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105th Congress Report
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
1st Session 105-171
TO VALIDATE CERTAIN CONVEYANCES IN THE CITY OF TULARE, TULARE COUNTY,
July 8, 1997.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the
State of the Union and ordered to be printed
Mr. Young of Alaska, from the Committee on Resources, submitted the
R E P O R T
[To accompany H.R. 960]
[Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]
The Committee on Resources, to whom was referred the bill
(H.R. 960) to validate certain conveyances in the City of
Tulare, Tulare County, California, and for other purposes,
having considered the same, report favorably thereon with an
amendment and recommend that the bill as amended do pass.
The amendment is as follows:
Strike out all after the enacting clause and insert in lieu
thereof the following:
SECTION 1. FINDINGS.
The Congress finds that:
(1) It is in the Federal Government's interest to facilitate
local development of jobs in areas of high unemployment.
(2) Railroad interests in rights-of-way prevent local
communities from obtaining clear title to property for
development unless the city also obtains the Federal
reversionary interest in those rights-of-way.
(3) For development purposes, in order to secure needed
financing, the City of Tulare Redevelopment Agency requires
clear title to certain parcels of land within the city's
business corridor that are part of a railroad right-of-way.
SEC. 2. TULARE CONVEYANCE.
(a) In General.--Subject to subsections (c) and (d), all conveyances
to the Redevelopment Agency of the City of Tulare, California, of lands
described in subsection (b), heretofore or hereafter, made directly by
the Southern Pacific Transportation Company, or its successors, are
hereby validated to the extent that the conveyances would be legal or
valid if all right, title, and interest of the United States, except
minerals, were held by the Southern Pacific Transportation Company.
(b) Lands Described.--The lands referred to in subsection (a) are the
parcels shown on the map entitled ``Tulare Redevelopment Agency-
Railroad Parcels Proposed to be Acquired'', dated 5/29/97, that formed
part of a railroad right-of-way granted to the Southern Pacific
Railroad Company, or its successors, agents, or assigns, by the Federal
Government (including the right-of-way approved by an Act of Congress
on July 27, 1866). The map referred to in this subsection shall be on
file and available for public inspection in the offices of the Director
of the Bureau of Land Management.
(c) Preservation of Existing Rights of Access.--Nothing in this
section shall impair any existing rights of access in favor of the
public or any owner of adjacent lands over, under or across the lands
which are referred to in subsection (a).
(d) Minerals.--The United States disclaims any and all right of
surface entry to the mineral estate of lands described in subsection
purpose of the bill
The purpose of H.R. 960 is to validate certain conveyances
in the City of Tulare, Tulare County, California.
background and need for legislation
From 1862 to 1871, Congress passed the Pacific Railroad
Acts to promote a system of railroads in the western United
States. The Acts granted the Southern Pacific Railroad Company
a right-of-way along the route where the railroad tracks were
eventually laid. In Tulare, California, this right of way
measures 220 feet on both sides of the tracks, and falls within
the city's Downtown Redevelopment Area.
The courts have characterized this right-of-way grant as a
``limited fee made on an implied condition of reverter'' if the
Railroad ceased to use the right-of-way for the purpose for
which it was granted. If the Railroad ever forfeited or
abandoned the land for railroad purposes, ownership of the land
would revert to the United States. The Bureau of Land
Management (BLM) would then manage these areas.
Over 100 years have passed since the Railroad started using
this right-of-way and its successor Union Pacific still runs
over 30 trains per day through the city. However, because the
Railroad is technically unable to pass clear title to the land
within the right-of-way, development along the tracks is
practically impossible. Consequently, the City of Tulare has a
barren strip of weeds, sand and abandoned buildings 200 feet
wide on both sides of the tracks.
H.R. 960 will facilitate redevelopment of the City's
downtown area by effectively transferring the federal
reversionary interest in 12 parcels of property (including one
the City already attempted to purchase) from the Southern
Pacific Railroad to the Tulare Redevelopment Agency so that the
Agency can pursue a ten-year redevelopment program. Commercial
development currently stops at the eastern border of the
parcels addressed by the bill and the railroad right of way. To
proceed with financing, marketing and other redevelopment
activities, the Agency must have the ability to acquire title
to all of these parcels without the incumberance of the federal
reversionary interest. The presence of a federal reversionary
interest in these lands prevents the Agency from dealing with
the current railroad to carry out its redevelopment plans.
