Workers continue construction on a gas pipeline that would stretch underneath Lake Sakakawea.
It’s builders say it will be buried about 100 feet below the lake bed.
Here’s the conflict:
The Three Affiliated Tribes claims it owns the mineral rights under Lake Sakakawea.
And because of that, it owns that space.
It’s a right it says dates back to a 1984 Mineral Restoration Act.
The tribe contends has the right to reject the pipeline
In August, it succeeded in getting a cease and desist order against Paradigm Energy.
Forcing it to stop work.
Since then however, Paradigm received a temporary restraining order against the tribe…so the construction got back underway.
Judge Daniel Hovland has the task of deciding whether the project should continue.
He heard arguments today from both sides.
The tribe’s main point is that it never gave consent to Paradigm to bore through what it considers tribal land.
(John Fredericks/ Attorney for Three Affiliated Tribes)
“I’m happy with the case we presented and the arguments we made. I think the federal law is pretty clear and the judge will make the right decision.”
Paradigm says it didn’t need the tribe’s consent to start work on the pipeline.
And it says, if it stops work, it could lose more than $12 millions dollars.
A loss its told the judge would force it out of business.
It’s a complex legal battle – he said/she said arguments, incomplete email threads and even some accusation of payoffs.
Judge Hovland kept asking lawyers and witnesses about any previous court cases that can help him make a decision.
It looks like he is on his own.
Hovland told both parties he needs time to think through the testimony.
Don’t expect a decision for a couple of weeks.
The temporary restraining order allowing Paradigm to continue work expires next week.
Judge Hovland hinted at extending that order, but did not make a decision.