Residents in Wood County fight for property rights amid pipeline concern

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MARSHFIELD, Wis. (WSAW) --- A resolution changing the law allowing private companies to seize property gets a change at the county level-- but the people behind the change say they're pushing for counties statewide to do the same.

It comes amid concern that an energy transportation company wants to continue building a pipeline project through a neighborhood in the Marshfield area.

A board meeting was held Tuesday morning in Wood County where they passed a resolution advising the law to be reformed.

There weren't enough seats in the room for the members of the community and supporters of Enbridge. Homeowners are begging for their property rights to be considered, but Enbridge said there is no project.

Keith Merkel owns lands in Wood County.

"It's very concerning to me,” he said.

Eighty feet of Enbridge Energy Pipeline runs through the state of Wisconsin. Landowners say that's enough.

“Now with the uncertainty of where this new line could go, it could completely destroy our new property,” Merkel said.

Mark Borchardt is the founder of "80 feet is Enough". He said the group plans to go county to county around the state asking them to pass similar resolutions.

"All we're asking for is a level playing field in negotiations,” Borchardt explained.

Merkel and Borchardt were among several homeowners who spoke, all urging the board to vote 'yes' on a resolution advising the state to change the law that would allow Enbridge to seize their property for a new project.

The resolution passed, but Enbridge says it was an unnecessary step, since there is no project in the works.

Scott Suder, a spokesperson for Enbridge said there appears to be a misunderstanding.

"We do not have a new pipeline project here in Wisconsin. So some are under the false assumption that we do and that's simply not the case,” he said.

But homeowners said an announcement for a new pipeline was posted to Enbridge's website in March, but it has since been taken down.
"All we're asking is that eminent domain for this company be removed. So that we can negotiate in good faith,” Borchardt said.

Borchardt and Merkel said they'll keep fighting. Enbridge says they'll continue to engage the community amid what they're calling misinformation.