North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum issued late Wednesday an emergency evacuation order for Dakota Access protesters still located in the floodplain, citing the threat of “injury or death” and “ecological disaster” from the rapidly melting snowpack.
The mandatory evacuation sets a deadline of 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22, the same cut-off established by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for pipeline activists to leave the camp located on federal land at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers.
The snowmelt has been accelerated by warmer-than-normal temperatures in southern North Dakota, leaving parts of the large Oceti Sakowin camp already under several inches of water.
“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,” said the governor’s office in a statement. “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 corps has joined the clean-up effort led by the Standing Rock Sioux at the camp, which was left strewn with an estimated 4.5 million pounds of garbage and debris after most protesters vacated the area during the early December snowstorms.
Tow trucks are working to remove about 200 vehicles still located in the floodplain before they can be washed into the river system, Western Wire reported.