©Amy Gulick/amygulick.com
Armed police and vehicles occupy the top of Turtle Island, a sacred site to the Standing Rock Sioux. Water protectors gather at the base of the island to pray to their ancestors. The Dakota Access oil pipeline is being constructed just beyond Turtle Island, and is currently routed to tunnel beneath the Missouri River upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Thousands of supporters from all over the world are stationed in nearby encampments to protect the source of the tribe’s drinking water.

Army Denies Dakota Access Easement Under Lake Oahe; Exultation Ensues

Jenni Monet

Federal officials with the Department of Army announced on Sunday, December 4 that they would not approve permits for construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  The denial halts construction of the $3.8 billion dollar project that has been partially stalled at the easement of the contested Missouri River, the primary water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The decision is a significant victory for the tribal nation and thousands of water protectors camped near the construction site of the pipeline project who have until tomorrow, Monday Dec. 5 to evacuate the sprawling Oceti Sakowin Camp.

In a statement released by the Army’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy said she based her decision on a need to explore alternate routes for the 1,172 mile-long pipeline.

“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” said Darcy.

The federal agency is recommending an Environmental Impact Statement be conducted with full public input and analysis to explore a possible reroute of the pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe argued that the existing path of the energy project threatened the Missouri River, the tribe’s water supply. Plans called for burying the pipe 90–110 feet below the Missouri River. The administration of president Barack Obama had blocked construction of easements on both sides of the river in early September. In November, Obama told Now This News that the Army Corps of Engineers was considering alternate routes for the pipeline project.

RELATED: Obama ‘Will Do the Right Thing’: Standing Rock Welcomes Potential DAPL Rerouting

Energy Transfer Partners, operator of the Dakota Access pipeline, has publicly rejected ideas of a reroute.

While Sunday’s decision is seen as a major victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its thousands of supporters, tribal leaders and organizers behind the movement are celebrating with caution.

“We hope that Kelcy Warren, Governor [Jack] Dalrymple and the incoming Trump administration respect this decision and understand the complex process that led us to this point,” said Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II in a prepared statement, referring to Energy Transfer Partners, CEO and the governor of North Dakota.

“Our network is singing the victory song with the Standing Rock Sioux,” said Tom Goldtooth, director of the Indigenous Environmental Network.  “However, we are cautiously hopeful that this is a total win.”

But there was gratitude and appreciation for Obama, who has mostly remained silent on the issue in recent weeks.

“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all of Indian Country will be forever grateful to the Obama Administration for this historic decision,” said Archambault. “In a system that has continuously been stacked against us from every angle, it took tremendous courage to take a new approach to our nation-to-nation relationship.”

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