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November 17, 2012

Judge backs California rail over farmers

(Continued)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —

“In this case — forgive me — we don’t really care what goes on statewide. We’re very concerned about what’s happening in our county, and what’s happening in our county is very real and it’s happening every day,” said Anja Raudabaugh, executive director of the Madera County Farm Bureau, one of the parties to the lawsuit. “My guys can’t get operating loans to plant trees next year. My guys can’t get operating loans to buy equipment for expanding their operations because they’re in the footprint of the alignment.”

The decision allows the rail authority to begin buying land along the proposed route and continuing with site surveys, engineering design work and geological testing that began months ago.

The rail authority has already surveyed more than 300 parcels of land along the proposed route since Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation giving his approval in July.

Lawmakers approved the first phase of the planned 800-mile line this summer, allowing the state to begin selling $2.6 billion in bonds for construction of the first 130-mile stretch of the bullet train in the Central Valley. That approval also allowed the state to tap $3.2 billion from the federal government.

The money is contingent upon completing the first phase of the project by 2017, requiring what officials say is an unprecedented construction pace.

Voters approved issuing $10 billion in bonds for the project in 2008, but public support for the plan has dwindled in recent years as the project’s expected costs have soared. The most recent estimate is at least $68 billion for the completed project linking Northern and Southern California.

In one of their court filings, opponents said rail officials are spending furiously because they hope “to become so financially committed to the currently conceived section alignment that it will be unthinkable to later choose another course.”

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