Deadline looms for Dakota Access pipeline opponents to evacuate protest camp

Scott Olson/Getty Images(CANNONBALL, N.D.) -- A deadline set by state and federal authorities for opponents of the Dakota Access pipeline to vacate the main protest camp is fast approaching.

Officials said the Oceti Sakowin camp, which is situated at the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation near Cannonball, North Dakota, must be evacuated Wednesday by 2 p.m. local time. Reentry will not be permitted. Camp residents there were seen lighting fires Wednesday morning, just hours before the deadline.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has set up a travel assistance center that will offer each protester water, snacks, a food voucher, a personal hygiene kit, health and wellness assessment, hotel lodging for one night, a taxi voucher to the bus terminal and bus fare for a return trip home. Transportation will be provided from Oceti Sakowin camp to the travel assistance center in Bismarck.

“This free service will provide protesters with support as they prepare for their return home,” Burgum’s office said in a Facebook post Tuesday night. “All camp residents are encourage to take advantage of these amenities.”

Last week, Burgum signed an emergency evacuation order for the Oceti Sakowin camp that reaffirmed a Feb. 22 deadline set by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe began coordinating a cleanup in late January, but state officials say it isn't happening fast enough. The governor’s emergency evacuation order cited increasing temperatures and the threat of flooding as the impetus in accelerating the camp’s cleanup.

"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 from Burgum’s office 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 statement added.

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