Roelof van Ark Meets With Valley Agriculture

Feb 25th, 2011 | Posted by

California High Speed Rail Authority CEO Roelof van Ark spoke today at the Madera County Farm Bureau’s regional conference and pledged to improve outreach to the agricultural community:

“We need to do a better job of communicating,” Roelof van Ark, CEO of the High-Speed Rail Authority, said at the Madera County Farm Bureau’s regional conference.

It appears that local farmers had a lot of misconceptions about the trains:

Van Ark acknowledged that the project will disrupt some farmers’ lives, but he said the impact may not be as severe as some think. For example, he said, farmers in other countries with high-speed rail are able to farm near the train’s tracks.

And almond growers who worry that wind generated from the trains will disrupt bees from pollinating don’t need to be concerned, he said. The trains may generate winds of only about 10 mph.

“This is not a tornado,” van Ark said. “But we have not done a very good job of explaining that to people.”

Farmers are also convinced that American agricultural practices are sufficiently different from those in Europe, particularly in scale, that European models of integrating HSR with agriculture won’t work here. I’m skeptical of that – there are surely ways to make this work; it’s not exactly rocket science. That’s not to be dismissive of agriculture, it is an important industry, but these issues can easily be resolved. With van Ark pledging to put together a working group with farmers, we’ll hopefully start to see better coordination.

This matters, since agriculture wields a lot of power in the Valley. With the Valley’s three Republican congressmen – Jeff Denham, Devin Nunes, and Kevin McCarthy – all flirting with outright HSR opposition, keeping agriculture on board is particularly important.

  1. Jerry
    Feb 25th, 2011 at 22:28

    Surely he must have talked about more than a concern of the almond growers and pollination by the bees. Or farming near the tracks. But I guess he has to start somewhere.

  2. James
    Feb 25th, 2011 at 22:48

    If farmers are concerned about the wind from the trains, they can always build a fence or a sound wall to help protect the farm land. Cars driving down the residential roads don’t seem to bother the bees in the rose gardens.

    Victor Reply:

    People in the US have no frame of reference for when It comes to some object moving at 220mph, They think It will do things that 110mph will not do I guess. As to farmers in Europe vs here in California, Both plant Orchards, plow the land for other crops and grow grapes, So I see no real difference beyond a fear of a new idea that is foreign to them and some who want to exploit those fears for their own reasons.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    I think Californian farmers are right to point out differences with European farmland. The problem is not trains (animals and plants don’t give a damn), but tracks.
    The SNCF could strike win-win deals with French farmers whose parcels were fragmented and mis-shapen. The TGV offered them the opportunity to have their farmland reorganized at SNCF’s cost, with the tracks separating properties and not cutting through them. Most parcels are now geometrically shaped and less costly to exploit.
    This opportunity doesn’t exist in California since farmland doesn’t need reorganizing.

  3. StevieB
    Feb 25th, 2011 at 23:12

    Congressman Jeff Denham spoke saying, “I think we need to de-fund it completely until they’re able to put it into place” which made it into the KFSN-TV Fresno report.

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    Defunding means it can’t be put into place. This guy does not have a brain to say the least

    PeakVT Reply:

    Denham said, “Lack of a plan[.] I think we need to de-fund it completely until they’re able to put it into place.”

    Wha-huh? The TV station did a lousy job of editing. As a separate sentence, the last part makes no sense. I can haz contecks, plz?

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    If that’s what Denham actually said, then he is even more completely out to lunch than I had assumed.

    Victor Reply:

    Denham ought to stick to what He was good at, Farming…

  4. wu ming
    Feb 25th, 2011 at 23:28

    what are the specific, salient differences between european and central valley agricultural practices that would be different WRT HSR? is this just generalist FUD, or are there specific issues here? central valley farmers seem to do fine with freight trains and highways all over the valley.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I don’t quite know. I suspect it is FUD.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Uh I don’t think 90…95% of the workforce of European farms are done by people questionable citizenship status that work for peanuts….

    The Central Valley suffered a real labor shortage during the real estate building boom because their “workers” would often leave to do construction at higher pay. It’s unlikely that with a union-build project such as HSR there would be the same possibility, but………… there could be a spree of other construction, yada, yada, more restrictive labor controls from Congress, that would somehow hurt them.

    The one real surprise is that Madera is a the second largest producer of pistachios in the state. The largest pistachio farm is owned by Stew Resnik in Kern County I believe, who uses it to bank water for Los Angeles County when demand falls. (Resnik lives in West LA and is buds with Schwarzenegger). So there could be a little bit of anger that their operations will be disrupted and Resnik’s market share will increase.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Oh, and lest I forget, I don’t believe at this time, any ROW through Madera County has been funded yet….

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Wu Ming-

    See my below general comments. Your question is a good one – why are roads and freight okay but not a new rail? My understanding is two fold.

    First, the current farm practices and irrigation infrastructure post – date the roads and freight.
    Second, the roads and freight were specifically built to help farmers get product to market and to processing facilities. the farmers currently see hsr as only hurting- taking land out of production AND making it more difficult to get remaining crops where they need to be.

    AndyDuncan Reply:

    Roads are actually detrimental to crops, specifically the dust they stir up and the pollution they emit (wine growers half-jokingly refer to the effect on vines as “freeway taint”). HSR will likely stir up a little dust (though less than a freeway), and of course won’t emit any air pollution.

    There’s no question that a section of land without a train running through it is better than one with a train running through it. It’s easy to sit at a broader level and understand the difference between more roads and more rail, but the issues get quite personal when we’re talking about actual rail placement, just like any other NIMBYism.

    James M. Reply:

    As I understand things, won’t HSR help defer any widening of either I-5 or HWY 99? Wouldn’t the farmers rather have 1 pair of HSR tracks instead of 2-4 sets of wider highways?


    Elizabeth Reply:

    My two cents but farmers should weigh in on this one.

    My understanding is that no one is talking about expanding I-5 in the lower Central Valley. My personal experience driving it is that it is pretty empty, considering it is the main connection between LA and SF. The farmland over there is also more marginal.

    I think the farmers want the 99 expanded and enhanced. This is the main go to market road for crops.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I am surprised that there has not been a resurgence in “fresh agricultural product” trains. Yeah, you’ve gotta drive to market, but market should be close enough that you don’t need more than a 2-lane road to handle the traffic. What happened to “drive to the freight depot, transfer product to train for shipment to more distant markets”?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Happens all the time. Most well known one is the Tropicana unit trains hauling fresh orange juice.

  5. D. P. Lubic
    Feb 26th, 2011 at 04:52

    Sounds like a field trip for some farmers might be in order to France, or at least Maryland and Pennsylvania.

    Victor Reply:

    Yep, It does indeed, But unless I miss My guess they’d have to pay for It on their own.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    Yes, a lot of people need to “get out” more and see what is going on elsewhere on earth.

    PeakVT Reply:

    Or they could just compare pretty pictures. Or maybe this one and this one.

