The camps are in opposition to the 570,000-barrel capacity Dakota Access Pipeline, a four-state, Bakken oil transport project that is largely completed except for a critical piece that would have to be bored under the Missouri River/Lake Oahe crossing near the reservation boundary.
The Amy Corps of Engineers said Sunday it has “no plans for forcible removal” of protesters camping in North Dakota and demonstrating against the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
Don’t look for apologies from the North Dakota sheriff leading the response to the Dakota Access oil pipeline protests, especially for the recent – and, in some circles, controversial – action against demonstrators who he believes have become increasingly aggressive.
Representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers didn’t immediately return multiple messages Friday or Saturday seeking comment and verification of the letter.
Col. John Henderson, Omaha District Commander, said he is clarifying a message sent Friday to Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault that the Oceti Sakowin protest camp would be closed to the public after December 5 and anyone remaining after that date would be subject to possible trespass charges. The most recent clash happened on November 20, with law enforcement officers spraying protesters with water, rubber bullets and tear gas. Those who stay could face prosecution for trespassing, the Corps said in a letter to tribal leaders on Friday.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple called the Corps’ position “very puzzling”. She said it’s important for people to show support, even if they can’t go to Standing Rock in person.
Zent noted that while the Corps manages the lands, the state and local authorities are the ones with responsibility for emergency services.
Dalrymple’s evacuation order came Monday, citing safety concerns related to the region’s harsh winter weather.
Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault said he and Kirchmeier have met many times and each meeting has been tense and unproductive.
The almost 1,200-mile pipeline is largely complete except for a section that would pump oil under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir in southern North Dakota.
The pipeline’s backers have been stalemated in their efforts to obtain a federal easement to tunnel under a dammed portion of the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, adjacent to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation.
Standing Rock tribal members believe the land in which the encampment is on is owned by the Sioux through a more than century-old treaty with the US government.
North Dakota officials say the protest has cost the state about $20 million in extra law enforcement costs. Archambault said he did not see the letter as a forced eviction and the tribe would continue to exercise its First Amendment rights to free speech.
“It’s useless for local and state law enforcement, and the order from the Corps is self-serving and amounts to them limiting their liability”, Schulz said. Heidi Heitkamp said the protesters need to move for public safety. “We’ve got folks from all over the country out there and I don’t know what they know about North Dakota winters”, Jeff Zent, a spokesman for the governor, said.
The land to be closed includes the main protest site, about 50 miles south of Bismark.
In an emergency declaration, the governor, a Republican who has urged federal officials to allow completion of the pipeline, said the camp is “not zoned for dwellings suitable for living in winter conditions, and also [does] not possess proper permanent sanitation infrastructure to sustain a living environment consistent with proper public health”.
“That’s what I’m hoping, or at least cut the number of them”, he added.
Much of the state, including the encampment, was getting hit with the first big winter storm of the year Monday, as heavy snow and strong winds pounded the area.
“Workers do not feel safe there”, he said.