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Kirchmeier

Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, shown here in August, says the number of law enforcement officers is being increased.

Construction is being stopped on the Dakota Access Pipeline near Cannonball Ranch and law enforcement is routing traffic away from the protest area as safety concerns mount.

“As of this moment, the Dakota Access Pipeline Project is being discontinued for the time being,” Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said Wednesday. “No work is going to be done there for an undetermined amount of time."

Kirchmeier said the protest has become unlawful as a result of criminal activity. He said his officers have been threatened and heard gunshots. The agency has gotten reports of pipe bombs, assaults on private security personnel, fireworks and vandalism.

In the interest of public safety, North Dakota Department of Transportation and Highway Patrol has established a traffic control point on Highway 1806 south of the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery. Only emergency vehicles and local traffic will be allowed through. Other vehicles will be detoured to Highway 6.

Kirchmeier said officers will safeguard workers and equipment as they leave the area. It is not clear whether the equipment will be removed. 

Currently, there are no officers on the protest site. They are stationed at the highway barrier.

Kirchmeier said the state national guard has not been asked to intervene.

The sheriff's department will not be providing supplies such as Dumpsters and water to the protesters.

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"I don't know if we need to provide them supplies when it has turned into an unlawful protest," Kirchmeier said. "We are just going to make sure that it remains safe."

The plan resulted from discussions with Energy Transfer Partners, the governor's office and tribal leadership, according to Kirchmeier.

About 1,500 to 2,000 people are camping in the area south of Mandan, Kirchmeier said. Twenty-eight people have been arrested in the past week.

Officers from around the state, including Mercer County, Cass County and Mandan, as well as Game and Fish, Highway Patrol and parole and probation, have assisted in policing the area.

During the closure, the Fort Rice boat ramp and campground, Eckroth Bottoms fishing area, Little Heart boat ramp, Little Heart Rifle Range and Graner Park will be closed to the public.

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

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