Dakota Access Pipeline: What happens next?

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NEAR CANNON BALL, N.D. (CNN) The fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline -- the $3.8 billion project expected to move 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day across the Midwest -- lasted long enough for the summer heat to give way to thick, white snow.

For months, Standing Rock Sioux tribe members and their allies battled the energy project they referred to as a "black snake." They stood in the path of the pipeline both during peaceful actions and clashes with authorities that turned violent.

On Sunday afternoon, tribe members and their allies celebrated, crying tears of joy, over the fact the pipeline project would be rerouted away from land that's deemed sacred.

Despite the decision, the re-routing of the Dakota Access Pipeline could be reversed once President Barack Obama leaves office next month. And many questions still remain about what's next for the project.

Why are Native American leaders celebrating?

At stake, tribe members said, was the destruction of sacred land on part of their reservation that could hinder access to safe and clean drinking water from Lake Oahe. They had feared an oil spill could have contaminated the precious natural resource.

The announcement Sunday afternoon came one day before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had ordered protesters to leave their campsite in the path of the pipeline.

As the deadline approached, protesters prepared to stand their ground in the face of a potential forced removal. After hundreds had camped out at Standing Rock for months, thousands of reinforcements -- including legions of US military veterans -- had flocked to area over the past week in a show of solidarity.

"People have said that this is a make it or a break it, and I guess we made it," Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe.

Is this the end of Dakota Access Pipeline?

Far from it. For now, Jo-Ellen Darcy, the corps' assistant secretary for civil works, said in a statement that engineers would explore potential alternative routes in a manner that would finish the work "responsibly and expeditiously."

The Army Corps of Engineers has not yet shared a timeline for when those alternates may be finalized.

According to Darcy, the consideration of alternative routes would be best accomplished through an environmental impact statement with full public input and analysis, delivering both an immediate reprieve and political statement that could aid in future showdowns with President-elect Donald Trump's incoming administration.

Though the Army Corps has blocked the pipeline from crossing under Lake Oahe, the decision could eventually be reversed -- or at the very least, re-routed around the body of water.

Where might the pipeline go instead?

It's not exactly clear yet where the pipeline might be routed toward -- other than away from the lake if the current decision holds.

The pipeline was originally slated to lie north of Bismarck, North Dakota, in an area that did not cross Native American reservations.

The latest proposed route would have stretched 1,172 miles from North Dakota into South Dakota, slithered through Iowa and ended in southern Illinois.

However, Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners, the corporations behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, said in a statement Sunday night they "fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe."

As far as they're concerned, the White House's directive does not change past court decisions to green light the project.

"Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way," the company said in a statement.

Is the fight over at Standing Rock?

While Sioux supporters may have celebrated a huge victory Sunday, they're already looking ahead toward potential fights ahead over the pipeline.

"So it feels good I'm really happy that I'm here to witness it and celebrate with a lot of my elders and the youth, but I think that we also need to keep in mind that we need to be ready to keep going," protester Morning Star Angeline Chippewa-Freeland said.

Iktce Wichasa Oyate, a small group that has provided security for protesters, called the decision Sunday nothing more than a "delay tactic" designed to "diffuse the power of the camp." They now hope the project gets stopped entirely before a new plan under a new administration gains traction.

"The snake is trying to move from the open field, to the tall grass," the group said in a Facebook post. Watch it carefully, there will be a new snake handler soon."

President Obama is about to leave office. What happens with Trump?

Tribal leaders worry the decision may not be permanent with the incoming Trump administration.

"More threats are likely in the year to come, and we cannot stop until this pipeline is completely and utterly defeated, and our water and climate are safe," Dallas Goldtooth, lead organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network, said in a statement.

Likewise, May Boeve, executive director of the environmental group 350.org, warned supporters about potential plans to reverse the decision.

"If Trump tries to go up against the leaders at Standing Rock he'll just end up looking petty and small," she said. "The fight against Dakota Access has fired up a resistance movement that is ready to take on any fossil fuel project the Trump administration tries to approve. On Dakota Access and every other pipeline: If he tries to build it, we will come."

A spokeswoman for Trump has not responded to a request for comment on Sunday's decision.