Secretary Doug MacDonald
Department of Transportation
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?
Fall City, WA
State targets farmland for wetland
Twist: Land 1 mile from construction siteCookson BeecherCapital Press Staff
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
“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.
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.”
said that he has successfully been involved in acquiring property offsite in
condemnation proceedings in King and Snohomish counties.
is sending new papers to the Sterks in which the language has been
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
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.
said the department has been negotiating with the Sterks for months on
But the Sterks said they’ve told the department they’re no longer
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
“We decided this is bigger than us right now,” said
Kevin. “The state is grabbing farmland. We need to fight this