Sacramento, CA – Governor Jerry Brown’s contested water tunnel proposal flows over another hurdle Thursday after a California Supreme Court ruling.
The $15.7 billion plan involves building two giant water tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. At issue was the argument by area farmers that the state Department of Water Resources (DWR) should have to compensate property owners in order to conduct preliminary tests for the project, claiming the surveys would be lengthy and invasive.
However, the court agreed with the DWR’s contention that the tests would not significantly interfere with or damage the land. The court ruled that the state would only be required to pay landowners if those things actually happened while conducting the tests.
Attorney’s representing some of the property owners called the ruling somewhat of a victory as it achieved a 6-year delay in gathering information the DWR stressed was essential for engineering and planning of the tunnel project. But add that it fell short of stopping governmental overreach in the future. Attorney Tom Keeling states, “We had argued for a result that would apply existing law to balance the needs of government and the rights of landowners. The Supreme Court’s new decision effectively changes California law, in our view. Although it did reform the pre-condemnation entry statute to provide the right to a jury trial within that proceeding, the decision is likely to make landowners in this State more vulnerable to aggressive tactics such as those the DWR tried to use against Delta landowners.”