Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat

Kennedy Meadows is moving toward becoming property of Tuolumne County.

With the public comment period complete, the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council's board of directors will consider on May 8 a final agreement to turn over 240 acres owned by PG&E in the Stanislaus National Forest to the county. If approved, the transfer will be the first turnover of land by the utility company as part of a 2001 bankruptcy settlement.

Under the agreement the county would own the land, and the Mother Lode Land Trust would hold a conservation easement for the property. The agreement will turn over the land and lease with Kennedy Meadows Resort and Pack Station to the county, which runs through 2028. The resort's owner, Matt Bloom, could not be reached for comment as of Friday afternoon.

The county is expected to receive about $48,000 from the lease and some business proceeds a year. However, the agreement requires the county to put any funds that remain after paying out property taxes back into improvements at Kennedy Meadows.

If the Stewardship Council approves the agreement, which saw some minor changes since a draft was released to the public last summer, the proposal will then require approval from the state Public Utilities Commission. Stewardship Council Executive Director Allene Zanger said any opponents would have an opportunity to protest the transfer with the PUC.

"The Stewardship Council board is eager to have the land donations that have been recommended be completed and conservation easements on the property," Zanger said.

Kennedy Meadows is part of roughly 140,000 acres of watershed land owned by PG&E around the state to be preserved as part of a 2001 bankruptcy settlement with the PUC. The Stewardship Council is overseeing the process for all the proposals, with this being the furthest along so far.

The council first approved negotiations over Kennedy Meadows in 2009, when both Tuolumne County and the National Forest Service were vying for the land. The council chose the county and Mother Lode Land Trust to manage the land, citing their "funding and other capacity to maintain the property interest so as to preserve and/or enhance (its values)," according to the proposal.

Daniel Richardson, a deputy administrator with Tuolumne County, said on Thursday that the county Board of Supervisors will also consider and vote on the final proposal next month.

Richardson said that the county doesn't usually look to acquire wilderness properties like Kennedy Meadows. But when it became public that the land was up for a transfer, many members of the public expressed interest in it being locally controlled.

"They thought it would be best managed by a more local agency," he said, later adding the county is still working "hand-in-hand" with the forest service over the property.