Chelan PUD is purchasing more than 4,900 acres of undeveloped land in the foothills above Malaga. 

The utility is spending $5.3 million on the purchase, even though it's not specifically known what the land will be used for. 

PUD Commissioner Carnan Bergren says the investment is wise because a lot of development is coming into the Malaga area. 

"Whether we buy (or not) somebody else will, because there's a lot going on down there right now," said Bergren. "That's where the action is. I think we need to be involved in it." 

Microsoft is building between three and six data center buildings in Malaga which will start operating in 2025. 

PUD commissioners approved the land purchase at their meeting this week. The purchase from locally based development company Ravenwing Ranch, LLC. will cost the PUD $5,325,000 – about $1,100 per acre, 

The PUD is currently within a 90-day due diligence period to investigate the property. The utility can still back out of agreement. But if no problems arise to threaten the deal, the sale will close 60 days after the due diligence period concludes. 

Chelan PUD is entering a strategic planning process to prepare the utility for the next 50 years. 

It currently only generates power through hydropower from its two dams on the Columbia River. But the PUD is researching technologies such as battery storage, fusion, pump storage and gravity storage, any of which could experience a breakthrough in the next 10-20 years.  

The land being purchased could be involved in the new technology or could possibly be used to house a wind farm or solar panels. In addition, it could serve as a refuge for wildlife habitat. 

Several commissioners spoke in favor of the purchase at this week's meeting, citing the 50-year planning process. 

Commissioner Garry Arseneault said the purchase is a worthwhile gamble. 

"This is a risk," said Arseneault. "Five million dollars is a risk, make no mistake about it. But if we don't take this, then I don't want to be the commissioner that, 20-30 years down the road they look back and say he was asleep at the switch. He didn't take action when he should have taken action."  

Arseneault also mentioned the fact that 88 percent of the land in Chelan County is owned by the federal or state government, and large land purchases such the one being undertaken by the PUD are few and far between. 

The land is nearby but separate from an area involved in a lawsuit from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife against Ravenwing Ranch and Chelan County. 

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