Thursday, April 20, 2017

ND Legislature Clarifies Minerals Under Lake Sakakawwa, Which Some Argue Is Not The Same As The Missouri River -- April 20, 2017


Later, April 22, 2017: it's nice the state legislature "corrected" this issue, but it seems this should have been settled by the ND Supreme Court a long time ago. Based on what little I know about mineral rights what the legislature did was a no-brainer and the courts should have agreed, and sorted this out years ago.
Original Post
A reader alerted me to this article in The Bismarck Tribune.
The North Dakota Legislature has approved a bill clarifying that the state does not own minerals under Lake Sakakawea, setting up a process to return an estimated $187 million in bonus, rent and royalty payments.
Supporters of Senate Bill 2134 say it’s about doing the “right thing” for citizens who retained their minerals when they lost land for the construction of the Garrison Dam, which created Lake Sakakawea.
“We need to make sure that we get the mineral ownership back to the rightful owner,” said Sen. Jessica Unruh, R-Beulah. “We need to clarify what the state owns and provide clarity and certainty for our judicial system.”
But opponents of the bill say the primary beneficiaries are likely the federal government and the oil industry, which was heavily involved with developing the legislation.
I have a lot of problems with that last statement but not worth the effort to discuss it. I have no dog in this fight.

There may have been some thought that this had to do with "the high water mark" issue, another "water issue" affecting mineral owners. This was also in the article:
The bill sets up a process to define the ordinary high water mark of the historic Missouri River channel as it existed before the Garrison Dam, starting with the 1950s survey of the river by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.


  1. Thid was a land grab by the state of nd. Go that the nd legilsture did the right thing.

    1. What he meant to say: This was a land grab by the state of ND. Good that the ND legislature did the right thing.

  2. Devils Advocate question here- Were said land owners compensated when Lake was formed? If so what right would they have to land that has been under water for 50+ years?
    Did they actually retain ownership of flooded lands? And if so, what would be the point of that, were they expecting the Corp of Eng to drain it at some point?
    Just curious

    1. Surface rights vs mineral rights. Most likely the land owners were compensated for surface rights but I doubt minerals were even considered. If they were considered, the owner had the right to keep the minerals even if the land was flooded. If the compensation did not specifically cover minerals, then one would assume the original owner owned the minerals. In North Dakota, over the years, land was sold and bought, but once oil was discovered in 1951, folks would retain/sell minerals as a separate item unrelated to the sale of the surface land. With regard to the second question, one does not need to drain a lake (or an ocean) to reach/produce oil.