U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
Susan Lauffer /S/ (Original Signed By S. Lauffer)
Director, Office of Real Estate Services
Date: December 8, 2000
This memo and attached information on land consolidation are provided to assist you on mitigation of right-of-way acquisitions in agricultural areas. Concern has been expressed about the impact on agricultural operations of a new highway which in some areas is planned to diagonally or otherwise bisect ownerships, disrupting operators, and leaving portions of a single ownership on opposite sides of an access controlled facility.
The proposed Interstate 69 is an example of a project which may impact agricultural ownerships. This type of acquisition and construction can create uneconomic land uses and dictate the need to install expensive land service facilities such as equipment underpasses, livestock underpasses and access roads. Disruption or elimination of viable agricultural uses could also have detrimental impacts on the community which relies on the disposable income from farm operations for a wide host of service industries.
We propose to you that special consideration be given to the mitigation of potential adverse agricultural impacts during the environmental assessment process.
Under the concept of mitigating the loss of viable agricultural properties, States may wish to explore the possibility of acquiring agricultural property offered for sale in the general corridor area and utilize these properties in exchange for agricultural property needed for the project. Additionally, remainder properties adjacent to the highway could be acquired and the State would facilitate land exchange and ownership consolidation.
Where States utilize such an approach, it has been determined that these activities would be eligible for Federal-aid reimbursement on the basis of environmental mitigation.
To qualify, each individual State must explore whether such techniques would effectively mitigate social, economic and environmental impacts of projects it is advancing. Further, any State considering such techniques will necessarily have to examine whether such activities can be accomplished or whether a modification of State law would be necessary.
We have attached a brief summary of information for your use. Should you have any questions, contact David Walterscheid at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mr. John R. Baxter
Mr. Andrew Hughes
Ms. Sandra L. Otto
Little Rock, AR
Mr. Jose Sepulveda
Charles S. Boyd
Mr. Curtis Dan Reagan
Mr. William A. Sussman
Baton Route, LA
cc: FHWA Realty Community of Practice
Mitigation of Agricultural Acquisition along the I-69 Corridor
The mitigation of property acquisition activities for highway right-of-way in agricultural areas can be an important factor in helping to blend acquisition activity into the fabric of the agricultural community. Acquisition payments and relocation benefits are basic entitlements. The payment of fair market value for the acquisition followed by moving costs and other relocation benefits help to ease the impacts resulting from the purchase and relocation of families and farm operations.
The bifurcation of agricultural properties, particularly where the acquisition reduces the property below the level of an economic unit, can create economic problems for owners. This is particularly problematic when due to increased costs of operation or other difficulties it is no longer feasible to obtain a reasonable return on investment or earn a decent living through agricultural pursuits.
Sensitivity to this issue can result in a number of positive steps under our historical processes. For example, Federal law mandates that offers be made to acquire "uneconomic remnants." Other existing remedies have included acquisition to a logical boundaries and acquisition of property remainders to facilitate negotiated settlements.
Reduction of viable agricultural units affects not only individual owners but could have adverse impacts on the social fabric of entire communities and the economic well being of areas along significant highway corridors.
It is recognized that the anticipated diagonal alignment of I-69 in some places could produce significant economic, social, environmental impacts along with Environmental Justice (EJ) issues. These EJ issues could involve dividing a community or altering access which is critical to some agricultural uses such as roadside produce stands where they are an important element of the agricultural income. In this regard we believe that it is appropriate to consider some special and extraordinary mitigation and land consolidation techniques.
We recommend that environmental documents for I-69 corridor projects consider mitigation measures, such as land consolidation. Such techniques could include purchasing excess remainder lands on each side of the highway and facilitating trades between owners to consolidate each owner on a single side of the highway. An additional technique could include the purchase of agricultural properties in the area outside the normal acquisition area to be exchanged for agricultural lands needed for the project. The State becomes the principle agent in making the appropriate purchases and in arranging trades and consolidation. The success of the program is dependent on the cooperation of those whose property is needed for the project.
While the primary emphasis is to benefit the property owners and mitigate the loss of agricultural lands a secondary impact may be to reduce the cost of land service facilities such as equipment, cattle crossings, access roads and the payment of damages.
In this manner we can help to mitigate what would otherwise be adverse impacts on individuals, families and agricultural operations.
At this point in time, the principle preliminary interest in these techniques has been expressed by the States of Mississippi, Indiana, and Arkansas. As we move forward we will discuss with you the authorities, techniques and obstacles associated with this mitigation approach.
As experience is gained in using these techniques we anticipate the completion of a research project which can result in the sharing of "Best Practices" with others.