Police presence

Police presence was strong during a protest in September at a Dakota Access Pipeline construction site near Glen Ullin.

The North Dakota Department of Emergency Services is requesting up to $6 million in borrowing authority from the Bank of North Dakota to offset costs for providing assistance to local law enforcement in response to Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

“We’ve never done this,” DES spokeswoman Cecily Fong said of responding to large protests such as those over the past month. “We’re good at fighting floods.”

The governor’s office on Tuesday put the state cost of assisting law enforcement at $1.8 million so far. About $1.08 million is from DES for overtime pay and resources, plus $700,000 in North Dakota Highway Patrol costs.

Office of Management and Budget Director Pam Sharp said the request is routine for emergencies.

“It’s something that’s not anticipated,” said Sharp, adding that the agency typically doesn’t have money in its budget for such costly responses.

DES would set up a loan with the state-owned bank and repay it with interest. 

A growing protest movement, including tribal members and activists from around the country, has gathered at a camp near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation for more than a month.

Opponents of the project are concerned about potential contamination of the Missouri River if the pipeline were to rupture and over damage to cultural artifacts. A portion of the line is set to be bored under the Missouri River less than a mile from the Standing Rock reservation boundary.

“We plan and evaluate every possible scenario,” Fong said of how the $6 million figure was reached.

Fong said the estimate came from looking at the camp, which has grown to a few thousand, according to law enforcement estimates, and determining how long it may remain active. This would determine how long and what size of presence may be required in the area.

She said officials expect to see the camp thin out when colder weather settles in.

“I just don’t think they’d be able to support that many people,” Fong said.

Tribal officials say they intend to see the fight through to the end.

“Energy Transfer Partners has proven time and time again that the bottom line for them is money. The bottom line for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is and will always be protecting our lands, people, water and sacred sites from the devastation of this pipeline,” Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault said in a statement on Tuesday.

Archambault was responding to an internal memo from Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren released to media saying the company will continue to press its case for the project to federal regulators.

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(Reach Nick Smith at 701-250-8255 or 701-223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.)