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Land-grabbers pay up

Borderlands dispute between state and federal agencies quietly settled

Border Field State Park looking east. Most of the land south of the road and the sides and top of Bunker Hill are now federal land.
Border Field State Park looking east. Most of the land south of the road and the sides and top of Bunker Hill are now federal land.

The Department of Homeland Security and the California State Parks have finally settled a lawsuit over about 58 acres of land along the U.S.-Mexico border, taken by the feds to beef up border presence in 2008.

Court documents indicate the condemnation action, which started six years ago, was settled quietly in federal court on May 14, with the feds paying the state parks $5.66 million — about $100,000 an acre — for land that was used to build fences and roads to facilitate Border Patrol enforcement.

View from the top of Bunker Hill looking north

The land begins at the Pacific Ocean and goes about a mile east to Goat Canyon; it includes almost all of the uplands in Border Field State Park. The strip is about 400 feet wide, except for the top of Bunker Hill (which widens to more than 550 feet) and the monument area at the beach, where the feds now own a strip about 150 feet wide, according to court documents.

Before the condemnation action, there was a fight between environmentalists, who were trying to protect wildlife corridors and native plants, and the Border Patrol, who were trying to protect the nation — they wanted to build a paved road. The conflict ended when the Border Patrol seized the land with the blessing of Congress, allowing for the construction of fences and roads without environmental review.

The feds also took 127 acres of land from the Tijuana River Valley County Regional Open Space immediately east of Border Field State Park — from Goat Canyon east to the International Boundary and Water Commission sewage treatment plant. That lawsuit settled in 2012 for $7 million.

It isn't clear whether the $5.66 million will remain with San Diego County parks, go into the state parks budget, or end up in the state general fund.

Lawyers for the state parks and Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on the settlement. A state-parks spokesman said that it has not been decided where the settlement money will end up.

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Border Field State Park looking east. Most of the land south of the road and the sides and top of Bunker Hill are now federal land.
Border Field State Park looking east. Most of the land south of the road and the sides and top of Bunker Hill are now federal land.

The Department of Homeland Security and the California State Parks have finally settled a lawsuit over about 58 acres of land along the U.S.-Mexico border, taken by the feds to beef up border presence in 2008.

Court documents indicate the condemnation action, which started six years ago, was settled quietly in federal court on May 14, with the feds paying the state parks $5.66 million — about $100,000 an acre — for land that was used to build fences and roads to facilitate Border Patrol enforcement.

View from the top of Bunker Hill looking north

The land begins at the Pacific Ocean and goes about a mile east to Goat Canyon; it includes almost all of the uplands in Border Field State Park. The strip is about 400 feet wide, except for the top of Bunker Hill (which widens to more than 550 feet) and the monument area at the beach, where the feds now own a strip about 150 feet wide, according to court documents.

Before the condemnation action, there was a fight between environmentalists, who were trying to protect wildlife corridors and native plants, and the Border Patrol, who were trying to protect the nation — they wanted to build a paved road. The conflict ended when the Border Patrol seized the land with the blessing of Congress, allowing for the construction of fences and roads without environmental review.

The feds also took 127 acres of land from the Tijuana River Valley County Regional Open Space immediately east of Border Field State Park — from Goat Canyon east to the International Boundary and Water Commission sewage treatment plant. That lawsuit settled in 2012 for $7 million.

It isn't clear whether the $5.66 million will remain with San Diego County parks, go into the state parks budget, or end up in the state general fund.

Lawyers for the state parks and Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on the settlement. A state-parks spokesman said that it has not been decided where the settlement money will end up.

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