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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Thanks a Lot, Uncle Sam

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (CN) - A southeast Idaho family claims the Bonneville Power Administration illegally built a road across their land, which they had specially seeded and preserved as state-designated habitat for wild birds and mule deer.

The Judy Family Trust says the Idaho Department of Fish & Game designated their land as wild bird and deer habitat under a soil and water quality conservation program requiring terracing and conservation practices.

But in 2009 Bonneville Power Administration crews used trucks and heavy equipment to build a gravel road 1,485 feet long and 20 feet wide across the protected land, disrupting wildlife and contaminating the soil.

"The excavation crews caused damage to the surface and subsurface of the land, the grade of the land, the wild bird and deer habitat, the soil and water quality conservation program implemented on the land, and the specially seeded flora," according to the federal complaint.

The trust says there were "multiple events of trespass each time vehicles, trucks and heavy equipment performing work for BPA crossed the gravel road BPA unlawfully constructed on plaintiff's land."

The BPA acknowledged it had trespassed, in a Sept. 4, 2009 letter to the family. It took another year and a half to send another letter, on March 31, 2011, apologizing "for its error of placing a gravel road on Judy Family Trust property," according to the complaint.

The trust seeks $178,000 in damages, plus the cost to reseed the land. It also seeks penalties for "violations of plaintiff's CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) contract with the Farm Services Administration, and any penalties for violation of the soil and water conservation program agreement between plaintiff and the Idaho Fish & Game and other agencies."

The Bonneville Power Administration is a federal agency created by act of Congress in 1937 to market electric power from the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River and to build facilities to transmit that power. Congress has since designated the Portland, Ore.-based BPA the marketing agent for power from all federally owned hydroelectric projects in the Pacific Northwest.

The trust is represented by Charles Just and Kipp Manwaring of the Just Law Office in Idaho Falls.

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