Final DAPL permit issued, pipeline work to start “immediately”

The US Army Corps of Engineers has granted an easement in North Dakota for the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, allowing the project to move toward completion despite the protests of Native Americans and environmentalists.

“With this action, Dakota Access now has received all federal authorizations necessary to proceed expeditiously to complete construction of the pipeline,” said Energy Transfer Partners, the parent firm of the company building the pipeline.

Vicki Granado, spokeswoman for the Energy Transfer Partners, said work would start “immediately.”

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which has long opposed the part of the project near its home, has promised a legal fight. It didn’t immediately respond to CNN’s request Wednesday for comment.

Trump executive action

Just a few weeks ago, President Donald Trump signed executive actions to advance approval of this pipeline and others, casting aside efforts by President Barack Obama’s administration to block construction.

That order directed “the acting secretary of the Army to expeditiously review requests for approvals to construct and operate the Dakota Access Pipeline in compliance with the law.”

Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer’s moves to grant the easement and stop the preparation of an environmental impact statement were anticipated.

“The decision was made based on a sufficient amount of information already available which supported approval to grant the easement request,” the Army said Tuesday.

Speer called granting the easement a “final step” in meeting the tasks of the President’s executive action.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said Tuesday the Obama administration had determined other locations for the pipeline should be looked into by the Army.

“Trump’s reversal of (President Obama’s) decision continues a historic pattern of broken promises to Indian tribes and a violation of treaty rights,” Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman, who is representing the tribe, said. “Trump and his administration will be held accountable in court.”

The Standing Rock Sioux said they will argue in court that the environmental impact statement process was wrongfully terminated.

Dakota Access Pipeline: ‘Rogue’ protesters arrested

The decision gives the pipeline’s developer — Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners — right-of-way through government land at Lake Oahe Dam and Reservoir in North Dakota.

The tribe has been concerned that digging the pipeline under Lake Oahe — a section of the Missouri River in North Dakota — would affect the area’s drinking water, as well as the supply for 17 million people living downstream.

The proposed underground route at Lake Oahe is half a mile upstream from the tribe’s reservation.

The sacred land at the center of the Dakota pipeline dispute

The tribe and its allies have protested in North Dakota for months, blocking the path of the pipeline during peaceful demonstrations and clashes that have sometimes turned violent.

Greenpeace said the President was looking out for the rich.

“We are less than two weeks into this administration, and already Trump has put on full display a blatant disregard for Indigenous sovereignty, public health, and public outcry,” the environmental organization said. “This decision to smash through the (environmental impact statement) process is nothing but a reward to Trump’s corporate, oil industry cronies.”

Runs more than 1,100 miles

Dakota Access and pipeline supporters say the $3.7 billion pipeline project would be an economic boon.

The developer estimates the pipeline would bring $156 million in sales and income taxes to state and local governments and will add 8,000 to 12,000 construction jobs.

The pipeline will stretch 1,172 miles through four states — from North Dakota into South Dakota, winding through Iowa and ending in southern Illinois — moving 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day across the Midwest. It is completed, except for the contested portion under Lake Oahe.

Not all the Standing Rock Sioux are protesting the pipeline

Like Dakota Access, the Keystone XL Pipeline had been the subject of environmental concern from activists, residents and indigenous tribes who worried that the pipeline would pollute as many as 2,500 aquifers.

But pipeline supporters touted the jobs it would create and other economic benefits.

The $8 billion Keystone XL Pipeline was proposed to stretch nearly 1,200 miles across six states, shuttling carbon-heavy petroleum from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

In November 2015, Obama nixed the proposed pipeline, virtually ending the fight over the project that had gone on for much of his presidency.

But Trump’s executive actions on both pipelines signal how his administration will take a different approach to energy and environmental issues.

Massive Cleanup Continues at North Dakota Protest Camp [Video]

Picking up and uncovering waste and belongings is what many people are doing at the Oceti Sakowin Camp – the area where Dakota Access Pipeline protesters were camped out for months – and the work will continue for weeks to come.

CANNON BALL, N.D. – Picking up and uncovering waste and belongings is what many people are doing at the Oceti Sakowin Camp – the area where Dakota Access Pipeline protesters were camped out for months – and the work will continue for weeks to come.

