Our Mission:
To provide a reliable, high quality
and affordable water supply to
benefit the people of North Dakota.

Oakes Test Area


Garrison Diversion believes in supporting programs that will help farmers achieve more with their available water resources. One of these programs is the 5,000-acre Oakes Test Area irrigation research site near Oakes in southeast North Dakota.

The program was developed in 1980 by the Bureau of Reclamation in cooperation with state and federal agencies. Data collection and monitoring began in 1980 to document pre-development conditions. Irrigation delivery began in 1988 after the completion of a subsurface drainage system and water distribution system.

Area: 5,000 acres
Developed in 1980

Valuable irrigation research
The Oakes Test Area was designed to demonstrate that a well-managed irrigation system can produce high-value irrigated crops with minimum environmental impacts. The layout of the Oakes Test Area makes it possible to take very precise measurements of the effect irrigation has on rivers, lakes, groundwater and the environment under different conditions.

The combination of field trials at the nearby NDSU Irrigation Research Facility and actual irrigation operations have provided a wealth of important data used to develop best water management practices for irrigated agriculture in North Dakota, the United States and the world.


Who takes care of it?
Garrison Diversion Operations & Maintenance (O&M) staff works at the Oakes Test Area on the following tasks:
• keeping the extensive system of subsurface pipe drains in optimum working order
• performing daily upkeep of the facility and equipment on site
• operating the pumps
• cleaning drains
• servicing equipment
• spraying for noxious weeds

The future of the Oakes Test Area
The combination of expense of operation and an unstable water supply for the Oakes Test Area prompted an operational study, completed in August of 2000.  The study was proposed in order to identify the most economical method of delivering water resources through the Oakes Test Area.  Several alternatives were suggested for streamlining the O&M program at the Oakes Test Area, however, no decision has been reached regarding the proposed water management alternatives.

The Dakota Water Resources Act of 2000 also plays a role in the future operation of the Oakes Test Area.  Under this federal legislation, the Oakes Test Area and all operations of the facility must be transferred or go through the federal surplus property process two years after a Record of Decision is made regarding the Red River Valley Water Supply Project.  The Bureau of Reclamation, Garrison Diversion and Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District are in discussions regarding the title transfer.