SACRAMENTO, CA - The future of California's controversial 800-mile, $68 billion dollar High Speed Rail Project hinges on the outcome of a lawsuit filed by farmers, water districts and other interests in the Central Valley. That's where the first segment is scheduled to break ground next summer.
"They are not following their own guidelines in doing this project," said farmer Kole Upton. "They're supposed to use existing corridors. They're not. They're supposed to minimize the use of farmland. They're not. They're supposed to listen to the people. They are not."
The plaintiffs are asking for a 6-month preliminary injunction, essentially halting the work so they can prove California failed to conduct thorough environmental reviews.
If they had, they say, the environmental impact reviews, or EIRs, would show having a bullet train running through the middle of irrigation systems or farmlands would adversely effect agriculture.
"We are looking at a situation undisclosed in the EIR where a farmer might have to drive five miles to get from one side of his farm to the other," said Barry Epstein, attorney for the opposition.
Attorneys for the High Speed Rail Authority argue the environmental reviews were done properly and emphasized a delay could add to the already high price tag.
"Eight to 10.3 million dollars if the court issues an injunction for 6 months as the petitioners requested," said James Andrew with the High Speed Rail Authority.
A delay could also jeopardize more than billions of dollars in federal grant money that must be spent by 2017.
In the end, the judge denied the preliminary injunction which means the project proceeds as planned.
The plaintiffs are considering taking their case to federal court.