PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The Keystone XL oil pipeline developer said in a letter this week to a Native American tribal chairman that the company will start moving materials and preparing construction sites for the project in Montana and South Dakota.
TransCanada Corp. said in the letter to Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier, of South Dakota, that the work would start in July and go through the fall. The chairman on Thursday tweeted copies of TransCanada's message and his response on the tribe's letterhead: “We will be waiting.''
Frazier wasn't immediately available on Friday to comment to The Associated Press. Keystone XL faces intense resistance from environmental groups, Native American tribes and some landowners along the route.
The project would cost an estimated $8 billion. The 1,179-mile pipeline would transport up to 830,000 barrels a day of Canadian crude through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with lines to carry oil to Gulf Coast refineries.
TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said in an email that the preparatory work will ramp up over the year to position TransCanada for construction in 2019. He said it would include moving pipe and equipment to start clearing activities to prepare for getting final permits and approvals for construction.
But the project faces legal hurdles. Nebraska landowners have filed a lawsuit challenging the Nebraska Public Service Commission's decision to approve a route through the state.
A separate federal lawsuit brought by Montana landowners and environmental groups seeks to overturn President Donald Trump's decision to grant a presidential permit for the project, which was necessary because it would cross the U.S.-Canadian border.
South Dakota's Supreme Court in June dismissed an appeal from pipeline opponents — including the Cheyenne River Sioux — of a judge's decision last year upholding regulators' approval for the pipeline to cross the state.
BETHEL, Alaska (AP) — Two Seattle Seahawks toured a town in western Alaska to promote health and wellness and learn about Yup'ik culture.
KYUK-AM reports offensive linemen Joey Hunt and Jordan Roos were in Bethel for about nine hours Wednesday, stopping at the hospital, a youth center and the Lulu Herron Elders Home.
The NFL players autographed posters and posed in photos with Bethel's elders. Elder Mary Nanuwak presented the linemen with a hand-knit hat and scarf and a bag of fry bread.
The Seattle players also took a boat across the water to visit families' fish camps outside of town.
Roos says the experience was “awesome and the fish smelled amazing.''
Hunt says he was excited to see a piece of “true Alaska.''
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Hundreds of tourists who booked coveted overnight trips on tribal land deep in a gorge off the Grand Canyon will have to reschedule after heavy flooding forced evacuations and shut down the area for at least a week.
Abbie Fink, a spokeswoman for the Havasupai Tribe, said 300 people had reservations for either the campground or the lodge in the next several days. Crews were assessing the damage Friday to determine when it's safe for visitors to return.
“Every day it's closed, it's another set of people impacted by it,'' she said.
The remote reservation outside Grand Canyon National Park is best known for its towering blue-green waterfalls that appear like oases in the desert. The tribe doesn't allow day hikers, so visitors have to reserve overnight trips. The reservations fill up quickly.
Andrea Molina saw only two dates available until 2020 when she checked earlier this year. She and her partner booked a trip for Friday, rented camping gear and reserved a pack mule for the trip from Phoenix.
She was looking forward to the challenging 10-mile (16-kilometer) hike down a winding, dusty trail to the campgrounds on her 34th birthday. But she felt grateful she wasn't amid flooding this week that sent tourists scrambling as a shallow creek rose several feet.
She said she won't be able to recoup all the costs but will try next week to rebook.
“We're just going to enjoy the day, maybe do a small hike and make the best out of it,'' she said Friday.
The flooding hit just before dark Wednesday and again before sunrise Thursday, forcing the evacuation of about 200 tourists. Some, wearing only their swim suits, had to abandon their camping gear.
Footbridges collapsed, tents were buried in sand and debris strewn about as water rushed over the landscape. Campers sought refuge on benches, in trees and in caves. The existing waterfalls turned a muddy brown, and new ones emerged from the steep walls of the canyon.
Christian Raftopol and the three others in his group planned to hike out at 3 a.m. Thursday and were packing when the rain started falling. They ducked into their tents, but he said the water levels rose quickly and he warned others.
He fled to a nearby restroom after pulling fellow campers from their tents. He thought they were close behind but saw them fall into the water after a footbridge broke and was swept away. They were able to trudge through to join him and later used headlights to hike to the tribal village, he said.
“It was furious,'' the Mount Vernon, New York, resident said.
Raftopol said they tried to form a human chain to help other campers stuck on an island but couldn't and advised them to go another direction. Meanwhile, he saw a man using a wooden pole to guide himself through the water to reach tourists farther down in the campground.
All but 17 of the tourists were able to get to the community center in Supai village and spent the night. The others left at sunrise Thursday after the water receded, Fink said.
The tribe opened a small store in the village for tourists and didn't charge for food or water. Tourists and tribal members gave out socks and shoes, tourists said. A lodge on the way to the canyon offered free showers and breakfast to the evacuees.
U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs spokeswoman Nedra Darling said the agency hasn't received a damage estimate but assisted in evacuating the tourists.
The canyon is accessible only by foot, helicopter or mule ride. About 400 tribal members live there year-round.
Eric Kremer was one of the last out Thursday and reveled in the experience from his home in Las Vegas on Friday after a shower, food and a beer.
“I never felt my life was threatened while I was there,'' he said. “Obviously that's in the control of Mother Nature. It wasn't up to me.''