The Army Corps of Engineers said it will close access to the main pipeline protest camp for “safety reasons” on Dec. 5. Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault remained defiant, repeating his call for President Obama to stop the project.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is moving toward kicking protesters out of the main North Dakota camp they have used since last April to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The Corps will close access to a parcel of land it owns near the Missouri River on Dec. 5, the agency announced Friday.
A letter to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe cited “safety reasons,” according to Dave Archambault, tribal chairman. A “free speech zone” south of the existing camp on the Cannonball River on Army Corps land will be provided, according to the Corps. But all access to the present camp on the north side of the river will be closed.
- Background stories: Here's a primer on the pipeline project, including the key players on all sides, a brief history of broken treaty promises and a closer look at the courtroom battle. And here's what we're reading related to the controversy.
- March 28: What the completed Dakota Access pipeline means for key players.
- Feb. 23: Dakota Access Pipeline protest camp closed; 46 holdouts arrested.
- Feb. 22: Preparing to leave, Standing Rock protesters ceremonially burn camp.
- Feb. 13: Judge rejects tribes’ bid to halt Dakota Access Pipeline; feds plan to shut down protest camp.
- Feb. 1: Hundreds rally as the Seattle City Council considers divesting from Wells Fargo because of its role as a Dakota Access Pipeline lender.
- Jan. 24, 2017: Donald Trump signs executive orders advancing the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe says it will push back.
- Dec. 4, 2016: Tribes celebrate as Corps rejects Dakota Access pipeline easement
- Nov. 21: Washington tribes urge that Obama stop, reroute Dakota Access Pipeline
- Nov. 12: Hundreds rally in Tacoma against Dakota Access Pipeline
- Live updates from from Seattle Times journalists on the scene Oct. 26, 27 and 28.
- Oct. 25: Tribes in Washington state call on President Obama to improve federal consultations over infrastructure projects
- Oct. 24: Citing treaty claim, protesters occupy land a rancher recently sold to pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners.
- See photos from the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.
Unaffected is the Camp of the Sacred Stones, which is on private land a short distance south.
The tribe is fighting the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which it says will endanger the drinking water of the tribe and millions of people downstream. The tribe also says sacred sites have been destroyed in construction and remain at risk if the project continues.
“Our tribe is deeply disappointed in this decision by the United States, but our resolve to protect our water is stronger than ever,” Archambault said. He reiterated his call for President Obama to stop the project and deny an easement Dakota Access needs to compete the oil pipeline.
Thousands of demonstrators from around the U.S. and the world — including many people from Washington state — have visited the protest camp since April, and many have remained to fight the pipeline and support the tribe. Vowing to stay, many demonstrators had begun winterizing their camps.
By some estimates there are as many as 5,000 people in the Oceti Sakowin camp, named for the Seven Council Fires of the Sioux, at this time. Numbers have fluctuated up and down throughout the resistance to the project.
Campers can move to the new area provided by the Corps, wrote John W. Henderson, commander for the Omaha district.
The Corps acted “to protect the general public from the violent confrontations between protesters and law enforcement officials that have occurred in this area, and to prevent death, illness, or serious injury to inhabitants or encampments due to the harsh North Dakota winter conditions.”
Archambault pushed back, stating that the best way to protect public safety is to deny completion of the project as the tribe has been insisting since it was presented to the tribal council in 2014. The tribe released a video of that presentation Friday to document the tribe’s firm opposition since the company’s first presentation.
“When Dakota Access Pipeline chose this route, they did not consider our strong opposition,” Archambault said.
The company started construction before it had all the permits and easement it needed to complete the $3.7 billion pipeline. It has by now built the pipeline all the way to the edges of the easement it needs from the Corps of Engineers.
The company’s battle for that easement through Corps of Engineers land is tied up in court.
Archambault wants President Obama and the Corps to rescind all permits for the pipeline and deny the easement to cross the Missouri River just 1,500 feet north of the tribe’s reservation and through the tribe’s treaty lands.
“The best way to protect people during the winter and reduce the risk of conflict between water protectors and militarized police is to deny the easement,” Archambault said. “And deny it now.”
The pipeline is planned from Bakken oil fields of North Dakota to Illinois, where it would tie in with an existing pipeline to refineries in the Midwest and on the Gulf coast.
The project was never examined under an environmental impact review but instead was approved under a fast-track process that three federal agencies have stated was not adequate.