State Rep. Marvin Nelson, a Democrat from Rolla, was one of five plaintiffs who sued the state of North Dakota to prohibit the pay out of $187 million to royalty owners with rights under Lake Sakakawea.

Now Nelson and his fellow plaintiffs want the state to pay them more than $62 million in legal fees, including $150,000 for each plaintiff individually.

For those of you not up to speed on that issue, that lake is man-made, the accumulation of water resulting from the damming of the Missouri River. It is undisputed that the State of North Dakota owns the rights to minerals under the historic Missouri River channel (which is to say, where the river ran before the damming happened) but in recent years there has been a lengthy legal battle over the ownership of minerals under the rest of the lake.

The State of North Dakota, through the Board of University and School Lands, has tried to claim those minerals. The descendants of those who owned that property under the lake, but not under the river, say it’s theirs because when the federal government condemned the land for the purposes of flooding it they bought the surface right. The land owners were never compensated for the mineral rights.

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