ELKHART — A local woman who spent over a week camping in North Dakota to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline says she is "devastated and horrified" that the project is moving forward.
Nicole Bauman of Elkhart spent more than a week on a desolate, frigid patch of land with thousands of other protesters in early December to show solidarity and experience the ambiance of the encampment they formed, Oceti Sakowin.
The camp is located along the Missouri River on the northern edge of Standing Rock Reservation, which is south of North Dakota's capital city of Bismarck.
Now in California, Bauman said she may stop back in North Dakota on her way back to Elkhart to reinforce her feelings against the construction of the pipeline. She said the encampment was formed on April 1, 2016, and that protesters have been there to take a stand against a project they say is unlawful.
The camp has thinned out to about 300 people and has cost taxpayers $33 million, according to local officials. More than 700 people have been arrested in clashes with law enforcement officials over the past 10 months.
Bauman said it is important for people to get involved in stopping the pipeline because it could impact the health and safety of people who live in the area.
"Building a pipeline right there is incredibly dangerous for the residents that live downstream on the Missouri River," she said. "There is a potential that people's drinking water could be contaminated by this pipeline."
She also is concerned about the pipeline infringing on indigenous land and said the United States government needs to honor its original treaty with the tribes that call the area home.
"This seems to be a sign that there is a lot more of this type of action coming down the road," said Bauman.
TIME RUNNING OUT?
Protesters like Bauman are running out of time to halt construction of the pipeline. A federal judge on Monday refused to stop construction on the last stretch of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which is progressing much faster than expected and could be operational in as little as 30 days.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled after an hourlong hearing that as long as oil isn’t flowing through the pipeline, there is no imminent harm to the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux tribes, which are suing to stop the project. But he said he’d consider the arguments more thoroughly at another hearing on Feb. 27.
Energy Transfer Partners received final approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last week to lay pipe under the reservoir and complete the 1,200-mile pipeline. Drilling work began immediately under Lake Oahe, which is the water source for both tribes.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Follow Ben Quiggle on Twitter @BenQuiggle