BISMARK, N.D. — The governor of North Dakota signed an emergency evacuation order Wednesday reaffirming the Feb. 22 deadline for protesters to leave the Oceti Sakowin camp, insisting that people’s safety is now in danger.
“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,” according to a statement from Gov. Doug Burgum’s office.
“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.
“From the state of North Dakota stand point, February 22nd might have been a fine date a month ago, but it’s not a good day today in practicality with the people that are there.”
Cleanup is underway, but the Army Corps of Engineers will be stepping in to expedite the process.
“The Corps of Engineers is escorting a contractor back out to the camp to survey and asses the amount of cleaning and remediation that needs done,” Capt. Ryan Hignight said.
The corps will not be escorted by law enforcement. They say they are not afraid of hostilities from protesters. The governor said there is a new hazard to clean water in the Missouri River.
“One of the biggest environmental threats to clean water in the Missouri right now is the camp itself,” Burgum said. “Because we’ve got five or six months of human waste, debris.”
Burgum said waste is a more imminent threat to the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux than anything else.
On Feb. 3, the Army Corps of Engineers ordered those camping on federal property to vacate “to prevent injuries and significant environmental damage in the likely event of flooding in the area.”