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Enbridge Payment Expected in Full Once BIA Process is Complete

The 2018 payment from Enbridge Energy Partners, LLP, to the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe for a 25-year continuation of an easement of 2 pipelines that travel through the southern portion of the reservation has taken longer than initially expected due to a lengthy process with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Under the Trump administration there was a freeze on new hires and this has affected the ability of the BIA.

LCO Tribal Secretary-Treasurer Jason Weaver said there is an extensive process to go through called the Third-Party Facility on Allotted Trust Land Right-of-Way Checklist.

Weaver said once the tribe and Enbridge made a deal, that was the start. “Once it was signed, we got a payment, and a tax payment, but the agreement and the resolution were then forwarded to the BIA and they do a lot of technical steps.

“First they survey who the parcels are allotted too and then they reach out to the allottees to get feedback from them. Once the steps are done, the money goes into their Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts and is paid directly from the U.S. Treasury,” Weaver said. Enbridge will give the money to the BIA and based on fair market value, the BIA would disperse it by payment to each allottee.

“There is a process, a checklist with the BIA that we are going through now,” Weaver said. “We have received the tax payment for 2018 but we haven’t received easement money yet, until it’s approved by the BIA once all the allottees are determined. We must go through the steps.”

Weaver said the tribe doesn’t even know how many allottees there are. He said that it’s between them and the BIA, but he added that the tribe owns the majority of all those parcels, through the Indian Land Consolidation Act program which helps tribes acquire fractionated land back from allottees. The BIA helped the Tribe buy the land back from allottees. In many instances, the tribe owns up to 89% of the parcels.

Weaver said although there is no expected date for the 2018 payment, Kim Bechard at the BIA has said it’s a priority and they are working on it. The survey is done, and the assessment is done.

The steps already completed in the process included a report on the title status, an application for permission to survey and the actual survey, a resolution and consent of the landowner, an applicant’s certificate and an engineer’s affidavit.

Nita Kemp, LCO Realtor, explained the steps that have already been completed. She said Enbridge first made an application for Grant of Easement for a Right-of-way to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. They then worked with the BIA to obtain the Title Status Reports that contain who the interest holders are in each allotment.

“All of the tracts of land show the Tribe’s ownership interest and identifies who the allottees are and what percentage of ownership they possess in each tract,” Kemp said.

The next step in the process is that the BIA provides the known names and addresses of the allottees in all of the tracts involved in the pipelines path, Kemp explained. “Consent forms were mailed to each of the interest holders by Certified Mail. Enbridge allowed approximately 60 days to receive either the completed consents or return certified mail for undeliverable addresses.”

Enbridge sent the proof that they contacted all the interest holders with the original Certified Mail receipts to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Surveys were completed by Enbridge following the federal regulations.

“The surveys were delivered to the BIA and subsequently forwarded to the Bureau of Land Management for review. This process is called the LDR or Legal Description Review. This is where the process stalled for 6 months due to lack of staff to conduct the review,” Kemp said.

Once the LDR was complete the next step is conducting the appraisals of each tract and determine each allottee’s fair market value.

Currently the Appraisal Request (form 9) on the checklist is underway.

Kemp said that the appraisal reports need to be sent to the Office of Appraisals & Valuations for review, which takes approximately 14 days, then the National Environmental Policy Act documents are updated, and the Statement of Fair Market Value is created which determines the value of the allottee’s interests. After that, the tribe gives consent to grant Right-of-Way and the BIA will do a final inspection, Kemp added.

“Once that is done, the BIA will issue payment to the allottees from the U.S. Treasury to the IIM Accounts,” Kemp said.

“The tribe has absolutely nothing to do with making the payments to the individual owners,” Kemp said.

Weaver said that Enbridge provides more than just a cash payment and has also provided other support in the way of project management, construction safety and subcontracting protocol. We are also working with Enbridge on solar energy production for our Tribal buildings.

The final steps in this process includes the Grant of Easement being recorded at the Land Title & Records Office (LTRO) at the BIA Great Lakes Agency in Ashland and to the Sawyer County Register of Deeds.

Weaver said this is the only time the process will have to be done and the only time the BIA will be involved. He also said the 2019 payment is scheduled for early next year and that an annual payment will be received on or about the first of the year for the remainder of the easement. The payment thereafter will match the consumer price index so that it stays consistent with inflation.

Weaver said that the anticipated delay in receiving the payment shouldn’t affect tribal government operations, specifically in-regards-to the holiday season, “Because we’ve been managing our budget like we didn’t receive anything. We don’t create a budget on money we don’t have.”

Weaver added, “The 2017 funds have been allocated for land acquisition and projects like the new sewer treatment facility. We can do these big, important projects because of the additional funding we are receiving. With a new sewer system and expansion of our water mains we can look forward to developing the lands we have acquired along the Highway K and B crossroads for new commercial opportunities for the Tribe. We are doing a feasibility study right now to see if it would be profitable to build a new Grocery store in that area.”

Enbridge sent out certified letters to all the heirs for updated contact information and feedback, Weaver said. “If you didn’t get a letter then you’re probably not an allottee of the property in question and if you believe you are, and they didn’t reach you, check with Nita in LCO Realty or check with BIA Realty and make sure they have your correct contact info.”

BIA Ashland office can be contacted at (715) 682-4527.

Article by Joe Morey


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