Deadline to leave pipeline protest camp won't be extended

By Blake Nicholson, Associated Press

The Army Corps of Engineers said it won't extend a Wednesday deadline for Dakota Access oil pipeline opponents to vacate their encampment on federal land in North Dakota.

In this Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, photo, debris is piled on the ground awaiting pickup by cleanup crews at the Dakota Access oil pipeline protest camp in southern North Dakota near Cannon Ball. The camp is on federal land, and authorities have told occupants to leave by Wednesday, Feb. 22 in advance of spring flooding. (AP Photo/Blake Nicholson)

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The Army Corps of Engineers said it won't extend a Wednesday deadline for Dakota Access oil pipeline opponents to vacate their encampment on federal land in North Dakota.

The camp has existed since August and at times has housed thousands of people who supported the concerns of Sioux nations that the $3.8 billion pipeline to carry North Dakota oil through the Dakotas and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois threatens the environment and sacred sites. Dallas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners disputes those claims.

With flooding expected this spring, the Corps on Feb. 3 told the few hundred people remaining in camp that they must take their possessions and leave by 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Camp leader Phyllis Young said rain Monday hampered that effort, and that Native Americans also took time out for traditional ceremonies related to the weather. Frozen ground also is making it difficult for people to remove tent stakes, she said.

Corps Capt. Ryan Hignight confirmed that people in camp sought an extension on the deadline to move. But he said the Corps is focused on people's safety and on the environment.

Gov. Doug Burgum also listed Wednesday as the deadline in an evacuation order he issued last week. Spokesman Mike Nowatzki said Tuesday that the deadline hasn't changed. He said arrests are possible if people refuse to leave.

A schedule for emptying the camp, released late Wednesday, calls for the first bus to arrive at 9 a.m. to take those willing to leave to a "transition center" in Bismarck to get a change of clothes, medical screening and hotel and bus vouchers.

The schedule's entry for 2 p.m. says: "Certain individuals in the camps would like to experience a ceremonial arrest which will occur at this time."

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