Valley growers sue over high-speed rail disruptions

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- California's high-speed rail route cuts a four-mile long gash in Tim Raven's 2,500 acres of almond, and grape orchards near Selma.

He has already sold the authority the land and has been paid, but Raven says he has not been compensated for the disruption of dividing his property.

"On one property, a year and a half ago, they cut through an almond orchard, took out a 100-acre almond orchard, took our pump out, I spent $500,000 on two pumps and redoing the drip system, and I haven't got a dime yet."

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That is just one example of disruption.

Attorney Mark Wasser is representing Raven and a total of 70 farmers with similar claims, totaling millions of dollars against the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

By phone, Wasser explained to Action News why Raven and the others are upset.

"High-Speed Rail is not going to pay him for what it is doing until the end of the case, which might be two, three, four, five years down the road, and that's a cash flow problem for the farmer."

State Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) claims this pattern of putting off paying farmers and businesses is a big problem, "We have tried to convince High-Speed Rail they are essentially stiffing people and High-Speed Rail is simply ignoring it."
Of the grower's complaints, the California High-Speed Rail Authority says in a statement, "We work closely with them to minimize the impact the project has on them and their livelihoods. We also work to ensure that they receive fair market value - consistent with state law - for their land and are compensated appropriately for other related relocation expenses that they incur because of this process. "

The California High-Speed Rail Authority says property owners have been paid more than 10 million dollars for relocation expenses, 80 percent have been settled out of court.

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But Raven is going to court. Right now this 100-acre grape vineyard interrupts the path of the project, and he says he's not allowing them to go through.

"I'm not gonna do nothing until I get paid," Raven told Action News.

One big problem, according to attorney Mark Wasser, is that the authority is allowing the contractor to design the system as it goes along, requiring a lot of changes.

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