Their camp turning into a pit of mud, Dakota pipeline protesters packing up to leave – By Joe Heim February 12 at 5:23 PM


The protest camp near the Dakota Access pipeline drilling site, in North Dakota, where rising temperatures have led to snowmelt and rising water, shown on Saturday. Many protesters are preparing to leave the camp. (Joe Heim/The Washington Post)

— The main camp here, once home to thousands of Native Americans and their allies who gathered to protest the completion of the Dakota Access crude-oil pipeline, is quickly turning into a gooey pit of mud.

Unseasonably warm weather over the weekend melted giant mounds of snow, and many of the remaining 200 or so pipeline protesters — self-described “water protectors” — are gathering their possessions and making plans to get off the 80-acre property, which sits in a flood zone near the Missouri River. The rising waters, and a federal eviction notice for Feb. 22, have forced their hands.

Others say they will stay and fight the Army Corps of Engineers, which decided last week to allow completion of the 1,172-mile pipeline. After President Trump cleared the way, the corps granted an easement to Energy Transfer Partners to drill under a reservoir less than a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation. The drilling began last week.

[Trump administration approves final permit for Dakota Access pipeline]

The tribe has argued in court that this short stretch of the $3.8 billion pipeline threatens its water supply, crosses sacred burial grounds, and violates long-standing treaties between the Native Americans and the federal government. But the path forward for the fight is unclear; many are pinning their hopes on court challenges, including one scheduled Monday in Washington seeking a temporary restraining order to stop the political — and actual — machinery. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has joined a motion by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to halt the drilling.

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