Search This Blog

Sunday, March 15, 2015

They're Messing with the Wrong Farmers

Ralph Vartabedian reports at The Los Angeles Times:
When the state chose to start construction of the high-speed rail in the Central Valley, it was based partly on the theory that assembling needed land would be easiest in the state's rural backbone. As it turns out, some of the farmers most resistant to accepting state offers are proving to be wealthy, highly educated professionals and investors — and formidable opponents in negotiations.

Whether the issues they are raising are valid or intended to drive up prices, their ability to hold out against early offers and threaten lengthy court battles poses costly risks of delay for a $68-billion project facing tight construction and spending deadlines.

Parichan, a Stanford University law graduate, insists he won't give up any of his prized orchard without a fight. The bullet train route would cut through the middle of seven of his orchards, Parichan said, severing irrigation systems and landlocking about 200 acres from his tractors.

"They are raping my ranch," he said.

Parichan's view was echoed in interviews with a wide range of Central Valley farmers and landowners who complained about lowball state offers and the damage their operations will suffer for a project they say may never be completed.

Currently, the high-speed-rail authority is more than two years behind its intended start of construction on an initial 29-mile section that includes bridges, trenches and rail bed. Tutor Perini, the contractor hired for that work, recently announced it is seeking compensation for state-caused delays. Rail agency officials acknowledge they were slow in setting up the land purchase program and have been scrambling to move faster.