CANNON BALL, N.D., Dec. 4 (UPI) -- After weeks of growing protests, the federal government announced Sunday it will not issue a permit for the construction of a stretch of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.
The Army Corps of Engineers said it will not give an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline to build a stretch of pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe, saying it will work with Energy Transfer Partners, which is building the pipeline, and other groups to find another route.
About 2,000 veterans joined protests at the site this weekend, forming a human shield around the growing group of protesters against the pipeline.
"Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it's clear that there's more work to do," Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army's assistant secretary for civil works, said in a statement. "The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing."
Leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe welcomed the decision, which will prevent the destruction of a burial ground near the path of the pipeline.
"Treaties are paramount law and must be respected, and we welcome dialogue on how to continue to honor that moving forward. We are not opposed to energy independence, economic development, or national security concerns but we must ensure that these decisions are made with the considerations of our Indigenous peoples," Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said in a statement.
The Dakota Access pipeline is an 1,172-mile, 30-inch pipeline designed to transport oil from Bakken and Three Forks in North Dakota to Patoka, Ill., with an expectation it will move about 470,000 barrels per day. The pipeline, its constructors say, will allow oil and gas shippers to reach more customers in the Midwest, along the East Coast and the Gulf Coast of Texas.
In September, the Army Corps halted construction of the pipeline over concerns about the lake, which is a primary water source, and the burial grounds, which are protected under federal law, as it gathered information and gave the public a chance to comment.
Most of the construction of the pipe is nearing completion, with the 1,100 foot crossing at Lake Oahe an exception. With the decision, work will start to find another path for the section of pipe.
Although the decision from the Obama Administration has been celebrated by the tribe and others who supported the battle, both the tribe and those who want the pipe built say they hope and expect President-elect Donald Trump will reverse the decision when he takes office in January. Trump, and many of his advisors, have publicly backed the project previously.
The Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, a group of businesses and labor groups who want the pipe to be built, called the decision "purely political" and expect it will be reversed quickly when Trump takes office.
"With President-elect Trump set to take office in just a few weeks, we are hopeful that this is not the final word on the Dakota Access Pipeline," said Craig Stevens, a spokesman for the group. "For millions of hardworking people across the heartland, Jan. 20 cannot come soon enough."