Fact-checking web site Snopes.com today refuted the allegation that the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was re-routed toward the Standing Rock Indian Reservation because white residents of Bismarck, North Dakota feared for their water safety.
As Snopes explains, there was once a route under consideration that was subsequently rejected in favor of the Standing Rock route. According to a Bismarck Tribune article cited by Snopes:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers evaluated the Bismarck route and concluded it was not a viable option for many reasons. One reason mentioned in the agency’s environmental assessment is the proximity to wellhead source water protection areas that are avoided to protect municipal water supply wells.
In addition, the Bismarck route would have been 11 miles longer with more road crossings and waterbody and wetland crossings. It also would have been difficult to stay 500 or more feet away from homes, as required by the North Dakota Public Service Commission, the corps states.
The Bismarck route also would have crossed an area considered by federal pipeline regulators as a “high consequence area,” which is an area determined to have the most significant adverse consequences in the event of a pipeline spill.
The fact that it was an Army decision and not the white population of Bismarck that made the decision scarcely makes it any better. Both routes pass through hydrologically vulnerable areas, Bismarck's wellhead-protection area and Standing Rock's limited tribal land. Both routes pass through "high consequence areas" in the case of a spill, Bismarck's residential areas and Standing Rock's sacred sites and burial grounds. The justification for the Standing Rock route appears to be 11 fewer miles on a 1,172-mile-long pipeline, or 1% of its total length.
This doesn't make me feel any better. Army bureaucrats and engineers apparently took it upon themselves to reroute a pipeline away from white resident's vulnerable watersheds to Native American's vulnerable watersheds, and away from white residences and toward Native residences, all to save 11 miles of pipeline cost. And when the Native Americans protested, they were met by a militarized police using brutal repression tactics.
America's, and really the world's, scarce freshwater resources are being threatened by development, pipelines and pollution, by fracking, by rising sea levels and salt-water intrusion of our aquifers, by overuse and unwise water management, and by the politicalization of the problem and of the remedies. There are alternatives to natural gas and oil - there are no alternatives to water.