Originally published May 16 2013
Private land stolen in Texas via secret eminent domain meetings of local water authority
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) There is a potential scandal brewing in Texas involving a "long-term property seizure scheme" involving the Tarrant County Regional Water District, in which its employees have been abusing eminent domain privileges and forcing homeowners and businesses off of their properties, then awarding no-bid contracts in secret meetings that have not been reported to the public, Breitbart News is reporting.
According to the news site, here is some background:
The Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) was created in the 1920s, originally designed with a mandate for water supply and flood control. The TRWD owns three lakes, operates five others, and oversees flood control inside the political boundaries of the district, while providing water supply to the Northern Trinity River Water Basin, which stretches across eleven counties in North Texas.
In the last decade, the TRWD initiated a billion dollar "economic development" project called Trinity River Vision. It has allowed the TRWD to seize vast tracts of private and commercial properties and spend hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money - always awarded in no-bid contracts to the same local firms.
Only a small part of Tarrant County's population may vote for the five-person water district Board. Three seats are up for election on May 11th, with early voting already underway. Three challengers are seeking to return accountability and transparency to the Board.
'To promote state or local economic development'Water districts were first given power, via eminent domain, to seize property in 1995, per legislation authored by state Rep. Gerald Yost, "to provide for the conservation, preservation, protection, recharging, and prevention of waste of the groundwater." The intent of the legislation was to strictly limit the use of eminent domain to issues that involved water supply and flood control inside a particular water district.
Enter the Trinity River Vision, introduced by the TRWD in 2003 and adopted by the Fort Worth City Council, which allowed it to bypass a vote of residents (http://www.trinityrivervision.org). Ostensibly designed to "preserve and enhance the river and its corridors," residents eventually complained that the TRWD was actually engaged in economic development, under the guise of "flood control."
Water district officials denied the allegations, but in 2005's state legislative session, HB 2639 granted an enormous amount of power to the TRWD - and only that water district - permitting it to "promote state or local economic development," according to the language of the bill. This far exceeded the district's traditional flood control and water supply authority, Breitbart reported.
In addition, HB 2639 allowed the district to create a non-profit corporation, called the Trinity River Vision Authority, for which further extensions of eminent domain were extended. Per Breitbart:
Now, eminent domain - the power for the government to seize property - was suddenly in the hands of a non-profit corporation, with no public oversight. This gave the TRWD the power to seize any land for any reason, not only in the district, but anywhere it extended its "water service area" without public voter approval, allegedly to serve the "flood-control" project called Trinity River Vision.
'Eminent domain capital of the world'There is more to this rising tide of corruption. Jim Oliver, TRWD's general manager, chose the firm J.D. Granger to oversee its operations, all without conducting a job search, according to Breitbart, which added: "Granger's previous occupation was an assistant district attorney, with no apparent experience in business, infrastructure, civil engineering, or water matters. His salary was set at $110,000 per year. Jim Oliver currently earns over $330,000 in annual salary."
Since this arrangement was made, substantial amounts of land have now been taken, all under the rubric of "eminent domain."
Others have noticed. In 2010, for example, the Fort Worth Business Press referred to Tarrant County as "the eminent domain capital of the world."
There is much more to this report. Read it in its entirety here.
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