At the Bishop City Council meeting Monday night, DWP Aqueduct Manager, Gene Coufal, gave the council an update on efforts to possibly sell excess DWP land in the Eastern Sierra.
The properties in question range from Lone Pine to Lee Vining, with the majority of the property in Bishop. DWP staff looked at leased land, vacant land, and land set to be released under the 75 acres agreed to in the Long Term Water Agreement.
Under the Water Agreement, DWP must auction off 75 acres in the Owens Valley towns. The first round of auctions resulted in the sale of exactly one piece of land, possibly because the prices for the properties were set at the height of the real estate bubble. The next round of land auctions will include 54 acres of the 75, and may occur this fall, Coufal explained. The remainder of the 75 acres, the so-called Hanby Parcel in Bishop, will be auctioned off at a later date.
Coufal explained that interim DWP General Manager David Freeman gave the order to look into excess lands in February. Since that time, Freeman has been replaced. To make sure that his staff is headed in the right direction on these possible land auctions, Coufal explained that he will ask the Board of Water and Power Commissioners to pass a resolution that re-iterates a 1938 commitment to return properties to the Inyo communities. Coufal told the council that he suspects the Water and Power Commissioners will allow the process to continue.
Property being considered for sale includes parcels like the highly visible empty lot at Yaney and Home Street in Bishop, known sometimes as Peoples Park.
Some of the properties that may eventually be sold are currently leased. Department staff sent out questionnaires to lessees asking if they were interested in buying the property that they currently lease. Coufal said that about 60% of the questionnaires had been returned, and added that the lessees showed overwhelming interest, to buy.
There is a vague timeline for the 75 acres under the water agreement. When asked how long it would be for other properties to be auctioned off, Coufal couldnt give a rough estimate, and only stated that the process takes time.