- Associated Press - Thursday, December 22, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The North Dakota Department of Transportation has completed additional testing of a bridge damaged during protests of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

The department said its testing was completed Thursday with help from the Highway Patrol, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. There’s no timetable for reopening the span.

Core samples were taken from the bridge and will be sent to an out-of-state lab specializing in evaluating concrete cores exposed to high temperatures. Results could take up to a month.

The Backwater Bridge north of Cannon Ball has been closed since October, when protesters blocked it with burning vehicles. The bridge has been the site of several clashes between protesters and police.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault said the successful testing of the bridge is a big step toward restoring relations between the state and the tribe.

“Today was an example of how we can collaborate to restore relationships and peace in North Dakota,” Archambault and Burgum said in a joint statement Thursday.

State transportation officials had said they can’t inspect the bridge until they know their workers will be safe. Before he left office last week, then-Gov. Jack Dalrymple met with Archambault, agreeing to enlist the BIA to help ensure the safety of inspectors so that the bridge can reopen.

Protesters worry about the pipeline’s effects on drinking water and on Native American artifacts, while Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners said the pipeline will be safe. The four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline is to carry North Dakota oil 1,200 miles to Illinois. The project is stalled while the developer and the Army clash in federal court over permission for the pipeline to cross under the Missouri River.

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