CANNON BALL, N.D. — On Sunday afternoon, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers chose to deny a permit for the current route of the Dakota Access pipeline, the much-maligned oil pipeline which has drawn thousands of protesters to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota, Mic's Jack Smith IV reported.
The U.S. Army confirmed the switch in policy via a statement on their website, saying the agency will not approve an easement for the approximately 1,712 mile pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe. Instead, it will begin conducting environmental impact studies to choose the best alternate route.
The Army's Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy wrote, "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. The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing."
In their own statement, the Sioux Tribe thanked federal officials for listening to them.
"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 do the right thing," Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II wrote.
He added, "We want to thank everyone who played a role in advocating for this cause. We thank the tribal youth who initiated this movement. We thank the millions of people around the globe who expressed support for our cause."
According to Smith, who is in North Dakota at the protests, officials from the military met with tribal elders, who then made the announcement at the sacred fire in Oceti Sakowin camp. Protesters are celebrating by dancing, singing, holding hands and performing tribal victory dances.
"Many people here are permanent residents who have been preparing to wait out the long North Dakota winter," Smith said via phone. "Between 600 to 1,000 veterans arrived in the last 24 hours."
"With the rapid expansion of the camp, which had an approximately 7,000 people population ... veterans and local organizers were preparing for multiple actions for the front lines," he added. "It's unclear whether those actions will continue. The rumor is that the police are allegedly pulling back from the blockade, which is just up the road from this camp."
The corps had previously given the protesters a Dec. 5 deadline to clear out following months of clashes between demonstrators, police and private security; North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple cut that deadline short with a mandatory evacuation order last week.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available. Jack Smith IV contributed additional reporting to this article.
Dec. 4, 2016 7:18 p.m. Eastern: This story has been updated.