The lands addressed by the bill are not attractive to the
BLM, which has indicated that it would seek to transfer them to
the City if the parcels were to return to full federal control.
The Committee recommends that the reversionary interest covered
by the bill be transferred as the bill allows, so that the
Agency and Railroad can begin discussion of ways to facilitate
development without the federal reversionary interest standing
in the way of any options either party may wish to discuss.
H.R. 960 was introduced on March 5, 1997, by Congressman
William Thomas (R-CA). The bill was referred to the Committee
on Resources, and within the Committee to the Subcommittee on
National Parks and Public Lands. On May 20, 1997, the
Subcommittee held a hearing on H.R. 960, where the
Administration testified in support of H.R. 960 if certain
changes were made to the bill as introduced. On June 19, 1997,
the Subcommittee met to mark up H.R. 960. An amendment in the
nature of substitute was offered by Congressman James V. Hansen
(R-UT) which eliminated any waivers of other laws, clarified
the language that will transfer the reversionary interest to
the Tulare Redevelopment Agency, and preserved the mineral
interest ownership with the Federal Government. The amendment
was adopted by voice vote and the bill, as amended, was then
ordered favorably reported to the Full Committee. On June 25,
1997, the Full Resources Committee met to consider H.R. 960. A
technical amendment to correct the date of the referenced map
was offered by Congressman George Radanovich (R-CA), and
adopted by voice vote. The bill, as amended, was then ordered
favorably reported to the House of Representatives by voice
COMMITTEE OVERSIGHT FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
With respect to the requirements of clause 2(l)(3) of rule
XI of the Rules of the House of Representatives, and clause
2(b)(1) of rule X of the Rules of the House of Representatives,
the Committee on Resources' oversight findings and
recommendations are reflected in the body of this report.
CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY STATEMENT
Article I, section 8 and Article IV, section 3 of the
Constitution of the United States grant Congress the authority
to enact H.R. 960.
COST OF THE LEGISLATION
Clause 7(a) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of
Representatives requires an estimate and a comparison by the
Committee of the costs which would be incurred in carrying out
H.R. 960. However, clause 7(d) of that rule provides that this
requirement does not apply when the Committee has included in
its report a timely submitted cost estimate of the bill
prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget Office
under section 403 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
COMPLIANCE WITH HOUSE RULE XI
1. With respect to the requirement of clause 2(l)(3)(B) of
rule XI of the Rules of the House of Representatives and
section 308(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, H.R.
960 does not contain any new budget authority, spending
authority, credit authority, or an increase or decrease in tax
expenditures. According to the Congressional Budget Office, if
H.R. 960 is enacted, the bill could affect revenues but that
the likelihood of any revenue to the U.S. Treasury from the
sale of the land underlying the rights-of-way transferred under
this bill ``is small.''
2. With respect to the requirement of clause 2(l)(3)(D) of
rule XI of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the
Committee has received no report of oversight findings and
recommendations from the Committee on Government Reform and
Oversight on the subject of H.R. 960.
3. With respect to the requirement of clause 2(l)(3)(C) of
rule XI of the Rules of the House of Representatives and
section 403 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the
Committee has received the following cost estimate for H.R. 960
from the Director of the Congressional Budget Office.
CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE COST ESTIMATE
Congressional Budget Office,
Washington, DC, July 3, 1997.
Hon. Don Young,
Chairman, Committee on Resources,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 960, a bill to
validate certain conveyances in the city of Tulare, Tulare
County, California, and for other purposes.
If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contacts are Victoria V.
Heid (for federal costs) and Marjorie Miller (for the state and
Paul Van de Water
(For June E. O'Neill, Director).
H.R. 960--A bill to validate certain conveyances in the city of Tulare,
Tulare County, California, and for other purposes
H.R. 960 would give the Southern Pacific Transportation
Company or its successors the right to convey title to certain
lands in the city of Tulare, California, that form part of a
right-of-way previously granted to the railroad by the federal
government. Hence, the bill would validate land conveyances
where the federal government owns the underlying title and the
railroad controls the right-of-way. The bill would apply to
both past and future conveyances. CBO estimates that enacting
H.R. 960 would have little or no impact on the federal budget.
