North Dakota governor Doug Burgum issued an emergency evacuation order Wednesday for the Oceti Sakowin protest camp -- located on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation -- where Dakota Access Pipeline opponents have spent several months expressing their disdain for the pipeline.
Gov. Burgum signed the order "out of concern for the safety of people who are residing on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) land in southern Morton County and to avoid an ecological disaster to the Missouri River," read a statement from the governor's office.
Increasing temperatures were cited as the impetus in speeding up the camp's clean-up. "Warm temperatures have accelerated snowmelt in the area of the Oceti Sakowin protest camp, and the National Weather Service reports that the Cannonball River should be on the watch for rising water levels and an increased risk of ice jams later this week," the statement read. "Due to these conditions, the governor’s emergency order addresses safety concerns to human life as anyone in the floodplain is at risk for possible injury or death. The order also addresses the need to protect the Missouri River from the waste that will flow into the Cannonball River and Lake Oahe if the camp is not cleared and the cleanup expedited."
The Standing Rock Sioux began coordinating a cleanup in late January, but state officials say it isn't happening fast enough.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ordered on Feb. 3 those camping on federal property to vacate to prevent injuries and significant environmental damage in the likely event of flooding in the area.
The Oceti Sakowin camp needs to be evacuated no later than Feb. 22 in order to allow private contractors to accelerate the removal of waste from the camp, the governor's office said.