According to a report from the Dickinson Press, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum ordered the mandatory evacuation of Dakota Access Pipeline protesters stressing the dangers of spring flooding and the need to avoid environmental damage. The report followed an official release from the Governor’s Office, and a release from Sen. John Hoeven which stated that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have a crew on site by the end of the week to assist in cleaning up the area.
The order requires the evacuation of everyone currently occupying the Corps of Engineers land along the Cannonball Rivers in Morton and Sioux Counties citing the threat from human and inorganic waste left behind by protesters who have gathered at the site for over half a year.
The waste “pose[s] a significant and increasing environmental threat to the waters of Missouri River if cleanup and removal efforts are not quickly accelerated and completed before flooding begins.”
The order follows an earlier statement from the Governor’s office which said “It is paramount for public safety, and to prevent an environmental disaster, that the camps be cleared prior to a potential spring flood. Once the floodwaters recede, the land will need to be cleaned and eventually restored to pre-protest conditions.”
A pair of agency-directed memos signed Tuesday by President Donald Trump could force completion of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota as well as breathe new life into the Canadian-based Keystone XL pipeline.
Trump’s memo did not grant a drilling easement for the $3.8 billion Dakota Access project to cross U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land on the Missouri River/Lake Oahe but directs the agency to expedite review with the idea that prior reviews already satisfy federal law.
Congressman Kevin Cramer said he believes the memo will force the agency to rescind the decision it made last week to begin a full-blown environmental impact statement on the crossing and issue an easement in short order.
Cramer said he made contact Tuesday with federal law enforcement agencies, including the CIA and the U.S. Marshal service, in anticipation of pushback from hundreds of pipeline protesters camped near the water crossing just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation when construction resumes.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum recently joined Morton County Commissioners Cody Schulz and Bruce Strinden, as well as Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier for a meeting with area residents affected by the month’s long protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
In a statement, the Morton County Board of Commissioners said more than 50 farmers, ranchers, and rural landowners attended the gathering to share their experiences and concerns about the future. Attendees’ spoke of vandalized equipment, missing livestock, trespassing, as well as the stress placed upon families from numerous school lockdowns stemming from protest activities.
“I was very pleased and encouraged by the meeting,” said Morton County Commission Chairman Cody Schulz in a statement. “The discussion was very honest and frank. People are frustrated, and in some cases scared, but I am just so thankful that people took the time to attend. I’m also grateful to the Governor for taking the time to truly hear the concerns of Morton County residents.”
Going forward, landowners said they remain worried about their safety and the process for holding those responsible for unlawful activity accountable.
“I’m glad I got to hear some of the specific concerns of the farmers and ranchers,” said Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier. “We will continue to do everything necessary to keep our citizens safe. Public safety has been my top priority from the very beginning, and it will continue to be.”
Unfortunately, pipeline opponents continue to engage in illegal activities that have resulted in numerous arrests. Most recently, protesters attempted to trespass onto private property before destroying private property and endangering law enforcement personnel stationed on the Backwater Bridge.
North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, who took office last month in the height of tensions surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline, said he believed the line would eventually be built and asked opponents to clean their protest camp before spring floodwaters create a potential ecological disaster.
A centrist Republican with no prior political experience, Burgum was elected in a landslide on a platform of streamlining government and improving relations across the state. Burgum built a successful software business before selling it to Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) in 2001.
Burgum told Reuters that approval of the pipeline appeared to be a foregone conclusion once Donald Trump moved into the White House.
“I expect the world’s going to change dramatically on that day relative to finding resolution on this issue,” Burgum said in an interview. “I would expect that (Energy Transfer Partners (ETP.N)) will get its easement and it will go through.”
Just hours after being sworn into office, North Dakota’s new governor, Doug Burgum, made clear that he wants the Dakota Access Pipeline completed and the rule of law restored. In a video message, Burgum called on the Obama administration to issue the final easement needed to complete the project and provide federal resources to assist local law enforcement.
“For months, the Obama administration has politically stalled a legally permitted project that had already been through an exhaustive review process and has twice been upheld by the federal courts,” Burgum said. “Failure to finish it would send a chilling signal to those in any industry who wish to invest in our state and play by the rules.”
Burgum also addressed the hefty price tag of the months long protests in Morton County, saying that North Dakota taxpayers should not be responsible for the $17 million the state has spent to counter unlawful activities.
The message came a day after now former Gov. Jack Dalrymple defended the multibillion dollar infrastructure project and blasted protesters for ignoring straightforward facts and trampling the legal process.
“It is unacceptable that the facts of the permitting process were not only omitted in much of the discussion among those who disagreed with the pipeline, but were twisted in order to paint the state of North Dakota and federal government as reckless and racist,” Dalrymple wrote in an opinion piece published in the Billings Gazette.