A local public-utility district is legally allowed to use eminent domain to take over state forest land, a court has ruled.
“We conclude that the State trust lands may be condemned as a matter of law,” a unanimous three-judge Court of Appeals panel wrote, siding with a PUD trying to build a power line in the Methow Valley and against Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark.
I missed the ruling last week but the Methow Valley News covered it here:
The PUD can condemn state land for its Pateros-Twisp powerline, said the Court of Appeals in Spokane in a ruling issued Tuesday (May 7). The decision comes after three years of litigation over the Okanogan County Public Utility District’s efforts to claim by eminent domain land that the state has argued cannot be condemned because it is already devoted to a public use – namely, leased for grazing.
While it’s a dry legal subject, it could have implications for the management of the state trust land that earns revenue for school construction. And it caps a high-profile argument between Goldmark and former Attorney General Rob McKenna that played a role in McKenna’s unsuccessful gubernatorial bid.
The state Supreme Court forced McKenna to represent Goldmark after the top lawyer said the case wasn’t worth appealing.
The high court could end up seeing this case as well. Goldmark’s spokesman said he hasn’t decided whether to appeal once again but he’s “disappointed” and “exploring what would be the most appropriate next step.”