miles and subsequently additional environmental and human impacts.

Please recognize, as we have, that the Sandpiper project will create significant economic benefit to our area in the form of increased tax revenue and job creation. Hundreds who live in our counties will help build this pipeline; others that operate businesses near the construction will benefit from increased numbers of customers: manufacturers that will supply equipment and parts, motel owners who will have rooms filled when they otherwise wouldn't be, and restaurants and convenience stores will get extra business.

These are all tangible benefits to real people. Jobs that pay family-supporting wages should not be trivialized in a time when they are in short supply in rural Minnesota.

Also, we strongly prefer a pipeline to increased truck or oil train traffic. Pipelines are safer and more efficient for the transportation of large volumes of crude petroleum. Heavy truck traffic raises havoc with road systems in the state — many through land that pipeline opponents want avoided — and rail congestion has become problematic.

Our farmers, mines, power utilities and other businesses depend on rail to operate. Due to the increasing volume of rail traffic carrying North Dakota crude petroleum, rail service is anything but dependable for Minnesota farmers and businesses. This already critical situation is only going to get worse until another method of moving oil to refineries is in place.

The route Enbridge selected has been extensively studied. The company has also been open to changes when local residents raise concerns. For example, in Carlton County the company worked with commissioners and county staff to avoid routing the pipeline through organic farms in the area. In fact, Enbridge has proposed 23 changes of its own to the route since discovering new information about sensitive areas or habitat that needed to be avoided. There is simply no question in our mind that Enbridge is dedicated to building and operating the pipeline in the safest way possible.

The company has been criticized for a pipeline release in Kalamazoo, Mich., in 2010. We looked at this closely and consider any release a serious matter. However, Enbridge held itself accountable and dedicated itself to making it right. Since 2010, the company has spent $1 billion in cleanup efforts. Not one taxpayer dollar was spent. Enbridge is fulfilling its commitment to local citizens, agencies and government bodies to restore the lands and waters because it's the right thing to do. That kind of commitment tells us Enbridge is a responsible and responsive neighbor in the communities in which it operates.

Since 2010, Enbridge has spent $4 billion on system maintenance and upgrades. The company is placing remote shut-off valves at key points along the proposed Sandpiper pipeline route that will allow the system to shut down the pipeline immediately when it detects any issue. In remote areas, access points will be developed as part of construction. Enbridge will maintain the access roads to allow for continued operation, maintenance and response.

As part of Enbridge's emergency preparedness, significant time and resources are being dedicated to training employees and contractors so that they are ready to respond immediately to any incident. In addition, Enbridge is reaching out to our local first responders to make sure safety plans are coordinated, and that there is cooperation between the company and our local folks.

For these reasons, we support the Sandpiper Pipeline Project and the route filed by Enbridge. We did not come to this decision lightly, but we believe the benefits of the project far outweigh the risk.

Warren Strandell is a Polk County commissioner. Duane Hayes is a Clearwater County commissioner and board chair. John Lerohl is a Red Lake County commissioner. The article was also signed by Clearwater County commissioners Dean Newland, John Nelson and Daniel Stenseng; Red Lake County commissioners Dave Sorensen, Ronald Weiss, Velma Oakland, and Charles Simpson; and Polk County commissioners Craig Buness, Nick Nicholas, Warren Affeldt and Don Diedrich.