Bridge disaster diver returns medals in Line 3 protest

Published 5:49 pm Tuesday, August 17, 2021

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MINNEAPOLIS — A former U.S. Navy diver who helped efforts to search for bodies in the treacherous waters of the Mississippi River after the I-35W bridge collapse in 2007 has returned his awards to protest the Line 3 oil pipeline.

John Miller, 39, a native of Monticello who now lives in Hawaii, asked Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz to stop construction on the pipeline replacement project until lawsuits challenging its approval play out in court, the Star Tribune reported. He spoke at an event Monday evening near the site of the bridge disaster, which killed 13 people and injured 145 others.

Earlier Monday, Miller returned a commendation ribbon and pendant he received for his service, as well as and a certificate of commendation from then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty. He said he grew up fishing and hunting and wants the pristine lands in northern Minnesota left alone for generations to enjoy.

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“The last time I came back to the Mississippi in distress was to help clean up after a disaster, and this time I come to do everything I can do to help prevent a disaster,” he said.

Opponents say the new Line 3 will risk oil spills in waters where Native Americans harvest wild rice, and exacerbate climate change. Enbridge says the new pipeline, which replaces its aging current Line 3, is a safety enhancement that will restore its original capacity and ensure reliable deliveries to Midwest refineries.

More than 700 protesters have been arrested along the route across northern Minnesota since construction began last December. The the 337-mile (542-kilometer) Minnesota segment is now more than 80% complete. The sections in Canada, North Dakota and Wisconsin are already finished.