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Trial in City of Portola versus state continues

The Chester Progressive of Chester, California

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Several witnesses were called by the city last week during week two of the trial pitting the City of Portola against the State of California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The city is seeking damages from the state over its 2007 poisoning of Lake Davis.

The line of questioning by both sides appeared to indicate that some level of mishandling of the pike eradication process might have occurred.

Attorneys from both sides began many questions by starting their sentences: "In the 'over poisoning' of lake Davis...."

As in the week before, the state seemed to focus its questions around the idea that those representing the city in the days leading up to the 2007 lake poisoning were in agreement with the treatment process being used to eradicate non-native fish species.

However, former City Manager James Murphy stated that, while he understood the pike eradication was necessary, he never thought at the time that the DFW would "over poison" the drinking water for the city. He added the operation introduced parasite-infected fish that further damaged the ability to restore Lake Davis to the trophy trout fishery it once was.

"We were completely surprised. Both of those. issues were contrary to what we were led to believe," said Murphy.

Real estate value declines

Testimony given on Oct. 15 by Arthur Gimmy, the business and real estate appraiser hired by the city to assess the financial impact of the "over poisoning" indicated a severe drop in both residential and commercial sales due to the eradication process.

Gimmy compared the values in Portola to the Chester/Lake Almanor area, testifying that both areas have similar amenities such as golf course communities. He said they are both rural mountain areas with a recreation-based lake nearby and similar commercial offerings.

Gimmy concluded that between 2006 and 2013, the total property price decline in Portola, compared to Chester, due to the Lake Davis eradication project resulted in a 20 percent reduction in commercial sales and a 30 percent reduction in residential sales, all else being equal.

The state's attorney, Kevin Reager, questioned the properties used in the comparison and referred to those in Portola as "two-bedroom shacks" as opposed to the lake front homes in lake Almanor.

Closing arguments and jury deliberations

Additional witnesses are still to be called by the city. And the state is expected to call at least one on its behalf prior to the close of testimony.

The case is expected to wrap up this week with closing arguments. The jury is expected to begin its deliberations by the end of the day, Wednesday, Oct. 21.

The trial is being held in the main Superior Courtroom on the third floor of the Plumas County Courthouse at 520 Main Street in Quincy. Proceedings start each morning promptly at 8:30 a.m. with plenty of seating for the public.

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Original Publication Date: October 21, 2015

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