Army Corps Says No Plans To Forcibly Remove Pipeline Protestors

November 28, 2016

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers notified tribal leaders throughout the Missouri River basin by letter on Saturday that areas of Corps-managed federal property north of the Cannonball River will be closed to the public effective December 5, 2016.

The notice posted by Omaha District Commander, Col. John Henderson states the Army Corps is seeking a peaceful and orderly transition to a safer location, and has no plans for forcible removal.

Those who choose to stay do so at their own risk as emergency, fire, medical, and law enforcement response cannot be adequately provided in these areas. Those who remain will be considered unauthorized and may be subject to citation under federal, state, or local laws. This will reduce the risk of harm to people in the encampments caused by the harsh North Dakota winter conditions.
The Army Corps of Engineers has never been able to legally issue a permit for the Oceti Sakowin camp north of the Cannonball River due to the pre-existing grazing lease to a local rancher.
However, the Corps has established an area on land south of the Cannonball River for anyone wishing to peaceably protest the Dakota Access pipeline project. In this area, jurisdiction for police, fire, and medical response is better defined since it is located inside of the Reservation boundary making it a more sustainable area for visitors to endure the harsh North Dakota winter.
“I am very concerned for the safety and well-being of all citizens at these encampments on Corps-managed federal land, and we want to make sure people are in a safe place for the winter,” said Henderson.  “We fully support the rights of all Americans to exercise free speech and peacefully assemble, and we ask that they do it in a way that does not also endanger themselves or others, or infringe on others’ rights.”
In the letter and ongoing discussions with Tribal leadership, the Corps will continue to encourage everyone located in this area to peacefully move to the free speech zone south of the Cannonball River or to a more sustainable location for the winter. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Indian Affairs will continue to work with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to support a winter camp on trust land already identified by the Tribe.

More than 525 people from across the country have been arrested during months of protests over the four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline. Members of 200 tribes have protested in support of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe who is fighting the Energy Partners project because it believes it threatens drinking water and cultural sites on their nearby Sioux reservation. 

President Obama suggested rerouting the pipeline earlier this month. The Corps ordered the construction stopped while it continued to evaluate possible solutions to the situation. However,  Energy Transfer Partners refused the Corps orders and has continued to stage equipment for the underground drilling segment that will place oil pipes under the Missouri River.  Kelcy Warren, CEO of pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners, told the Associated Press the company won’t do any rerouting. 

Last week, Energy Transfer Partners was acquired by Sunoco and rumors were Warren would be forced out of his position. It is too early to tell how the acquisition, due to close in late January, will affect the Dakota Access Pipeline project.