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MWD Owes Family $43.2 Million for Land Affected by Project, Jury Says

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California owes a pioneer farming family $43.2 million for land the agency acquired, and for other land that is now devalued, because of the construction of the huge Domenigoni Valley Reservoir southwest of Hemet, a Riverside jury decided Tuesday.

The jury concluded that the Domenigoni family--for whom the valley is named--deserved far more than the $8 million offered by the MWD for 510 acres of the family’s farm and grazing land.

The fair price, the jury found, was $16.3 million for the 510 condemned acres and $26.9 million to compensate for the depreciated value of the family’s remaining 2,600 acres.

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The property is owned by three grandchildren of Angelo Domenigoni, who settled the region in 1882.

The family’s attorney, Richard Norton, argued that because the MWD bought most of the other land needed for the reservoir before the project was approved, it quashed the value of the Domenigoni property before condemning it.

He also challenged the safety of a 1.7-mile-long, 285-foot-high earth-and-rock dam alongside the Domenigoni land, saying the dam depreciated the Domenigoni’s remaining property.

Meredith Jury, ( an attorney for the MWD, said the water agency will appeal the award because of what she said were faulty rulings by Riverside Superior Court Judge Steve Cunnison that, among other things, allowed testimony on dam safety issues.

The $1.9-billion reservoir project is expected to be completed by 2004, creating the largest lake in Southern California.

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