  6. D. P. Lubic
    Feb 26th, 2011 at 08:41

    In other news, NARP’s “Hotline News;” of particular note, the potential problems with the Libyan oil fields due to pressure loss that could constrain production for months unless things there are resolved in three weeks or less, and apparently the potential for unrest to spread to Saudi Arabia and even Iran.

    Problems with pressure loss in the oil fields? Sounds like they are in decline, and well into secondary extraction with pumping and pressurization.

    America, “You in a heap ‘o trouble, boy.” (Old Dodge sherriff ad)

    BruceMcF Reply:

    There are several areas where oil is being exploited, and some of them have been in operation for a while now, so they would certainly be in their declining phase.

    It is unknown, however, how much oil there is in unexplored parts of Libya ~ having a successful intrique plotter running the country to try to make sure nobody else can establish a firm power base does not necessarily yield the most effective set-up as far as pillaging the resources of the country as rapidly as possible.

  7. Elizabeth
    Feb 26th, 2011 at 08:59


    From our research, agriculture in France and the Central Valley differ in several important and relevant ways.

    1) Irrigation. There is no rain EVER in the Central Valley during the peak growing season for basically all crops. Over the last 60 years, an ever increasing infrastructure has been established to shift water – from winter to summer, from north to south. This includes dams, canals, deep wells, pipes and various other ways to store and move water.

    2) Permanent vs annual crops. 2% of France’s farmed land has permanent crops. 42% of the route through Merced that the farmers don’t like is permanent crops (fruit and nut trees mostly).

    3) Lot sizes and shapes. In France, there were many odd shapes and disconnected pieces of farmland, because of the inheritance law. They were actively looking for ways to redistribute and rationalize ownership to facilitate mechinization. The Central Valley was largely platted in very regular shapes. Wwnership is extremely consolidated and the average farm size is at least 10x larger in CV, which leads to quite different farming methods.

    4) Dairy farming. California is the nation’s top milk producer and it does it through very intensive dairy farming practices, which don’t make the environmental regulators happy. It is apparently virtually impossible to get a permit these days. The closure of big dairies also mean less demand for animal feed which is often grown nearby.

    These facts don’t mean it is impossible to get a project done, but they do mean that you need to start with a detailed and exhaustive inventory what is out there. It appears that this process only really started happening a couple of months ago.

    For anyone with more information on CV and French agricultural practices, please send it our way or share it here.

    Aaron Reply:

    Elizabeth, thanks for your information. To add the the dairy situation, they are placing the line over dairy lagoons, which are required based on herd size. If the rail takes portions of the lagoons, dairymen must reduce the amount of the herd size in order to accommodate for loss of lagoon space. In our area, the HSRA moved the alignment to the best of our knowledge some time back in July. A new route was ready to go in August and the HSRA began detailed studies of this new route. They have not contacted one landowner along the new alignment and I discovered the new alignment in January. From January to last week my neighbors and I have lobbied to have a meeting with the HSRA and we finally had one last week. They indicated this new alignment will be the alignment proposed in the EIR/EIS, and they have yet to contact all the landowners on the alignment. Someone also just informed me that someone to the north of my property just finished a new home along the new alignment that was started last summer.

    Mr. Van Ark and his staff have been very disingenuous with the people most affected by this route. I will admit that it passes through my property. I can accept and relinquish my property to a project and a staff that is organized and committed to helping the people that will be impacted understand the project and address our impacts and needs. However, I refuse to allow a project being implemented in this manner take peoples dreams and disregard them.

    Mr. Van Ark also said in his statements that they are a little staff and have budget constraints. According to my research the are hundreds of consultants on this job, including PR firms, therefore there are plenty of people to implement and reach out to the public. I also was told last week by their Fresno consultants that the HSRA has 15% plans completed, but will not release those for review.

    If there are those of you that seriously want this project to be a success, I think you need to restructure the HSRA. Mr. Van Ark as the leader needs to be replaced ASAP for credibility reasons, and the group of consultants needs to be either refreshed with more technical and civil minded people. For you large firms, you can keep the contracts, just put people in place that have the decency to address concerns not ignore or abate them.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Are you the one from the news article ???

    Aaron Reply:

    Yes sir.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Maybe a little less drama and sensationalism of the type you’re doing would help this project succeed… Did you call Fox news?? You also spoke at the hearing.. and you’ve been on this board before.. Aaron YES lets stop an entire high-speed rail project that millions of people voted for and will use because somehow you feel slighted.. you have it in writing that there’s going to be the high-speed rail behind your yard or is it just proposal?.. If your house is taken you will be properly paid for and should be.. but once again we are not going to stop a project that will be in use for 100 years after you’re dead because right now it bothers someone..AT this rate we will never get anything built in the United States and that’s the wrong kind of mindset that’s going on right now..

    Spokker Reply:

    Found the concept for his dream home.

    Wah, my dream home! As what you were going to build there has any relevance or makes any difference. If the property is taken you’ll be properly compensated. It’s really a non-issue in the grand scheme of things.

    I doubt you’ll drum up much sympathy for your dream house that will never be as people are losing their homes, their jobs and are seeing gas prices skyrocket.

    Rick Rong Reply:

    You and “YesonHSR” seem to be missing the point. Aaron acknowledges that he has a particular personal interest, but he is making several points that apply more generally. He is raising issues concerning how the HSRA is dealing with certain segments of the public, and he is raising issues as to how the EIR is being done. If you think his facts are wrong, you should challenge him on that point. I don’t know whether what he is saying is true, but I thought what he wrote was interesting, thoughtful, and well-written. I certainly did not view it as “drama” or sensationalism.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Of course you dont think its “drama”.your against the project..

    YesonHSR Reply:

    And Im not talking about his posts here on this board..

    Rick Rong Reply:

    Okay, show me anything I have ever posted that supports your statement that “you against the project.”

    Aaron Reply:

    Hey Guys,
    Thanks Rick, you are right. Don’t worry I am used to the NIMBY stuff and you can say I am so little that the rail is bigger than me. However, YesonHSR I cannot remove the fact that the HSRA has consistently misled the public and failed to communicate properly with us. They are even public admitting this. In my particular instance I was misled (in reality I was simply lied to) and all I called for was information. Be careful when you want to minimize someones dreams, you have them to and they are the reason why we are Americans. HSR is also a dream, and good dream that is rooted in poor planning, lack of communication, poor financial planning and most importantly run by very suspect individuals.

    I will repeat myself again. I you want a successful project you better hope that the staff currently running this project is no where near it when and if it gets into construction. If you think planning for this is hard, wait until construction. You need people with ethics, education and ability to be honest to address all of the concerns and concepts associated with such a large project. During construction these qualities will help the team tackle the numerous challenges they will face.

    By the way, Fox contacted me. They actually came looking for me in my neighborhood and contacted the neighbors to get in touch with me. Sorry, no sensationalism on my part, just an honest person looking to put information in the public’s hands. Don’t you agree that if this was going to be over your home and property you would at least like to know, and not be lied to about it?

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    If you want a successful project you better hope that the staff currently running this project is no where near it when and if it gets into construction. If you think planning for this is hard, wait until construction.

