Kings County farmers complain about High Speed Rail

KINGS COUNTY, Calif.

Barry McCutcheon of the Kings County Water District testified the rail line will damage property. "It's gonna tear up some good farmland."

Dairy Operator Mike Montero said the rails would divide his dairy. "It splits the cows in half. There will be cows on one side and cows on the other side."

The concern comes from the latest proposed alignment of the high speed rail line through Kings County. Instead of following the Highway 99 corridor, it runs straight south from Fresno, west of the highway, through farmland and dairies.

Dairy and farm owner Elsie Oliveira told the panel, "We love this land, we feel betrayed by what you plan to do to it."

The big problem seemed to be a lack of communication between the High Speed Rail Board and the concerned residents. Outgoing Board Chairman Curt Pringle said the route had not been decided and that any impacts to land and property would be mitigated, that is, paid for. He pledged the board is listening.

"Your voice is heard by the board. Does that mean everything you want is going to be changed, I doubt it. But as citizens we hear your concerns."

Along with the Kings County complaints there was an endorsement from the Mayor of Merced, Bill Spriggs. "High Speed Rail is essential for changing our economic base. I encourage you to choose a route and move forward."

Visalia's Assistant City Manager, Mike Olmos told the board that while agriculture's concerns must be addressed, the Tulare and Kings County area has other issues that High Speed Rail can help.

"It is true we are the number one ag region in the nation. We are proud of that. But we are also other categories we rank high in that we are not proud of. We have chronic high unemployment; we have low educational attainment rates. We see high speed rail as an opportunity to resolve some of those issues. "

But, not everyone is on board and with groundbreaking on the first leg of the high speed rail system to link LA and the Bay Area set to take place in Fresno next year, the High Speed Rail Authority still has come convincing to do.

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