Senator introduces legislation to protect Lake Bistineau homeowners’ property rights

This week, U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA) introduced legislation to void the 1967 Bureau of Land Management survey of lands near Lake Bistineau in northwest Louisiana.

The legislation would also nullify the legal effect of any future land survey of the affected areas and any claim the Bureau of Land Management were to make on the land. It also aims to clarify the ownership of 200 acres of land. As a result, the 1842 U.S. government survey of the land would become the survey of record.

“For more than three years, the federal government has threatened the properties of over 100 private homeowners and landowners near Lake Bistineau” said Dr. Cassidy. “The federal government failed to notify area homeowners in 1967 that they were claiming their land as federal property. Washington has no business forcing these Louisiana homeowners to give up their land.”

Background:

In 1842, the U.S. government completed a survey of lands in Louisiana that included the area surrounding Lake Bistineau. Using results of the survey, the State of Louisiana outlined its ownership of lands and transferred 7,000 acres of land around Lake Bistineau to the Commissioners of the Bossier Levee District in 1901. Three years later, the land was conveyed to private ownership.

In September 1967, the Bureau of Land Management resurveyed this land and two additional islands in the Lake. This survey presented a new boundary line based on what the BLM believed was the size of Lake Bistineau when Louisiana was admitted into the Union in 1812. Although the BLM published a notice in the Federal Register two years later stating that this new survey occurred, the agency did not notify all affected homeowners and landowners that the new survey served as the BLM’s claim to the land. Further, the agency did not file its claim in local property records or take any other action to claim title of the land. BLM did submit requests to publish the Federal Register notice at a local post office, in the Bossier Parish Recorder of Deeds, and in a local newspaper on February 20, 1969 but did not indicate whether any of those actions actually occurred.

In September 2013, BLM notified land owners that their property appeared “to be still vested in the United States” based on the results of the 1967 survey. Since then, the federal government and more than 100 private landowners, with more than 50 homes, have been in dispute over the ownership of roughly 200 acres of land. The location of the disputed area is near the Lake’s Southwest corner, beginning about half a mile north of the western side of the Lake Bistineau Dam.

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