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Eminent Domain


Governments have long reserved the right to condemn property and convert its use for the "public good". The practice is called "eminent domain". During the 19th century, the Federal government helped American railroads lay track all the way from the east coast to the west coast by proclaiming eminent domain and taking land owned by private citizens and turning it over to the railroads.

The practice was traumatic. So many farms were seized under eminent domain laws that that farmers responded by banding together in a secret organization called The Grange. The initial purpose of the Grange was to fight railroads. Other more radical responses were also triggered, most notably perhaps the James Gang led by Jesse James.






Eminent domain is still with us. The Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) for example, reserves the right to seize any private property is deems necessary to carry out its plans under its charter (Act 7757).

In a remarkable and alarming trend, government organs are begriming to exercise the right of eminent domain to aid, not the public, but private developers.

Alexandra Marks writes in the Christian Science Monitor about how this trend is shaping up. You can read the whole article here.




The Structure of the Sonoma County Water Agency

The Environmental Center of Sonoma County

A resolution by the City of Santa Rosa to exercise eminent domain in the Geysers Recharge Project

(search for "domain" in the above article to find the passage)

Citizens fighting eminent domain abuse

Right of Way, a Web site for eminent domain professionals


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