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Friday, 21 March 2014 11:50cat

California High Speed Rail Project Advancing

Written by  TheStructuralEngineer.info
The California High Speed Rail line between Merced and Bakersfield is scheduled to be completed in 2017 The California High Speed Rail line between Merced and Bakersfield is scheduled to be completed in 2017 Associated Press

Two California state agencies announced actions last Friday that will help advance the California high-speed rail project. The state Water Resources Control Board announced they had approved an environmental permit that will allow construction to begin on a 24-mile stretch of track between Madera and Fresno. The state Public Works board also announced resolutions declaring a public need to condemn nine properties in downtown Fresno that the California High Speed Rail Authority needs for right of way for the project. 

The 401 certification approved by the Water Resources board last Wednesday is required by the Clean Water Act. The certification guarantees that the rail authority will minimize pollution in storm water runoff around the project during construction and after its completed. The certification applies to a 24-mile stretch of track between Madera and Fresno. Lisa Marie Alley, a spokeswoman for the rail authority, said the Water Board's permit approval on Wednesday triggered the issuance later in the week of several other required environmental permits by state and federal agencies, including a wetlands protection permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, a streambed alteration permit and an endangered species permit from the state Department of Fish & Wildlife, and a biological opinion on mitigation measures from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The rail authority must now obtain permits for other sections of the line where there is potential for construction to interfere with storm water runoff.

The Public Works Board also announced their plans to condemn nine properties in downtown Fresno that are needed for right of way for the high-speed rail project.  Four of the condemned pieces of land are vacant lots, but there are also three properties that are occupied by active businesses. Eminent domain laws allow government agencies to acquire land for public works projects, but it is normally used as a last resort. If the California Public Works Board cannot reach an agreement with the property owners about a fair price for condemning their land, the two sides may have to go to court. In this case, the Public Works Board could be able to take possession of the land while a judge determines the amount the government must pay to the property owners.

The Rail Authority has identified 400 pieces of land that it needs to acquire to complete the line. Currently, the authority has reached an agreement with 47 property owners and has made purchase offers to 166 owners. The Rail Authority previously announced that they would like to have 200 of the 400 pieces of land in their possession by the end of 2013. The slow land acquisition progress is beginning to put the 2017 substantial completion deadline for the Merced-Bakersfield construction segment into question.   

Sources: The Fresno Bee

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