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Protesters Claim Victory As Army Corps Blocks Dakota Access Pipeline Route

CANNON BALL, N.D. (CBSNewYork/CBS News/AP) -- Protesters claimed a major victory Sunday, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blocked plans for the Dakota Access oil pipeline to cross the Missouri River next to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

"The Department of the Army will not approve an easement that would allow the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota," the Army said.

The National Congress of American Indians has been leading the protests against the controversial plans for the four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline in the Dakotas.

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In the wake of the Army Corps decision not to build under Lake Oahe – a Missouri River reservoir where construction has been on hold – NCAI President Brian Cladoosby said "our prayers have been answered."

"This isn't over, but it is enormously good news," Cladoosby said in the statement. "All tribal peoples have prayed from the beginning for a peaceful solution, and this puts us back on track. From the start, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has asked for a full analysis to consider threats to the water and environment, and also the social and cultural impacts. Peace, prayer, and the water protectors have led to the right outcome."

News about the development first appeared on social media. A video posted on Facebook showed a man identified as Remi Baldeagle saying the secretary of the Army had denied the Dakota Access pipeline easement.

"I can't tell you how happy I am," he said in the video clip.

"Up until this point the American government has failed us, but the American people haven't, so I feel American today."

Protesters for weeks have gathered at an encampment in southern North Dakota. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others who have joined them wanted changes made to the route of the pipeline, which is largely complete except for a short segment underneath the Missouri River reservoir.

They said the pipeline could pollute drinking water and threatens sacred sites.

Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners previously said it was unwilling to reroute the project.

Some officials slammed the Army Corps decision. North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple said in a statement that decision ``is a serious mistake,'' ``prolongs the serious problems'' that law enforcement faces and ``prolongs the dangerous situation'' of people camping in cold, snowy conditions.

North Dakota Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer says that the Army Corps' decision not to grant an easement for the Dakota Access oil pipeline is ``a very chilling signal'' for the future of infrastructure in the U.S.

Cramer said in a statement that infrastructure will be hard to build ``when criminal behavior is rewarded this way,'' apparently referring to the large protest encampment on federal land and the clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement.

Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says that the Department of Justice will still monitor the protest in North Dakota and is ready to ``provide resources'' for those who ``can play a constructive role in easing tensions.''

"The safety of everyone in the area – law enforcement officers, residents and protesters alike – continues to be our foremost concern," Lynch said in a statement.

The federal government has ordered the several hundred people at the main encampment, which is on Corps land, by Monday. Lynch said in a statement that the safety of those in the area, including officers, residents and protesters, ``continues to be our foremost concern.''

Earlier on Sunday, tribal elders had asked the military veterans joining the large Dakota Access pipeline protest encampment not to have confrontations with law enforcement officials, an organizer with Veterans Stand for Standing Rock said. The organizer added that the group was there to help out those who have dug in against the project.

Veterans Stand for Standing Rock's page had raised more than $1 million of its $1.2 million goal by Sunday - money that was due to go toward food, transportation and supplies. Cars waiting to get into the camp Sunday afternoon were backed up for more than a half-mile.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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