Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Summary, by Mark Powell of the 21 pg. Letter to the Federal Railroad Administration

Here is an excellent summary of the 21 page letter that the Kings County Supervisors sent to the Federal Railroad Administration about the comportment (behavior) of the California High Speed Rail Authority. To put it as briefly as I can, the rail authority is marching over the Central Valley and its occupants like Bigfoot in hob-nailed boots. 

The residents, business people, farmers, etc. are up in arms.  They're mad as hell and they aren't going to take it any more!

The summary of the letter was written by Mark Powell, whose blog material appears on this blog whenever I get the go-ahead from him.

There's suddenly a lot of optimistic talk about approaching the end of this project, since the rail authority has now revealed that the first section to be built will be costing tons more than they had projected.  No one is surprised.  Everyone now knows that all their numbers are lies, including their cost projections.  The current cost for the Phase One route from SF to LA stands now at $66 billion.  Watch that number climb like the thermometer on a hot day. 

And about that optimistic talk? It's way premature.  It ain't over until it's over.  There's too much wishful thinking going on. The media are already getting dressed up to attend the CHSRA funeral.  Well, the rail authority is still spending almost a million per day, and they're not dead yet, even if they are on the state's and federal money heart/lung machine.

I'm hopeful. But, I'm not optimistic.  There are no indications that the State Legislature is ready to pull the plug, especially since most of them are Democrats.  Same for the Governor. Unless a lawsuit results in an actual project shut-down, it won't make that much difference.  

And, please remember how important HSR is, especially California's project -- which is now the only "real" high-speed rail project -- for this Administration in Washington, and therefore the Department of Transportation, which can keep finding a few million here and a few million there to keep sending to California.  

If Obama's HSR legacy project is shut down going into this election, it not only won't help him; it could do a lot of harm.  No matter what screw-ups the rail authority commits in California, it won't matter to Ray LaHood or the President.


Threatened Lawsuit Supplants Musket Balls and Dry Powder

Kings County’s list of grievances with California’s High Speed Rail Authority is long and
arduous. At the heart of the matter is the Authority’s consistent refusal to coordinate the development of their Draft Environmental Impact Report for the segment of high-speed rail spanning from Fresno to Bakersfield with the governing agencies of Kings County as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), California’s Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and other laws.  Ground zero for high-speed rail is Kings County because it is here where the Authority plans to deviate from existing transportation corridors and recklessly trample through homes, businesses, and across prime farmland in building their “train to nowhere”.

The Kings County Board of Supervisors registered their grievances, staked out their ground, and positioned themselves for a legal battle on August 2 in a twenty-one page letter addressed to Joseph Szabo, head of the Federal Railroad Administration.

Itemizing their grievances against the Authority in a fashion that would have pleased Thomas Jefferson they made their case and threatened a legal battle if their demands were not met.

The Authority has Failed to Cooperate with Local Agencies in its…
• unwillingness to meet and work out land use conflicts;
• illegal top-down driven style of land planning;
• deplorable treatment of Kings County representatives at Authority Board Meetings.

The Authority as Failed to Adequately Consider the Highway 99 Alternative…
• even at the urging of local Congressmen and State Legislators;
• and disclose full reasoning behind the abandonment of this potentially viable alternative alignment;
• and failed to provide a side-by-side comparison of Authority’s preferred alignment with one that would resolve conflicts with Kings County;
• leading to less than full disclosure of impacts and simply a filtered disclosure provided by the Authority’s limited alternatives;
• in violation on four counts of Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations.

The Authority has Failed to Follow Lawful Mandates to Preserve Agriculture…
• in ignoring the Farmland Protection Policy Act (FPPA) which was expressly written to minimize the impact Federal programs have on the irreversible conversion of farmland to nonagricultural uses;
• in a county with one of the highest statutorily protected agricultural land to total county-wide acreage ratios in the State in clear violation of the California Land Conservation Act;
•  and in fact has not yet even notified the California Department of Conservation that the proposed alignment requires the acquisition of these important “protected” lands;
• and instead proposes to destroy prime agricultural land simply because it is more economical in clear violation of State and Federal land conservation mandates.
The Authority has Ignored Kings County Plans Written to Comply with…
• Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000 established to ensure orderly and efficient local agency boundaries that discourage urban sprawl, preserve open-space and prime agricultural lands, and efficiently extend governmental services;
• California Assembly Bill 170 of 2003 requiring all cities and counties in the San Joaquin Valley to include an air quality element in their general plans;
• California Assembly Bill 32 of 2006 creating the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 which set the greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal into law;
• California Senate Bill 375  of 2008  requiring the development of a “sustainable community’s strategy” in each county represented by a metropolitan planning organization to demonstrate how the region will meet greenhouse gas reduction targets, integrate land use, housing and transportation planning.

“Despite all of Kings County’s efforts to embrace forward thinking progressive land use
planning consistent with the State of California’s intent and needs for future generations, the California High Speed Rail Authority, staff, and consultants have acted to completely sidestep and avoid consideration of all of these local plans, policies and efforts. The Authority’s avoidance of such local planning efforts is avoidance of the very framework of good local and regional planning efforts as mandated by the California Legislature”.
The Authority has Ignored the Law Requiring HSR  to Follow Existing Corridors…
• as mandated by the very Proposition that is funding $9 billion of the high-speed rail scheme.
Proposition 1A Wording:

“In order to reduce impacts on communities and the environment, the alignment for the high-speed train system shall follow existing transportation or utility corridors to the extent feasible and shall be financially viable, as determined by the authority.”

The Authority has Pre-Determined the Outcome of its Environmental Review…
• in clear violation of  NEPA and CEQ by unlawfully pre-selecting a “single”
alternative through Kings County before even completing the environmental review;
• an illegal act made worse due to their ”middle-first approach” which also pre-determines the north and south routes, which must connect to the middle;
• in violation of NEPA which prohibits the pre-commitment of resources to a project because it pre-determines outcomes and defies the law requiring a full study of the environmental impacts of a proposed project.
The Kings County Board of Supervisors and its staff is a little government body preparing to fight the Obama Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, a Democrat Congress that carelessly approved partial high-speed rail funding, the Governor of California, the State Legislature and its agent, the California High-Speed Rail Authority to protect the rights of its citizens and their liberty.  In the process they are proving once again what our Founding Fathers always knew – smaller government is the better form of government.

Bulleted points and remarks shown in quotations were either paraphrased or lifted directly from the August 2, 2011 letter from the Kings County Board of Supervisors to Mr. Szabo, Federal Railroad Administrator.  The letter can be downloaded by clicking on the link below.

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