World Bulletin / News Desk
A controversial oil pipeline in North Dakota will not proceed along its current route, federal officials announced Sunday.
"Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not be granting the easement to cross Lake Oahe for the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline," the self-governed Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said in a statement. "Instead, the Corps will be undertaking an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternative routes."
The tribe said it would "wholeheartedly support the decision" and praised the courage of President Barack Obama and relevant agencies for taking steps "to correct the course of history and to do the right thing".
Nearly 3,000 veterans were at ground zero Sunday to denounce the $3.7 billion project. It was the first of a four-day protest for the former soldiers.
The decision by the Army Corps of Engineers brings an end to months of protests and marks a victory for the Sioux tribe.
The tribe had said the ongoing construction infringes upon its rights as a sovereign government, will desecrate sacred land and poses environmental risks, including contaminating the water supply, for the native population.
But the project is not going anywhere.
The construction for the 1,172-mile (1,886-km), $3.7 billion pipeline, which will transport oil between North Dakota and Illinois, began in May after much bureaucratic wrangling, and is 86 percent complete.
Protests that have intensified since summer and at times turned violent, have attracted national attention in the form of support from environmentalists -- including celebrities and public figures -- and frustration for local authorities.
North Dakota’s Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple on Monday ordered a mandatory evacuation of protesters camping near the construction site.
“Any person who chooses to enter, re-enter or stay in the evacuation does so at their own risk,” he said in a statement.
Dalrymple then backtracked Wednesday, saying he never intended to forcibly remove protesters and would seek an audience with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council to mend fences.
The Morton County Sheriff’s Department said Tuesday it would block delivery of supplies to protesters at the Oceti Sakowin camp.
The increasing publicity over the months surrounding the pipeline project, which originated in 2014, has laid bare the underlying politicking along party lines.
The Barack Obama administration withheld a permit in September to build beneath the Lake Oahe portion of the Missouri River, putting a damper on construction efforts as they were approaching fruition.
North Dakota’s Republican Sen. John Hoeven, blamed the administration for the demonstrations.
“The ongoing protest activities, which at times have been violent, are being prolonged and intensified by the Obama administration’s refusal to approve the final remaining easement at Lake Oahe,” Hoeven said in a speech in the Senate.
The lawmaker said the pipeline is 98 percent complete in North Dakota.
Thousands of miles of pipelines already crisscross the U.S., he said, arguing pipelines remain a safe method for transporting oil.