Hoeven Optimistic Agreement Will Be Reached to Transfer Oakes Test Area

Senator Spoke with BOR Regional Director Mike Black to Advance Negotiations on Title Transfer

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven this week spoke again with Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) Great Plains Regional Director Mike Black to help advance the transfer of the Oakes Test Area from BOR to the Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District. Hoeven said he is optimistic that an agreement on the price can be reached. Additionally, Director Black told the senator that BOR is working to review the transfer to ensure that it can be completed using the legislation Hoeven secured earlier this year. 

“It only makes sense to transfer the Oakes Test Area to the farmers of the Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District,” said Hoeven. “I spoke with Director Black, who indicated that BOR is working to find a reasonable price for transferring it. We passed legislation to authorize the transfer, which we think should work, but BOR is reviewing it to ensure that no additional legislation is necessary to finalize the transfer. We hope to have that review back in the next month or so.”

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 is working to 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.

Earlier this year, the senator met with local stakeholders to review progress on negotiations with BOR and to outline legislation he helped pass that would remove the need for congressional authorization prior to transferring the title of a BOR project facility, such as the Oakes Test Area. Prior to this, Hoeven introduced legislation, with Senator Kevin Cramer as an original cosponsor, to authorize the title transfer of the facility.

Hoeven has repeatedly stressed to BOR officials that the price of the 32 year-old facility should reflect the present state of the infrastructure, the lack of a guaranteed water supply, its overbuilt size and its increased maintenance costs. The senator continues working to ensure that the final estimate reflects these factors and that BOR is transparent in justifying the cost.