Date: February 3, 2017
Organization: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
The Corps issued notices today informing protestors of the closure of Corps-managed federal property adjacent to the Cannonball River. Safety is the number one priority for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and therefore the Corps will close federal property in the floodplain located at the mouth of the Cannonball River on February 22, 2017, to prevent injuries and significant environmental damage in the likely event of flooding in this area.
Because of record snowfall and long periods of frigid temperatures in the Bismarck and Fort Yates area this year, there is a high potential for flooding at the mouth of the Cannonball River from spring runoff and ice jams. Much of the land where the protest camps are currently located is directly in an area prone to flooding in years with heavy plains snow pack.
While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers routinely monitors river levels, ice jam flooding can very quickly force water into low-lying areas near the river with little time for reaction, placing anyone in the floodplain at risk for possible injury or death.
Additionally, the letters address the environmental risk to the river and lake from the significant impacts the protest camps have made on the land. Without proper remediation, debris, trash, and untreated waste will wash into the Cannonball River and Lake Oahe.
Soil erosion and non-point source pollution in these waterways is also a serious concern. On the approximately 50 acres where protest camps are located, grass has been removed or destroyed by the unauthorized placement of structures, vehicles, personal property, and fires. Soil erosion from a lack of vegetation cover will be exacerbated if flooding does occur, and could result in contaminated sediment runoff into the Cannonball River and Lake Oahe.
Today's issuance of notices is unrelated to the Army's ongoing full review and analysis of the pipeline easement.
“As stewards of the public lands and natural resources, we have a responsibility to the public to prevent injuries and loss of life, and to ensure that our precious water resources are free from pollution due to human activities and respect for all who rely on this water for their livelihoods,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District Commander, Col. John Henderson. “Public safety will continue to be our top priority.”