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Behind this gate is the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline route that crosses Highway 1806 in southern Morton County.

Moments after a federal court judge ruled to allow work on the Dakota Access Pipeline to continue, three federal agencies stepped in to halt construction just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

Saying the tribe had raised "important issues" about the pipeline and pipeline-related decision making, the Departments of the Army, Justice and Interior issued a statement that construction under Lake Oahe, which is part of the Missouri River, will not be authorized until the Army Corps of Engineers conducts further review.

The agencies said they need to determine whether any of their previous decisions regarding the construction and its compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and other laws should be reconsidered. 

The agencies asked the company to "voluntarily pause" construction activity within 20 miles east and west of the river during this time.

The case, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, also raised larger issues for the agencies, including the need for "serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes' views on these types of infrastructure projects."

This fall, tribes will be invited to discussions with those federal agencies on how the government can collect meaningful input on infrastructure-related decisions and the protection of tribal lands.

In an interview, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II called Friday's outcome a "small victory." 

"We know that the pipeline will not go under the Missouri River until further review," he said. 

However, he said the tribe will continue its fight. 

"I know that the work isn’t over. We’re exploring all our legal options," Archambault said, declining to say decisively whether the tribe would appeal the court decision.

Officials with pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners LP did not return phone calls or emails from the Tribune or the Associated Press seeking comment.

In the federal case, the tribe, whose cause has drawn thousands to join the protest, has challenged the Army Corps' decision to grant permits at more than 200 water crossings for the $3.8 billion pipeline. Tribal leaders say the project violates several federal laws and will harm water supplies. The tribe also alleges that ancient sites have been disturbed during construction.

The 1,172-mile pipeline is intended to carry nearly a half-million barrels of crude oil daily from North Dakota's oil fields through South Dakota and Iowa to an existing pipeline in Patoka, Ill.

The company intends to complete the Dakota Access pipeline this year. In court papers, it said stopping the project would cost $1.4 billion the first year, mostly due to lost revenue in hauling crude.

"Investor appetite for the project could shift and financing may no longer be available," the company said. "Construction of the entire project would cease and the project itself would be jeopardized."

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg's 58-page ruling said the court "does not lightly countenance any depredation of lands that hold significance" to the tribe and that, given the federal government's history with the tribe, the court scrutinized the permitting process "with particular care."

Nonetheless, the judge wrote, the tribe "has not demonstrated that an injunction is warranted here."

The judge wrote the corps made "dozens of attempts" to communicate with the tribe about historical artifacts near the river, and the tribe "largely refused to engage in its consultations. It chose instead to hold out for more -- namely, the chance to conduct its own cultural surveys over the entire length of the pipeline."

The tribe did provide timely and extensive comments earlier this year on a draft environmental assessment, and the corps and tribe held several meetings to discuss the cultural surveys, the judge noted.

In its statement, the federal agencies asked protesters to remain nonviolent, reminding people that committing violent or destructive acts could lead to criminal charges. 

Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said the agency has sent people to North Dakota to facilitate communication among agencies and camp leaders and to defuse tensions. Most have been on the ground for several days.

The next court date in the Standing Rock Sioux's lawsuit is a status conference scheduled for Sept. 16.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach Caroline Grueskin at 701-250-8225 or at caroline.grueskin@bismarcktribune.com

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