If the railroad ceased to operate on the right-of-way, then
land comprising the right-of-way would revert to federal
ownership. According to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), if
the agency were to receive the land it would have no interest
in retaining ownership and would either sell it, exchange it,
or transfer it to local government. BLM estimates that the
portion of the right-of-way that would be affected by H.R. 960
has a market value of about $300,000.
Enacting H.R. 960 would affect direct spending if property
that would have reverted to the federal government and been
sold under current law is instead not sold because of
conveyances made pursuant to this bill. Because the bill could
affect direct spending, pay-as-you-go procedures would apply.
But the likelihood of any income to the Treasury from sale of
the affected property over the next 10 years is small.
H.R. 960 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995
and would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal
governments. The bill would benefit the city of Tulare by
clearing the title to one parcel of land already purchased by
the city and allowing the Tulare Redevelopment Agency to
purchase and develop several additional parcels.
The CBO staff contacts for this estimate are Victoria V.
Heid (for federal costs) and Marjorie Miller (for the state and
local impact). This estimate was approved by Paul N. Van de
Water, Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.
compliance with public law 104-4
H.R. 960 contains no unfunded mandates.
changes in existing law
If enacted, H.R. 960 would make no changes in existing law.
The United States gave Southern Pacific Transportation
Company an interest in the lands that are the subject of H.R.
960 through a right-of-way granted under the Pacific Railroads
Act of July 1, 1862, ch. 120, 12 Stat. 489, as amended. Section
2 of the Act granted a 400 foot-wide right-of-way through the
public lands of the United States ``For the construction of a
railroad and telegraph line.''
In Northern Pac. Ry v. Townsend, 190 U.S. 267, 271 (1903),
the right-of-way grant was characterized as a ``limited fee
made on an implied condition of reverter'' in the event that
the railroad ceased to use the right-of-way for the purpose for
which it was granted. Under these conditions, if the railroad
were to cease use of the right-of-way, and a forfeiture were
declared by the Congress or a judicial proceeding initiated by
the Attorney General of the United States, the railroad would
lose its interest in the land, which would revert to the
The National Trails System Act (16 U.S.C. 1241) provides
that ``* * * all right, title, interest, and estate of the
United States in all rights-of-way * * * shall remain in the
United States upon the abandonment of forfeiture * * *''. This
Act establishes a mechanism by which the reverted land can be
used for recreation trails. H.R. 960 would preempt the National
Trails System Act by eliminating the reversionary interest.
The City of Tulare wants to buy the right-of-way land
alongside the railroad to sell or lease through the City of
Tulare Redevelopment Agency. The railroad, however, does not
own the land (the taxpayers do), and so the title is not
cleared to convey. One parcel in the City of Tulare has already
been sold by the railroad despite the fact it did not own the
land. This legislation would validate title to the parcel
already sold as well as prospectively extinguishing federal
reversion rights on all lands within the redevelopment plan
area, thereby giving Southern Pacific Transportation Company
clear title to sell the lands and to profit from their
In the past Congress has validated some limited conveyances
in situations where the new owner purchased the land in good
faith without realizing there was a reversion interest to the
federal government. Parcels approved in the past have been of
little monetary value and were mostly used for private housing.
This legislation will mark the first time that Congress
prospectively validated parcels in this manner before they were
sold and before any party was misled about the title of land
which it had purchased.
Enactment of this legislation will be the first time the
United States relinquishes its interest in railroad rights-of-
way lands for the purpose of community redevelopment. By all
accounts the City of Tulare is in need of revitalization.
Extinguishing federal rights to this land may help the
redevelopment of the area. How much profit Southern Pacific
Transportation Company realizes from selling the federal
interest will presumably be determined through price
negotiations with the City of Tulare.
It should be noted that this legislation responds to a
specific and unique set of circumstances in the City of Tulare.
In this instance, the federal government has determined that if
the railroad right of way lands were to revert, the federal
government would not be interested in managing the lands.
Passage of this legislation should not be perceived as
endorsing the concept of the federal government giving away
public rights without just compensation.