Property lines along west Linda levee will be moved
After more than a year of hearings, harsh language and musty deeds and yellowed maps, the battle over where property lines end along a Yuba County levee is over.
In a series of votes on Thursday in Marysville, the Central Valley Flood Protection Board approved plans to tear down fences and put up new ones to create an access corridor for the Feather River levee in west Linda, with work set to start as soon as the spring.
Len Marino, an engineer with the board, said the result is one likely to be repeated hundreds, if not thousands of more times across the state, including other locations in Yuba and Sutter counties.
"You will be going into something like this," he said of property owners who may be encroaching on state-owned land by a levee. "And it's going to be a long process."
The board's decision, though, didn't come until a few determined property owners made final appeals to the board over who owns land they've long thought was theirs.
"I don't think you bought my little extra piece, and that's how I feel," said Linda resident Susan Lagrand, who has been told by the state a storage building and workshop on her lot extends into state property next to the levee.
She and about four dozen other property owners received notices last year from the state saying they were encroaching on state property to various degrees, even though many property owners said they had never heard that through decades of improvements, assessments and land transfers.
All but a handful ultimately agreed the state could put in a new fence further from the levee to create an access corridor. For four who didn't, the state offered them a conditional easement on the land they believed they owned, transferable between owners.
But Lagrand said she had found reason to doubt the state had bought all the disputed land, which was previously owned by a railroad.
Because the property was "no man's land" with no clear owner, she said, she and some neighbors proposed buying it back from the state for $1.
In response, flood board members said even if they agreed with her conclusion, they couldn't approve such a deal.
"We have to sell the land at fair market value," said board president Bill Edgar, who asked Lagrand why Lagrand worried the easement wouldn't fix the problem. She said she feared the state, or the Three Rivers Levee Improvement Authority, would later come to a different conclusion and force her to tear the workshop down.
"With that hanging over their heads, you have rendered our property unsellable," Lagrand said, though board members said her fears were a bit overstated.
Other owners who had disputed the state's finding, property owners Carol and Philip Miller, said they felt the surveys the state relied on didn't accurately measure the railroad property.
After two surveyors said the state's work was sound, Philip Miller, Carol's brother, said he wasn't surprised.
"I knew it was going to happen," he said. "You're a public agency, you rely on your staff."
But though several board members took pains to say they strongly felt property owners should have a say, Lagrand said she felt otherwise.
"They don't listen," she said. "We're being bullied into a deal we don't want to accept.
"I'd advise anyone who has property that backs up to a levee to watch your back."
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at email@example.com or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.