[env-trinity] First Amendment Project: Caltrans broke law by confiscating anti-tunnel signs

Dan Bacher danielbacher at fishsniffer.com
Fri Jul 12 08:38:37 PDT 2013


  

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http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/07/12/1222949/-First-Amendment- 
Project-Caltrans-broke-law-by-confiscating-anti-tunnel-signs

First Amendment Project: Caltrans broke law by confiscating anti- 
tunnel signs

by Dan Bacher

In the latest episode in the Brown administration's "Signgate"  
scandal, Restore the Delta Thursday released an expert legal opinion  
finding that the California Department of Transportation’s  
(Caltrans) confiscation of “Save the Delta! Stop the Tunnels!”  
signs displayed by Delta land and business owners was done without  
“any legal basis.”

The legal opinion from the First Amendment Project to Restore the  
Delta refutes Caltrans’ assertion that the signs are illegal and  
cites a 1996 Attorney General opinion finding that the “expression  
of a political belief by a property owner whether displayed by signs  
or otherwise” is constitutionally protected.

"The 'Save the Delta!' signs are not covered by the Outdoor  
Advertising Act’s prohibitions against signs, both because they are  
not 'temporary political signs' that cannot be displayed within 660  
feet of a right-of-way of a highway and because the Act does not (and  
can not) cover political signs of this nature," the opinion stated.  
"Accordingly, Caltrans did not have any legal basis to remove the  
signs."

Delta advocates oppose the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to  
build the peripheral tunnels because the $54.1 billion project will  
hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central  
Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other  
fish species. The project would also, under the guise of "habitat  
restoration," take large areas of Delta farmland, some of the most  
fertile on the planet, out of production in order to deliver massive  
amounts of water to irrigate toxic, drainage-impaired land on the  
west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

The peripheral tunnels also threaten salmon and steelhead restoration  
on the Trinity River, the Klamath's largest tributary. The Trinity,  
whose water is diverted to the Sacramento River via a tunnel to  
Whiskeytown Reservoir, is the only out of basin water supply for the  
federal Central Valley Project.

Restore the Delta called on Governor Brown to stop using Caltrans to  
silence critics of his proposed peripheral tunnels, and to order  
Caltrans crews to cease removing the signs from private property.  
Restore the Delta will hold a protest in front of CalTrans  
headquarters, 1120 N Street, on Friday morning, July 12, at 10 am.

“We are outraged that the Brown Administration is trampling the  
rights of business and land owners who have posted signs on their  
property opposing the Peripheral Tunnels,” said Barbara Barrigan- 
Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta.

“State government officials are acting like bullies and are  
interfering with the rights of Delta residents to state how they feel  
about Governor Brown’s plan to build the twin tunnels which will  
destroy their homes, their businesses, Bay area and coastal  
fisheries, and the largest estuary on the Pacific Coast of the Americas.

“CalTrans did not follow the required process about notifying people  
to move signs if CalTrans believed they were not located properly.  
CalTrans does not have the right to enter private property to remove  
signs without following the legal process described in the Business  
and Professions Code.

“Delta residents were threatened by CalTrans employees with huge  
$10,000 fines. CalTrans told Restore the Delta that residents could  
be fined if their signs were not 660 feet from the public right of way.

“CalTrans does not enforce these same requirements up and down Hwy  
99, H146, and I-5, where the water-takers post signs about wanting  
even more water at the expense of the Delta. The law is not enforced  
equally throughout the state — one standard for the Delta, one  
standard for mega growers in Westlands, Semitropic and Kern County  
water districts."

"This unequal treatment of Delta residents under the law mirrors how  
water quality and quantity laws for the Delta are ignored by the  
State Water Resources Control Board, the Department of Water  
Resources, and the Delta Stewardship Council — all to benefit  
Westside San Joaquin Valley mega-growers.

“Who decided that our signs needed to be confiscated? Is the Delta  
now fully under the ‘control’ of the State of California that they  
can dictate to private land and business owners?” Barrigan-Parrilla  
asked.

Click here to view the First Amendment Opinion Letter: http:// 
www.restorethedelta.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Frist-Amendment- 
Project-Opinion-Letter-Caltrans.pdf.

For more information, contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546; steve  
[at] hopcraft.com; Twitter: @shopcraft
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla 209/479-2053 barbara [at]  
restorethedelta.org; Twitter: @RestoretheDelta, http:// 
www.restorethedelta.org

Background: Brown continues and expands Schwarzenegger's terrible  
environmental policies

The rush to build the peripheral tunnels, in spite of widespread  
opposition, is not the only abysmal Schwarzenegger administration  
environmental policy that the Brown administration has continued and  
expanded. Brown continued and expanded the massive water exports and  
fish kills at the Delta pumps that the Schwarzenegger regime became  
notorious for.

The Brown administration authorized the export of record water  
amounts of water from the Delta in 2011 – 6,520,000 acre-feet,  
217,000 acre feet more than the previous record of 6,303,000 acre  
feet set in 2005 under the Schwarzenegger administration.

Brown also presided over the "salvage" of a record 9 million  
Sacramento splittail and over 2 million other fish including Central  
Valley salmon, steelhead, striped bass, largemouth bass, threadfin  
shad, white catfish and sturgeon in 2011. (http:// 
www.counterpunch.org/2012/05/07/carnage-in-the-pumps/)

In addition, Brown and Natural Resources Secretary John Laird  
continued the privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA)  
Initiative started by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2004. The conflicts  
of interest, failure to comprehensively protect the ocean, shadowy  
private funding, incomplete and terminally flawed science and  
violation of the Yurok Tribe's traditional harvesting rights have  
made the MLPA Initiative to create so-called "marine protected areas  
into one of the worst examples of corporate greenwashing in  
California history.

In a huge conflict of interest, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of  
the Western States Petroleum Association, chaired the Marine Life  
Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so- 
called "marine protected areas" in Southern California. Reheis-Boyd,  
the oil industry's lead lobbyist for fracking, offshore oil drilling,  
the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline and the evisceration of  
environmental laws, also served on the MLPA task forces for the North  
Coast, North Central Coast and Central Coast.

Other environmental policies of the Schwarzenegger administration  
that Brown and Laird have continued include engineering the collapse  
of six Delta fish populations by pumping massive quantities of water  
out of the Delta; presiding over the annual stranding of endangered  
coho salmon on the Scott and Shasta rivers; clear cutting forests in  
the Sierra Nevada; supporting legislation weakening the California  
Environmental Water Quality Act (CEQA); and embracing the corruption  
and conflicts of interests that infest California environmental  
processes and government bodies ranging from the Bay Delta  
Conservation Plan to the regional water boards.

Now Brown has apparently expanded his war on fish, rivers, the ocean  
and the environment to the First Amendment as he confiscates signs of  
those who oppose the peripheral tunnels. What will Caltrans do next -  
start pulling bumper stickers off the vehicles of peripheral tunnel  
opponents?
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