Hoeven, Cramer & Armstrong: Oakes Test Area Title Transfer to Be Final After 90-Day Congressional Review

ND Delegation Outline Title Transfer, Benefits with Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District, Interior & Reclamation Officials

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven, along with Senator Kevin Cramer and Representative Kelly Armstrong, today announced that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) has notified Congress of its intent to transfer the title of the Oakes Test Area to the Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District (DSID). This begins the 90-day Congressional review period, after which the transfer will be final and the facility will be owned and operated by the DSID. Hoeven hosted a call with the delegation and officials from the U.S. Department of the Interior, BOR and the irrigation district to outline the transfer process and the benefits to local agriculture producers. 

“We’ve worked closely with the Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District and Reclamation to negotiate fair terms for transferring the Oakes Test Area to local ownership, and we’ve now reached the last stretch of this process,” said Senator Hoeven. “After the 90-day Congressional review period, the title transfer will be final. This follows our long efforts to pass legislation to allow such a transfer, ensure the Oakes Test Area is eligible and develop a workable plan for the irrigation district. We appreciate the hard work of officials at both Interior and Reclamation for their continuous engagement on this issue. This title transfer will help enable the more effective use of the Oakes Test Area and ensure it continues to benefit agriculture producers in the region.”

“The Trump Administration is streamlining the bureaucracy and empowering local ownership. Giving North Dakotans possession of the Oakes Test Area saves the federal government money and enhances our irrigators’ use of this facility as Congress intended,” said Senator Cramer. “I applaud Interior Secretary Bernhardt and Reclamation Commissioner Burman for expeditiously utilizing the transfer authority Congress passed last year and working closely with us to complete this long-awaited title transfer.”

“Water resources are best controlled at the local level and this title transfer proves it,” said Representative Armstrong. “Rather than letting the Oakes Test Area go unused, the Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District will finally be able to fully utilize the site to benefit local users. I want to thank Secretary Bernhardt and Reclamation Commissioner Burman for their efforts in bringing control back to the local level.”

“This Administration is committed to empowering local decision-makers and facilitating infrastructure investment and job creation,” said Deputy Secretary of the Interior Kate MacGregor. “This title transfer process will allow local water users to have more control in meeting the water needs of their local farmers and communities.” 

“Local water decisions should be made locally, and that’s what title transfer does,” said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. “I am proud to send this additional title transfer to Congress so our partners at Dickey-Sargent will help control their own water future.”

“If the title transfer is authorized, Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District will have the ability to manage our own facilities, and give us the ability to be more nimble and make adjustments for what is needed at the time,” said DSID Chairman David Locken. “We are looking forward to completing the title transfer process and would like to thank Senator Hoeven and the Bureau of Reclamation for their help along with the support from Senator Cramer and Representative Armstrong in completing this process.” 

The Oakes Test Area was established at the recommendation of the International Joint Commission, but no longer receives federal appropriations. The DSID continues to make use of the facility, but has been unable to make modifications due to the required federal approval process. 

Congress passed legislation last year to remove the need for congressional authorization prior to transferring the title of a BOR project facility, such as the Oakes Test Area. Hoeven and the delegation have been working with local stakeholders to advance negotiations and ensure the facility is priced fairly. Hoeven also introduced legislation, with Cramer as an original cosponsor, to authorize the title transfer of the facility.