Secretary Doug MacDonald
Washington State,
Department of Transportation
Olympia, WA
Dear Secretary MacDonald:
Back in early June, you and I exchanged some e-mails regarding Governor Gregoire's Puget Sound Partnership and the graving docks in Port Angeles.  Both situations represent a government out of control and prone to expensive errors, waste, fraud and abuse that cost taxpayers millions of dollars and in some cases, billions.  The following article from the Capitol Press, is just another example of government (WADOT) being out of control and taking land from private property owners to further a radical environmental agenda and using eminent domain and strong-arm tactics to get what they want.  I suggest your read the article carefully.
Doug, every damn day example after example of government abuse hits private citizens and rural landowners in the face in a repeat of David and Goliath, except David doesn't even have a sling shot any more because Goliath (Government) took it away from him by regulation, restriction, ordinance, law and other egregious over-reaches and abuses of power. 
The crescendo is rising and I can't be responsible for what eventually squeezes out of the populace.  You beat on someone for just so long and eventually they will do everything in their power to strike back.  The people are getting angrier every day and the potential for unintended consequences is mounting.  Government depends on citizens and landowners obeying the law.   But what if the law goes too far?  Remember Doug.  These are Americans that government (in this case DOT) is "dumping" on.  Beware the angry American.
I strongly suggest that you back up on taking the Sterk family's 35 acres in the Bellingham-to-Lynden widening project, that is over one mile from the project.  This is government going literally too far for a so-called "public" use.  When does government finally get it?
Ron Ewart
Fall City, WA
425 222-9482

State targets farmland for wetland mitigation
Twist: Land 1 mile from construction siteCookson Beecher
Capital Press Staff Writer

Washington state is suing a Whatcom County, Wash., dairy family to force condemnation of 35 acres of cropland. The plan is to turn the field, currently planted in corn, into wetlands to compensate for wetlands destroyed in a highway widening project going from Bellingham to Lynden.

The farmland in question is a mile from the highway project.

On June 14, the Sterk family received a notice from the state’s attorney general’s office saying the Department of Transportation needs the property, or property rights, being acquired through the lawsuit.

The family was also informed that the department may need to enter and perform the work planned for the property to meet construction schedules – before it can reach an agreement about the value of the property being acquired.

“A sock in the gut” is how dairy farmer John Sterk describes his reaction to the state’s legal action against the farm’s two-generation family.

“An insult” is how he describes the $7,000 per acre offered for the property.

His wife Alice questions terminology in the court order that says the Transportation Department can take legal action against them because the state highway project goes “over, across and/or is adjacent” to the 35-acre piece.

“This is not true,” she said, pointing out on a map that the field in question is a mile from the highway.

In a June 27 interview with the Capital Press, a lawyer from the state attorney general’s office said the terminology referring to the location of the property in reference to the highway project is “boilerplate language.”

He also said that he has successfully been involved in acquiring property offsite in condemnation proceedings in King and Snohomish counties.

The department is sending new papers to the Sterks in which the language has been changed.

Ag reaction

In hopes of saving the Sterks’ field from being taken through eminent domain, Jay Gordon, executive director of the state’s dairy federation, has fired off a letter to the state attorney general and to the director of the transportation department.

In the letter, Gordon asked the two department heads to terminate all legal actions against the Sterk dairy and the Sterk family members and to ask department staff to apologize to the family.

Looking ahead, Gordon also wants the agencies to conduct a review to determine how the state can do a better job of achieving its goal of improving the state’s transportation system “without destroying the last remaining acres of farmland we have in Western Washington.”

In a recent telephone interview with the Capital Press, Valoria Loveland, director of the state Department of Agriculture, said the legal action against the Sterk family was a complete surprise.

She has personally asked Doug MacDonald, director of transportation, to look into the matter.

“Jay’s letter has gotten everyone’s attention,” said Loveland. “All the agencies involved are working to get all of the facts on this.”

Meanwhile, the court hearing on this case, originally scheduled for July 6, has been postponed to July 31.

Todd Harrison, who is responsible for planning, designing and construction for transportation projects in five northwest Washington counties, explained that during the hearing, the judge will decide if the state’s action to use the property for wetland mitigation is based on public use. If so, the judge will decide what the family should receive for the land.

Harrison said the department has been negotiating with the Sterks for months on this.

But the Sterks said they’ve told the department they’re no longer interested.

John Sterk said when he was first approached about the project, a department official had mentioned that the department had paid $20,000 per acre for a piece of farmland and that it was only interested in 10 of the field’s 35 acres.

But in March, an acquisition agent for the department came to their home to present them with an offer of $7,000 per acre for the entire 35-acre piece.

“We were told to either accept it or the department would condemn it,” Sterk said.

It was then that the dairy family, which also consists of Kevin and Debra Sterk, decided that it was time to talk with an attorney.

The family also decided it was time for political action.

“We decided this is bigger than us right now,” said Kevin. “The state is grabbing farmland. We need to fight this politically.”