North Dakota Emergency Commission members began the month of November by approving state funds for addressing law enforcement costs relating to Dakota Access Pipeline protests and it will end the month on the same note.
Commission members, on Wednesday, will be facing a request to increase a line of credit by $7 million. If approved, that would bring the total amount of money available to the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services to $17 million.
DES spokeswoman Cecily Fong said, as of this week, more than $11.8 million has been spent to address the ongoing protest movement in southern Morton County.
Opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline have argued that, if the pipeline goes under the Missouri River less than a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation boundary as planned, it could endanger the water supply for millions of people.
Demonstrations in the region have led to more than 500 arrests since August and required the assistance of law enforcement throughout North Dakota and surrounding states, leading to the $17 million in requests.
Of the money spent so far, $9.5 million has been in personnel costs to agencies, $1.58 million in equipment and supplies and the remaining $737,000 in personnel support.
“As other agencies incur costs, they keep us appraised,” DES spokeswoman Cecily Fong said.
Six agencies are requesting the funds through the DES to offset costs related to protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Each exceeds a $50,000 threshold and will require Budget Section approval. The Budget Section meets Dec. 7, following the end of a three-day organizational session of the Legislature.
“I don’t think it’s going to be the last numbers we see unless something drastically changes,” said Emergency Commission member Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo. “It’s one of those things you have to prioritize, and we’ll have to do it.”
Carlson once again said the federal government should be ponying up dollars and resources to offset state costs incurred from a situation that involves federal land.
“It’s a little disturbing, the lack of federal support,” said Carlson, who expects the federal response to be more forthcoming after President-elect Donald Trump takes office in January.
“Our law enforcement is doing a terrific job,” Emergency Commission member Sen. Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, said.
The state’s Disaster Relief Fund should be an option for offsetting the costs, according to Wardner.
“This is a disaster,” he said of the situation.
Regardless of the cost, Wardner said the pressure on the federal government to help cover costs will continue.
The largest request is from the North Dakota Highway Patrol, for $3.9 million in additional spending authority for its operations in responding to protesters. The authority would run through March 31 and includes overtime pay, meals, lodging, mileage and supplies.
Funding requested by the North Dakota Department of Health totals more than $2.5 million. This would offset costs of medical response and food services for law enforcement as well as first responders.
Nearly half of the $200,500 for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department is for supplies, overtime pay as well as costs relating to use of planes and boats at the scene of protests.
North Dakota Department of Transportation dollars total $162,350 in its request. Of the request, $30,025 is related to damages to infrastructure, including a bridge, roadways and guardrails.