The state Land Board is locked in debate today about three major land exchanges, which would swap state-owned cottage sites at Priest and Payette lakes for commercial property, including buildings in Idaho Falls that house operations related to the Idaho National Laboratory, and in Canyon County. If the swaps were to go through, nearly 15 percent of the state-owned lake cabin sites on state endowment lands would transition to private property; state Lands Department officials estimate that the long-term income to the state endowment would sharply increase as a result of the deals.
Not everyone is convinced. State Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, complimented the Land Board for its recent hotly contested auction for the landing site for a re-attempt at Evel Knievel’s unsuccessful jump across the Snake River Canyon in 1974; that auction drew five bidders and in the end will gain more than a million dollars for the school endowment. But he objected to the land swaps.
“I understand the process of what we’re trying to do to get rid of the lakefront properties,” Vander Woude told the Land Board. “My problem is I don’t think we’re getting value. I think we can do better. … I would urge the Land Board to table this ‘til we can get some better answers.”
Gov. Butch Otter responded, “Who’s gonna give us the better answers, John? We’ve gone to the experts and poked and prodded. … We have gone through this and gone through this, and now you say delay this just a little bit longer and study it more.”
Kathy Alder, Canyon County commissioner, told the board her commission opposes the Canyon County exchange. “This is so important for our tax base,” she said. “Even though it’s only $33,000, that’s a lot of money to Canyon County.” The board meeting is continuing, and may include some discussion in a closed executive session prior to the vote.