19 people arrested at Bakken pipeline Pilot Mound protests

Dakota Access pipeline construction -- Photo by Lars Plougmann
Dakota Access pipeline construction — Photo by Lars Plougmann

About 100 protesters banded together Saturday in Boone County to protest the Dakota Access pipeline. Nineteen protestors were arrested for trespassing after they blocked the entrance to a construction site. A machine at the site is set to bore the pipeline’s path beneath the Des Moines River.

All of the protestors have been bailed out, according to the Boone County Sheriff’s Office press release.

Federal agencies intervened Friday to halt construction of the pipeline at Lake Oahe along the Missouri River, a site considered sacred and culturally significant by the tribe. The site connects the Dakota section with the Iowa section of the pipeline. But here in Iowa, construction continues.

The Boone County protest site outside Pilot Mound is the same site where 30 people were arrested Aug. 31 at a similar protest. Despite the protest, work on the pipeline continued at the site.

Miriam Kashia, of North Liberty, was one of the 30 people arrested a little over a week ago and she returned Saturday to continue the fight against the pipeline. Kashia, who is in her 70s, also took part in the Great March for Climate Action, walking over 3,000 miles in eight months from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C.

“The march radicalized me when I saw what is being done to communities through fossil fuel extraction,” Kashia, the activist committee co-chair of 100 Grannies for a Livable Future, said.

Many demonstrators said they were concerned about what a break in the pipeline would do to local water systems.

“You can’t take oil out of water,” said Mark Edwards, a member of the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition, which planned the Boone County protest.

Edwards, who lives in Boone, said a number of people in the area use utilities that get water from the rivers or from shallow alluvial aquifers along the rivers that could be contaminated.

Carolyn Raffensperger, a member of the resistance coalition’s steering committee, was one of the organizers of the event. The coalition is made up of many organizations, including the League of Women Voters, the Sierra Club, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food and Water Watch. Raffensperger said that the fight against the pipeline has helped politically disparate groups find areas of common ground.

“Landowners who were trying to defend and protect their land, and environmentalists who are also trying to defend and protect land, found a way of coming together,” she said.

The pipeline stretches across 1,172 miles from the Bakken oilfields in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois, where the fracked crude oil can either be shipped out by train or flow through an additional pipeline to the Gulf Coast to be refined. An estimated 470,000 barrels of oil will eventually pass through the pipeline each day, though the capacity of the pipeline will be roughly 570,000 barrels. The the estimated cost of construction including payoffs to landowners is $3.7 billion.

Dakota Access is a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners out of Dallas. The company reports that the pipeline will contribute between 8,200 and 12,000 jobs during construction, but the vast majority of those jobs will be temporary. The company estimates roughly 40 to 50 permanent jobs will be created, with around 15 here in Iowa.

The Iowa Utilities Board approved Dakota Access’ permit to begin construction in Iowa earlier this year. The board also approved the use of eminent domain to force landowners to turn over property that is in the path of the pipeline.

Edwards said that Dakota Access has put undue pressure on landowners to turn over their property.

“I tried to connect with each and every private landowner. I’ve met all political stripes. I’ve met all kinds of different people through this and they’re not real happy, even the ones that took the easement money. a lot of them have expressed to me that they were actually just bullied into it,” he said.

At the Pilot Mound protests, no aggression has been reported between law enforcement and demonstrators. The Boone County Sheriff’s Office press release classified Saturday’s incident as a “brief and peaceful confrontation.”

“Protests have been totally peaceful, which is what we’re going for. If we get nasty we lose the moral high ground,” Kashia said.

Protests at Standing Rock in North Dakota saw violent conflict erupt Sept. 3 between protestors and law enforcement, and National Guard troops were sent to the area Thursday.

“I stand with Standing Rock. My heart is breaking for what they’ve done to their ancestral lands. We do enjoy a certain white privilege here. I never even once worried that they might release dogs on me or perpetrate violence against me,” Kathy Meyer, of Iowa City, said.

Meyer was also among the 30 people arrested in August.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who has a warrant for her arrest for spray painting a bulldozer in protest of the pipeline, visited Iowa this weekend. She spoke about why she felt the situation was more tense at Standing Rock than in Iowa.

“There are over 200 indigenous nations and tribes that are supporting this effort. The pipeline mowed down burial sites. This would be like a bulldozer going through Arlington National Cemetery. They have been extremely aggressive. They unleashed vicious dogs and used pepper spray on people. I think they know that people are mobilized and that we are not gonna be easy to stop,” she said.

Dan Higginbottom of Polk County saw his property condemned to make way for the pipeline. Higginbottom said he takes heart that the peaceful demonstrations are getting the pipeline resistors’ message out on a global scale.

Higginbottom also suggested exploring other avenues to fight the pipeline, such as a petition to Congress requiring an environmental impact statement on land owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that crosses the Dakotas.

Kashia is not giving up hope.

“Feels a bit like a mosquito fighting a dinosaur, but you don’t lose till you quit, and we’re not quitting,” she said

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