While the policy of Imminent Domain has been with us since the founding of our country, limitations were placed upon it by our Third and Fifth Amendments that prohibited the housing of Soldiers neither in peacetime without the consent of the property owner nor in wartime except in a manner prescribed by law. The Fifth Amendment ends with “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
Land owners who disagreed with the amount of that “just compensation” have frequently seem their property condemned by the state and taken with much less compensation received.
In recent years, the use of imminent domain seems to have grown considerably. Our freeway system and the build-up of cold war Military Bases across the country saw much personal property being appropriated. Even later, we see localities seizing property from an individual to turn around and sell it to another private individual with the promise of building a shopping center or other entity assumed to increase revenues received by the locality through property, sales or other taxes.
Several people who wanted to avoided the encroaching of government land grabs, bought property parcels far, far outside of the limits of a city to build their homes in wide open spaces in a peaceful and quiet area.
Those people are now discovering their desire for open space and peace and quiet means little to nothing to government who now wants portions of their property to run high voltage power lines through their property, even though that agency, Bonneville Power Administration already has property right of ways elsewhere.
Efforts of redress to elected representatives from property owners seems to have fallen on deaf ears as noted in the March 14, 2012 Letter to the Editor in the Reflector, “An Open Letter Ed Orcutt,” the elected Representative for the 18th Legislative District at the time.
In part the letter states,
“[The Rural landowner] never imagined the private driveway to his home would be expanded and lengthened to travel past his home, through his beautiful gardens and landscaping for a new tower access road, enabling access 365 days a year to a government agency and its contractors.”
“He never imagined a superhighway for transients, off-roaders, and other trespassers who would be able to freely travel this new transmission corridor through the private land to which he used to own full rights.”
“The rural landowner never imagined that his elected officials (who are elected to uphold his rights) would tell a federal agency to avoid its existing transmission right-of-way on which it already owns rights to build. He never imagined his elected officials would encourage a federal agency to take his private land.”
At issue, BPA already owns right of way for transmission lines and has for some 70 years or more. As stated in another letter, this one to the local We The People, BPA already owns some 122 acres for transmission lines, but now wants to take a potential 1,273 additional acres to have a different route.
The “need” for these new transmission lines lies in the surge seen in the construction of inefficient, unreliable and overly expensive wind farms that often must rely on government subsidies to remain operational.
The matter has been a hot issue since first proposed in 2009 with every public meeting being well attended by concerned citizens to include the rural landowners who stand to lose their peace and quiet along with significant portions of their property, not to mention their health threatened by such high power transmission lines running across their property.
Citizens groups such as A Better Way For BPA have been organized to protect property rights.
Of late, we hear that a BPA PR person has announced a delay the release of the “preferred alternative” and “Draft Environmental Impact Statement,” with no indication of a date expected to release that information, leaving landowners in limbo.
Likely, the matter will end up in court, as issues like this often do. While not any guarantee of outcome and somewhat different in issue, it is promising seeing a recent Supreme Court ruling that sided with property owners over another government agency, the Environmental Protection Agency.
In the meantime, the battles continue as rural landowners continue their opposition to encroachment upon their private property rights by the BPA.
James Madison, Fourth President of the United States and hailed as the “Father of the Constitution,” said long ago, “The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to an uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government.”
That must include later government agencies who feel they may encroach upon private property at will and with impunity.