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Authorities to build up presence before oil pipeline ruling

BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota authorities are recruiting law enforcement officers from across the state to guard the site of a protest in anticipation of an impending federal ruling on whether to block the construction of the four-state Dakota Access oil pipeline.

The buildup, announced Wednesday, comes after a skirmish between protesters and private security guards on Saturday that turned violent; the crowd dispersed when officers arrived, and no one was arrested. Authorities also said they pulled back Tuesday from responding to a report of 150 to 200 protesters, some with hatchets and knives, gathered at a construction area on private land because they determined it wasn't safe to respond.

A ruling is expected by Friday on the tribe's challenge of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' decision to grant permits to the Dallas-based operators of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, which will cross North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.

The local law enforcement department is bracing for a decision that would allow the project to proceed while a spokesman for Gov. Jack Dalrymple said "the governor has always said the National Guard is an option."

"We are preparing and planning for all scenarios that may occur in response to the federal court ruling," the Morton County Sheriff's Office said in a statement, which didn't detail how many officers were being added or what their plan is should the ruling allow construction to continue.

Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II said he's appealing to protesters to remain "peaceful and prayerful."

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