The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued notices Friday to protesters, warning that corps-managed federal property adjacent to the Cannonball River would be closed Feb. 22.
In addition, the Bureau of Indian Affairs pledged its support in helping the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe close the protest camps within its reservation boundaries.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., lauded the federal government for its assistance.
“After the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe requested BIA support, this federal assistance is a step in the right direction," she said. "But our work isn’t done, and I’ll keep pushing with the governor and the rest of the delegation for financial assistance for state and local law enforcement agencies and for the manpower to guarantee everyone stays safe."
The Oceti Sakowin camp is being closed in anticipation of flooding that could cause injury and environmental damage, according to the corps.
"Because of record snowfall and long periods of frigid temperatures in the Bismarck and Fort Yates area this year, there is a high potential for flooding at the mouth of the Cannonball River from spring runoff and ice jams," according to a statement released by the corps. "Much of the land where the protest camps are currently located is directly in an area prone to flooding in years with heavy plains snowpack."
The corps warned that ice jams can quickly cause flooding; and, without proper preparations, debris, trash and untreated waste from the protest camps could wash into the Cannonball River and Lake Oahe. Soil erosion where grass cover was damaged by camp structures also is a concern.
“As stewards of the public lands and natural resources, we have a responsibility to the public to prevent injuries and loss of life, and to ensure that our precious water resources are free from pollution due to human activities and respect for all who rely on this water for their livelihoods,” said Col. John Henderson, the corps' Omaha District commander. “Public safety will continue to be our top priority.”
The notices are unrelated to the Army's ongoing full review and analysis of the pipeline easement, according to the corps.
Various activist groups continue to pledge support for the anti-pipeline movement.
“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has fully engaged in the deeply flawed process that has been stripped away to benefit the interests of big oil — a process that is now essentially a rubber stamp in the Donald Trump administration," said Tara Houska, national campaigns director for Honor the Earth.
"The courts have yet to issue an injunction to fully cease construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline while the tribe’s legal claims are heard. It has been non-violent direct actions, peaceful prayers, and the bravery of unarmed water protectors on the frontlines who garnered worldwide support and cost Dakota Access hundreds of millions of dollars," she said. "We stand with the Sacred Stone camp, and with any willing to make a stand in this fight and in their own localities. Strong hearts to the front."