U.S. to Pay Hahm, Levand $30.2M for Land Seized in Mojave Desert

U.S. to Pay $30M to Iron Ore Owners for Eminent Domain
– Daily Journal

The Daily Journal covered Manatt’s successful representation, led by partner Edward Burg, of Hahm International Inc. and Levand Steel & Supply Corp. in their eminent domain lawsuit against the United States.

A federal jury verdict in the U.S. District Court of California found that the United States government must pay $30.2 million to Hahm and Levand for 1,003 acres of land in San Bernardino County’s Johnson Valley. The United States took the land by eminent domain for expansion of the U.S. Marine Corps training base at Twentynine Palms and told the jury that the land was worth $5.6 million. The owners, however, claimed it was worth $38.6 million, because it contained a permitted iron ore mine that was slated to supply iron ore to the cement industry for the next 45 years.

Burg told the Daily Journal that federal trials for eminent domain cases are especially rare, noting that the jury’s decision to place a high dollar value on a scrap of desert land is a potentially troubling sign for one of President Trump’s infrastructure plans.

“They’re poised to take much more land with the border wall,” said Burg, pointing out that the border wall would sit on land that is similar in appearance to the land in the Mojave, suggesting that the government could have to pay a steep price to seize border land.

For Hahm and Levand, the land seized in this instance has a significant impact on the state’s cement industry. Burg explained that there are only two other viable mines in California, one being the Silver Lake Mine, which will cease operations in 2022. The Descher family, who own the Silver Lake Mine, worked out an agreement with the U.S. military in 2006 to allow for the expansion of the Fort Irwin Army Training Base, but the Marine Corps refused to consider a similar deal with the Johnson Valley property.

“There’s no future to the mine,” said Burg. “The cement industry will have to find alternative sources—perhaps from Utah, perhaps from imports—but it’s going to have an impact on the price of their raw materials, because they will have lost the closest source.”