Dakota Access offers up March 6 as earliest date for completion

Cleanup efforts continue at Oceti Sakowin, which was the largest #NoDAPL encampment in North Dakota. Residents and organizers face a February 22, 2017, deadline to leave the site, which is located on land managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Photo: Redhawk

The wealthy backers of the Dakota Access Pipeline continue to make significant progress on the controversial project.

According to a status report filed in federal court on Tuesday, construction crews have completed drilling a "pilot hole" under Lake Oahe in North Dakota. They are now "reaming" the hole, or making it larger in preparation for installing a 30-inch pipe through the Missouri River.

As a result, the earliest possible date for completion is March 6, attorneys wrote. But the window appears to be wide open -- it could be until April 1 before oil is flowing along the pipeline, according to the status update.

"As of now, Dakota Access estimates and targets that the pipeline will be complete and ready to flow oil anywhere between the week of March 6, 2017 and April 1, 2017," the report stated.

Dakota Access will be filing status reports every week as construction activities continue in North Dakota.

The 1,172-mile pipeline is all but complete except for the portion on federally-managed land at Lake Oahe. The Obama administration had put a hold on work there in order to consider issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation lies less than a half-mile south of the crossing.

Just four days after taking office on January 20, Republican President Donald Trump ordered his administration to review the final portion in an "expedited" manner. Barely two weeks later, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the work at Lake Oahe and issued an easement to Dakota Access, whose parent company has put total costs at $4.9 billion.

The tribe is seeking to set aside the easement as part of the ongoing lawsuit in federal court. A motion was submitted last week and briefing will continue amid the ongoing work in North Dakota.

"We don't feel like this fight is over," Chairman Dave Archambault II said at the winter session of the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C., last Wednesday.

Additionally, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is seeking a preliminary injunction to stop construction and prevent oil from flowing through the pipeline based on threats to its religious practices. A hearing takes place February 28 at the federal courthouse in D.C.

Federal Register Notice:
Notice of Termination of the Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement in Connection With Dakota Access, LLC's Request for an Easement To Cross Lake Oahe, North Dakota (February 17, 2017)

Prior Federal Register Notice:
Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement in Connection With Dakota Access, LLC's Request for an Easement To Cross Lake Oahe, North Dakota (January 18, 2017)

Dakota Access Pipeline Approval Documents:
Department of Justice Notice | Department of the Army Approval Memorandum | Notice of Termination of EIS for Dakota Access Pipeline | Easement Letter to Congressional Leadership

White House Documents:
Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (January 24, 2017)
Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline (January 24, 2017)
Executive Order Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals For High Priority Infrastructure Projects (January 24, 2017)
Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of American Pipelines (January 24, 2017)
Presidential Memorandum Streamlining Permitting and Reducing Regulatory Burdens for Domestic Manufacturing (January 24, 2017)
Press Release: President Trump Takes Action to Expedite Priority Energy and Infrastructure Projects (January 24, 2017)

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