Final recommendations related to a study of the ordinary high water mark of the Missouri River will be presented to the North Dakota Industrial Commission next week.
The study by consultant Wenck Associates prompted objections from mineral owners and about 1,500 pages of public comment after it was made public last spring.
One attorney warned the study would lead to more lawsuits unless it was modified, and professional land surveyors raised concerns about the review’s methodology.
The North Dakota Oil and Gas Division worked with Wenck to address the public comments and will release the final recommendations on Thursday, said Department of Mineral Resources spokeswoman Katie Haarsager.
The Industrial Commission meets at 11:30 a.m. Thursday in the west conference room of the Department of Mineral Resources, 1000 E. Calgary Ave., Bismarck.
The study, ordered by the Legislature, aims to resolve disputes over oil and gas ownership under Lake Sakakawea. The study investigated the accuracy of the 1950s survey of the Missouri River as it existed before the Garrison Dam, which created Lake Sakakawea.
Under the legislation, known as Senate Bill 2134, the Industrial Commission may adopt or modify the recommendations.
The Industrial Commission, which consists of Gov. Doug Burgum, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, may modify a recommendation only if it finds “clear and convincing evidence,” according to the legislation.
On Thursday, Industrial Commission members could take action on the findings or they could take the information under review, Haarsager said.
The public comment period on the study is closed. After the Industrial Commission adopts the recommendations, anyone wishing to challenge the findings would have two years to file a lawsuit in district court, according to the legislation.
Thursday will be the first time the study is presented to the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands, said Land Commissioner Jodi Smith. At a hearing in June, Smith said the study did not provide enough information to allow the department to make payments of royalty or bonus refunds, which were directed by the legislation.
The Industrial Commission had awarded Wenck $249,500 to conduct the study. The contract was increased to $386,500 as the consultant worked to address the public input.
Audio from the meeting will be streaming live at www.dmr.nd.gov. Documents related to the study are available at that website.