    That depends on how you define “successful project”. Do mean one which provides maximum return to taxpayers, or one which gives maximum kickbacks to the contracting mafia? With megaprojcts, incompetence is its own reward. The more incompetent the project management, the more opportunity for contractors to bill expensive change orders.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Your personal opinion that the California high-speed authority and staff is incompetent has to be proven by other means than they just did not talk to you enough.. there are other people that say the same thing… it’s their” personal “opinion.. Fox news came looking for you because your a very vocal opponent and of course the news media likes drama and you want to be in the spotlight. I am not laughing at your concerns its the style and level that it’s taken to in the media.. public meetings and information of course are required and once the environmental impact statement is out and exact routing picked the individual property owners can be contacted by the authority on a one-on-one basis that produces a final fair result for all .

    Aaron Reply:


    You specific question was Did you contact Fox? I answered NO. It is that simple. You keep trying to knock my credibility, but you can’t because I am honest and fair. You are so wrapped up in this HSR like it will save the world that you don’t even see my point. You cannot run this thing with the corrupt and misleading consultants and staff running this. I have plenty of evidence, just read the articles. I was not the fact that I was not contacted, it was the fact that I did contact them and ask for the proposed route in November as I begin to design my home. I was told by the Regional Director and the right-of-way agent that it was going in an adjacent field consistent with the original route presented to the HSRA and the public. I found out in August they moved the route and quickly began the design. Why would a Regional Director and another staff confirm the old map in November if there were new maps, especially when I explained to him my plans to build a home. This was a lie, as best as they come. That is incompetent. Want more evidence, just keep following our story in the papers.

    Aaron Reply:

    Hey Spokker, you know your childish behavior leads me to believe you fail to understand the concepts and ideas I have put forth. For you to ridicule my dreams shows you in the same company as the HSRA staff and consultants. Don’t worry, I don’t let others lack of respect deter me from my objective. Ask the HSRA, I told them they should have been honest with me when I contacted them the first time, lying to me made the situation the way it is today.

    If you were really paying attention I was indicating that the HSRA needs to be completely restructured and new staff brought on board to straighten the ship out. If you think people are jobless and gas is high now, wait for the day when we invested say half of the cost and this project is encountering numerous problems. Lets look at the economy right now. Obama has invested billions of dollars into the economy and we are still suffering. Another shot of $43 billion is not going to do it. Lastly, in our area we have numerous large projects going on (stimulus stuff in the hundreds of millions of dollars) and all of our local communities here are still suffering and the unemployment is double digit. What happened? Well companies from all of the US moved their forces to get the jobs. On one project we have a company and all of their workers from Colorado.

    This whole project right now is a shinny object (a double edged very sharp knife and the HSRA is holding on to the handle).

    Spokker Reply:

    The project is shiny. Toy train. Choo choo. Heard it all before. Transportation is important and rail will play an immense role as this country (and world) learns to deal with the realities of personal automobiles and ever-decreasing oil reserves. That the goddamn thing might look like a toy duck or a kawaii neku ^_^ belies the importance this technology will have in the future of the United States. But yeah, once we invest in our infrastructure the whole economy is going to go off the cliff. That’ll be the thing that breaks the camel’s back. Infrastructure. Perhaps when when corporate tax rates are zero they’ll give us all minimum wage jobs and American exceptionalism can finally thrive once again.

    In any case, that they failed to give you the unique attention you think you deserve doesn’t phase me in the slightest.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Dude you are wasting your time. We are going to hit Peak Oil AHHHHHHHH before they even start turning the shovels in front of Aaron’s house ;-)

    Risenmessiah Reply:


    I think your frustration is misplaced. I am not saying that you weren’t lied to, I’m asking you to consider how it would be possible for you not to be lied to.

    Restructuring CHSRA won’t make a difference. Nor will Obama cutting funding for HSR help either. You have to understand the real dynamic, which I hope you do.

    CHSRA has I believe less than ten state employees currently. That was intentional, because Arnold Schwarzenegger failed to thread the needle during his time to convince the Legislature to give him more power over the project. So the agency didn’t have much of choice: hire a few contractors to due the studies, do whatever they could to stay up on it, and oh yeah….work with a very diverse and divisive people on the CHSRA Board. The idea of a Board is really the genie in the bottle. Once you allowed the Governor and both the Assembly and Senate to appoint members…well you could have a staff of 100 and it would still be hard. Ask the people who work at MTC or Metro.

    Van Ark meanwhile, that guy has got a whole ‘nother level of people leaning on him…including CV Congressmen like Denham and (deep breath) Jim Costa. When the rubber gets close to hitting the road, the map probably changes hourly because in the nature of politics, EVERYONE from Barack Obama to Nancy Pelosi to Jesus Christ has called Van Ark, the Board, or both to petition for their handout. Is this a transparent and flawless process? No. But if you think it’s bad, try watching your local city council award zoning variances or trash contracts.

    Finally, you need this train. Because without it, finding enough people to fill up enough houses to keep most of Northern California’s water where it is won’t happen. Without the train, guys like Stew Resnik and company are going to get the peripheral canal built and that water is going to L.A. And when there’s a drought on the Colorado or in the Sierras, you know L.A. won’t let go. So trust me, you need to embrace this for what it is. Hell, Schwarzengger went on a trade mission last year trying to get the Chinese to trade their HSR technology for buying more pistachios….from Madera County and Stewart Resnik.

    Aaron Reply:

    If I understand all of your arguments, this project has so many benefits we can sacrifice ethical behavior, practical planning, and treating people as real people (meaning they have the right to know if their personal property rights are about to be infringed upon). If you all think that this crew is capable of delivering a project that meets all of our needs then I say go for it and you should all personally invest in this system. I personally believe (just personal and I know you guys aregoing to pick me apart because I am a so small compare to this project). That we have the opportunity to ensure a viable project by opening up all of the false information the HSRA has put forth and straighten it out.

    Oh yeah and if you all realized that if the HSRA had been up front, the process gets smoother. Ask any high powered PR person. Addressing concerns and issues up front allows the project a smoother transition into construction. So you are right, it is going to take forever for the HSRA to get things going and it is their own faults.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Ouch. I’m not saying the ends justify the means. What I am saying is that the political pressure is there to complete the project. If you completely wipe out the staff of the state employees, you lose all continuity. To make matters worse, the change in administration is also occuring at this time meaning that high level career employees are that much more instrumental in the transition. Roelef is learning as he goes, it’s not like there’s anyone else out there that has a run HSR project for a US state before.

    You remember how great Iraq turned out after we banned all the Baathists from the Coalition Authority? That is the same strategy you are proposing here, letting people who don’t know try to judge what other people didn’t know.

    Moreover, you need to understand something else. No matter what you think, you and CHSRA are on the same side. The consultants always have more time and more money to throw things at the public and the state that even the biggest diehards on this blog don’t have time for. You and the CHSRA don’t want the project to fail.

    Now you are going to say, “but what if I don’t want the project”? Well, it was voted on and passed by a majority of people. Just like other propositions that probably save you money in property taxes, judging by your other comments. Lord giveth, lord taketh away.

