BISMARCK, N.D. — The year in North Dakota news began with the end of a yearlong protest against the Dakota Access oil pipeline that attracted thousands of demonstrators to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. It ended with an attempt to settle a protest against another massive project, the Red River diversion channel in Fargo.
There was also a pair of shocking killings, including the death of a sheriff’s deputy during a shootout and of a pregnant Fargo woman who was allegedly killed by neighbors who wanted her baby.
Here is a look back at some of the state’s top stories of 2017:
DAKOTA ACCESS PIPELINE
Construction wrapped up on the Dakota Access pipeline after President Donald Trump took office in January and pushed through its completion, which had been stalled by court battles and months of protests. In late February, authorities cleared out a protest camp that had existed for about a year, housing pipeline opponents who dubbed themselves “water protectors” and often clashed with police. The pipeline began moving oil on June 1, though four American Indian tribes in the Dakotas continue to fight it in federal court.
A Rolette County sheriff’s deputy was fatally shot in January as he and three other deputies exchanged gunfire with a suspected car thief. About 1,200 officers attended the funeral service for 29-year-old Deputy Colt Allery, who was remembered as a kind soul. Melvin DeLong, who shot Allery, was killed in the exchange. DeLong described himself on his Facebook page as someone who gets “crazy irritated fast.”
WOMAN KILLED, BABY TAKEN
The August disappearance of a Fargo woman who was eight months pregnant eventually led investigators to her neighbors’ apartment, where they found the woman’s baby. The neighbors, 38-year-old Brooke Crews and her boyfriend, 32-year-old William Hoehn, were charged with killing 22-year-old Savanna Greywind, whose body was found wrapped in plastic in a river. Crews pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy to commit murder and other charges. Hoehn has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to stand trial in March. The baby girl now lives with her father, who was Greywind’s boyfriend.
The Legislature filed a lawsuit against Gov. Doug Burgum, alleging he overstepped his authority on some vetoes he issued that deleted words or phrases in several spending bills. The Republican-led Legislature says the vetoes changed the intent of the bills. The first-term GOP governor has defended his vetoes, saying they saved the state money while protecting his executive authority.
The state endured its worst drought in decades. Much of the central and western parts of the state were mired in severe, extreme and even exceptional drought during the growing season, which cut deeply into hay and crop production. The state and several private groups implemented relief programs to help farmers and ranchers. However, President Donald Trump rejected the governor’s request for a disaster declaration.
A federal judge cleared the way for the completion of a $244 million project to bring Missouri River water to residents of northwestern North Dakota. Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled that the Northwest Area Water Supply project complies with federal environmental law. NAWS was first authorized by Congress 31 years ago.
North Dakota’s Health Department started the process of setting up a medical marijuana program, which voters approved in November 2016. State lawmakers crafted regulations that the governor approved in April. The drug isn’t expected to be available to patients until late next year.
Trump visited the state in September as he sought to get Democrats to support his planned tax overhaul. He spoke to a crowd of hundreds at an oil refinery in Mandan and referred to Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp as a “good woman.” Heitkamp, up for re-election next year, flew in with Trump aboard Air Force One as he sought to frame the tax overhaul as a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to cut taxes and simplify the tax code.
The state Health Department approved an air quality permit for a proposed oil refinery close to the picturesque Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Meridian Energy Group Inc. bills the proposed plant as the “cleanest refinery on the planet” and a model for environmentally friendly technology. Opponents worry that it would pollute the park, which is the state’s top tourist attraction. The refinery still needs a state water permit.
Construction was started and then stopped on the first phase of a $2.2 billion Red River diversion project meant to spare Fargo and neighboring Moorhead, Minnesota from chronic flooding. A federal judge in September shut down the project because it didn’t have the necessary permits from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Burgum and his Minnesota counterpart, Gov. Mark Dayton, assembled a task force to look at ways to get the project back on track.