The Common Law

LCRA wants to build a high-voltage power line on my property

The LCRA has sent me multiple notices saying it wants to take a portion of my property to build huge, ugly electric transmission lines and towers. LCRA says it can condemn my property using the power of eminent domain. What are my rights in this situation?


The LCRA seeks to exercise its power of eminent domain, which is the power held by the government (and other entities authorized by the government) to condemn and force the sale of private property for public purposes.

Many Central Texas landowners will unfortunately be forced to learn more about eminent domain and condemnation through personal experience. As Texas' population grows, so does the government's desire to take private property to build infrastructure – highways, roads, high-speed rail lines, high-voltage electric transmission lines, and pipelines. Central Texas landowners are currently being affected by numerous condemnation projects, including efforts by the LCRA to build high-voltage power lines in Williamson, Gillespie, and Guadalupe counties. These power lines, including the lines LCRA plans to build in densely populated areas like Leander and Round Rock, will have a lasting impact on the properties they encumber.

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution creates the government's eminent-domain power. The Fifth Amendment states, "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." According to the U.S. Supreme Court, eminent domain must be "received as a postulate of the Constitution" in order to invest the government with "full and complete power to execute and carry out its purposes." The government's right to take your property, however, is not unfettered. The government must satisfy basic threshold requirements in order to exercise its power of eminent domain. For example, the government must demonstrate that there is a public necessity for the project and that the project will serve a public use.

The Fifth Amendment also protects property owners by forcing payment of "just compensation" for the property taken. Likewise, Article I, Section 17 of the Texas Constitution guarantees property owners "adequate compensation" when their property is "taken, damaged, or destroyed" for public use.

If you are a landowner who could face future condemnation, be sure to read the next two months of "The Common Law," as upcoming columns will address protecting landowners' rights during the condemnation process for high-voltage electric transmission lines.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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