North Dakota Governor Doug Burgam signed an “emergency evacuation” order for the Oceti Sakowin protest camp on Wednesday. The federal deadline of Feb. 22, has been set for the camp to be cleared out.
Dakota Access Pipeline protesters met with state representatives Thursday, along with members of the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers in a last-ditch effort to avoid an ecological disaster.
Nevertheless, the North Dakota governor has asked the federal government for additional law enforcement officers, as well as money to clean up and remove waste from the protester’s camp. Officials say the camp is hazardous to the river and lives are in danger.
Although, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe began to clean up the camp in late January, state officials say things are not moving fast enough, and due to ice melting and warming temperatures, rising water levels on the Cannonball River could pose a danger.
“Due to these conditions, the governor’s emergency order addresses safety concerns to human life as anyone in the floodplain is at risk for possible injury and death,” a statement from the governor’s office read. “The order also addresses the need to protect the Missouri River from waste that will flow into the Cannonball River and Lake Oahe if the Camp is not cleared and the cleanup expedited.”
District Commander Col. John Henderson has said they appreciated the “proactive efforts of the tribes to help clean the protest site ahead of potential flooding along the river.”
An easement for the pipeline was granted on Feb. 7, but The Standing Rock tribe is challenging the decision. In a statement, the Sanding Rock Sioux Tribe noted that If the pipeline is completed and begins to operate they will “seek to shut the pipeline operations down.”
The Government claims the land is federally owned, but the tribe cites an 1851 treaty that designates the land for Native American tribes. A lawsuit filed to oppose the pipeline is pending, but construction is moving forward.
President Obama had blocked the permit process for construction before leaving office, but an executive order signed by Trump allowed the process to begin again.