Information Relating to the Railroad Lawsuit
Dear BJWSA Customer,
In 2009, the Beaufort-Jasper Water and Sewer Authority (BJWSA) purchased the Port Royal Railroad Right-of-Way (RR ROW) from the South Carolina State Ports Authority Our purpose was to better serve our customers by protecting the existing BJWSA infrastructure located within the RR ROW and simultaneously providing a benefit to the citizens of Beaufort County.
The RR ROW was purchased through the operation of the National Trails System Act, commonly referred to as the Trails Act, as part of a process known as “railbanking.” This “rails-totrails” initiative was a collaborative effort between the BJWSA, Beaufort County, the City of Beaufort, and the Town of Port Royal to convert the RR ROW into a trail that could be used for various recreational activities. As a result of the RR ROW purchase, many citizens are now able to take advantage of the popular Spanish Moss Trail in Northern Beaufort County.
Recently, one group of landowners along the RR ROW settled a class-action lawsuit they had brought against the United States federal government. In that lawsuit, those landowners claimed that the federal Surface Transportation Board’s decision to allow the RR ROW to be “railbanked” without the landowners receiving just compensation was unconstitutional. The federal government and the landowners in that lawsuit agreed to settle the case prior to a decision on the merits with the landowners receiving compensation for the fair market value of the land in dispute. Currently, there are two additional groups of landowners bringing very similar class-action lawsuits against the United States. Those two cases have not yet been resolved. The BJWSA was not involved in any way with these lawsuits.
However, certain landowners along the RR ROW have filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against the BJWSA. The landowners claim that the BJWSA is trespassing in the RR ROW and has illegally taken the landowners’ subsurface and aerial rights without just compensation. The landowners filed lawsuits in both federal and state court seeking monetary damages for their claims.
It is important to the BJWSA that its customers are aware of the pending lawsuit. We are working diligently to protect not only our infrastructure located within the RR ROW but also to protect those who rely on our water and sewer services. To be clear, the BJWSA purchased the RR ROW in good faith. We believe that we have acted appropriately, and we have engaged legal counsel to vigorously defend these lawsuits. And most importantly, we do not anticipate any interruption in the quality or delivery of our services.
For additional information specifically related to these lawsuits, please see the information on this site. We will continue to provide information regarding the status of the suit on our web page as we move forward. We appreciate your continued trust in BJWSA.
With Warm Personal Regards
—Ed Saxon, General Manager
Federal Complaint (PDF)
Federal Complaint Answer (PDF)