Court Rules for Calif. in Water-Tunnel Dispute

By ELIZABETH WARMERDAM : courthousenews – excerpt

(CN) — State officials don’t have to pay landowners to access their property for environmental testing as part of a massive tunnel project that will divert water to Central and Southern California, the state’s high court ruled Thursday.
The decision reversed an opinion by the Third District Court of Appeal stating that because the testing would constitute a taking of private property, the owners would be entitled to a determination of the market value of the property rights the state was acquiring for the project.
The California Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the state can obtain a court order specifically authorizing the state Department of Water Resources, or DWR, to conduct the proposed geological activities on the properties at issue.
The court said that the precondemnation entry and testing statutes at issue do not limit the activities the state may perform to those that are only innocuous or superficial, rejecting the landowners’ claim that the state overreached in invoking the statutes for the testing at issue.
Although the decision did not specify that rent payments would be required, the Supreme Court did state that landowners can propose limitations on the testing and can seek compensation if they can show that the testing damages their land.

The court upheld the statute as authorizing the type of activities DWR sought. But it agreed with the property owners that the statute did not provide for the right of a jury trial for compensation of damages that may occur. There will be continued litigation as the court referred the matter back to the appellate court,” Matteoni said.
DWR representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday…(more)

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