Agencies weigh in on construction safety of DAPL crossing at Lake Oahe

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CANNON BALL, N.D. - Protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline Project have put the project in the national spotlight. Opponents of DAPL are convinced the water crossing will contaminate the Missouri River.

Agencies tasked with ensuring the construction is safe have a different view.

The crossing at Lake Oahe is the last stretch of the four-state pipeline.

It's now waiting for an additional environmental assessment from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Thousands of protesters have been demonstrating since mid August saying it's inevitable that the Dakota Access Pipeline will leak.

Doug Crowghost, the Standing Rock Sioux's Director of Water Resources, also has doubts about the safety of a crude oil pipeline water crossing.

"A breakage of the pipeline will damage our water resources as a whole, the ground water and the surface water," said Crowghost.

Crowghost is concerned that even with double blocked shut off valves, oil pressure sensors, and other modern technology designed to prevent spills, a catastrophic event could still occur.

Modern pipelines are now bored underneath the bed of rivers instead of laying pipe on a river bottom and trenching sand, soil and rocks over it.

Regulators say the advanced new process makes it far less likely for a rupture to occur.

"These bores are far safer than the prior technology to trench it, so we think that overall, this is an upgrade and these projects are the best way to transport crude oil," said North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak.

The state water commission did a scour analysis to determine how deep the bore needed to be for the pipe to not impact the water; that number was 24 feet.

Dakota Access exceeded that by almost four times the amount, and decided to bore 92 feet below the bottom of the Missouri River.

"This project is being designed and built the best that it can be so that it does not threaten North Dakota's fresh water source, the Missouri River, that's our yardstick. That's what they have to meet they did that," said Jerry Heiser, sovereign land manager with the North Dakota Water Commission.

Despite new technology and state of the art safety features Crowghost is still opposed to the project.

"It's not worth putting a pipe underneath the Missouri River and thinking there's a possibility of human error," said Crowghost.

Even though the pipeline passed the scrutiny of the permitting process and a court challenge was denied, the Army Corps of Engineers recently decided to re-examine the project with another environmental impact study which means the controversy over the safety of Dakota Access Pipeline will run into 2017.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is moving its main water intake system 40 miles south to Wakpala, S.D.

Tomorrow night we will tell you why it's being relocated and if that will create even more of a safety net to prevent oil contamination of drinking water for residents of Fort Yates.