Feb. 16 (UPI) -- North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum ordered an emergency evacuation of the Dakota Access pipeline protest camp, citing environmental damage and a flood threat.
The Oseti Sakowin camp, on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, is the site of protests against an oil pipeline under construction in the area. Demonstrators have spent several months at the camp in Morton County, and a cleanup effort, derided as slow by state officials, began in January.
The Republican governor signed the order out of "concern for the safety of people who are residing on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land in southern Morton County and to avoid an ecological disaster to the Missouri River," a statement from the governor's office said.
It noted increasing temperatures and accelerated snow melt in the area could cause environmental damage to the area, which is on a flood plain.
"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. 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 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ordered a similar evacuation Feb. 3 to those camping on federal property. The governor's office said the Oseti Sakowin camp must be vacated by Feb. 22 to allow private contractors to remove waste from the camp.