Final cleanup begins at Dakota Access pipeline protest camp

By The Associated Press

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has moved into the evacuated Dakota Access pipeline protest camp to finish the cleanup started weeks ago by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Jasper Spillman, of Lawrence, Kan., leaves the protest camp as opponents of the Dakota Access pipeline leave their main protest camp Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, near Cannon Ball, N.D. Most of the pipeline opponents abandoned their protest camp Wednesday ahead of a government deadline to get off the federal land, and authorities moved to arrest some who defied the order in a final show of dissent. (Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune via AP)

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has moved into the evacuated Dakota Access pipeline protest camp to finish the cleanup started weeks ago by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

A Florida-based company has been hired to provide trash removal and environmental cleanup in the main Oceti Sakowin camp on the north side of the Cannonball River and the smaller Rosebud camp on the south side. Both are on federal land.

Authorities this week cleared the last holdouts from the camp near the Standing Rock Reservation, which straddles the North Dakota and South Dakota border. Thousands of people stayed there before the area was buried in winter blizzards.

Corps officials say about 240 dumpsters have been hauled out of the main camp, each brimming with debris of old food stores, structures, tents, building materials and abandoned personal belongings. Officials estimate another 240 loads or so will get the job done, the Bismarck Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/2lVklJS).

The corps and the tribe are doing a cultural survey to see if any special items, such as teepees, require separate handling and consultation. The contract also included a special environmental crew to deal with any potentially hazardous or toxic materials.

Tribal contractors were helping to clear the Rosebud site, including Logan Thompson, who brought skid steers, loaders and a crew of 10.

"The mud is killing us," Thompson said. "I'm hoping if it stays cold like this, by Monday we could be done."

Many protesters moved into other camps on the reservation. Tribal officials, along with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, are moving to clear those camps and may get some help from the state.

A spokesman for North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said the office supports Standing Rock's efforts, but there are no definite plans to deploy any state resources. He said the North Dakota Highway Patrol can assist on public roadways, but using the National Guard requires an official request from either Sioux County or the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

"There are no specific plans, but he stands ready to assist, if requested," Mike Nowatzki said.

The concrete barricades that have been used to blockade and route traffic near the Oceti Sakowin camp were also being moved Friday, but Highway 1806 remains closed north and south of the camp.

Highway Patrol Lt. Tom Iverson said reopening the highway to through traffic is a priority, but it's not clear when that will happen.

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