(NaturalNews) State officials in California are preparing to “acquire” – the legal name for “steal,” when a government does it – hundreds of farms in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta for a controversial, multi-billion-dollar underground water tunnel proposed by Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown.
Using eminent domain law as their legal basis, according to documents obtained by Restore the Delta, an environmental group, state water exporters and the Delta Design Construction Enterprise division of the state Department of Water Resources are looking to obtain 300 parcels of land from Delta farms to ensure right-of-way for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan tunnel initiative, Breitbart News reported.
The massive, $15 billion project, which has been underway for the past eight years, has long been a favored project by Brown who has said he wants to use the twin underground tunnels to transport water from the state’s northern regions to the southern portions by diverting it around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
However, along the way the project has faced continuous opposition from groups like Restore the Delta who believe the tunnels are not sustainable environmentally. In a recent statement, Barbara Barrigan-Parilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, complained about the “arrogance” of state officials who are attempting to use eminent domain law to take land from farmers.
“You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about”
“While Delta and good-government activists are busy mobilizing comments in a democratic process, we discover state agencies view public oversight as simply a distraction,” Barrigan-Parilla said.
“These documents arrogantly envision groundbreaking ceremonies as early as July 2016,” she said. “Bulldozers and cement trucks are ready to roll! Red ribbons are budgeted! All for a $60 billion boondoggle without even one permit. Clearly, water officials under the Brown Administration view the Delta as a colony.”
For his part, Brown has argued with environmental groups over the tunnel in the past. In May, Breitbart reported, the governor blasted critics of the proposal, telling them, “shut up, because you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.” Brown added that “millions of hours” had been expended going over every aspect of the construction and function of the tunnels, calling the project an “imperative” that “must move forward.”
However, despite Brown’s heavy favoritism of the project, it has yet to actually be approved by state and federal officials.
Some agricultural groups and water exporters have teamed up in support of the tunnels. Members of Californians for Water Security, a newly formed interest group comprised of the California Chamber of Commerce and a combination of groups representing Big Agriculture, water districts, large businesses and labor unions, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars launching public relations campaigns on television and radio to gin up support from the public.
However, as Breitbart News reported:
California’s plan to use eminent domain to acquire the land has created an increasingly rare moment of unity between environmental groups and Delta farmers.
“They don’t need any special approvals”
“It is wrong and premature that the Department of Water Resources has a unit creating a secret land acquisition plan to take 150-year-old farms, like ours, through condemnation,” said Courtland farmer Richard Elliott in a statement, adding that his family has never sold one square inch of their land. “The entire plan doesn’t make for sustainable food policies, smart land use practices, or even common sense.”
According to documents outlining the acquisition plans,[PDF] the state would first make Delta farmers one offer to buy their land, giving them 30 days to either accept or reject it. However, after 30 days, the state could still make arrangements to force farmers to sell their land under eminent domain law.
In addition, the plan also calls outright for minimal “external” oversight.
Tony Francois, an attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation specializing in water and property rights, told Breitbart News that eminent domain laws don’t establish a proper “checks and balances” system, even for state infrastructures that are proving controversial.
“The fact that they don’t have the project approved has generally not been a bar to acquiring the property,” Francois told the news site. “If the project is controversial, they don’t need any special approvals to acquire the property, and that starts making the project look more inevitable. [State contractors could say] ‘Hey, we’ve already spent the money acquiring the property, we better get started building it.'”
Written by J. D. Heyes
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