    Lastly, you are represented by a mayor, county supervisor, congressmen, Senate, interest groups. You have plenty of people to band together with to petition the authority and the State legislature to make constructive input. Make it a better project, not a worse one.

    PeakVT Reply:

    Well, while I am sorry to hear that you will be negatively affected, I am confident that most infrastructure projects in the last 50 years have required at least some non-cooperative takings, and often a lot. Do you feel guilty about benefiting from other people’s suffering every time you drive on a highway? Probably not. Have you ever even thought about it before? Probably not.

    I think farmers should be compensated, including for how a reduction in size will affect their overall operations. But I don’t think objections from individual farmers should stop this project, because no matter where it is built, somebody will object. California is projected to grow by 10-20 million people by 2050. At some point more infrastructure will have to be built through the Central Valley to meet the travel demand, and I and many others think the CAHSR is the best option for that infrastructure.

    Aaron Reply:


    Again let me restate. I am more than willing to accept, encourage and be a part of something as big as the HSR if it is a justifiable, financially sound project run by competent and trustworthy people. If the HSRA staff is willing to hide information and mislead the people most impacted by the HSR route, what do you think they are telling the public? PeakVT I am not arguing the benefits of the HSR. I am saying the people running it are misleading the public into thinking they have done right by people and have this all figured out. You have to admit they are only now coming out in the public admitting some lack of communication. Its a little too late since the are on the cusp on an EIR/EIS.

    Listen, for all of you who want this so badly, are you willing to sacrifice ethical behavior and common sense for the sake of HSR. And, how far do you think you will get down this project before the ethical and poor judgment of the HSRA and it staff will cause major problems that my cause the project to tank.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I would impress upon you again that until very recently the CHSRA was badly understaffed, thanks to Governor Schwarzenegger. They have not picked a final alignment, and they were probably quite overwhelmed trying to handle communication. This is not great competence, but it is certainly ethical — they gave you the best information they had at the time — and more importantly, it is already more competent than average.

    For a contrast, my local town and county boards decided to unilaterally change the parking rules on my street without even notifying me; the first notice I had was when they put signs on my land. (Illegally, mind you — the signs are outside the right-of-way and I’d be within my rights to rip them straight out of the ground.) After contacting them I have so far been unable to reach them at all. I cannot even find the rationale for the change in the minutes of the meetings, many of which are not online or easily available at all.

    And these people have a lot less to do than the CHSRA, *and a larger staff*.

    And don’t get me started on (for example) health insurers.

    So frankly I think you haven’t been treated that badly by US standards, though I admit that a well-run Swiss canton would probably have behaved far better. I certainly hope you can get better information and keep in better contact with the CHSRA, but they’ve been communicating with you BETTER than the average town board, and you should understand that. They’ve admitted that they’re having communication problems, and you should keep pushing to fix that, because it is important.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “Mr. Van Ark also said in his statements that they are a little staff and have budget constraints. According to my research the are hundreds of consultants on this job, including PR firms, therefore there are plenty of people to implement and reach out to the public.”

    Yeah. “Your research”. I don’t think you researched very hard.

    There is basically one PR firm and they were only employed recently.

    The sort of information you want requires expert staff time which is outside the ability of a PR firm.

    The consultants are mostly doing engineering, financial planning, legal work, and consultation with various local governments — for the *entire project*. Why would you think they had nearly enough to talk to every single local individual? This is a HUGE project, and they need to staff up, but the state government hiring freeze has made it very hard to do so. It’s been mentioned as a problem repeatedly at board meetings, just check the minutes.

    datacruncher Reply:

    Farms in Madera County are smaller than the westside of the CV. So it is important to remember the distinction and ownerships.

    The average farm size in Madera County is about 375 acres which means it is more likely to be a family operation with the owner living on or nearby. Compare that to the corporate farms such as in the Westlands Water District where the average size is about 2,500 acres. The impacts to a Madera County farmer will seem much more personal than to a corporate farm.

    In terms of comparing ag practices in different countries I might suggest you email the Agriculture Schools at Fresno State, UCDavis, or Cal Poly. Probably someone at one of those has done the research already.

    Aaron Reply:

    I concur with you. Generally speaking farms on the east side of the valley are family owned farms with acreage block that are much smaller. I work in Tulare and would say the average field size is 80 acres or smaller. My family also was a Japanese fruit and grape growing family in the east side, and most of these farmers have existed on farms as small as 20 to 50 acres.

    wu ming Reply:

    #1 is false. irrigation is part and parcel of all mediterranean climates, because, like california, rainfall is concentrated in the cool, wet winters and not the hot, dry summers. northern france might be different, but spain, southern france, and italy all have HSR and mediterranean climates.

    #2 first, you’re comparing all of france to a part of the proposed route through merced. second, how many of those permanent orchards have been cut down in the past several decades to convert orchards into tract housing?

    #3 the fact that ownership is extremely consolidated should make it far easier, not harder to work this stuff out. it also means the claim that poor little family farmers are getting destroyed by the big mean HSR are false.

    #4 is not a comparison with europe, nor is it related to HSR, from what i can tell.

    the more of this FUD i see from you guys, the less likely i am to take anything you say seriously.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    @ Elizabeth
    I live in France and can testify you’re quite well informed and you describe things better and more in detail than I did in previous posts. I must add that the SNCF has no other choice than being farmer-friendly: law and jurisprudence make it practically impossible to expropriate farmers against their will.

    From what I read in various blogs, it seems CHRA first makes decisions and then informs farmers. This wouldn’t work in France and I doubt it will work in California. I think the proper way to act would be to have as many meetings as necessary with farmers’ organizations where costs and feasibility are discussed with the help of agricultural engineers and other specialists, until a project emerges that everyone can adhere to.

    Nadia Reply:

    This pattern of deciding first and announcing later has a name in the industry – “DAD” – Decide, Announce, Defend.

    As Hal Kassof of Parsons Brinckerhoff told Peninsula residents – this is the exact opposite of CSS (Context Sensitive Solutions). (Hal Kassof is the CSS expert at PB)

    datacruncher Reply:

    Andre, you are also getting into societal views/actions of farmers in France vs California. For example, California does not see the same type of farmer protests as Paris.

    Nathanael Reply:

    CHSRA has made substantial outreach and asked for substantial feedback, though you could accuse it of a bias towards contacting local governments rather than other organizations. It’s really not its fault that none of these local governments bothered to contact their constituents, or that the constitutents didn’t bother to give feedback during the previous DECADE during the alternatives analyses….

    …and of course now everything is rushed by stimulus funding deadlines, and the CHSRA doesn’t have enough staff thanks to the state government.

    I have little sympathy, because from what I can tell the CHSRA has been substantially more transparent and open to outside input than our average local government out here in New York.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The CV does not use irrigation efficiently. I realize that it’s dependent on irrigation — and that may prove to be unsustainable — but my fiancee remembers the high sprinklers around Bakersfield, losing half the water to evaporation before it hit the ground, and the open irrigation trenches, and so forth.

