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County buys Deer Lagoon

More than 300 acres of wet, vacant land called Deer Lagoon is being purchased by the county.

The Island County Board of Commissioners approved the purchase Monday morning during their regular weekly meeting.

The large wetland area off Useless Bay on South Whidbey will basically remain untouched except a hiking trail may be added, said Commissioner Mike Shelton in a Tuesday morning phone interview. Deer Lagoon is one of the prime bird watching areas of Whidbey Island.

The county is paying $1.4 million for the 379 acres appraised at $2.6 million.

"That piece of property is environmentally sensitive and regulation has taken the development value; it should be in public ownership," Shelton said. Seller was H&H Properties, which developed the adjacent Useless Bay Colony.

Dave Haworth, an Island County resident that lives on Shore Road near the lagoon said he is pleased with the deal and that the county's ownership will help preserve the freshwater lagoon and the wildlife that lives there.

Shelton added that the county approached the owner of the land with the $1.4 million offer and they accepted. H&H Properties, usually represented publicly by Bill Sievers, could not be reached for comment.

The cost of the land is being paid entirely by grant money from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The county is set to receive the funds in the coming year and the deal is contingent on the county receiving those funds. Shelton added that the federal money has been approved by Congress.

The county's land grab on South Whidbey nay not be over. In addition to Deer Lagoon, 600 acres near Goss Lake is on the Department of Natural Resources' Land Trust Transfer Project to be transferred to the county.

The Goss Lake property near Langley is next to the Saratoga Woods and the Metcalf Reserve that is used as a recreational area.

"It all comes together to fit into a large open space," Shelton said. The three lands combine to create a nearly 1,000-acre piece of property.

The deed on the land will have a restriction saying the land will only be used for open space, said Evert Challstedt, project manager for the DNR.

In addition to the Goss Lake Land, 400-acres near Carp Lake on Camano Island is slated to transfer from the state to the county.

The Natural Resources Hearings Board is scheduled to decide on the two properties, plus 18 others throughout the state in June. Transfer is not assured as the projects compete for available funding.

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