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Deadline Looms for Dakota Access Pipeline Protesters

  • VOA News

FILE - Hay is stacked up to feed horses at a protest encampment along the route of the Dakota Access oil pipeline near Cannon Ball in southern North Dakota, Jan. 24, 2017.

Hundreds of activists are preparing for yet another standoff with law enforcement officers as they face a deadline to vacate their encampment near the site of the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota.

Native Americans and environmental activists have lived at the Oceti Sakowin camp in North Dakota since August fighting construction of the pipeline, which they say threatens the Standing Rock Sioux tribe's water resources and disregards the land's sacred status.

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have set a Wednesday deadline for the activists to leave. The camp, near the Missouri River, could soon face flooding caused by warmer spring weather.

Army Captain Ryan Hignight said the protesters tried to extend the deadline to delay their departure, but the request was denied because, he noted, the Corps of Engineers is focused on people's safety and on the environment.

The 1,885-kilometer pipeline, owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP, is mostly complete, except for a segment planned to run under Lake Oahe, a reservoir in North Dakota formed by a dam on the Missouri River. It is designed to transport up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil a day from North Dakota to Illinois.

The protests have been led by Native American tribes, particularly the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux, whose reservations are downstream from the construction site.

In September, the Obama administration temporarily blocked construction in hopes of conducting a review of the project, but a federal court later ruled the project could continue.

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