Regulatory Program: Sovereign Lands Management

North Dakota’s sovereign lands are those areas, including beds and islands, lying within the ordinary high watermarks of navigable lakes and streams. The state of North Dakota plays an important role in the management of sovereign land through the State Engineer, who is responsible for administering the state’s non-mineral interests in North Dakota’s sovereign lands.

The goal of the State Engineer in managing this vital resource is to manage, operate, and supervise North Dakota’s sovereign land, for multiple uses, that are consistent with the Public Trust Doctrine, and are in the best interest of present and future generations. Meeting these goals can be challenging given the increasing popularity of water-based recreation, and the draw of waterfront property for development. The uses and issues surrounding North Dakota’s sovereign lands continue to increase, and this in turn has prompted the Office of the State Engineer to take a more active role in managing this popular resource.

In 2007, the Office of the State Engineer completed the North Dakota Sovereign Land Management Plan. This plan outlined the State Engineer’s authority to manage sovereign lands and it included recommendations and corresponding action strategies that are intended to improve management of this valuable resource. This management plan is still in use today.

The Office of the State Engineer continues to make ordinary high watermark delineations throughout the state, mostly along the Missouri River.

Because the Office of the State Engineer does not currently employ law enforcement staff, a contract agreement has been developed with the Game and Fish Department to have their existing game wardens assist with sovereign land–related law enforcement, since they are already in the field. Coordination efforts for law enforcement have also been discussed with other local law enforcement entities.


Program Rules

Sovereign Land Management Statutes and Rules


Guidance on Sovereign Lands Management

Navigability Report

Ordinary High Water Mark Delineation Guidelines

Sovereign Land Management Plan

Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C


Sovereign Lands Management Applications

Application For Authorization To Construct On Sovereign Lands

For more information please contact: Jerry Heiser, Sovereign Lands Manager (701) 328-4935 or e-mail.