MORTON COUNTY, N.D., Nov. 28 (UPI) -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it has no plans to forcibly remove Dakota Access pipeline protesters if they do not vacate prohibited areas by the deadline it imposed next week.
"The Army Corps of Engineers is seeking a peaceful and orderly transition to a safer location, and has no plans for forcible removal," the Army Corps said in a statement released Sunday. "But those who choose to stay do so at their own risk as emergency, fire, medical, and law enforcement response cannot be adequately provided in these areas."
The Army Corps over the weekend announced all lands north of the Cannonball River will be closed to the public as of Dec. 5 and a "free speech zone" will be established on Army Corps property south of the river.
If completed, the $3.7 billion pipeline will carry hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil from North Dakota oil fields to Illinois and then onto the southern U.S. coast. Some Native American tribes, including the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, launched protests against the 1,134-mile oil pipeline's construction.
Protesters have said police used tear gas and other non-lethal methods to disrupt the demonstrations. The Army Corps said protesters who stay behind past the deadline face citations.
"Those who remain will be considered unauthorized and may be subject to citation under federal, state, or local laws. This will reduce the risk of harm to people in the encampments caused by the harsh North Dakota winter conditions," the Army Corps said in a statement.