NILES, Mich. – The state of Michigan recently approved a massive pipeline replacement project and for some in our area it's right in their backyard. A local nonprofit farm organization says the project could be bad for business.
Enbridge will be replacing 285 miles of crude oil pipeline that runs through northwest Indiana and Michigan. The company has started meeting with land owners to negotiate settlements for using their property.
The old pipeline, built in the late 1960's, runs through the middle of the barnyard at Bertrand Farm. The farm is located on Bertrand Road outside Niles. Theri Niemier owns and runs Bertrand Farm. It's a nonprofit, educational farm. She holds camps in the summer and runs educational programs and workshops year-round for families, students and schools.
"Our mission is to connect people to their food in the hopes of promoting health, both physical health and environmental health," says Niemier.
But this year, she has had to cancel all her programs because of Enbridge's pipeline project. She is not happy about the project, but she has accepted it. Still, she is worried about what it will mean for her livelihood. She says Enbridge's initial offer of about $8,000 for her land loss during that time may be what the land is worth, but it's not nearly enough to cover her losses.
"We really believe they are going to be fair about the black and white loss. It's the gray area we are concerned about," says Niemier.
So she told all her campers, students and supporters. They have created a facebook page in support of the farm and wrote letters to Enbridge.
"The hope is that the impact of the farm being closed this summer will not impact future years," says Nancy Thibault, who sends her three kids to the farm for camp. "(The hope is) they will be reimbursed enough to cover their losses this year so that potentially next year we will be able to go on with the programming."
That is Niemier's hope, too. She believes the future of her farm depends on it.
Enbridge says they are going to each property along that 285 mile stretch to negotiate a settlement with each landowner. They say they will offer fair market value and also take into consideration things like crop loss and business implications.
"We will meet with them, and the representatives job is to outline the project and how it specifically will affect that person's property. Then, they look at what we are going to be doing there, how long we will be on the property, what will be affected, and then we work with them to find an amicable resolution," says Enbridge spokesperson and Senior Advisor of Community Relations Jason Manshum.
He wasn't able to talk about Bertrand Farms because it is an ongoing negotiation. But Manshum said Enbridge will put together a detailed plan for each specific parcel.
The question is – Will Niemier be happy with that plan? She wants at least two years of program income.
Construction is set to begin in the spring.