Hoeven Brings Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner to North Dakota to Meet With Lake Tschida Cabin Owners

Senator Presses Agency Commissioner to Work with Lake Tschida Residents to Find Solutions to Flood Concerns

ELGIN, N.D. – At a meeting with cabin owners and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Estevan Lopez, Senator John Hoeven today urged the agency to work with Lake Tschida residents to find a solution to the bureau’s concerns about flooding that also respects the investments and improvements made by residents to the lots they lease on the lake. Hoeven invited Lopez, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as commissioner in December, to the state to hear directly from the cabin owners about their concerns and to seek a compromise that will work for both owners and the bureau.

“For more than fifty years, the cabin owners at Lake Tschida have acted as good stewards of the lake and the surrounding property,” Hoeven said. “Their investment in these properties isn’t just money, it’s time and memories. The integrity of the Heart Butte Dam is of great importance, but as the Bureau of Reclamation seeks to ensure the safety of the dam, the role of the cabin owners in maintaining and improving this land needs to be respected. We are holding this meeting to ensure that Commissioner Lopez hears directly from these families and works with them to find a solution that meets all parties’ needs as well as possible.”

In 2009, following a 50-year record lake level that left 16 of the cabins partially flooded, the Bureau of Reclamation ordered that all permanent structures in the flood pool, 114 cabins in total, had to be removed by 2010. Temporary housing, such as campers and recreational vehicles, could still be used on the rented lots. The bureau cited concerns that debris from flooded property could potentially damage the glory hole of the Heart Butte Dam, which would pose a risk to areas further down the river system, including Bismarck and Mandan. The original deadline was extended to 2021 following the intervention of the congressional delegation at that time.

However, throughout the history of the lake, cabin owners have made improvements to the lots with the bureau’s permission, including electric power service, landscaping, wells, sewage systems and erosion protection. These improvements, in addition to the annual fees paid by the cabin owners, represent a significant investment that cannot be recovered. Further, the permanent structures on the lots are anchored, which cabin owners argue address the bureau’s primary concern. The owners are looking to negotiate a different policy that protects the integrity of the dam without requiring the loss of their investment into the properties.