Lawyers for farming giant J.G. Boswell Co. have asked for more time to analyze and comment on plans to run high-speed trains through the company's property near Corcoran.
In a 13-page letter to the California High-Speed Rail Authority, attorney Robert Dowd complained that the current 60-day comment period is "plainly insufficient to allow any meaningful comment on 17,000 pages" of environmental documents for the Fresno-to-Bakersfield section of the statewide train project.
Oct. 13 is the deadline for the public to respond to the draft environmental impact report. Dowd is asking for a deadline in mid-February.
The point of the Sept. 8 letter, Dowd said, is "fairness to the public."
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"If the purpose is having someone comment on something, we trust that you truly want meaningful comment," he said.
When the environmental reports for the Merced-Fresno and Fresno-Bakersfield sections were issued in mid-August, the rail authority set a 45-day comment period. That was later extended to 60 days – a time Dowd said is still "grossly inadequate."
"It's an absurdity to suggest that's enough time for this most expensive infrastructure project in the state," he said.
Dowd would not comment on whether the Boswell Co. might sue if the extension is denied.
"We're asking [the authority] to be reasonable," Dowd said. "We trust that they'll be reasonable and grant this request. ... That would eliminate any issue of legal action."
Dowd said he expects a reply "very soon."
Rachel Wall, a spokeswoman for the rail authority, said she had not seen Dowd's letter and was limited by the formality of the environmental review process. But she said she expected that the authority will respond to the Boswell request during the review period.