Black Gold Boom has an interesting interview with Stan Reep, a North Dakota man who owns property along the Missouri River. Mr. Reep is suing the State of North Dakota after the state re-surveyed the shoreline of the river and re-established a “historical” high water mark that usurps a significant amount of land rights from property owners along the river.
Given that we’re in the midst of an oil boom, every inch of property in western North Dakota has a lot of value right now. So far, the State of North Dakota has made over $70 million off of oil development in disputed land along the river.
Reep feels the state is drinking his milkshake.
“The question is how far does the state’s ownership of those navigable waters go,” Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says during the interview.
That is, indeed, the question but you really have to question the state’s motivations for what appears to be a land grab. Or, more accurately, a mineral rights grab.
Is it really appropriate for a state government already awash in revenues, both directly and indirectly, from oil activity to crowd private property owners out of mineral rights worth tens of millions?
It seems to me that, absent some compelling need on the part of the state beyond maximizing revenues, we ought to maximize private property ownership rather than state property ownership.