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How does eminent domain apply to land underwater?

Muleshoe lake landowner Wayne Hoang Nhut Doan filed a lawsuit against TransCanada Keystone Pipeline LP for trespassing on his property when installing a pipeline.

The company had asked Doan to sign an agreement for the pipeline to proceed across the lake. When Doan refused to sign, the company simply filed for eminent domain and was able do the work anyway.

Why were they able to proceed?

For businesses providing oil "for the common good," it's easy to get an easement of use by condemning the land, stating it is needed for the use of the pipeline. Eminent domain claims are used when the pipeline is not able to come up with an agreement with the property owner. The landowner is then provided with financial compensation for the easement.

Initially, TransCanada received a license from the Port Authority to build the pipeline across Doan's property. Later, the company was informed that the sole owner of the land in question was Doan. The matter was brought to court, and TransCanada was allowed an easement condemnation in order to proceed with the pipeline project. With jurisdiction in question, Doan was awarded only $139.

What recourse do landowners have?

Doan took his case to the appellate court, which ruled he was not entitled to any further compensation because the easement obtained by TransCanada was legal. They also ruled that Doan should have reserved his right to have the complaint reviewed again for the amount of money offered by Keystone. Therefore, the court ruled that the company did not trespass on Doan's land.

Now, Doan has no further recourse in the court system, and TransCanada was allowed to build a pipeline across his submerged property.

Eminent domain cases are difficult to fight, but an experienced attorney can help protect your land ownership rights.

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