    Waste “lagoons” for excessively overcrowded dairy farms are going to be banned by environmental regulation sooner or later, hopefully. I am happy to run these unhygenic operations out of business if that is the kind of lagoon we are talking about. If not, please do tell.

  8. PeakVT
    Feb 26th, 2011 at 09:41

    1) This is obvious and there is no reason to think relocating infrastructure hasn’t been considered already. Shifting existing utilities is a part of every major transportation project.

    2) So?

    3) It doesn’t matter how large the farm is here; it matters how large the field is. The CV already has lots of odd-shaped fields created by non-grided ROWs. And many of them are planted perpendicular to the long axis.

    4) So?

    PeakVT Reply:

    That was meant to be a reply to the preceding post.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    2) The value of land planted with permanent crops is much higher. If you take out walnut trees, you take out 40 years worth of a crop. It also is many years before you can get walnuts back in production. The economic impact to a farmer of land that may not really be usable but the rail authority doesn’t have to buy is much greater.

    4) The dairy farmers are concerned that if they get bought out, they will not be able to re-open.

    PeakVT Reply:

    2) Trees and other permanent crops are assets, and farmers should be compensated for them. Do you have any evidence that they won’t be compensated fairly?

    4) Sounds like they’re concerned that they won’t be able to reopen using their current polluting practices. Which they shouldn’t be allowed to do.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Agreed with both.

    I would absolutely agree that trees should be transplanted if possible and if not, that the full 40-year (or more) value of the trees should be paid for. Fruit and nut trees are important and valuable (there’s even something in the Bible about their value, that’s how long that’s been known). I have every reason to believe that California eminent domain law, and the “takings” clause of the 5th amendment, will in fact provide full compensation for an asset whose value is so well understood.

    And I totally agree that the unhygenic style of dairy farming should be stopped, period.

    Aaron Reply:

    Hi PeakVT,

    I was recently involved in an some acquisition by a local county for some property that involved walnut trees. The landowner argued that the trees had future value in the production. However, the right-of-way acquisition team argued that via current laws, landowners cannot be paid for lost revenue based on production. I am not sure how this really works, but that has been my last experience. I believe the landowner is now headed to court, but funny enough the project was recently awarded and they are beginning work, just not in his territory.

    When you say polluting, have you any evidence. I understand there are some sloppy farmers and some that may not care. I work in the ag industry and the farmers I work with are take the environment very seriously. I think you might want to start looking in your own backyard and realize the amount of pollution and excess each homeowner does on a daily basis. Farmers are not your enemy, they could be your neighbor, the person bringing food to your table, the parent in your PTA. Educate yourself, get to know a farmer and understand his/her process. If you want learn more leave a message here and I would love to have you come and visit us here in the Central Valley. Farmers work hard for YOU, you use the products they produce.

    PeakVT Reply:

    Uh, Aaron, Elizabeth is the one who said that dairy farms had a hard time getting environmental permits these days, not me. Why would they have a hard time getting environmental permits if they weren’t, you know, polluting?

    Also, I live in a state that works hard to keep its farms going, and I support that. I also don’t have a backyard. So how about a little less sanctimony next time, m’kay?

    Aaron Reply:

    Who says that the permits are justified. Do you even know what the permits are? They require the dairies to permit and track the consumption of lagoon water which is rich in nitrates, which is returned to irrigation systems that feed crops like corn that eat up nitrates for growth. Again have to get a permit to do the responsible practice that farmers have been doing for years.

    Do you live in California or is VT Vermont. If you don’t live in California you should try it out here. I have to get permits all day long. One project I am working on, which is a recharge basin (hole in the ground to recharge groundwater), I had to get a storm water permit. I explained that we capture stormwater and put it in these basins, that we do not shed any stormwater. Still had to pay the fee and get a permit. Probably cost me about $5,000 when completed.

    PeakVT Reply:

    A long history of state and federal governments forcing polluters to clean up – successfully – makes me think the existence of a permitting process is likely to be justified. Complex regulations don’t pop up out of nowhere. They’re a response to somebody doing something objectionable. It’s annoying for those it applies to, but how are citizens supposed to know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys ahead of time?

    Nathanael Reply:

    These are shit lagoons, then?

    These are a major environmental problem and they damn well need stronger regulation than they have. They are, in many cases, breeding grounds for disease bacteria. It’s simply not a healthy way to manage manure.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t really buy the “Farmers have been doing this for years” line. I’d buy it in a country without E. Coli outbreaks or health warnings to thoroughly cook chicken.

    Victor Reply:

    Farmers could even be in Ones ancestry, Like in Mine, I do have sympathy for farmers. Mine were out of state in either the Black Hills of South Dakota or somewhere in Nebraska back in the 19th century. As to Dairy, I’ve seen conditions from the freeway that as someone who likes animals a lot, Seems to bother Me a bit, But that may be the exception, rather than the rule. Yes Farmers do have unique problems, Insect pests, Problems effecting the plants and how It could spread from plant to plant, Myself I’d had a Garden plot and that was It, It’s not even close to the same scale of course, But for what I did and for the soil I had, I brought in some successful crops for Mom and I. Hopefully something can be worked out for the HSR row. Good Luck. Oh and I did for a for short time live in Tulare CA, Not that It makes much of a difference really.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Ugh. The valuation of an income-producing asset according to its future production value is a standard piece of accounting, it’s in the IRS regulations and everything. I most certainly side with the farmer who wants to value the walnut tree according to this. (The alternative value is its sale value, but it’s not a freely marketable asset, so that can’t be used.)

    PeakVT Reply:

    Numbers are always useful in a situation like this.

    Wikipedia says the CV covers 22,500 square miles. Let’s say the SQV is half of that. That translates to 7.2 million acres.

    Lets say CAHSR takes 400 linear miles of a ROW 200 feet wide in the SQV. That equals about 9700 acres.

    9700 acres is 0.13472 percent of the SQV. Let’s say everything CAHSR takes is Ag, and Ag only covers 1/4 of the SQV.

    So, using generous estimates, CAHSR will take about 0.539 percent of agricultural land in the SQV. That’s far, far less than has been lost to housing and other urban uses in the CV over the past two decades.

    What are we worried about here, again?

    PeakVT Reply:

    Substitute SJV for SQV.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Every county and city in the area has a little bit of a different story and every acre of farmland is not the same. This particular project goes straight through the richest farmland in the Valley. Sprawl is certainly an issue in certain cities. American Farmland Trust has a very detailed report, county by county:

    jimsf Reply:

    Yes but heres the thing… only a small portion of the route goes through stretches of the “richest farmland in tthe valley” most of the route uses existing row. The parts that cut farmland are a tiny amount, and of that small amount of acreage, not all of it is “the richest”. so the amount of “richest farmland” is negligible. Further, concerning sprawl, hsr will allow cities to focus their growth back downtown instead on the fringes. Hsr can reduce sprawl rather than instigate it. That is up to the planning and zoning of the cities and counties, its their responsibility to do that regardless of hsr or not. Not once in any post have you mad an attempt to cast a positive light on this project. And the growth and the reduction in farmland is coming no matter hsr or not. Hsr can mitigate those effects for more than contribute to them.

