BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum today signed an emergency evacuation order out of concern for the safety of people who are residing on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) land in southern Morton County and to avoid an ecological disaster to the Missouri River.
Warm temperatures have accelerated snowmelt in the area of the Oceti Sakowin protest camp, and 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.
In a letter issued Feb. 3, the Corps also ordered those camping on federal property to vacate to prevent injuries and significant environmental damage in the likely event of flooding in the area. The Corps addressed the environmental risk to the river and lake from the significant impacts the protest camps have made on the land.
The Oceti Sakowin camp needs to be evacuated no later than Feb. 22 in order to allow private contractors to accelerate the removal of waste from the camp.
The executive order can be viewed here.