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Lawsuit Settled, CA HSR Authority Ready to Purchase Property

A major environmental lawsuit against the High Speed Rail Authority brought by Central Valley farmers and other parties was settled on April 18, clearing the way for initial construction to begin on the 30 mile corridor between Madera and Fresno.
April 22, 2013, 10am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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KQED printed the press release also available as a PDF on the rail authority's webpage.

This settlement agreement brings to an end the final California Environmental Quality Act lawsuit challenging the Merced to Fresno project section Environmental Impact Report. The agreement provides for the preservation of important farmland and mitigation of effects of high-speed rail construction on agricultural operations.

Julliet Williams of The Associated Press also wrote of the settlement. Her piece was widely covered in the media including The Huffington Post. She included an additional development - a setback for the rail authority. The Surface Transportation Board, a division of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, ruled that it has jurisdiction over the $68 billion, 800-mile California project, meaning potential setbacks for the authority as it has additional regulations. The authority had applied for an exemption.

[Note: See Huffington Post Video: Update on President Obama's high speed rail stimulus Investments - that appears at the bottom of the article].

Sharon Bernstein of Reuters writes, "With the lawsuits settled, the state is now free to begin purchasing land for the first leg, said Lisa Marie Alley, a spokeswoman for the High Speed Rail Authority."

With the settlement, construction is set to begin this summer for the southern part of the initial, 60-mile Merced-to-Fresno segment.

This is the second development in this court case. The farming parties had asked last October for an injunction to halt all work in the corridor until the April hearing, but the judge denied the request. 

The authority won a crucial victory in March in another contested corridor - the San Francisco Peninsula, when it rejected a 2008 lawsuit brought by Atherton, Menlo Park, and Palo Alto that had forced the Authority to redo their environmental impact report.

They are not out of the legal woods yet though. Robert Cruickshank writes in the California High Speed Rail Blog of a remaining suit brought by "Kings County, farmer John Tos and Hanford resident Aaron Fukuda (who) charge that the rail authority’s plans are illegal under Proposition 1A, the $9.9 billion high-speed rail bond measure approved by California voters in 2008. That suit, which hopes to block the sale of bonds, will be heard in Sacramento in late May."

Stay tuned. While the rail authority is batting really well, the game isn't over.

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Published on Thursday, April 18, 2013 in KQED
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