    Joey Reply:

    Correction: Most of the route will use a NEW right-of way next to existing right-of-way.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You’re still punting on the order of magnitude issue. PeakVT actually overstated the problem – HSR ROWs are not 200 feet, the route length in the San Joaquin Valley is much less than 400 miles, and in Fresno County agriculture is 50% and not 25% of the land. It works out to HSR taking about 3.5-4 orders of magnitude less land than is used for cultivation in the Central Valley. The cost per route-mile of taking the land is about 5 times the cost per acre of Central Valley farmland, i.e. trivial.

    PeakVT Reply:

    I purposely overstated the area by large degree just so nobody could quibble with the numbers. More realistic numbers are 350 miles, 100 feet, and 50% Ag. That puts it the area down to less than 0.2%.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    100? Try 30.

    Clem Reply:

    60 feet with closed drainage, 100 with open drainage (i.e. ditches). All the details are in Technical Memo 1.1.21

    PeakVT Reply:

    A completed HSR line might could be as narrow as 30ft (though Clem has kindly pointed out that CHSRA is aiming for 60ft fence-to-fence) but for construction more space will be need. I supposed the space used for construction doesn’t necessarily need to be taken permanently for the ROW, but it would make things easier.

    If you look at the GMaps aerials along the path of the LGV Rhin-Rhône, you’ll see they’re clearing a pretty wide swath even in areas that appear to be flat.

    Joey Reply:

    30 feet would never fly. The absolute minimum for a two-track corridor is 35 feet, with 10 foot clearance between each track centerline and the ROW edge. And that doesn’t account for catenary poles, drainage, walkways, communication cables, etc. Oh, and the fact that you generally want a little more than 15 feet between tracks for very high speeds. Of course, the CHSRA’s rather high and expensive standards increase the necessary width considerably, but you get the idea. 30 feet is alright for light rail, but not HSR.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Sorry, mea culpa. I was going based on the width of Shinkansen viaducts, which is about 30-40′. The LGVs are a bit wider, because they reserve some extra ROW for utilities.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Once again mole hill problems made out to be mountains…today media/mindset…all major projects thru all time have upset someone, they were never before put on a gold soap box

  9. Elizabeth
    Feb 26th, 2011 at 09:47


    The Authority has posted prelim AA for LA-SD and supplements for Palmdale – LA and LA – Anaheim. Information is available on the board documents section for march . Additional documents, which presumably would be posted in section library, are referenced but I can’t find them yet.

    Also, as previously discussed, contract negotiations failed with the finanical plan consultant PWC who was selected in October and the Authority will be going with KPMG.

    Donk Reply:

    Thanks for posting this. Observations:

    1. It is great to see that the entire stretch in the SFV is at grade. This might be the longest consecutive at grade stretch in the entire system.

    2. Union Station Run-Thru Tracks!!! They mention that they are going to build a phased approach from LAUS-Anaheim, with shared run-thru tracks. Finally common sense has prevailed. The run-thru tracks project is long overdue, and for a while there was talk about building a separate viaduct for HSR, so that Metrolink/Amtrack would be stuck paying for their own.

    3. The only tunneling from Sylmar-Anaheim might be under Dodger Stadium and the park immediately north of there. It is great to see that the cost of the entire LA portion looks to be within reason. People on the Peninsula need to grow up and stop pushing for their portion to be gold plated.

    4. The LA-Ontario-SD leg is never going to happen. The ENTIRE stretch from LA-Ontario is either a viaduct or tunnel. Since the system will likely be built from LA–>south, I presume that the LA-Ontario stretch would open first. However, it will be very hard to justify building a gold-plated HSR segment to Ontario when there is already relatively good Metrolink service to Ontario and a new Gold Line extension being built from Pasadena-Ontario Airport. Sure they are completely different modes, but this section will cost a fortune.

    5. The segment from Ontario to San Diego seems pretty complicated also. Mostly viaduct. I just don’t see this happening. It will be more likely to have upgraded conventional track along the coast from Anaheim-SD when all is said and done.

    6. Burbank downtown stop is gone. Airport stop more likely. But they are currently building a brand new Burbank airport transportation center with bridges over the street to the south of the airport. Does anyone realize that this HSR airport stop will be incompatible with those plans?

    7. Downtown SD stop gone, replaced with SD airport stop. Jackasses.

    8. Realistically, due to cost and NIMBYs, we will have HSR in Anaheim before they build anything north of SJ. Sacramento might also be done before they get past SJ or into the SGV.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Re points 4-5.

    On one hand, the data suggests a sizeable market for LA – SD service. On the otherhand, the current project does look pricey. Perhaps cost estimates should be released and a candid discussion can be had about the best way forward.

    Spokker Reply:

    LA-SD via Ontario? Second best alternative at best.

    The coast route is the best route for LA-SD service, but possibly more difficult for well documented reasons. It was eliminated a long time ago.

    As an alternative, I think 110 MPH electric Surfliner service is very doable. Even if electrification doesn’t happen, there are projects that can bring the Surf Line up to speed.

    James M. in Irvine Reply:

    If the route to San Diego could be electrified and double-tracked the whole way, it still could offer 1-seat trips to the rest of the HSR stations. Even at 110 mph for where they can on the route, it has got to be shorter time-wise then going along the I-15 and coming back through Ontario.

    Jim M

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Yeah just like L.A.’s plan for Palmdale airport got eliminated a while back. This report screams that the contractors want to do the coastal route because of the difficulty they had securing ROW to the IE. And it’s not surprising. Someone has to step up and seize UP and BNSF’s ROW before Colton and have the state or Alameda Corridor dispatch trains to the port through the Industry train line and the AC in controlled fashion. Then have Metrolink expand and enhance service to Riverside and San Bernandino to connnect to HSR in Anaheim and LA.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The coastal route is mind-bogglingly expensive to upgrade, for fairly obvious reasons related to its very expensive location.

    UP has two parallel lines from LA to Colton, a legacy of mergers which the ICC/STB should never have allowed. On the west side, one goes through El Monte and one parallels I-605; on the east one goes directly to Colton and the other goes via Riverside. There’s got to be enough width in those corridors and the parallel highway corridors to do *something*.

    I see from the SD alternatives analysis that UP is still acting like asses. It’s time to flex some political muscle. Obviously we don’t want to diminish freight capacity, but UP’s attitude is unacceptable and it will have to be squashed.

    However, if the line to Anaheim is actually going to be built, it would probably make more sense to go from there to I-15 for the trip to San Diego, rather than via Ontario.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    I think the San Francisco to San Jose section will end up just like LA to Anaheim shared track alternative.. it’s just too expensive to go the last 45 miles with what the local people want and the system cannot function without stopping San Francisco.. it would be like taking Acela from New York to Washington DC and getting off in Baltimore to take a MARC commuter train the rest of the way.. the high-speed trainsets will just come up the upgraded CalTrain right away at a slower speed and less frequent with some ending in SJ

    Al Reply:

    That’s pretty much the plan. Slower speed (125 mph). Upgraded Caltrain ROW, check. Not sure about ending some in SJ. I guess you mean the current plan but with two tracks instead of four?

