The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued notices Friday to protesters, warning that corps-managed federal property adjacent to the Cannonball River would be closed Feb. 22.
In addition, the Bureau of Indian Affairs pledged its support in helping the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe close the protest camps within its reservation boundaries.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., lauded the federal government for its assistance.
The Oceti Sakowin camp is being closed in anticipation of flooding that could cause injury and environmental damage, according to the corps.
“Because of record snowfall and long periods of frigid temperatures in the Bismarck and Fort Yates area this year, there is a high potential for flooding at the mouth of the Cannonball River from spring runoff and ice jams,” according to a statement released by the corps. “Much of the land where the protest camps are currently located is directly in an area prone to flooding in years with heavy plains snowpack.”
The corps warned that ice jams can quickly cause flooding; and, without proper preparations, debris, trash and untreated waste from the protest camps could wash into the Cannonball River and Lake Oahe. Soil erosion where grass cover was damaged by camp structures also is a concern.
“As stewards of the public lands and natural resources, we have a responsibility to the public to prevent injuries and loss of life, and to ensure that our precious water resources are free from pollution due to human activities and respect for all who rely on this water for their livelihoods,” said Col. John Henderson, the corps’ Omaha District commander. “Public safety will continue to be our top priority.”
Various activist groups continue to pledge support for the anti-pipeline movement.
“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has fully engaged in the deeply flawed process that has been stripped away to benefit the interests of big oil — a process that is now essentially a rubber stamp in the Donald Trump administration,” said Tara Houska, national campaigns director for Honor the Earth.
“The courts have yet to issue an injunction to fully cease construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline while the tribe’s legal claims are heard. It has been non-violent direct actions, peaceful prayers, and the bravery of unarmed water protectors on the frontlines who garnered worldwide support and cost Dakota Access hundreds of millions of dollars,” she said. “We stand with the Sacred Stone camp, and with any willing to make a stand in this fight and in their own localities. Strong hearts to the front.”
Meanwhile, two days after an anti-Dakota Access Pipeline demonstration took place at Backwater Bridge, former congressional candidate Chase Iron Eyes was charged on Friday with inciting a riot and trespass.