The U.S. Army Corps of Engineer's has approved most of the final permits necessary to construct the Dakota Access pipeline project.
Eileen Williamson, a spokeswoman for the corps’ Omaha District, said the agency approved 200 crossings of Waters of the U.S. and three Section 408 easements allowing the pipeline to cross corps property along its 1,172-mile route.
Those three easements are for crossings of Lake Oahe, Laka Sakakawea and the Mississippi River. The Lake Oahe crossing will require the use of horizontal directional drilling, and Congress must be notified before drilling begins. Environmental assessments required for the easements are expected to be publicly available Wednesday.
The pipeline developers, Energy Transfer Partners, still need approval for two more easements, one in South Dakota and two in Illinois, which Williamson said are in various stages of the process.
"We can now move forward with construction in all areas as quickly as possible in order to limit construction activities to one growing season and be in service by the end of this year," Lisa Dillinger, a spokeswoman for the project, said in an email.
Supporters applauded the approval but for the occupiers of a protest spirit camp on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, the fight to protect water and land from a possible oil spill is not over.
“Expect resistance,” Joye Braun, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network and member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, said in response to the corps’ decision.
Braun is at the Spirit Camp near Cannon Ball, where Plains Indians have been praying and gathering for months to force the corps to give the easement the highest level of environmental review, including a full consultation with the tribes, rather than the less rigorous assessment it conducted for the pipeline’s water crossings.
“Our folks have been working really hard on this,” Williamson said, adding that each of the crossings were looked at individually. She said the corps coordinated with tribes, listened to their concerns and did its best to address them.
The pipeline will cross just outside the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on the north side of the Cannonball River, the reservation boundary.
Braun said the resistance will include more prayer and other activities that, for now, are not being revealed, except to say that none will be violent.
“It (the pipeline) won’t cross,” Braun says. “I have faith in prayer and in our people and that human and animal rights and everything here will be protected.”
Construction has already begun on other segments, outside of Corps jurisdiction, of the 1,172-mile crude oil pipeline.
The $3.78 billion project, being constructed by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, begins in western North Dakota near Stanley and ends near Patoka, Ill., transporting as many as 450,000 barrels per day of Bakken crude, with a future capacity of 570,000 barrels per day.
The 358-mile route through North Dakota passes through seven counties, including Mountrail, Williams, McKenzie, Dunn, Mercer, Morton and Emmons.
Reach Jessica Holdman at 701-250-8261 or firstname.lastname@example.org