Cassidy works to give Lake Bistineau land back to citizens

Since 1969, the U.S. government has laid claim to roughly 200 acres of land around Lake Bistineau. Wednesday, Senator Bill Cassidy took a step toward ensuring ownership of that land returns to private citizens living on the land.

Cassidy (R-LA) introduced a bill called the Lake Bistineau Land Title Stability Act in the summer of 2017, and the bill went before a subcommittee hearing Wednesday. According to a press release on Cassidy’s website, the bill would “clarify the ownership of roughly 200 acres of land near Lake Bistineau in Louisiana that is currently occupied by more than 100 private landowners.”

Cassidy questioned a U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) official at the subcommittee meeting about the convoluted ownership history of this land.

An original survey of Louisiana in 1838 was approved by the federal government and used by the state to transfer land to the Bossier Levee District, which later passed the land on to private ownership. However, in 1967, the BLM resurveyed the area and drew a new boundary line, claiming that about 200 acres of now-private land was “mistakenly left out of the original survey.”

Private landowners were never made aware of this change until 2013, when they initiated an inquiry with the BLM, who maintained that the land belonged to the U.S. government.

Cassidy’s bill would essentially nullify the 1967 survey and revert to the 1838 boundary lines, allowing private landowners to truly own their land.

Carlton Frye is the husband of Jan Frye, real estate agent at Century 21 in Minden. Carlton holds a real estate license but is not currently practicing. Both Fryes weighed in on the ownership situation around the lake and what Cassidy’s bill might do.

“There’s a real grey area as far as getting lending for those properties, because they don’t own the land they built their homes on,” Carlton said. “They’ll buy it with cash or whatever, but they just don’t have clear title when it comes time to sell.”

Carlton said homeowners in the Bistineau area are entitled to the land they have built their homes on, and Cassidy’s bill would be a boon to them.

“Those homes have been there for a long time, and people have their investments in them,” he said. “If they’re there and they have their investment there, it should be their right to do what they care to do with it.”

Jan also said the land should go back to private ownership.

“I think it would be a good thing for them to go back to the original owners and not belong to the government,” she said.

David Stahl is a homeowner on the east side of Lake Bistineau. He owns the land his house is on, but, like many others, there is a line where his property ends and the government’s begins. While Cassidy’s bill likely would not directly affect Stahl, he said the bill seems beneficial.

“It would certainly help those who have built their homes on that land,” he said. “I don’t see anything bad coming from it.”

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