Despite claims, Dakota Access followed necessary approval steps regarding cultural sites

Recently, a group of archaeologists made news by signing a letter that opposes the Dakota Access Pipeline. The letter claims that, “the cultural resources survey did not involve proper consultation with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribes in the region.”

As Standing Rock Fact Checker has previously covered, meaningful consultation was provided to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and there were several consultations the Tribe chose not to engage in.




Moreover, the consultation and review process was deemed  appropriate by Judge Boasberg. See below for Boasberg’s analysis of the consultations.

“Dakota Access nevertheless also prominently considered another factor in crafting its route: the potential presence of historic properties. Using past cultural surveys, the company devised DAPL’s route to account for and avoid sites that had already been identified as potentially eligible for or listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With that path in hand, in July 2014, the company purchased rights to a 400-foot corridor along its preliminary route to conduct extensive new cultural surveys of its own. These surveys eventually covered the entire length of the pipeline in North and South Dakota, and much of Iowa and Illinois. Professionally licensed archaeologists conducted Class II cultural surveys, which are “focused on visual reconnaissance of the ground surface in settings with high ground visibility.” In some places, however, the same archaeologists carried out more intensive Class III cultural surveys, which involve a “comprehensive archaeological survey program” requiring both surface visual inspection and shovel-test probes of fixed grids to “inventory, delineate, and assess” historic sites. These latter surveys required coordination with and approval by State Historic Preservation Officers.” (Page 14 of 58)

“Where this surveying revealed previously unidentified historic or cultural resources that might be affected, the company mostly chose to reroute. In North Dakota, for example, the cultural surveys found 149 potentially eligible sites, 91 of which had stone features. The pipeline workspace and route was modified to avoid all 91 of these stone features and all but 9 of the other potentially eligible sites. By the time the company finally settled on a construction path, then, the pipeline route had been modified 140 times in North Dakota alone to avoid potential cultural resources. Plans had also been put in place to mitigate any effects on the other 9 sites through coordination with the North Dakota SHPO. All told, the company surveyed nearly twice as many miles in North Dakota as the 357 miles that would eventually be used for the pipeline.” (Page 14 of 58)

“The company also opted to build its new pipeline along well-trodden ground wherever feasible. Around Lake Oahe, for example, the pipeline will track both the Northern Border Gas Pipeline, which was placed into service in 1982, and an existing overhead utility line. In fact, where it crosses Lake Oahe, DAPL is 100% adjacent to, and within 22 to 300 feet from, the existing pipeline. Dakota Access chose this route because these locations had “been disturbed in the past – both above and below ground level – making it a ‘brownfield crossing location.’” This made it less likely, then, that new ground disturbances would harm intact cultural or tribal features.” (Page 14 of 58)