People say they’ve been working since Monday to clean out the area and leave, but it’s no small task.

People at the camp say they’re making progress, but there’s still a lot to be done.

Pushing around and picking up what’s left behind at the Oceti Sakowin Camp is now how people there start and end their day.

“We all got together and tried to figure out a solution to get the camp cleaned out as soon as possible, because this place will flood,” says Ivan Bleets, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Bleets says the cleanup is for the safety of children and adults, and members plan to relocate to other nearby camps. They said it’s also necessary for the environment, and some are disappointed by how much was left behind.

“It’s unfortunate. Again, that just goes against what they’re fighting against, is leaving that stuff and abandoning it and obviously the environment the river,” says Scott Davis, North Dakota Commissioner for Indian Affairs.

About 100 people have helped in clearing the camp. Besides the amount of trash and belongings, other challenges make it more difficult.

Having to chip away at snow and ice to remove trash is slowing the cleanup process; some say it will take weeks for the camp to be cleared.

But there is a bright side to what’s left behind.

“It’s like a shelving for pantry for people that come down from churches and other communities around here to pick up, and, you know, can be useful too,” says Patrick Mantich, Nebraska.

Blankets and tents are among the goods being saved by those cleaning up for reuse at other protest camps.

The effort is a coordination between the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, leaders of the camps and Nick Tilsen from Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation.

HB204 would require boaters to buy sticker

Boat owners would have to buy a “fishing access site maintenance decal” and affix it to their boat under a bill that’s been introduced at the Montana Legislature.

Bill sponsor Rep. Alan Redfield, R-Livingston, said he’s amended the purchase price from $25 to $10 after hearing criticism about the price when the bill was heard in the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee on Thursday.

“And that makes it a little more palatable to the general public,” Redfield said.

The sticker would need to be affixed in a conspicuous place on each vessel operated in the state.

Revenue raised from decal sales would be placed in a special revenue fund with the money used to:

• Improve fishing access sites.

• Control noxious weeds at fishing access sites, and

• Prevent aquatic invasive species.

“We need a little more work done and this was a way to generate a few dollars to get the work done and take care of the weeds,” Redfield said.

A fiscal analysis on House Bill 204 says there is an estimated 234,500 resident and non-resident vessels used in Montana.

Under the assumption of 50 percent compliance, the bill would generate $2.9 million in revenue in 2018. Revenue would be $4.4 million with 75 percent compliance.

“It’s overreach is what is amounts to,” said Bob Gilbert, executive director of Walleye’s Unlimited of Montana, which opposes the fee.

The majority of the group’s 4,000 members don’t use fishing access sites on rivers because most walleye fishing occurs on lakes and reservoirs, Gilbert said. And most lakes have public boat facilities already maintained and improved with a portion of the gasoline tax.

“We’re multitaxing on boats,” Gilbert said.

A “good bunch of proponents and a good bunch of opponents” showed up when the bill was heard Thursday in the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee, Redfield said.

“Nobody disagrees with the overall idea,” he said. “They just weren’t real sure about the dollars.”

As a result of concerns raised about the $25 cost, Redfield has proposed to amend the price down to $10 a sticker. The boat decals would be purchased anywhere a fishing license is sold.

A couple of people brought the idea to Redfield following the fish die-off in the Yellowstone River last year, he said. Many people who were checking out the dead fish also noticed a lot of weeds, he said.

“It’s really not fun when you have to walk through the weeds to get to the river,” Redfield said.

And he noted that aquatic invasive species such as mussels are looming on the horizon.

The earliest a vote will occur on the bill will be Thursday, said Rep. Kelly Flynn, R-Townsend, chairman of the committee.

“I do expect some amendments,” Flynn said. “I’m not sure what action the committee will take.”

Hearings set on initiative to limit motorized watercraft use in Montana

HELENA — A proposal to limit motorized watercraft use on nearly 50 western Montana river and stream segments is the subject of public hearings starting next week.

Backcountry Hunters and Anglers’ Quiet Waters initiative offers a mix of certain seasonal and horsepower restrictions as well as the closure of some small tributaries for motorized use. The group cites advancements and future advancements of motorized technology as a primary reason for bringing the initiative.

