Garrison Diversion believes in supporting programs that will help farmers achieve more with their available resources. One of these programs is the Oakes Test Area (OTA), a 5,000-acre irrigation test site near the town of Oakes in southeast North Dakota.
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 impact that irrigation has on rivers, lakes, groundwater and the environment under different conditions.
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, and irrigation delivery began in 1988 after the completion of a subsurface drainage system and water distribution system.
The acreage irrigated annually has varied from about 500–3,500 acres due to a limited supply of water. The combination of field trials at the nearby NDSU Irrigation Research Facility and actual irrigation operations have provided a wealth of important data to develop the best management practices for irrigated agriculture in North Dakota, the United States, and the world.
Garrison Diversion Operations & Maintenance (O&M) staff works to keep the extensive system of subsurface pipe drains at the Oakes Test Area in optimum working order. They perform daily tasks that ensure the upkeep of the facility and equipment on site. Routine O&M procedures include operating the pumps, cleaning drains and servicing equipment.
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.