Protests at the construction site of the Dakota Access Pipeline are coming to a close after almost a year of tension and confrontation.
After Governor Burgum signed an emergency evacuation order for the Oceti Sakowin camp, the main site of protests, the property was cleared last week. The area is in a flood plain and the warmer temperatures have increased a risk of flooding.
Since the cleanup began, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reportedly hauled out over 240 dumpsters filled with trash, personal items and old building material with is likely another 240 loads to go.
CNN reported that at least 23 people holding out in the camp were arrested Thursday morning after they refused to leave but most left voluntarily.
Demonstrators have been protesting the 1,172 mile Dakota Access Pipeline for nearly a year, with some estimates numbering the crowd in the thousands. While the main focus of the protests were in Cannonball, people from all over the world joined in solidarity including protests in Los Angeles, Seattle and Dallas, home of Energy Transfer Partners
Protests on the Dakota Access Pipeline escalated in September after Labor Day violence shut down construction. What had been peaceful protests in the small town of Cannonball Dakota turned ugly after the pipeline company allegedly used bulldozers to destroy sacred tribal sites. Things escalated with guards using pepper spray and dogs to curb the situation.
Construction on the pipeline was almost complete when new protests erupted in October. Demonstrators are concerned about the environmental impact of the pipeline, including contamination of the Missouri River, which is the primary water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Tribal leaders are also upset that the pipeline will disturb sacred burial grounds.
Oil and gas operators are counting on the pipeline's capacity to ship 570,000 barrels a day in 2017. This prolonged set-backs means they may be looking to alternatives and many will be forced to rely on rail to ship product.