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Vandalism on houses on Ponderosa Road

Boarded-up houses slated for demolition to make way for the California high speed rail project line the west side of Ponderosa Road east of Hanford. Work on the alignment through Kings County is expected to take place in the area next week.

High-speed rail related road work is coming to Kings County next week.

Shoulder closures are slated to take place on both East Lacey Boulevard and Seventh Road, according to Toni Tinoco, a spokeswoman for the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

The sections of road with the closures are between Highway 43 and Seventh Avenue in the area of Ponderosa, the county enclave on East Lacey.

Tinoco said workers will be identifying the location of underground utility lines. 

The work is preparation for a planned high-speed rail line running north-south in the vicinity. There will be no road lane closures associated with the work.

The alignment requires the demolition of several houses on the west side of Ponderosa Road in the Ponderosa neighborhood.

Tinoco said it hasn't been decided whether the alignment will be an overpass above Highway 198 or whether an undercrossing will be constructed.

Tinoco said the shoulder work was slated for this week, but was postponed. She said that authority-affiliated workers will be doing utility-related work with Pacific Gas and Electric in the Corcoran area this week.

The alignment swings around the east side of Corcoran.

Demolition of six boarded-up homes on the west side of Ponderosa Road is slated for April.

Tinoco said the authority distributed a flier to Ponderosa residents telling them of the scheduled work.

The notification states that demolition-related work will start "approximately Monday, April 4" and is expected to last three weeks.

News of the planned work comes as Kings County's legal fight against the California High-Speed Rail Authority has stalled.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny has twice ruled against a 2011 lawsuit filed by the county and two local property owners against the project.

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The suit alleges that the proposed project is not in compliance with Proposition 1A, the successful 2008 ballot measure that gave voter approval for approximately $10 billion in bonds to build a Los-Angeles-to-Bay-Area high-speed train system.

Kings County officials are considering an appeal.

A separate Kings County lawsuit arguing that the authority filed an inadequate environmental impact report is on hold.

The courts are trying to decide whether the project is exempt from the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act.

In other high-speed rail news, a train-related ballot measure nicknamed the "dam train" initiative that was slated to go on the 2016 ballot may now be targeted for 2018.

The measure would shift bullet train funding to water projects in California.

The measure's backers, including the Hanford-based California Water Alliance, have announced that they may not be able to collect the required number of signatures by April 26 to get it on the November 2016 ballot.

Instead, they are looking at the fallback option of qualifying it for the November 2018 ballot. 

Supporters must obtain the verified signatures of 585,407 registered California voters.

Aubrey Bettencourt, California Water Alliance executive director, said in a written statement that the large number of initiatives targeted for the November 2016 ballot is driving the cost of signature-gathering to "astronomical levels."

"Most ballot measures in the field are struggling to acquire the necessary signatures they need to qualify," Bettencourt said. "If we have all the signatures ready by the April 26 deadline for the 2016 ballot, we will submit."

Along with a coalition of powerful environmental groups and Democratic legislators united against it, the measure has generated divisions in the Central Valley agricultural community that hearken back to a split over the $7.5 billion water bond passed by voters in November 2014.

Opponents of the "dam train" initiative believe that they will get $2.7 billion from the bond to fund new dams at Temperance Flat and Sites Reservoir. They think the proposed initiative would hijack and jeopardize the water bond funding process for Temperance and Sites.

Supporters of the ballot measure believe Temperance and Sites won't get funded under the water bond. They think the money will go to smaller projects that won't increase the water supply for San Joaquin Valley agriculture amid ongoing drought. They believe the initiative would guarantee that Temperance and Sites will get built.

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The reporter can be reached at snidever@hanfordsentinel.com or 583-2432. Follow him on Twitter @snidever.

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