Dakota Access pipeline work to resume near large protest

In this Sept. 9, 2016 file photo, more than a thousand people gather at an encampment near North Dakota's Standing Rock Sioux reservation. (AP)


BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Construction on the four-state Dakota Access pipeline will resume on private land in North Dakota that’s near a camp where thousands of protesters supporting tribal rights have gathered for months, the company building it said Tuesday.

In turn, protesters said they’re discussing nonviolent opposition measures, including chaining themselves to equipment.

Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners’ statement follows Sunday’s federal appeals court ruling that allowed construction to resume within 20 miles of Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir that is the water supply for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation. The $3.8 million, 1,200-mile pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois is otherwise largely complete.

“In light of Sunday’s court decision, Dakota Access looks forward to a prompt resumption of construction activities east and west of Lake Oahe on private land,” the company said. “We reiterate our commitment to protect cultural resources, the environment and public safety.”

Company spokeswoman Vicki Granado declined to say Tuesday exactly when construction would resume. The work area is about 20 miles from the so-called Red Warrior Camp where scores of protesters have gathered in recent months.

Energy Transfer Partners still needs approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to work on a separate parcel of federal land bordering and under Lake Oahe, which the agency manages. The Corps said Monday it was not ready to give that approval because it is still reviewing whether reforms are needed in the way tribal views are considered for such projects.

The Standing Rock Sioux wants construction halted because of concerns about potential contamination of its water supply and says the pipeline will encroach on tribal burial sites and other cultural artifacts.

A state archaeologist’s inspection found no such artifacts on the private land where construction will resume. The tribe disputes that, and is still appealing a lower-court ruling from September that allowed work on the entire pipeline to proceed.

Protesters will discuss nonviolent measures to oppose the resumption of construction, camp spokesman Cody Hall said Tuesday. Methods might include chaining themselves to equipment, as they have done in the past, but nothing had been decided early Tuesday, he said.

“The people are going to stay vigilant. They’re going to fight this pipeline to the very end,” he said.

In early September, tribal officials accused construction crews of bulldozing several sites of “significant cultural and historic value,” leading to a clash between protesters and private security guards hired by the pipeline company. No one was arrested, and at least 30 people were pepper-sprayed.

Thousands of people have joined the protest in support of the tribe. Of the protesters, 123 people have been arrested since mid-August, including actress Shailene Woodley and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.