A legal update from our colleague Stacy Gillespie.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (“Authority”) will announce at its December 2, 2010 meeting which segment of the 800-mile HSR will be the first to be built. At its November 4, 2010 meeting, the Authority’s Chief Executive Officer, Roelof van Ark, presented the Authority’s Board members with revised corridor selection criteria for full Board discussion and direction. The Federal Railroad Administration recently sent a letter to the Authority stating that the Stimulus money must all be allocated to the Central Valley. 

Thus, contrary to earlier projections, the two routes in the most populated regions—San Francisco to San Jose, and Los Angeles to Anaheim—are now out of the running. The route that will be the early winner of $4.3 billion in federal and state funds and constructed first will be either Merced to Fresno (60 miles in length), or Fresno to Bakersfield (113 miles in length).

The Authority’s December 2nd determination will be of utmost importance to holders of large property rights, such as wineries, vineyards, and other agricultural interests. All segments of the HSR are undergoing various stages of the environmental review process as required by federal and state environmental laws. During that review, the preferred routes will be determined and alternative routes will be evaluated. Now is the time to get involved and submit comments to the Authority regarding the contemplated routes.

The cities located in the Central Valley corridors include:

1.      Sacramento to Merced:  Sacramento, Elk Grove, Galt, Lodi, Stockton, Manteca, Ripon, Modesto, Turlock, Livingston, Atwater, andMerced.

2.      Merced to Fresno: Merced, Chowchilla, Madera, Clovis, and Fresno.

3.      Fresno to Bakersfield:  Fresno, Parlier, Reedley, Dinuba, Selma, Visalia, Tulare, Exeter, Porterville, Corcoran, Delano, Wasco, Shafter,and Bakersfield.

Insofar as a particular route for each corridor is determined, inherent in the Authority’s construction of the HSR is its power to acquire rights-of-way of private land—which is certain to require property owners to get quickly up to speed on eminent domain (condemnation) law.

A group of attorneys in our Sacramento office is closely following this issue and specialize in environmental law and eminent domain. Please subscribe if you would like to receive regular email alerts.