Those wishing to pursue legal action to stop the California High-Speed Railway's progression will soon have their day in court, as the state preemptively sued everyone. The lawsuit, titled “High-Speed Rail Authority v. All Persons Interested,” allows all parties who oppose the project a chance to voice their concerns in court at one time. The California Attorney General’s Office will represent the rail authority in court.
The lawsuit's intention is to speed up the process of those challenging the High-Speed Rail project before its initial construction this summer. Lawsuits have continued to pop up since voters approved funding the rail in November 2008. Project costs also continue to grow since the 2008 $8 billion bond approval, and remain one of the largest factors for opposing the High-Speed Railway.
In order to stop oncoming lawsuits that will affect scheduling and further cost inefficiencies, the Rail Authority has encouraged those who wish to sue to begin doing so immediately. The State’s strategy aims to deal with all legal opponents at once.
Farm Bureau board members in the San Joaquin Valley were amongst those looking to sue the state agency over plans to build the High-Speed Rail system due to a conflict of environmental concerns, which would “unavoidably ruin” as many as 1,500 acres of prime agriculture and a 500 acre pomegranate orchard within their region.
“Our lawsuit is an administrative law case,” said Executive Director of the Madera County Farm Bureau Anja Raudabaugh. “The Madera County Farm Bureau is suing because the environmental documents were deficient and does not adequately mitigate what is truly being done to agriculture in our region. It has more harm than will be a necessity. Our lawsuit is being heard in two weeks [April 19], and we hope to ring the bell on them.”
Summons will be published once a week for the next three weeks in five major newspapers throughout the state, and will provide additional information for interested persons looking to join the joint lawsuit.
One party that has recently dropped out of the lawsuit was Madera County. According to the Fresno Bee, two out of five county Board of Supervisors members were concerned over the railway's affect on agriculture. During Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, they voted to drop the county’s lawsuit filed last June.
"I've always been in favor of dropping the lawsuit, or at least ending our part in it," said Madera County Supervisor Max Rodriguez. "I know that the others worry about how it will affect the Valley, that they fear this project. But I see it as a project of the future, a new beginning for this impoverished part of the Valley."
Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales also seemed relieved to have lightened the load of at least one lawsuit.
"We appreciate the Madera County Board of Supervisors' willingness to work with the authority to resolve any outstanding items and issues," said Morales. "The authority is pleased to end this part of the litigation and will continue to work with Madera County to make this a success for the county."
Despite the pending lawsuits that are soon to take effect, it's uncertain as to whether the case will affect the construction schedule for the High-Speed Railway. It is also still unclear whether officials will utilize federal funds for the first portion of the project, or spend $2.7 billion in approved bonds.