March 3, 2014

Whose land is it anyway?

By STU MERRY and

JILL DENNING GACKLE

Two meetings about whether land around Lake Sakakawea and Lake Oahe should be transferred to someone other than the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers came with different responses.

Officials with Eide Bailly, an accounting and business advisory firm, are holding public meetings to gain a grasp on how people feel when it comes to the proposed transfer of "excess" land that may no longer be needed by the Corps.

The overwhelming feeling among the more than 60 who attended the Garrison meeting was that things should remain as they are. A quarter of those queried said the land should go back to the original landowners. A smattering of people indicated the state should take over the land. No one desired to have the land go to the tribes.

Wounds from more than 60 years ago oozed and festered at a similar meeting in New Town earlier the same day.

The majority of the 65 participants at New Town favored, by a show of hands, returning the "excess" land to the original Indian and non-Indian owners. Dialogue focused on the flooding of homesteads and how any unneeded Corps’ land should be returned to the original owners and their heirs.

Many in the crowd at Garrison expressed that what is being proposed is doing more damage than good.

Mountrail County Park Board member Arden Eide said all the legislation is doing is stirring a hornet’s nest. He testified there’s confusion when it comes to the proposed land transfer.

Steve Lee, McLean County Commissioner, said the Corps is unclear when it comes to what is "excess" land. He said the legislation has created more questions than answers. "Surveying would be a nightmare," he said, if a transfer was approved.


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