“This was a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us,” said SFPUC’s Rangeland Manager Clayton Koopmann, as he considered the grass and oak-covered hillsides of the Wool Ranch in southern Alameda County. The SFPUC recently purchased the 787-acre parcel of land that was formerly owned by the Wool Family for $9.7 million.
“The SFPUC owns the property on both sides of the ranch. The land drains directly into Calaveras Reservoir. By purchasing this land and folding it into the operation of our existing Alameda Creek watershed lands, we are protecting the water quality of our source supply for our customers and enhancing the health of the watershed lands as a whole,” added Carla Schultheis, Manager of the Watershed Environmental Improvement Program (WEIP).
The Wool Family owned and operated the ranch for cattle and horses for decades. When Mr. Wool passed away, his heirs made the heart-wrenching decision to sell off a large portion of their land. Luckily, Schultheis and the SFPUC Real Estate Services team were ready.
Schultheis manages the WEIP, funded in part by Water System Improvement Program (WSIP) Measure A bond funds and in part by other capital and operating funds, the Program spans the width of the entire Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System. The goal of the WEIP is to proactively manage, protect and restore environmental resources that affect or are affected by the SFPUC’s operations. The program has funded fisheries restoration efforts, education programs, the purchase of several properties in the Alameda Creek Watershed, and contributed to the purchase of properties by other entities to help protect and restore important and rare habitats on our watershed lands.
The SFPUC has acquired land outright through the Watershed Environmental Improvement Program in the past. However, Wool Ranch is by far the largest single purchase of land by the Program. In fact, it may be the largest single purchase of property by the SFPUC since the agency was formed in 1934.
“This was an incredibly complicated real estate transaction,” added Schultheis. “This could not have been possible without a tremendous amount of work by our Real Estate Services group and City Attorneys.”
Now that the SFPUC owns the property, Natural Resources and Lands Management staff will survey the site.
“We’ll look for any endangered or listed species of plants and animals that are living here,” said Koopmann. “We’ll also look for the potential for them to live here in the future through habitat restoration efforts on the property.”
Standing on the property on a wet winter day, it is hard to imagine that one is straddling the space between Calaveras Reservoir and the watershed on one side, and the City of Milpitas on the other. On this day the only sounds came from the wind rolling over the hills. Just as it should be.