Prescribed Burn Symposium Presentations
Click on the tabs below to view the pdf or each presentation from our workshop on May 31st.
SB 1029: If the Railroad Track Adjoins or Crosses Your Property, Please Read
SB 1029, authored by Senator McGuire, was introduced in February titled,” The Great Redwood Trail Act”. The bill has been moving through various Senate committees and was heard in the Natural Resources and Water Committee on April 24th where it was passed to the Appropriations Committee. The bill language and updates can be found by visiting http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/ and searching for 1029 (Senate).
The basic intent of the legislation is twofold: First, SB 1029 would dissolve the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA). Second, the bill would then create two separate management entities for the northern and southern halves of the existing rail system to essentially utilize, and perhaps expand, the existing footprint of the railway and construct a multi-use trail.
Specifically, SB 1029 proposes that the California Department of Transportation would temporarily take over the rail line right of way from Willits north to perform railbanking and an environmental assessment, and would ultimately relinquish the management of this section to a newly appointed agency, the Great Redwood Trail Agency. The northern section would be used primarily for a recreational trail with minimum rail service proposed in the areas around Eureka (from mile post 284 to 300.5). From Willits south, the rail line right of way would be relinquished to the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District. The southern section is proposed to be used for both rail service and a recreational trail.
The Great Redwoods Trail proposal provides public access for a number of recreational purposes (hiking, biking and equestrian uses) which could create impacts to the numerous private properties that the rail line currently crosses in the 300 miles of track plus spur lines (there are 1300 parcels that the RR line crosses/borders in Mendocino County alone). There are numerous private properties, a number of these are involved in farming or ranching, that may be impacted by the placement and/or use of the trail. This may also require the construction of trail crossings, further imperiling adjacent land holders. Since this trail is 300 miles long, issues related to garbage, camping/overnight stays, human waste or possible fire risk should also be considered. The legislation is unclear as to how disputes related to these types of interactions may be dealt with. Moreover, due to deteriorating conditions along the defunct rail line and the associated deferred maintenance issues, the newly established Agency may consider alternative routes beyond the scope of the existing right-of-way which may result in the dissection of private property.
How the existing debt from the North Coast Railroad Authority will ultimately be paid for by the new entities is also not fully explained. The bill transfers all the existing authority, except for outstanding liabilities related to debts, contracts and litigation, to the new agency and subsequently dissolves the North Coast Railroad Authority with no discussion of those financial and contractual obligations. Nor has the bill identified the funding source for the Great Redwoods Trail build out and supporting environmental compliance work. MCFB has been concerned with the inconsistencies for how crossing fees have been dealt with in the past, so this concern continues with the possible reorganization process. We don’t want to see income sources such as crossing fees spike to cover any of the above expenses.
MCFB staff and members met with Jason Liles, Chief of Staff to Senator McGuire, on March 27th to discuss SB 1029 and the concerns listed above. MCFB also brought this bill language to the attention of California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) and the county Farm Bureau offices in Humboldt, Sonoma and Marin. CFBF has followed up with Mr. Liles to continue the conversation regarding the concerns with how this proposal may impact farmers, ranchers and private property owners.
If the existing railroad adjoins or crosses your property in Mendocino County, you should pay attention to this proposed legislation. MCFB encourages all of our members who may be impacted by this legislation to take the time to look at past agreements, easements and property title language in relation to the North Coast Railroad Authority (or predecessors). Since the railroad has been around for 100+ years, there is bound to be a myriad of various past decisions that may be connected to private properties along the rail line. It would be beneficial for property owners to understand any existing terms connected to their properties and how this legislation may affect those terms.
MCFB will continue to engage with CFBF and Senator McGuire’s office on this legislation. For those that are interested in more information on SB 1029 or have specific questions, you can contact the MCFB office, CFBF Staff Robert Spiegel or Taylor Roschen at (916)446-4647 or contact Senator McGuire’s office in Sacramento directly at (916) 651-4002.
The California Land Conservation Act, more popularly known as the Williamson Act, was created when the Assembly Agriculture Committee undertook a study in cooperation with the California Department of Food and Agriculture and others that eventually led to the passage of legislation in 1965.
Under the Williamson Act, an owner of agricultural land may enter into a contract with the county if the landowner agrees to restrict use of the land to the production of commercial crops for a term of not less than 10 years. The term of the contract is automatically extended each year unless notice of cancellation or nonrenewal is given. Certain compatible uses are also allowed on the property. In return, the landowner is taxed on the capitalization of the income from the land, and not on the Proposition 13 value. There are currently more than 16 million acres enrolled in the Williamson Act in 54 counties in the state. Over the past decade, there have been attempts to modify and strengthen the law as urbanization pressures have mounted in California.
Additional information on the California Land Conservation Act is available from the California Department of Conservation at http://www.conservation.ca.gov/dlrp/lca.
Mendocino County Williamson Act Information
The government’s power of eminent domain is the power to condemn private property for a public purpose. While this requires compliance with certain procedures, the government’s power of eminent domain is otherwise quite broad and is shared by many governmental bodies and agencies at the federal, state, and local levels.
The government’s power to condemn and take property is essential for many beneficial public infrastructure projects. However, the government’s legitimate exercise of the power of eminent domain for the public good must be balanced against the rights of private property owners and individuals. The basic limitations on the government’s power of eminent domain are the statutory procedures that the government must follow and a landowner’s constitutional right to just compensation and due process. For information on your rights as a land owner and for further information, click here: Eminent Domain
For more information on the Willits Bypass, please click here:
Willits Bypass Project News: The Latest Information from Caltrans
Solar Use Easements
In an effort to balance the protection of California’s agricultural economy and the nation’s food security with the need for renewable-energy production—specifically, solar photovoltaic (PV) electrical energy—the Legislature approved Senate Bill 618 by Senator Lois Wolk (Chapter 596, Statutes of 2011). This law, which took effect on January 1, 2012, was approved overwhelmingly in the Assembly 77 to 0 and 35 to 1 in the Senate after being approved in four policy committees and two fiscal committees without a single no vote. Click here for more information: Solar-Use Easement