By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

Some 31 Lake Earl ranches and homesteads are in the process of being sold to the state and coming off the county tax rolls.

The Wildlife Conservation Board is now in the process of doing some acquisitions out there, but thats about all I can say for now, said Ron Boeck, a senior land agent for the board.

Boeck was in Crescent City last week to meet with the land owners, but he said there is little he can discuss about the buy-ups until the boards public quarterly meeting in February.

Dan Honeywell, who owns six acres, a house and a barn on the east side of the lake, said the appraisals and offers made to him were disappointing.

I cant buy a house in town for what they offered me. I have a $31,000 barn and it would take $143,000 to replace my house and thats not including my land. They offered me $138,000, Honeywell said.

Honeywell and others are willing to sell their land to the state, because he says it is flooded each winter by the rising waters of Lake Earl.

But the land floods, he says, only because the department of Fish and Game allows it to.

A battle between longtime ranch owners of the area and state wildlife agencies ensued a few years ago.

Residents say the lake was traditionally breached whenever it reached the four-foot level. That allowed for cow pastures to remain dry and workable.

Eventually, breaching the lake, which is separated from the ocean by a sandbar, required a multi-agency permit to do legally.

For the last few years, the permits required the county to allow the lake to raise to about eight feet.

Letting the lake collect that much water caused neighboring land and roads to flood, according to residents like Honeywell, the Richard McNamara family and others.

Fish and Game biologists say the area is a valuable wetland dependent on naturally fluctuating water.

The mission of both Fish and Game and the Wildlife Conservation Board is to preserve, protect and rehabilitate wildlife habitat, according to their Web site.

Currently, Fish and Game biologist Melissa Bukosky is conducting surveys and gathering information to develop a management plan for the wetland area.

When I bought my land, you couldnt even see the lake, and now its on my property, Honeywell said. He has owned his acreage for 27 years.

About 20 people who say they are adversely effected by the change in the lakes management, are seeking an attorney, Honeywell said.