Various regulation changes are sought on the Yellowstone, Flathead, Marias, Stillwater, Sun, Teton Bitterroot, Missouri, Swan and Whitefish rivers, with additional changes for multiple tributaries. Examples of proposed regulations include limiting the Missouri River near Craig to 10-horsepower or less motors from June 1 through Sept. 15, and closing all tributaries of the Bitterroot River to motorized watercraft.

A full description of impacted waterways is available online.

“We recognize that jet boats and motorboats have a place in Montana, but that’s not in every stream all the time,” said John Sullivan, BHA Montana chair. “Quiet Waters for us is an honest conversation about a give and take.”

The petition process allows the public to bring proposed regulations directly to the Fish and Wildlife Commission. In May, the commission bucked opposition from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and voted unanimously to move Quiet Waters forward, putting the proposal into state rulemaking, which includes public comment. Commissioners agreed with supporters that a “proactive” approach to regulations was a discussion worth having.

FWP is taking public comment and holding six public meetings in January.

“We think the (petition) process itself is great,” Sullivan said. “It allows citizens to propose changes to the ways we manage wildlands and wildlife resources … and it’s kind of a democratic process.”

Support for Quiet Waters has been mixed.

Representatives from the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana and American Rivers threw support behind moving the proposal forward, along with several other BHA members and river users at the May commission meeting.

The Flathead Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited voiced support in a letter to the commission for seasonal restrictions on the Flathead River.

“As all forms of water-based recreation are increasing in this area, the potential for future conflicts will only grow. New technologies will help fuel the conflicts as motorized use will expand into new areas formerly not accessible,” the letter says.

Although Montana Trout Unlimited did not develop Quiet Waters, the group is generally supportive of the initiative, said Executive Director Bruce Farling. “Meaningful” solutions often require reducing the use by some groups, he said, adding that the proposals are not “radical.”

“Our view is simply that we shouldn’t wait until there is a problem, after conflicts between motorized and nonmotorized users become inflamed and the issues become clearer regarding safety, resource damage or harm to private landowners,” Farling said. “Trying to fix it after the fact when uses have been established and people are dug in is not necessarily the best way to establish policy.”

The initiative is also timely in light of invasive species detections in Montana with potential to spread via watercraft, he said. The majority of water-based recreation is nonmotorized, but many waterways would remain open without restrictions.

FWP’s opposition stems from a lack of conflicts and the belief that current laws and regulations are sufficient. The agency called the recommendations “drastic” in agenda materials and suggested that existing laws against negligent and reckless boating address public safety.

Flathead-area business owners and boaters turned out in force to oppose the measure at the commission’s December meeting.

“To me this is one user group trying to dictate how we can recreate,” said Mike Howe, a charter captain on Flathead Lake. “I don’t feel this is based on science … or any conflicts. This group just doesn’t like noise.”

He went on to say the initiative will pit user groups against each other.

Pete Jellar, owner of Pete’s Tackle Shop in Kalispell, asked the commission to extend the comment period another 60 to 90 days.

“This would affect my business,” he said. “I will probably have to shut my doors.”

Walleyes Unlimited of Montana also opposes Quiet Waters.

“There have been no complaints to the department regarding power watercraft in the areas proposed to be closed,” said Executive Director Bob Gilbert. “What we have is a solution in search of a problem.”

The initiative gives preferential treatment to nonmotorized use and could affect the quality of fishing and boating for members who travel throughout western Montana, he said. The measure also sets a precedent for requesting additional restrictions in the central and eastern part of the state.

Many wilderness areas are already designated for quiet recreation, Gilbert said.

Sullivan believes that opposition has been largely regional and subject to misinformation. The biggest misconception, he says, is that Quiet Waters outlaws boats across the state.

“If I could take back the title ‘Quiet Waters’ I probably would because it’s led to misunderstanding,” he said. “We don’t want to see jet boats eliminated. We don’t want to see anything too heavy-handed.”

BHA’s board includes some motorboat owners who believe that the initiative protects current uses as it seeks balance in the face of technology and a growing population, he said.

“I really hope we’ll have the opportunity to set the record straight,” Sullivan said of the upcoming hearings.