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The State with Billion Dollars at Stake

It’s an age-outdated question: Who owns the mineral rights beneath Lake Sakakawea? There’s no clear reply, not less than not proper now, however presumably, billions of dollars are at stake over the matter. A lot of landowners in our state have sued North Dakota over mineral rights they declare as their very own.The State with Billion Dollars at Stake

The Department of Trust Lands collects a couple of billion dollars yearly by leasing the land to grease corporations. $390-million goes towards K-12 education every two years. The rest of the cash goes into varied state trusts.

That’s been an on-going debate since statehood, and it’s particularly vital at present due to the appearance of hydraulic fracking. Energy firms can extract oil horizontally underground, making land underneath our bodies of water rather more worthwhile hastily.

One factor that’s clear: the State owns the entire land and mineral rights below the Missouri River, throughout the boundaries of the unusual excessive watermark. The OHWM is the road the place the sting of the water meets land at excessive tide.

In the 1950s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers got here in and created Lake Sakakawea. The Wilkinson household allowed its land to the federal authorities, land which might be lined by the water with that change. Now, they’re preventing the State for cash they consider is rightfully theirs.

We’re advised by the household’s lawyer, Josh Swanson, and it’s at present on enchantment to the North Dakota Supreme Court. The end result of the Wilkinson’s attraction will set a precedent for years to return.

Swanson, with Vogel Law Firm, argued, “Nothing provides the state the correct to assert possession of those minerals.” Swanson stated the Wilkinsons had been capable of lease their mineral rights to grease corporations for 50 to 60 years after promoting the floor rights in 1958.

He defined the method, “The feds paid them for the surface. So you might have hundreds of 1000’s of acres of a number of the greatest farmland in North Dakota that might, in the end, find yourself beneath Lake Sakakawea. Once they did that, the personal landowners like my shopper reserved the mineral rights.” This brings us again to 2010 when oil firms found a strategy to get oil underwater — horizontal drilling.

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Nina Sanders

Nina is the lead of the Currency column. She had joined the group as a part-time writer in 2006, covering the stock market, startups, earnings, and economy. Nina completed her Bachelors of Arts degree from the University of California specializing in Journalism and Geography.

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