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Environmental lawsuit against state bullet train settled

January 28, 2013 |  6:56 pm

The state's bullet train agency said Monday that it settled one of three pending environmental lawsuits brought against the project in the Central Valley.

The city of Chowchilla agreed to drop its suit, the California High-Speed Rail Authority announced. The agreement provides that the city can get its attorney fees of up to $300,000 reimbursed.

The authority has faced three suits combined that were brought under the California Environmental Quality Act. In addition to the Chowchilla case, they included one brought by Madera Farm Bureau, Madera County, the Chowchilla Water District and others that allege the authority failed to consider all of the impacts of the project. The third suit involved a private company. The two remaining suits are going forward.

An earlier legal effort by the plaintiffs to get an injunction that would have halted the project was rejected by a judge, leaving the dispute to be resolved in an April trial. The inability to get an injunction appeared to dim the prospect that the localities could win their case.

In addition to the environmental lawsuits, the authority is facing a suit that alleges the bullet train project does not conform to restrictions placed on it by voters when they approved a $9.95-billion bond measure in 2008. The suit alleges that the rail agency lacks all of the funding necessary to complete an initial usable segment once construction begins, an apparent requirement contained in the bond measure.

The authority hopes to begin construction in Madera and Fresno counties on the first 29-mile segment of the rail in July, and hailed the Chowchilla settlement as bringing the start of construction a step closer.

“We greatly appreciate the city of Chowchilla’s willingness to come to the table and work with the authority to resolve this case,” said Jeff Morales, the rail authority's chief executive officer.

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