Last month, with heavy hearts and divided opinions, the Madera County Farm Bureau Board of Directors voted to settle our lawsuit with the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA). This decision was undoubtedly one of the most difficult in the history of the Madera County Farm Bureau Board, as we had to carefully consider the statistical realities of the political climate in the State, versus our own ethical compasses on our path moving forward.
Our original intention in entering this lawsuit was to stop the project or delay construction long enough for the project to implode. We did succeed in this regard to an extent –it is a forgone conclusion that had we not filed the suit, the CHSRA would have begun construction on the Project in 2012. We also were highly successful at garnering a significant amount of leverage statewide, both political and in the court of public opinion. The suit had all of the potential to cause the Project implosion –however the political climate consistently allowed a certain degree of laxity throughout every step of the legal process, ultimately creating a situation of the Authority skating through the red tape and public protest with minor deviations in their protocol. Weighing the indicators both political and legal, the majority of the Board saw neither outcome possible by carrying through with the current legal action.
The mission of the Madera County Farm Bureau is to preserve and protect agricultural in Madera County. Well far from being perfect, this settlement forces the CHSRA to compensate and mitigate individual land owners for the agricultural impacts that this project will have on the farming community in Madera County –for both MCFB members and non-members alike. I consider this the primary ‘win’ of this settlement. There was no legal remedy available to us, even in an outright win of our CEQA case on all points –that would have achieved the concessions negotiated in this settlement.
In conclusion, although not the only solution available to a divided Board of Directors, a majority of the Board decided that this was the best solution available under these circumstances.