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Tribe 'disappointed' with judge's partial halt to North Dakota pipeline work

The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says a federal judge's decision to temporarily stop work on some, but not all, of a portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline puts his people's sacred places "at further risk of ruin and desecration."

'Today's denial ... puts my people's sacred places at further risk of ruin and desecration,' leader says

Heather Mendoza holds up a sign as she protests outside the U.S. District Court in Washington, where a hearing was being held to decide whether to halt construction of an oil pipeline in parts of North Dakota. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says a federal judge's decision to temporarily stop work on some, but not all, of a portion of the Dakota Access pipeline puts his people's sacred places "at further risk of ruin and desecration."

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said Tuesday that work will temporarily stop between North Dakota's State Highway 1806 and 32 kilometres east of Lake Oahe, but that work will continue west of the highway because he believes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lacks jurisdiction on private land.

It was the second work stoppage request in front of Boasberg. He has said he'll rule on the tribe's broader push that challenges federal regulators' decision to grant permits to the Texas-based operators of the Dakota Access pipeline by Friday.

In a statement posted to Facebook, chairman Dave Archambault II said that the tribe is "disappointed" that the judge's decision doesn't stop the destruction of sacred sites while the tribe waits for a different ruling.

Guards hurt, protesters bitten by dogs

A weekend confrontation between protesters and construction workers near Lake Oahe prompted the tribe to ask Sunday for a temporary stop of construction.

Four private security guards and two guard dogs received medical treatment, officials said, while a tribal spokesman noted that six people — including a child — were bitten by the dogs and at least 30 people were pepper-sprayed.

Dakota Access attorney Bill Leone said during Tuesday's hearing that there were two more attacks on crews Tuesday, and that if it weren't for the stoppages, the section in question would be finished by the end of this week. A spokeswoman for the Morton County Sheriff's Office didn't immediately respond to a telephone message requesting comment.

"We're disappointed that some of the important sacred sites that we had found and provided evidence for will not be protected," said attorney Jan Hasselman with Earthjustice, who filed the broader lawsuit on behalf of the tribe.

"We're grateful that there was an agreement at least in the area immediately next to Lake Oahe, and we'll know more by the end of the week about where we're heading."

Company says it's protecting cultural sites

Workers allegedly bulldozed sites on private land Saturday, land that Hasselman said in court documents were "of great historic and cultural significance to the tribe." The tribe's cultural expert, Tim Mentz Sr., said in court documents that the tribe believes there are human remains in the area and that it wants "an opportunity to rebury our relatives."

"The elders say that reburying can help deal with the loss and hurt of disturbing these graves," he said.

Lawyers for Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners filed court documents Tuesday morning denying that workers have destroyed any cultural sites and asking the judge to reject the tribe's request for a temporary work stoppage. The company said it "has taken and continues to take every reasonable precaution" to protect cultural sites.

Hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest of the Dakota Access pipeline. This photo shows the encampment near Cannon Ball, N.D., on Sept. 4. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers didn't oppose the tribe's most recent request, with Assistant Attorney General John Cruden saying in court documents that "the public interest would be served by preserving peace."

The tribe's outstanding lawsuit attempts to halt construction of the pipeline, which crosses North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois and is due to be finished this year.

The suit says the project violates several federal laws, including the National Historic Preservation Act, will harm water supplies on the reservation and downstream and disturb ancient sacred sites. Hundreds of protesters have camped out near the reservation for weeks. 

Calgary-based Enbridge is spending $1.5 billion to be a part of the project. 

With files from CBC News

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