This week the judge will hear arguments as to why the courts should grant an injunction against the start of construction for the high-speed rail project in the Central Valley. The state legislature allotted more than $6 billion for the start of the project including the first Segment of the central valley from Madera to Bakersfield. The County of Madera- Board of Supervisors, The Madera County Farm Bureau, the Merced County Farm Bureau, the Chowchilla Family, Preserve our Heritage, the Chowchilla Water District, the Fugundes Parties and the Forebay Farms are the Petitioners suing the California High-Speed Rail Authority. (CHSRA)
The Plaintiffs contend that the CHSRA violated the California Environmental Quality Act, the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act and basically abused it’s discretion and violated the law in taking actions to approve the start of the project which is approximately 75 miles of Merced to Fresno of the proposed 800 mile project.
The suit states that the project “would ultimately result in extensive significant and unavoidable impacts to agriculture land use, aesthetics and visual resources, cultural resources, biological resources and wetlands, and parks and recreation resources.” See total complaint.
The end result of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is that is content and conclusions “substantially understates the extent of the Section’s environmental impacts and fails to avoid and minimize all the Section’s impacts, as is required under CEQA”
The High-Speed Rail Authority disagrees and states this, “The threat of imminent irreparable harm needed to support a preliminary injunction does not exist. Construction is not imminent. Bulldozers are not ready to roll. Farmers will not be prevented from planting, tending and harvesting in 2013 (the Authority commits to that). No dairies will be forced to relocate in 2013. Physical environmental change is not scheduled until after this Court decides the merits in April-July 2013 – at which time the Court can issue a writ preventing physical changes if appropriate.”
In addition, the Authority has enlisted the help of many land-owners, who state how an injunction would be a hardship for them if they are not paid right away for their land or their businesses. The plaintiffs including all the members of the Farm Bureau 1200 strong and the Merced County Farm Bureau with 1500 members have hardships too but the landowners, home owners, business owners as well as farming and dairy concerns are unwilling to give up their land and their businesses and their very industry for a poorly done and unlawful CEQA process. They are willing to fight.
It’s true bulldozers aren’t ready to roll yet because the Authority is so far behind they don’t have the bids to do the work and has been delayed until early 2013 with construction beginning as late as early 2014. The Authority may say there is no imminent danger but they sure are on a fast track to acquire properties and that would cause irreparable harm to the people and businesses in the path of the train. So the damage could be done by acquiring the property they need for the project without one shovel hitting the ground. http://www.fresnobee.com/2012/11/06/3056382/state-oversight-panel-approves.html
The Authority will certainly make its plea that an injunction is unncessary and represents more time lost and endangers their ability to obtain more than $3 billion in federal grants for the project. If construction doesn’t begin until 2014, how can they make the 2017 deadlline required by federal law even if an injunction is not granted. Can they finish the entire route from San Francisco to Los Angels by 2020 which was required by the 2008 initiative?
One has to ask as many have asked all through this process, does the end justify the means? This grant money has pushed the project-time line causing mistakes and incomplete work. Is any poorly done process justification in order to obtain grant money for a state project? For a project that has not followed what the people voted for in the initiative in 2008 and one that offers little chance for completion and every chance for destruction?
We may get a glimpse of which way the court is leaning, perhaps in the form of a preliminary ruling the day before the court appearance is set, which is November 16, 2012.
For a view of all the documents see https://services.saccourt.ca.gov/publicdms/Search.aspx Insert file number 80001165