Bismarck, Feb 22 (AP) The Army Corps of Engineers' plan to close a Dakota Access pipeline protest camp that's been around for more than six months isn't likely to be the demise of on-the-ground opposition in North Dakota.
The deadline for the protesters to leave also may not spell the end of heavy law enforcement presence near where the Dallas-based developer is finishing the last big section of the pipeline, which will carry oil from North Dakota through the Dakotas and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois.
The protest camp is on federal land in southern North Dakota between the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and the pipeline route.
It has at times housed thousands of people, though it's dwindled to just a couple hundred as the pipeline battle has largely moved into the courts.
The Corps has told those who remain in the Oceti Sakowin camp that they needed to leave by 2 pm today. Governor Doug Burgum listed the same time and date in an emergency evacuation order last week.
Large-scale arrests are possible at the camp today, said Morton County sheriff's spokeswoman Maxine Herr, but she insists that's not want authorities want.
Though law enforcement and state officials in the past said they wouldn't forcibly evict protesters, they now cite the coming threat of spring flooding as a safety issue that requires clearing the camp.
"We prefer to handle this in a more diplomatic, understanding way," she said, adding that a transition center will be set up to help protesters who don't have a place to go.
Some protesters plan to move, but some in the camp are ready to go to jail and "will engage in peaceful, civil resistance ... holding hands, standing in prayer," said American Indian activist Chase Iron Eyes.
Morton County sheriff's deputies can arrest people who won't leave. Army Corps rangers who are in the area can't make arrests, but they can write citations for various offenses including trespassing that carry a maximum punishment of a USD 5,000 fine or six months in jail, Corps Captain Ryan Hignight said.
More than 700 protest-related arrests have occurred since August, though activity has waned recently.
While some in camp feel "under threat" by today's deadline, most are focusing on moving off federal land and away from the flood plain, said Phyllis Young, one of the camp leaders.