The state of California has recently disclosed plans to acquire farmland for an unapproved waterway project that intends to divert water from parts of the Sacramento River.
The Delta Waterway Tunnel Project (also known as the “Bay Delta Conservation Plan” or “California Waterfix”) is intended to provide water from Northern California to Southern California. This project has been in the making for about 8 years. Reuters News Agency reports, “it is a pet project of Governor Jerry Brown (D-California).”
If approved, the delta project will directly impact some 300 property owners in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta areas, and could indirectly impact many more.
California officials came up with a plan to take over 300 farms and may seize them by eminent domain. Under the property acquisition plan for the project – which is marked “Confidential” and only came to light as a result of a Public Records Act request by project opponents – affected landowners will be approached for a one time offer to sell the property. If owners refuse to sell, the State will proceed to acquire the land through eminent domain and owners will be forced to make a sale.
Opponents of the Delta Tunnel Project say it will cause damage to the wildlife and cause the delta to become salty, which would make farming impossible. Many believe it is an attempt to grab land and water.
Richard Elliot, who grows cherries, pears and other crops on delta land farmed by his family since the 1860s told Associated Press, “What really shocks is we’re fighting this and we’re hoping to win. To find out they’re sitting in a room figuring out this eminent domain makes it sound like they’re going to bully us … and take what they want.”
Officials are so far defending the plan to acquire property.
“Planning for right-of-way needs, that is the key part of your normal planning process,” said Roger Patterson, assistant general manager for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, one of the water agencies that would benefit from the twin tunnels.
The project’s environmental review is currently in public comment period, which was set to end August 31st, but after two weeks, it was considered necessary to extend the public comment period another 60 days to October 30th.
How does this impact you?
Right now the project is still under consideration, and may or may not ultimately be approved. If it’s not approved, then you’ll have nothing to worry about. But given that this appears to be a pet project of Governor Brown – and we’ve seen how those tend to get muscled through (i.e., California High Speed Rail) – it seems there is probably a pretty strong likelihood the project will go forward.
We’ll be following the progress of the project on our website at www.caledlaw.com. In the event the project is ultimately approved, and you are an affected owner, you can learn more about your options by giving us a call at (866) EM-DOMAIN.