EMINENT DOMAIN: GOVERNMENT STEALING FAMILY FARM
Dr. Laurie Roth
June 8, 2008
Eminent Domain is a big fancy term in most cases used to simply steal private property from landholders in the name of progress, city needs or other manipulated issues by folks in some authority. We have seen distortions and theft over the decades using Eminent Domain. Currently, our Federal Government is planning the unwanted and manipulated Super Highway right through the heartland of the U.S. A., while stealing and cutting up to a million acres of prime, multi generational farmland. What is it when an official is offering very low prices for your acreage, the acreage you count on to feed your cattle and grow crops, the acreage you have never wanted to sell, while threatening Eminent Domain if you don’t want to sell? I call it “the Gambino crime family tactics and theft.” Why are state and Federal officials playing with such a violation and distortion of our constitutional, property rights? Yes, it is written clearly, right in the constitution that we all have property rights.
In the State of Washington right now there is an example of total betrayal and the potential violation of property rights regarding the Colf family farm. These folks have been farming in the area since 1870. They grow corn, wheat, barley and grass seed. They also have several herds of cattle that graze on their lowland and island properties. They have never sold any farmland at all.
What is the big drama about and where did this all begin?
In 1994 the Corps was directed by Congress to do a feasibility study about deepening the Columbia River channel from 40 – 43 feet beginning at the mouth of the Columbia and going up river 106 miles to Vancouver and Portland, Oregon. In 1999 congress approved and authorized this project to start in. Most folks up and down the river thought it would be a good idea to deepen the river in order to bring in larger boats and develop more business to the communities and farmers, so the Corps launched the project.
The rub starts:
The environmental impact of all the digging had to be offset by accessing mitigation sites to offset potential losses. You know folks, those dreaded environmental concerns. These sites were reported as the 74-acre Webb site in Oregon, Martin Island and 284 acres of the woodland bottoms. In 1999 the Colf family who had been farming in the area since 1870, bought in good faith more land to do more farming. They bought Martin Island, Burke Island and the 105 acres adjacent to I-5. No one at any time in the land sale process told them about the Corp’s potential desire for the land or plans. Since the digging involved 106 miles, you would think their proposed mitigation sites would be spread out accordingly regarding land purchase requests and plans. No!
The Channel Improvement Project required that the sponsoring Ports acquire all land for the project mitigation and disposal sites. The Washington Ports had contracted with the Washington Department of Transportation to carry out any eminent domain acquisition, if needed.
The Colf family puts forth endless offers and counter offers to no avail.
Realizing that the Corps and Governor Gregoire wouldn’t take no for an answer, the Colf family tried to offer reasonable compromises. Some of these included the following: They offered the Corps and Ports an easement into perpetuity for approximately half of Martin Island (1/2 of 447 acres) for mitigation (non-farmable land) if they could retain the island and keep the 105 acres of fertile farm land in the Woodland Bottoms. The Corps rejected this gracious and generous offer as well as several other reasonable compromises by the Colfs and instead offered to purchase ALL of Martin Island and their 105-acre parcel. The bottom line is it would yank away a ton of their active and working farmland. The absurd offers continued by the Corps and Ports, trying to take major chunks of the Colf’s working farmland. Two of the family’s herds of cattle would have been displaced. Bringing the ridiculous current to April 2008, the latest proposal from the Corps would involve taking yet again hundreds of acres of prime farmland they need and are using.
The Ports and Corps didn’t start even working with the Colfs until 2007 and very soon in the recent negotiations from hell came the threats of Eminent Domain. Here it is family, negotiate with a gun to your head. Who cares if you have farmed in the area since 1870?
The thing that is so maddening about this violation and harassment to a farming family is that it is also plain stupid. There are other properties on the river that could be used for mitigation. According to landrights.org and Chuck Cushman, the Ports of Woodland, Kalama, Longview and Vancouver have available land for mitigation but have not utilized their lands for this project. Mr. Cushman further states that over the past 5 years, the Ports of Vancouver and Longview have obtained hundreds of acres for mitigation of their own projects. The final absurdity in all this is that the Colf property represents 74% of all the land for mitigating the entire dredging project.
and who is the source of all the pressure and evil against this family?
Governor Gregoire has tried to put the Corps and various Ports in front of her so that folks won’t notice her constant pressure to the Corps and Ports to conclude and negotiate a sale with the Colfs or lose much-needed state support and funding. Why as the Governor, did she not promote and stand for mitigation being peppered through out the 106 miles of the dredging project? She is hoping that folks still think she is pro-land rights and pro-farmer when she is threatening to pull funding and support from the Corps and Ports if they don’t get the Colf’s land. She is expecting them to be the front for her in using Eminent Domain against this one family Why, when many other people would gladly sell property up and down the river? The only thing one can assume is that now it has become personal against this family. Even with all the options and offers from this family it is clear that only Gregoire and the Corps must win now. Steal their land, force their two herds of cattle into the river to drown and cease farming and family memories from 1870 on.
This is criminal at best in my opinion. Let’s not let a fine family, the Colfs, become another “road kill” statistic of Eminent Domain, a complete denial of their constitutional rights and fraud and laziness by the Ports, Corps and Governor Gregoire, pressuring and directing the whole sordid process.
Lets help the Colf family shall we? Call Governor Gregoire’s representative John Mankowski at 360-902-0551. Say the following and get your friends to do the same! Don’t be hostile, just clear. Say?. "NO EMINENT DOMAIN OF THE COLF FAMILYY FARM AND IF YOU DO USE EMINENT DOMAIN TO TAKE THEIR PROPERTY, I WILL HOLD GOV. GREGOIRE RESPONSIBLE AND VOTE ACCORDINGLY."
© 2008 Dr. Laurie Roth - All Rights Reserved