Hoeven, Cramer Introduce Legislation to Transfer Title for Oakes Irrigation Site to Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District

WASHINGTON – Senators John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer this week introduced legislation to transfer the title for the Oakes Test Area, an irrigation research site, from the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) to the Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District. 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 funding through the BOR. 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 legislation would remove this hurdle by allowing the Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District to purchase the facility and its infrastructure, bring the project to its full potential and adapt it for local needs. Ultimately, this will reduce costs to taxpayers and prevent the facility from being abandoned.

“Significant taxpayer investment has already gone into establishing the Oakes Test Area, and we should make best use of this infrastructure,” said Hoeven. “Following our meeting last year, we’ve continued working with the Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District and the Bureau to hammer out a deal for transferring the facility over to local control. Our legislation would provide the authority needed to finalize a deal, allow the irrigation district to move forward with the purchase and ensure this irrigation facility can better serve the needs of local farmers.”

“Water irrigation is vital to North Dakota agriculture, and the Oakes Test Area has been in the works for over 20 years,” said Cramer. “With support from the Bureau of Reclamation and water district, I look forward to partnering with Senator Hoeven to get this done.”

Last year, Hoeven met with the Garrison Diversion Conservancy District, which has managed the facility since it last received federal funding in 2013, to review the proposal for transferring the title. The senator has since been urging the BOR to forge a path forward on turning over control of the facility and its infrastructure to the local irrigation district.