North Dakota’s governor asked President Donald Trump for federal aid to help the state clean up the mess activists left behind during months of protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Gov. Doug Burgum (R) asked Trump to approve a federal reimbursement Saturday of $38 million in state law enforcement costs associated with demonstrations against the multi-billion-dollar pipeline. The president has not indicated if he plans on approving Burgum’s request.
“The DAPL protest is the first time the state of North Dakota has experienced civil unrest of this magnitude,” he wrote in his letter to Trump. He noted that the protest “was of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and affected local governments.”
American Indian tribes and environmentalists believe the pipeline’s construction would trample on tribal lands and potentially poison waterways, including rivers such as the Missouri River and Lake Oahe. More than 10,000 activists settled at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers last year to derail the highly controversial project, which is expected to shuttle 500,000 barrels of Bakken oil from North Dakota to Illinois.
If Trump does not declare the area a disaster area, then North Dakota taxpayers will have to pony up the case to repair the damage anti-DAPL activists caused during nearly a year of protesting. Officials have long pushed for acquiring federal dollar to help clean up damages.
Many of the hundreds of arrests came from out-of-state protesters. Morton County officials believe 94 percent of the 709 arrests at the Oceti and Sacred Campsites were of people from outside of North Dakota. Officials also said 221 of those apprehended had prior criminal records.
The protests also created significant property damage. More than 544 households reported losses ranging from $15,000 to $20,000 each from crop losses. The total equates to over $8 million in total losses.
The Army Corps completed its $1.1 million clean up at the Sacred Stone campsite in February. Sanitation crews hauled away 845 dumpsters of trash remaining at four sites devoted to housing opponents of the multi-billion oil project. Local officials worried the trash left at the makeshift site would cause an ecological disaster if not cleaned up.
A total of 8,170 cubic yards of debris was removed from Sacred Stone, Oceti Sakowin, and Rosebud.
The Justice Department’s Emergency Federal Law Enforcement Assistance Program could help the state offset the costs, according to Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, and Republican John Hoeven. The $1.1 trillion government-wide spending bill lawmakers are fleshing out this week includes $15 million for the program.
North Dakota officials criticized former President Barack Obama for his handling of the pipeline project. Cody Schulz, chairman of the Morton County commission, for instance, blasted Trump’s Democrat predecessor last year for saying he was going to let the pipeline issue resume for several weeks and let the government determine whether there is a way to reroute the hotly contested pipeline.
Obama also suggested that “there’s an obligation for authorities to show restraint” when handling the protests.