Hoeven Secures Commitment from BOR Area Director to Apply All Credits Toward Oakes Test Area Cost Estimate

Bureau of Reclamation Revises Cost for Irrigation Facility Down to $9.4 Million, Senator Continues Working to Finalize a Deal & Ensure Reasonable Price for Title Transfer

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven this week secured a commitment from Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) Dakotas Area Manager Arden Freitag to account for and apply all possible credits toward lowering the cost estimate for the Oakes Test Area and ensure an acceptable agreement is reached with the Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District. Hoeven’s call to Freitag comes as the BOR issued an initial revision for the cost estimate, decreasing the price for transferring the facility’s title to $9.4 million, down from $17.9 million. 

This revision reflects a change in how Aid to Irrigation is repaid and does not include depreciation for the facility and its infrastructure. In his conversation with Freitag as well as his previous call to BOR Regional Administrator Mike Black, Hoeven stressed 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.

“The Oakes Test Area should be put to good use, and transferring its title to the Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District will help ensure the facility isn’t abandoned,” said Hoeven. “That can only happen if the federal government assigns a fair price to the infrastructure, which is in need of significant maintenance and updates. The BOR’s recent revision down to $9.4 million is welcome progress, but still does not sufficiently reflect the facility’s depreciated state. We appreciate Area Manager Freitag for his commitment to finalizing a deal and ensuring that all relevant factors are considered when issuing a final cost estimate.”

The commitment from Freitag comes as the latest in Hoeven’s efforts to finalize a deal to transfer the facility’s title to the 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. Prior to this, Hoeven introduced legislation, with Senator Kevin Cramer as an original cosponsor, to authorize the title transfer of the facility.

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.