OAKES, N.D. (Sen. Hoeven Office) – Senator John Hoeven outlined legislation he recently helped pass through the Senate that would allow the title transfer for the Oakes Test Area to move forward, pending a final deal between the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) and the Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District on February 20th. Hoeven provided the overview at a round table he arranged with the City of Oakes, the Garrison Diversion Conservancy District, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Dickey Sargent County Water Board and the Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative, as well as local water users and land owners.
Among other things, the bipartisan public lands legislation would remove the need for congressional authorization prior to transferring the title of a BOR project facility, including the Oakes Test Area. This aligns with legislation Hoeven previously introduced, with Senator Cramer as an original cosponsor, to authorize the title transfer of the facility to the local irrigation district.
“The Oakes Test Area holds the promise of truly benefiting local water users and land owners,” said Hoeven. “We should make the best possible use of this infrastructure, rather than letting it go to waste. The public lands package we passed in the Senate last week helps us to do just that by removing the need for congressional authorization when transferring the title for facilities like the test area. Now, we’re urging our colleagues in the House to pass the legislation and look forward to it being signed into law. At the same time, we will continue supporting the Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District as it works out the final terms for purchasing the facility from the Bureau of Reclamation.”
The Oakes Test Area was established at the recommendation of the International Joint Commission, but has never operated at full capacity and no longer receives federal appropriations. The local irrigation district continues to make use of the facility, but is unable to make modifications due to the required federal approval process.
Hoeven’s efforts would remove this hurdle by allowing the Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District to purchase the facility and its infrastructure, bring it to its full potential and better adapt it for local use. The senator has been advancing this priority since meeting with the Garrison Diversion last year and continues urging the BOR to forge a path forward on turning over control of the facility to the local irrigation district.