    J. Wong Reply:

    Probably two tracks where the width of the ROW is insufficient for four, but four where they can be fit. For example, four tracks from San Mateo north (assuming they can rework Millbrae station) up to Bayshore, two shared tracks from Bayshore to 4th & King.

    Howard Reply:

    I would like the Sacramento extension to be built before the San Diego extension. It would be cheaper and the State could guarantee a minimum ridership by passing a law to only reimburse state employee and contractors travel expenses using high speed rail between high speed rail station areas. So state employees traveling between LA and Sac for a meeting would get reimbursed for a high speed rail ticket but not a plane ticket or car mileage. The problem is that the Merced to Sacramento segment EIR/EIS went nowhere and will now likely be abandoned.

    Donk Reply:

    What do you mean the Merced to Sacramento EIR/EIS is being abandoned? Is it not being worked on?

    Howard Reply:

    I read on this blog that both the Sacramento and San Diego segment EIR’s will not be funded with Gov Browns proposed budget. Could some redirected Florida HSR money continue funding these EIR’s?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Probably not. These phase 2 EIRs were specifically denied funding from original grant award (the Authority had asked for money). You could conceivably use the money for SF – SJ or LA – Anaheim.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    None of the budget items have been finalized AFAIK.

    dfb Reply:

    The focus is on finishing phase 1 (SF to Anaheim). That’s why it was removed from the budget. That’s also why all the federal money thus far and going forward will be directed to Phase I.

    There is plenty of time to complete the EIR/EIS for L.A. to San Diego, which the Authority estimates will take 2 years. In fact, it is better that they wait until 2017 to start the EIR/EIS (unless the state suddenly becomes flush with cash). The L.A. to San Diego line will not break ground until after Phase I is complete and operational, which is still scheduled for 2020. Even then, the last presentations by the Authority regarding L.A. to San Diego have said the line will not break ground until about 2025. By then, an EIR/EIS completed in 2014 or even 2017 will be stale and very likely vulnerable to court challenges.

    wu ming Reply:

    sac has some of the highest amtrak ridership per capita, and with both UCD, sac state and the state govt all located there, it would assuredly have a lot of interest right away.

    dfb Reply:

    The funny thing is that the CHSRA sent out an email announcement with the subject: “CA High-Speed Rail: Preliminary Alternatives Analysis Report Available Now!” But the report is not actually available and will not be for until Monday or Tuesday. What is available is the cover letter and executive summary. A copy of the two docs and email are available here:

    This is one of those things that makes me wonder about the abilities of the Authority and its contractors. Why announce the report is available when it is not? The email could easily have changed to Executive Summary available. Is there a plan to make people focus on the executive summary but not information deep down in the bowels of the actual report? The good thing is that I’ve been promised by the PR contractors that a second email will go out when the actual report is online and ready for public review.

    Nathanael Reply:

    From what I know KPMG is a better choice than PWC — fewer massive scandals in its past.

  10. datacruncher
    Feb 26th, 2011 at 10:33

    Lack of communication in the CV is an issue the CHSRA seems to be apologizing for a lot these days. Just a few days ago there was a meeting with residents in the Hanford station area who complained that a slightly new alignment was being considered that impacted them more than previous alignments yet they had not been informed about it.

    “But authority officials told the neighbors Thursday that the map should have been shared sooner. “Getting this to you sooner was neglected,” said James Ambercrombie, the Central Valley director for the authority. Rebecca Nicholas, spokeswoman for the engineering company doing the Fresno-to-Bakersfield section of the rail line, added: “We should have come out to see you.” She said officials would “commit to communicate effectively” from now on.”

    Additionally it appears communication has not been good with some of the local government agencies. The Kings County Board of Supervisors is poised to pass a resolution Tuesday calling for CAHSRA to begin agency to agency coordination meetings with the county per Federal and State laws on local planning policies, transportation circulation planning, and other issues. See page 142 in this agenda packet.

    Communication and working with the people who will be impacted by a project is an important part of project management. For example, if someone gets certified as a CPM by the Project Management Institute they will also have learned about Change Management and Stakeholder Communication.

    Hopefully there is a quick improvement in two-way communication in the CV as the first segment moves forward. Pushing a project thru with little communication to those impacted is old style and part of the reason for concepts like CEQA. Poor communication will breed mistrust and provide more fuel for the project critics.

    Aaron Reply:

    This is Aaron, the landowner who organized the meeting. It took me almost two months to get that meeting with the HSRA. We asked them why we were not contacted and when were we expected to be contacted…they did not answer. I will allow them time to digest the question, however they could not immediately answer the question, and the look on their faces was confirmed my belief. I think they were waiting to publish it in the EIR/EIS. They had no intention of contacting us. Tom Tracy admitted that they EIS/EIR will have this route in it and the document is currently larger than 18″ thick. With a 45 day review period, this was a calculated decision on behalf of the HSRA.

    They also admitted in the meeting, when asked why people along the original route were contacted, that they did all of the alignment study and environmental studies with drive by assessments. They had no need to enter our property. They admitted to scoping our homes by driving our neighborhoods (a little under the belt HSRA). We have been polite and civil with the HSRA even during our discussions now. They have cheated us approximately 8 months of discussion time.

    I hope this project does not serve as a shining example of how not to do a project. I hope the the State and Local governments can put a stop to Van Ark and his staff, and that we can get some people in there that are open, honest and can make a better attempt and at successful project. Everyone on this blog can want this project all they want, but unless you all realize the missteps and underhanded practices of the HSRA and its consultants you are doomed to failure at the expense of billions of dollars.

    JJJ Reply:

    This is a statewide project, not a local road. Why exactly should they spend so much time courting 50 landowners in the middle of nowhere? HSR will impact many more people in the urban areas. There are 50 homeowners in a single acre alongside the ROW in Fresno. If they scheduled a meeting for every 50 people impacted, the environmental report wouldnt release until 2050.

    Wait in line like everyone else, and make a comment during the official comment period. I don’t understand your entitlement that says that the officials should personally be knocking on your door and asking for your opinion.

    Aaron Reply:

    Because JJJ I am not just speaking for myself or the neighbors i am speaking for all of the public, and this is in my opinion. These people (HSRA) have withheld information and lied to the people that are going to be most impacted by the HSR alignments. What makes you think they are telling the rest of you the truth and being forthcoming? Both our State and our Nation are at critical paths, we cannot afford too many more mistakes, especially $43 billion dollar mistakes.

    I also somewhat also have different thoughts of how important people are compared to you, but i don’t really know you so i will just share my opinion and not do any attacking. People count, you count, we all deserve to be informed. We all have private property rights. If I understand your thinking, nobody is safe and everyone should just let the Gov’t (although the HSRA is really not the Gov’t just a bunch of high paid consultants) take what they need. You get 45 days, right to review and comment on probably several thousand pages of documents.

    Sorry JJJ I cannot run my life with a simplistic approach like that. People have dreams, emotions, families and need to be informed.

