Serving The Bakken And Beyond

Questions Over Lake Sakakawea Mineral Ownership Pushes Continental Resources To Seek Federal Court Action

With the federal government and the state of North Dakota fighting over ownership of the minerals under Lake Sakakawea—and with millions of dollars in royalties at stake—Continental Resources wants a federal judge to resolve the dispute.

Both government agencies are competing for royalties from the same 43 wells on 1,026 acres in Williams, McKenzie, and Mountrail counties.

The US, through the Bureau of Land Management, is claiming ownership of $2.4 million in royalties, while the ND Dept. Of Trust Lands is asserting ownership of $3.2 million in royalties.

The initial interpleader lawsuit was filed in North Dakota district court in McKenzie County by attorney Lawrence Bender, but was later transferred to Federal District Court in Bismarck. The ND Dept. Of Trust Lands has not yet responded to the ligation.

Continental said that it originally leased acreage under Lake Sakakawea from the Bureau of Land Management.

“North Dakota now claims that its rights under the Equal Footing Doctrine cover all the submerged lands with the Ordinary High Water Mark of Lake Sakakawea, and not just the riverbed of the historical Missouri River,” the Continental complaint said.

Ownership of the mineral acres by the state overlaps with the federal ownership, Continental said, and the company made royalty payments to the BLM up to November 2016.

The company has put in escrow additional royalty payments over the disputed lands.

“By reason of these conflicting claims, Continental is in great doubt as to which defendant is entitled to be paid royalties related to the disputed lands,” the lawsuit stated.