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Northern pipeline projects could employ thousands

SUPERIOR -- The Alberta Clipper and Southern Lights pipeline projects will begin later than expected, but Enbridge Energy says it may hire more workers in Wisconsin and Minnesota than expected, up to 3,000 people in the coming months.

Still awaiting permits from the federal government and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Enbridge Energy hopes to begin hiring in July. Spokeswoman Denise Hamsher says additional construction and the late start will put more people on the job.

"We added more crews so we can split up the pipeline segments and build them simultaneously. It could actually put up to 3,000 workers, is the best estimate, to work."

Laborers Local 1091 Business Manager Dan Olson says 50 to 75 people from the Superior and Duluth area will work on the pipeline. Olson says these projects couldn't have come at a better time.

"My particular trade right now has got 25-percent unemployment....I've got close to that number, matching it, that people don't have health benefits right now. So, the pipeline that is coming through will be a good shot in the arm."

Duluth Plumbers and Steamfitters Business Manager Jeff Daveau says the work is badly needed.

"It's huge for us to get even 20 guys out right now. Work is so slow in the area right now we've still got about 30 to 35-percent of our members are off."

Work is already underway on the Canadian portion of the Alberta Clipper project. That pipeline will span 1,000 miles from Superior to the Alberta Oil sands. The Southern Lights pipeline will cover 674 miles from Chicago to Clearbrook in northwestern Minnesota.