By Peter Burke

In a bold move, California American Water Co. announced today it would forgo the “right to take” trial that would have determined if the Felton water system is eligible for eminent-domain takeover by the San Lorenzo Valley Water District.

“We’re very pleased that we don’t have to go to trial,” said district environmental analyst Betsy Herbert. The district had blocked off two weeks for the first portion of the trial.

“We’re pleased they have conceded,” Herbert said. “Now we have one more hurdle to go.”

Cal-Am believes the water district won’t be able to afford to purchase the Felton system after the court puts a value on it.

“We felt it preferable to have the jury decide what fair market value is,” said Cal-Am attorney Joe Conner.

Cal-Am has appraised the system at about $25 million, while the district has estimated the value to be about $7.6 million.

Conner contends the district’s appraisal is flawed.

“I believe ($25 million) is the fair market value for the system,” he said. Felton voters passed an $11 million bond issue in 2005 to fund the purchase of the system.

The Press Banner: