Despite recent obstacles, the California High Speed Rail Authority (the “Authority”) remains steadfast in its determination to complete the high-speed rail project (the “Project”), bolstered by recent approvals from various state agencies.
First, the Authority received the green light last Friday from the State Public Works Board to begin eminent domain proceedings against eight properties located within the boundaries of the initial segment of the Project. Each of the eight properties is located within Fresno County — three are businesses, while the remaining five are vacant lots or buildings. The Project’s initial segment will cross twenty-one miles and affect nearly 381 properties, which the Authority will acquire, compensating the owners, as required by state law. As of Friday’s approval, the Authority had permission to seize ten properties and had signed contracts to purchase another forty-seven properties.
Second, the State Water Resources Control Board also approved a 401 certification permit for the Project, which is a permit required under the federal Clean Water Act. This permit ensures that any debris or contaminants that wash away in storm water during construction projects are captured by the Authority and do not pollute other nearby waterways. The Authority’s mitigation plan details how it will address impacts to surface waters on the construction site, including restoring vernal pools and riparian habitat at an off-site location in Madera and Merced counties. The Clean Water Act permit is one of several environmental permits required for the Project to proceed.
Although opponents of the Project criticize these approvals as being premature because litigation against the Project is ongoing, it is an indication that the Authority has not been deterred by the recent obstacles and remains committed to seeing the Project through to completion. If you are a property-owner impacted by the Authority’s planned eminent domain proceedings in Fresno County or the Central Valley generally, and you wish you to learn more about your rights, please contact Stoel Rives attorneys Mike Mills or Juliet Cho for additional information. More information about Stoel Rives’s eminent domain practice may be found here.