- The proposed path of the Dakota Access Pipeline is currently designed to cross the Missouri River/Cannonball River confluence where the Standing Rock protests are positioned, as well as 8 other tributaries to the Missouri and downstream, there is a proposed crossing on the Mississippi River.
- This means that the pipeline not only threatens the Missouri River water resources in one crossing, but in 9 crossings - each tributary carries water (and whatever is in the water) to the Missouri River.
- These 9 crossings are upstream of the Mississippi River and there is one more crossing on the upper Mississippi - which also sustains a sizable population and economic (including agricultural) interests.
Questions this brings up for me:
- What is the number of people relying on Missouri River water for a domestic water supply?
- What is the economic impact of a change to water quality from a potential oil leak or spill - to communities, businesses, people, the environment?
- What are the water quality standards of the Missouri River currently?
- Can those change?
- Who is responsible if there is an oil leak in the Missouri River Basin?
- Where is the overall Environmental Impact Assessment of this project?
- Who are the stakeholders?
- Who influences decisions about water in the Missouri River Basin? Are these people actually stakeholders? In other words, do the people making decisions stand to lose if those are poor decisions?
I put out a call to build a team of colleagues who have experience in technical and subject or contextual aspects of a geographically based effort toward understanding the socio-ecological water security of the Missouri River. I was overwhelmed to hear back from eight people that hail from Asia, Europe, Africa, and North America willing to roll up their sleeves and help with this work.
So far - we have mappers - geographers &cartographers pulling together available data from online to get a better understanding of the spatial relationships of water to people to types of communities to state boundaries to the pipeline, etc.
We have content researchers building an events and online sources database - we are culling the internet for social and traditional media sources of information on the pipeline and the current water conflict. This database, once we have finished populating, coding, summarizing, and conducting a content analysis will ultimately live both on a webpage of my personal website and with Aaron Wolf's Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database at Oregon State University. We currently have 60 records coded and in the process of being summarized in preparation for analysis.
And we have a historian and water lawyer helping to fit in the policy, treaties, and official agreements about water and land in the Missouri River Basin.
In the wings there is a demographer and women's health specialist looking to contribute. And I am just discovering information about farmers and landholders near to the Bakken fields (within the Basin) who are dealing with salt water contamination to their soils due to brine dumps from hydro-fracking.
Standing Rock is serving as a platform of unification for indigenous peoples from all over the country and the world, as well as people concerned with the environment and concerned with water. Let's keep this going - I hope to learn much more on my upcoming trip to North Dakota.
Something to note: I've noticed in the online news is that the pipeline company has not stopped laying pipe. I am not sure I understand the situation completely. Court ruling this week in DC is that there is a delay in deciding about the current delay in laying the pipe across the river. We still have time to highlight why this project needs to be reconsidered in its current form - and this is connected to environmental considerations in the Bakken fields, as well as moving oil along two of the most significant river valleys in the United States of America - the Missouri River is the longest river, the Mississippi is the largest catchment - both rivers are transboundary: shared between countries, states, counties, tribal land, municipalities, public land, and important and threatened ecosystems that contain endangered species.
If you want to join our team with your expertise, please get in touch as soon as possible!