The North Dakota Supreme Court has ruled Missouri River mineral rights found below the shoreline are owned by the state. You might not think this is significant, but the prize is about 25,000 acres and $140 million oil companies have set aside in bonuses and royalties. Development in the Bakken makes each acre significant.
Waterfront rights in most states are not clear and it’s likely this won’t be the last time the issue comes up.
The problem in North Dakota arose when the state started leasing minerals between the low and high water marks on the Missouri River. Separate state laws seemingly give ownership to the landowners and the state.
Many land owners laughed off the idea the state owned the minerals all the way to the high water mark, but that is what has been determined by the Supreme Court. The state supreme court determined that North Dakota gained ownership to the minerals when it became a state in 1889.
The state will control the acreage, but ownership can be challenged where a person has proof the state has either granted or sold the rights. The case did not decide who owns the shoreline on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.
You can read the full ruling from the North Dakota Supreme Court at ndcourts.gov
If landowners want to continue the fight, the next stop will be the U.S. Supreme Court.