The Plaintiffs are the fee owners of property abutting and underlying a portion of a 17.86-mile railroad right-of-way located in Benton County, Oregon and have filed their inverse condemnation claims against the federal government.
The railroad was originally established by the Portland, Eugene & Eastern Railroad Company and the Corvallis and Alsea River Railway in the early 1900s, which obtained only easements granted for the operation of a railroad and not for any other purpose. Under the terms of the relevant easement instruments and under Oregon law, once the Railroad ceased operating a railroad across the right-of-way, the railroad easements were abandoned, and the Plaintiff — as the fee owner — regained its right to the exclusive use and physical possession of his property.
The railroad right-of-way is currently owned by the Union Pacific Railroad Company (as successor to the Southern Pacific Transportation Company) and has been leased and operated by the Willamette & Pacific Railroad, Inc. since 1993. The railroad has not been used since 2007.
On September 9, 2011, the federal Surface Transportation Board issued an order (the Notice of Interim Trail Use or Abandonment, or NITU), which authorized the railroad to negotiate with a trail operator for trail use. The federal order — the NITU — prevented the landowners from regaining their state law rights to the land. And instead, the federal order allowed two new easements to be imposed on the property — one for recreational use and another for future railroad use at anytime in the future.
The Oregon landowners filed their claims for compensation on January 14, 2014. The landowners will be filing their motion for summary judgment on the issue of the government’s liability on September 15, 2014 in the United States Court of Federal Claims asking Judge Nancy B. Firestone to find the government liable for taking their property. Briefing is scheduled to be completed by January 2015.
For more information about this case, please contact Meghan S. Largent.