Hoeven Presses BOR Regional Administrator to Account for Depreciated Value of Oakes Test Area When Issuing Cost Estimate

Senator Sponsored Legislation, Helped Pass Lands Package to Allow Transfer & Continues Working to Finalize a Deal

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven recently spoke with Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) Regional Administrator Mike Black, pressing him to account for the depreciated value of the Oakes Test Area when providing a cost estimate to the Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District. Hoeven stressed that the price of the 32 year-old facility should reflect the present state of the infrastructure, as well as its overbuilt size and increased maintenance costs, and that BOR should be transparent in justifying the cost.

This comes as the latest in Hoeven’s efforts to finalize a deal to transfer the facility’s title to the local irrigation district. The senator met with local stakeholders last month 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. The bill has now passed both chambers of Congress and awaits the President’s signature. Prior to this, Hoeven introduced legislation, with Senator Kevin Cramer as an original cosponsor, to authorize the title transfer of the facility.

“The reality is that the Oakes Test Area has operated well-past its expected lifespan and is part of a project the federal government never finished,” said Hoeven. “We’re urging BOR to assign a reasonable price for transferring the facility to the Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District. That means the price needs to reflect the age of the infrastructure, the resulting maintenance costs and the fact that it doesn’t have a guaranteed water supply. At the same time, we need to know BOR’s reasoning behind this process. That is what will help negotiations move forward and will bring us closer to a final deal.”

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 and continues urging the BOR to forge a path forward on turning over control of the facility to the local irrigation district.