The bullet train has its sights set on Kern County and the High Speed Rail Authority thinks it has found the cheapest, least damaging route. But, some residents in Shafter say it's the complete opposite. They say the high speed track is set to run through the area's most valuable land, causing up to a billion dollars in damages the state isn't even considering.
"Well the way they marked it out, they are going to go through these new trees," said Jim Neufeld about the state's bullet train, describing how the track will run through his farm. "A lot of trees will go bye bye."
This would happen if the High Speed Rail Authority approved a proposed route called the Wasco-Shafter Bypass.
But, Neufeld's farmland is just a few acres of the problem. Residents say this route will destroy a city rail yard, oil wells, and irrigation systems.
"I'm not against the progress, but there's got to be a better, smarter way to do it," said David Jacobsen, a Shafter farmer whose land stands to be affected by the Wasco-Shafter Bypass.
The High Speed Rail Authority chose this route because it says it's less damaging and $529 million cheaper than the alternate BNSF route that follows the existing tracks Amtrak uses.
"If you compare the two, the bypass clearly has the least environmental impacts," said Diana Gomez, the Central Valley Regional Director for the California High Speed Rail Authority.
But, those in the area's major industries, oil and agriculture, say the Authority has drastically underestimated the damage the bypass would cause.
For farmers, the bypass would not only carve out land for its track, but split fields in half.
"It's two farms that I can't even economically get to," said Neufeld. "I can get to my neighbor's farm easier than I can get to my own place."
"You're taking something out permanently and putting concrete on it, and the good Lord isn't making any more ground," said Jacobsen.
But, the ground isn't as valuable as what's flowing below. Farmers say the bypass would divide irrigation systems, forcing the Wasco Shafter Irrigation District to redesign the underground layout.
"The expense of that is going to be in the millions of dollars," said Jerry Ezell, General Manager for the Wasco Shafter Irrigation District.
Farmers estimate, in total, $70 million in damages, but that's not the priciest plow.
"That oil well there is almost directly in the green line path," said Jacobsen, pointing to a drilling unit on his farmland that stands to be destroyed by the bypass route.
Vintage Production Company recently drilled dozens of wells north of Shafter. The bypass would take out several.
"In a mile radius you've got seven or eight," said Jacobsen.
Although a Vintage spokesperson would not speak on camera, they estimate damages between $200 million to $900 million. At the City of Shafter's rail yard, the damage continues.
"That rail yard services our industrial areas," said John Guinn, Shafter City Manager.
Those industrial areas include the Target Distribution Center and, in the future a Ross Warehouse, but if the bypass is built that rail service would be cut off.
"I just don't believe they have fully appreciated the cost to the City of Shafter and to this industrial area by taking the bypass where they're planning on taking it," said Guinn.
Without it, Paramount Logistics Park said it stands to lose $100 million in future revenues. The City of Shafter says it would lose $250 million to $350 million in tax revenue.
"Certainly, the City of Shafter would expect to be compensated for that," said Guinn.
Add it all up and residents estimate the bypass will come with a hefty price tag of $620 million to $1.42 billion.
So how much of that is the High Speed Rail Authority planning to pay? Only $14 million, about one percent of the estimated cost.
"I can't really say, 'well are we prepared to pay this enormous amount of money?' Because I don't know if we are going to pay this enormous amount of money," said Gomez. "They may expect that, but that may not be what we do."
Right now the High Speed Rail Authority is leaning toward choosing the bypass despite residents blasting their horns, hoping to warn the Authority otherwise.
"When it goes around it affects our ability to do better for our children," said Guinn.
The High Speed Rail Authority Board was supposed to vote on a route this Thursday, but delayed the vote until next month.