BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — The North Dakota Land Board has announced the completion of the Missouri River Acreage Adjustment Project.
“We are really excited to announce the completion of what we are calling the Acreage Adjustment Project,” said Joseph Heringer, Trust Lands commissioner. “It’s where we had to go through all the state oil and gas leases, 510 of them, and adjust them to the new survey acreage that was commissioned by the North Dakota Legislature in 2017.”
When the North Dakota Land Board adjusted all of those leases, they ended up paying out around $130 million back to oil and gas operators along with private mineral owners.
“Under constitutional law, North Dakota owns the acreage underlining all navigable rivers. That includes the land and mineral rights,” said Heringer.
However, rivers are constantly changing along with the acreage and with uncertainty often comes disputes.
Questions were raised over the years regarding the exact location of the Ordinary High Watermark.
“So the legislature in 2017 commissioned a new study to set the ordinary high-water mark which determines the boundary between state lands and private lands,” said Heringer.
This project adjusted the acreage of state-issued oil and gas leases to align with the newly established Missouri River west of the fort Berthold Indian Reservation.
“All of those oil and gas revenues go into trusts that we manage for the state. And those are held long term for the benefit of the state and that revenue is mostly to benefit public K-12 education,” said Heringer.
It took a couple of years because of the lengthy and complex legal processes.
“Dealing with numerous companies, a lot of in some cases private mineral owners, dealing with lease contracts and complicated surveys where all the parties needed to verify and sign off on the surveys and then sign the legal documents,” said Heringer.
Governor Doug Burgum released the following statement: “We are pleased to announce full completion of this project 11 months ahead of the required deadline. This finalizes a major initiative directed by the legislature which provides clarity for the delineation of the Missouri River OHWM in the survey area and injects tens of millions of dollars back into the North Dakota economy through private mineral owners and oil and gas operators.”
“In the past several years, the state has averaged hundred of millions of dollars per year coming from the oil and gas revenues depending on the production and the price of oil and gas,” said Heringer.
The Board manages what is called the Common Schools Trust Fund and the trust fund distributes hundreds of thousands of dollars each biennium to help fund public education in North Dakota.
The board will begin sending the newly received funds in 2023 and the funds will be distributed to the schools nine months out of the year.