State closing on Lake Mesa

MESA -- A prime piece of wetlands south of Mesa now belongs to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Public use of the 256-acre Mesa Lake property will be limited until the department can stake out boundary markers to keep hunters and other visitors from trespassing on adjoining properties, said Mike Livingston, district wildlife biologist for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

An agreement also is needed with landowners for an access road to the site, and a small parking lot must be built in the northeast corner of the property, he said.

There also is no boat access to the public portion of the lake.

But when the logistics are worked out, Livingston said hunters and others should like what they find.

The lake is a prime spot for thousands of waterfowl during migration when birds move south from frozen lakes in the Potholes region.

"It's kind of an oasis in the midst of an intensely irrigated agricultural area," Livingston said.

The department closed on the property -- off Sheffield Road in Franklin County -- last month for $374,000, said Leah Hendrix, lands agent for Region 3 of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, in an e-mail to the Herald.

The purchase was made through a grant from the Waterfowl Habitat Fund, which comes from the sale of federal waterfowl stamps.

The sellers, a group of waterfowl hunters primarily from the west side of the state, still own just over 300 adjoining acres, including wetlands and about two-thirds of the lake, Livingston said.

The west side of the property also has a boat launch.

The state has an option to buy the remainder of the property.

Livingston said he is working to secure financing, including federal grants, to complete the purchase.

Besides waterfowl, the Mesa Lake site is home to quail, pheasants and a variety of non-game species, Livingston said.