(Washington, D.C.) Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers today voted against H.R. 986, the Eightmile Wild and Scenic River Act, which weakens private property rights. The bill designates 25.3 miles of the Eightmile River as components of the National Wild and Scenic River System. The designation requires a freeze on any physical alteration to the land and allows the National Park Service to prohibit projects on federal land and tighten zoning restrictions on private land.
“Private ownership of property is a fundamental constitutional right and it is deeply concerning to see this right trampled on by politicians and judges in Washington D.C.,” said McMorris Rodgers. “People should be confident in knowing that the government will not come and seize their property or regulate its use. This legislation is a step in the wrong and is reminiscent of the Supreme Court’s misguided decision in Kelo v. New London.”
In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. New London that government entities had the ability to take any American citizen’s private property, at any time, for virtually any reason that could be defended as a “public use.”
The Fifth Amendment holds that private property shall not be taken by the government for public use without just compensation. However, the Eightmile Wild and Scenic River Act allows private property to be condemned or restricted at will – with or without just compensation.
This designation as a National Wild and Scenic River System may result in strict regulations and will impact landowners who may have inadequate knowledge of this project and the land use restrictions. The management plan proposes regulations that amount to down zoning. This will have undue impacts on property values of owners who have not consented to or been informed about this designation. Some property owners along the river have preserved their land with the intention of selling or conducting further construction in order to use the proceeds for retirement. Such goals will be destroyed by this legislation.
Last Congress, McMorris cosponsored the Private Property Right Protection Act to enhance the penalty for states and localities that abuse their eminent domain power by denying them all federal economic development funds for a period of two years.