    JJJ Reply:

    I live in Fresno, and I understand that multiple routing are being considered. It does not matter what all these routing are until one is selected. Why argue over hypothetical?

    It’s like your farm. Lets say they start with 10 routes. 9 do not touch your farm. 1 does. Why should they reach out to you about this possible routing, if the EIR only had 3 possible routes, and the one involving your farm has been discarded?

    It’s crying about something that has not happened and may never happen.

    You can argue away once the EIR comes out, and comment during the official period like everyone else. It’s wasting time to argue that you haven’t gotten a special preview that nobody else gets.

    You argue that 45 days is too little time to read the billions of pages, but that’s a red herring. All you will care about are the 10 pages relevant to your area. Let the people in palo alto read their section, and the people in bakersfield read their section.

    It’s not withholding information or lying when they’re not releasing a day-by-day update of what the discussion is. The amount of bureaucracy that would be required to arrange meetings for every “what-if” would be ridiculous, and cripple the project.

    But maybe that’s what you want?

    datacruncher Reply:

    I can see the point of the owners in that Hanford area. I think the difference to me is that the multiple Fresno routings you mention consist of adjacent to UP on the east or west side of the ROW. Landowners should know they are being considered thru the Fresno public meetings already held and other methods. The public and smaller meetings in the Hanford area discussed different bypass routes but apparently not this one.

    This is cutting a new transportation corridor. I think if a new alternative route was added to the EIR study that crossed the river into Fresno along the BNSF ROW then cut thru suburban housing in NW Fresno to reach the UP there would be more info released early. No one would expect homeowners/neighborhoods in Fresno to wait for the EIR release to discover they might be impacted by a new alternative.

    Those impacted should at least have been aware of that change before the EIR/EIS release. Even the authority staff said in the Fresno Bee article
    “But authority officials told the neighbors Thursday that the map should have been shared sooner. “Getting this to you sooner was neglected,” said James Ambercrombie, the Central Valley director for the authority.”
    The staff admit they goofed with this.

    Communication with those who might be impacted is key in project management of any kind. It is one of the smart strategic moves to avoid both negative publicity and minimize political (internal and external), time-consuming court, or other challenges for any project or change.

    I’m not an attorney but have read articles such as this one that discusses CEQA lawsuits and minimizing them. As this says “Thus, the well advised client with a controversial project ought to be actively engaged in presenting and exploring the project with the affected community even before starting the permitting process. Plaintiff lawyers know that the more a government agency and/or developer is engaging in meetings with the community, the more remote is a successful CEQA lawsuit.”

    In other words talk early and often with groups impacted by a project and it reduces later challenges and other problems. It also helps to reduce emotions and keep things focused on resolving the issues.

    Pushing a project right over the top of people impacted, especially with California’s culture of political activism and outspokenness, creates more battles.

    Aaron Reply:

    What you don’t know is that the HSRA has been working on this specific route from August untils now and last week they indicated that this route will be the route put forth in the EIS/EIR. It seems crazy that they would invest so much money in a route analysis and not use it. What they have done is severely reduced the potential for conversation and open dialogue between the HSRA and the citizens. They also have not been able to produce an alternative route analysis maps, which we have requested. You would think that if a route was changed and then not used, they could provide a map as a sample….NOPE! And what I really want, is if this project goes forth I want to make sure that sacrificing my property is for a well run successful project. From HSRA current practices, all I can say is CHANGE ORDER, TIME DELAYS, and WE NEED YOU TO SACRIFICE MORE!

    Nathanael Reply:

    I can read thousands of pages of documents in a day, and as said before you only need to look at the part relevant to you.

    If the worst comes to the worst and you don’t pay attention and your property is taken, you will be compensated. That is in the Constitution.

    It is totally unreasonable to expect the staff of the CHSRA to talk to every individual homeowner along the route — do you know how many there are?!?! If you want them to even talk to a tenth of the homeowners, you need to get them a lot more staff, but the state “hiring freeze” has prevented this.

    datacruncher Reply:

    Aaron I feel for your situation. I disagree with some of your comments that the staff is incompetent though. I think mistakes are being made in the handling of the process and they need to quickly fix them with you and others impacted. But if you truly are not trying to stop the project I might suggest focusing your comments on the missteps impacting you and not project individuals. Raising personal attacks is going to reduce the emphasis on the mistakes being made in your situation.

    Aaron Reply:

    I have been trying that approach datacruncher. Here is what happened. I contacted them on Jan 3 and asked for a map. Almost daily contact and emails finally netted a map several weeks in to February. I have also requested a meeting with the Regional Director to clarify some information. That took approximately 75 days. I do agree I may be exaggerating that all of them of incompetent. We have been working with a new PR contact who has been responsive to the best of her capabilities. However, she has indicated several times that decisions are getting made higher up and her ability to share information is conditioned upon their approval.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Sounds like they’re busy and understaffed. This is a problem. Call your state rep and ask for the hiring freeze to be lifted.

    jimsf Reply:

    Somehow I’ll bet that if another authority were building a concrete canal of the same proportions along the same route to bring water to the valley farmers, we wouldn’t hear a peep out of the impacted property owners or anything about impacting valuable farmland.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I suspect the recurrent problem with staffing — starting with lack of funding for staff, and continuing with the “hiring freeze” imposed by Schwarzenegger, which apparently has not yet been lifted — is the reason for your problem.

    You want better outreach, get your state government to lift the hiring freeze. A very small staff is handling the ENTIRE statewide project.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I have no truck with Kings County Board of Supervisors. They have been contacted repeatedly and have rejected all the alternatives proposed — for years — without proposing any viable alternatives. It’s all there in the Alternatives Analyses.

    To hell with them, they’re BANANAs.

  11. synonymouse
    Feb 26th, 2011 at 12:13

    “We need to do a better job of communicating,”

    I suggest Strother Martin captured the attitude more accurately in Cool Hand Luke:

    “What we have h’yuh is a failure to communicate.” Nimbys in the hole, TRAC in the hole, farmers in the hole. Hey, Corcoran is handy to concentrate dissidents and critics, right on line.

  12. Paulus Magnus
    Feb 26th, 2011 at 13:54

    Off-topic but worth noting:
    High Speed Rail Has Basically Killed A Dozen Airports In South Korea

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It gets worse, for airports. In Korea they have a proposal to expand HSR underwater to Jeju Island, killing the top air corridor in the country. Cost projection: $10 billion for 73 km of tunnel and 28 km of bridge.

  13. jimsf
    Feb 26th, 2011 at 14:34

    Here’s a nice vid of the china trains, inside and out. note the nice but simple station design in this one, I can see that as perfect for hanford and other intermediate stations. Check out the fab train interior too, vry nice, and oh for goodness sake, is that a lounge in there? hmm.

    jimsf Reply:

    china train

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Not quite a lounge, looks more like a private compartment, with a nice decanter for booze. Handy for meetings I suppose; some trains on the New Haven used to have things like that back in the 1950s.

    Everything old becomes new again. . .

    jimsf Reply:

    no not there but at :47 – :53

    JJJ Reply:

    Looks like a standard cafe car. The amtrak california ones are nicer.

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