B2H : What is Eminent Domain?

The Boardman to Hemingway transmission line, or B2H, promises a 500-kilovolt transmission line that, when completed, will run from Boardman, Oregon to Melba, Idaho. Jointly constructed, operated, and maintained by the Idaho Power Administration and the Bonneville Power Administration, the project has faced much opposition from private property owners who find that their land will be condemned, or taken for use in this project.

What is Eminent Domain?

Eminent domain is the power of the government to take, or “condemn,” private property for public use. Public utility companies, even if they are operated by private corporations, may also take your property for public use. Any agency or company taking property under eminent domain is called the “condemning agency.”

To condemn a property under eminent domain, two conditions must be met. First, the condemned property must be used to benefit the public. Second, the condemning agency must pay just compensation to the landowner.

What is a Public Use?

Condemned property must be used to benefit the public. Common examples are road expansions, bridges and utility lines both above and below ground.

It is usually easy for the condemning agency to meet the public use requirement. The legislature first defines “public use” and determines which agencies or companies have the ability to take property for public use. A condemning agency does not have to choose a design or route for their project that has the lowest impact on property owners.

What is Just Compensation?

“Just compensation” is the fair market value of the property being taken by the condemning agency. Simply stated, this is how much money you will be paid for your property. The requirement for “just compensation” is in the United Constitution: “…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

People rarely agree on the “fair market value” of real estate and how much your remaining property’s value is worth after condemnation.

To determine the value of your property, the condemning agency’s own appraiser will inspect the property and produce a report. The condemning agency will then make an initial offer based on that report. The condemning agency has an interest in paying you as little as possible; their initial offer may not make you whole. While it is not likely to prevent an agency from taking your land for a roadway or utility line such as B2H. However, you can take steps to ensure that you are paid fairly for your property.

Consult an Attorney at Baum Smith

We work for owners of property affected by condemnation. “Just compensation” becomes whatever we negotiate with the condemning agency or what is determined by a jury of your peers during a trial. We work with you to hire a third-party appraiser who is experienced in land condemnation and eminent domain. This is not the same appraiser who valued your home when you purchased it; the appraiser needed depends on a variety of factors, such as how your land is currently being used and how it will be utilized after condemnation. We are your advocate with the condemnation agency, the court and the jury. We help people receive just compensation with their land is taken.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys, please call our office at (541) 963-3104 or contact us online at baumsmith.com.  

The content of this blog is intended to be general and informational in nature. It is advertising material and is not intended to be legal advice to or for any particular person, case, or circumstance. Every matter is different, and you should consult an attorney if you have any questions about your situation