The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has told the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe that the main camp used by people opposed to the Dakota Access pipeline will be closed by Dec. 5.
The camp is on land located just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation, where Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners has been trying to complete the contentious Dakota Access pipeline. If finished, the $ 3.8-billion US pipeline will carry crude oil south to Illinois from northern North Dakota.
According to a letter sent to tribe dated Nov. 25, the Corps of Engineers will be “closing the portion of the Corps-managed federal property north of the Cannonball River to all public use and access effective Dec. 5, 2016.”
The letter states that “this decision is necessary to protect the general public from the violent confrontation between protesters and law enforcement officials that have occurred in this area, and to prevent death, illness, or serious injury to inhabitants of encampments due to the harsh North Dakota winter conditions.”
Anyone on the land after Dec. 5 would be considered to be illegally trespassing, the Corps said.
“Our tribe is deeply disappointed in this decision by the United States, but our resolve to protect our water is stronger than ever,” said tribal chair Dave Archambault in a statement, who added that it was an unfortunate decision made a day after Thanksgiving in the U.S.
“Although the news is saddening, it is not at all surprising given the last 500 years of the mistreatment of our people,” Archambault added.
The Corps said that people opposed to the pipeline could freely demonstrate in a “free speech zone,” which would be established south of the existing camp.
The tribal chair didn’t say anything about what people in the camp should do — instead urging the public to contact outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama and ask that he rescind federal permits needed to complete the pipeline, which requires the company to drill underneath Lake Oahe on the Missouri River. The river passes directly through the reservation and the tribe fears any break could contaminate the water.
More than 500 people have been arrested in demonstrations since the summer and one woman nearly lost an arm when she was injured during a clash with police on Nov. 20.