In a major victory for Native Americans and protesters who joined their cause, the Army Corps of Engineers said Sunday it will explore alternate routes for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Federal officials said they would not approve permits needed to start construction on the pipeline that was slated to run beneath the Missouri River and was near sacred burial sites of the Standing Rock Sioux.

The decision comes after months of protests by people at the Oceti Sakowin camp in Cannon Ball, N.D. Recently local officials had taken more drastic tactics to get protesters to move off the site as temperatures dipped below freezing, even threatening to evict them. On Monday, a large group of veterans, who raised more than $1 million by crowdfunding, were set to join the protest in support of the Standing Rock Sioux. 

Read More: Shailene Woodhouse Arrested at DAPL Protests

The Standing Rock Sioux argued that the path of the pipeline, which is meant to carry crude oil from northern North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa and into Illinois, could contaminate their water supply and disrupt the burial grounds. The project spans four states and comes at a price tag of $3.8 billion. It’s largely complete with the exception of this section.

“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army’s assistant secretary for Civil Works, said in a statement. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe cheered the decision. 

“We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing," Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said in a statement.

Read More: Obama Says Army Will Reconsider Pipeline Route

State lawmakers, however, criticized the move. 

Gov. Jack Dalrymple said the decision is a "serious mistake" that "prolongs the dangerous situation,” according to the Associated Press. Hundreds of protesters have been camped out at the location as the weather turned cold and wintry in the last two months. 

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer said it's a "very chilling signal" for the future of infrastructure in the United States, the AP reported.

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Video of the news being announced at the protest site shows people cheering the decision.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell released a statement praising the federal government’s “thoughtful approach” to the situation.

“The Army’s announcement underscores that the tribal rights reserved in treaties and federal law, as well as Nation-to-Nation consultation with tribal leaders, are essential components of the analysis to be undertaken in the environmental impact statement going forward.”

Reaction to the news on social media was swift as people cheered the decision and #DAPL quickly trended on Twitter.


Defend the Planet

After Months of Standing Rock Protests, New Route Considered for Dakota Access Pipeline

By Cassie Carothers