10/22/2014

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Kern County sues over state high-speed rail plans

Kern County sues over state high-speed rail plans

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Kern County officials filed a lawsuit Friday over the state's $68 billion high-speed-rail project, alleging deficiencies in the environmental review of the route from Fresno to Bakersfield, a day after Kings County and a group of residents there made similar claims in a separate lawsuit.

The latest suit, filed in Sacramento County Superior Court, alleges the state's 20,000-page environmental review does not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act because it is not thorough enough and fails to account for things such as relocating existing electrical infrastructure, locating construction staging areas, and public access to parkways in Bakersfield.

The county also said the review only considered the 114-mile stretch from Fresno to Bakersfield without considering the 28-mile leg that is to be built from Madera to Fresno.

"We believe you need to consider it all as one project," County Counsel Theresa Goldner said.

Lisa Marie Alley, a spokeswoman for the California High-Speed Rail Authority, said the agency chose the route it did based on concerns raised by Kern County officials. She said she had not yet received the lawsuit.

"Our environmental analysis was thorough and complete, perhaps the most comprehensive analysis document ever prepared in California," she said in a statement. "There was no opposition to it from any federal or state agency responsible for environmental protection, nor from any environmental organization."

Kings County, Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability and the Kings County Farm Bureau sued over the same document Thursday, calling the report "unquestionably inadequate." They said it fails to address the effect of the project on thousands of acres of farmland, wildlife habitat, communities, businesses and industrial facilities, as well as the potential harm to existing roads, oil and water wells, and water delivery and drainage facilities.

Other lawsuits filed by project opponents have stalled work on the project.

In the most high-profile case, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge halted the sale of $8.6 billion in state rail bonds and ordered the state to write a new funding plan, delaying work on the first segment.

Residents argue that the current bullet train plan no longer meets the promises made to voters when they approved it in 2008.

The state attorney general's office argued in a state appellate court last month that the bullet train should be exempt from California's strict environmental review process now that it is subject to federal oversight.

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