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Engineering : Right of Way Acquisition

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Division of Engineering
Department of Water Resources

Sacramento, CA 95814

(916) 653-3927


On occasion, the Department has a need to take possession of property for construction purposes before written agreement has been reached with the property owner as to compensation for the rights to be acquired.  This can be accomplished through an interim written agreement with the property owner (a Right of Entry for construction, with a promise to continue negotiations in good faith in a timely manner), or through a court order for immediate possession for construction.  In either case, the property owner is generally entitled to interest upon the final settlement. The interest paid and the process for calculating it is spelled out by statute and the Department is responsible for making the interest rates available to interested parties.

When the State and a property owner are unable to agree on the terms and compensation for the purchase of required property rights, the Eminent Domain process begins.  Although the prospect of dealing with attorneys and courts may seem intimidating, condemnation is not intended as a coercive process.  It simply means that the parties have not been able to come to an agreement, and is a "last resort" measure available to the State to ensure possession of the required property for construction of the approved project in a timely manner.  Negotiations can continue "right up to the courthouse steps".  Ultimately, if no agreement is reached, the court determines proper compensation.

A general overview of the acquisition process in the form of questions and answers is provided to affected property owners in an information booklet, the text from which is included here.