Trump Administration Transfers Federal Water Project in North Dakota to Local Water Users

Last edited 03/12/2021

Date: Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020

OAKES, NORTH DAKOTA – Today, U.S. Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary Kate MacGregor joined U.S. Senator John Hoeven and other officials to finalize the transfer of the Oakes Test Area to local ownership. This is the third water-related facility transferred under a law signed by President Trump last year. The John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act expedites the title transfer process for eligible projects including diversion dams, canals and other water-related facilities. The action conveys full ownership to the Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District in Oakes, North Dakota, after the district paid for the Oakes Test Area facilities and lands.

“This title transfer will improve local control and fulfill the Trump Administration's goals to streamline bureaucratic processes and facilitate local investment to help maintain and rebuild American infrastructure,” said Deputy Secretary MacGregor. “The new title transfer process under the Trump Administration has created unprecedented opportunities throughout the West, and I’m proud to be part of this historic effort.”

“Local water decisions should be made locally,” said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. “This title transfer is the result of cooperation between the federal government, water users and others so that our partners at Dickey-Sargent can control their own water future.”

“With the title transfer now complete, the Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District will be able to make needed upgrades to the Oakes Test Area, ensuring this infrastructure will benefit the region’s agriculture producers for years to come,” said Senator John Hoeven. “That’s why we advanced legislation to enable this transfer and have worked continuously with the administration throughout the process. We appreciate the irrigation district’s leadership, the Garrison Diversion and the Bureau of Reclamation for joining with us in the effort to finalize this agreement, which will save taxpayers money while also preventing this facility from being abandoned.”

“One of my first votes in the Senate was for the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, which gave the Bureau of Reclamation authority to transfer assets like the Oakes Test Area to local ownership. This commonsense measure saves the taxpayers money by putting management in the hands of the community members who actually use it,” said Senator Kevin Cramer. “I thank President Trump for signing this law and Secretary Bernhardt for swiftly implementing this authority. I also appreciate Deputy Secretary MacGregor and Associate Deputy Secretary Weaver for attending today’s event. Their presence further demonstrates the Trump Administration’s commitment to North Dakota priorities such as this.”

“The transfer of the Oakes Test Site title to the Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District is a huge win for North Dakota and the American taxpayer,” said North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum. “No one is better positioned to efficiently manage the site than the local irrigation district. We are grateful to Senators Hoeven and Cramer and Congressman Armstrong for their substantial efforts in making the title transfer possible, and we appreciate the Trump Administration and Department of the Interior for acknowledging and honoring the promises made to North Dakota in the last 76 years, dating back to the original 1944 Flood Control Act.”

“We wish to thank Senator Hoeven and all others who participated in making this transfer a reality. Without their efforts the many challenges faced during this process would not have been overcome,” said Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District Chairman David Locken. “The local decision making the transfer affords Dickey-Sargent puts us in a much better position in dealing with the many future challenges we will face.”

The Oakes Test Area was designed as a 5,000-acre prototype irrigation test area. It includes three pumping plants, a canal, pipelines, laterals, drainage system, wells, roads, an office building and several outbuildings. The Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District will now own and manage these facilities to meet current needs in compliance with all applicable federal, state and local laws under the terms of the title transfer agreement.

The Oakes Test Area title transfer aligns with the Department of the Interior’s priorities to work with local water users to stimulate infrastructure investment through local ownership. This authorization saves money for the taxpayers and the federal government while enhancing facility use and increasing flexibility for the irrigation district.


Deputy Secretary MacGregor at the Oakes Test Site title transfer signing ceremony with Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District Chairman David Locken (left) and U.S. Senator John Hoeven (center) in Oakes, North Dakota. (Photo Credit: Department of the Interior)

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