Right of Way & Easements
Helix facilities are on District-owned land and within Helix's 737 miles of easements and right-of-way. Easements are interests in land we have acquired for specific use.
Our water system includes over 730 miles of pipeline, 16,000 valves, reservoir tanks, pump stations, and flow control facilities.
Most of our pipelines are within public roadways. From time to time, we may need to install pipelines and related facilities on private property as needed to comply with design standards.
Easements allow us the right to access, build, inspect and maintain pipelines and facilities on private property.
We obtain rights to use the land for our water system by acquiring easements from property owners. If you have questions about easements, call Right of Way at 619-667-6268.
How We Acquire Land
Most easement interests are acquired on a voluntary basis from property owners whose land is served by our system. When feasible, we design our project to minimally impact private properties and we accommodate property owner requests to the greatest extent possible. When applicable, we also offer to quitclaim older easement interests in exchange for a new alignment, which produces a win/win for the private owner and the District.
From time to time, we may need to purchase an easement interest, partial fee interest, or whole fee interest in a parcel for our water system when a project necessitates it. In those instances, the District will hire an appraiser to determine the value of the area needed and we contact the property owner with a monetary offer of just compensation.
During negotiations, property owners are encouraged to provide input and data to the appraiser and Helix staff, and, in certain cases, have the right to hire their own appraiser at District cost. The rules governing reimbursement for appraisals are very specific, so always contact District right-of-way staff in advance to ensure that you are eligible for reimbursement.
When Negotiations Are Not Successful
We make every effort to acquire land rights through voluntary negotiations. If a deal cannot be reached after good faith negotiations are had, and the project necessitates it, we may initiate legal proceedings to acquire the area needed. In these rare cases, the District will follow the procedures outlined in the California Eminent Domain Law and ensure that property owners receive fair and equitable treatment, proper notice, and just compensation.
Easements are recorded with the property and run with the land. Existing Helix easements are on file at the District and at the San Diego County Recorder's Office.
When selling a property, the owner must disclose to a buyer the presence of a Helix Water District easement.
An encroachment is the placement of an item of personal property, including structures or landscaping on a parcel or easement owned by Helix.
Placing items of personal property (including but not limited to: structures, fencing or landscaping) within our easement requires an Encroachment Agreement approved by Helix's Director of Engineering. An agreement is only issued if the proposed encroachment(s) does not obstruct access to, or impair, our pipeline and facilities. The Agreement provides a detailed description of the conditions under which the improvement can remain. It also describes the conditions requiring its removal and is a recorded document that runs with the land.
If a property owner does not have an encroachment agreement and the improvement inhibits our use of the right-of-way, we require the owner to remove the obstruction at their own expense. In the event of an emergency in which the District must remove the encroachment to get to its facilities, the District will not repair any damage that may occur to the encroaching object(s).
To apply for an encroachment agreement for a new proposed improvement, submit an application, plans, and the processing fee for the proposed improvement. Plans must include the boundaries of the proposed development, lot lines, public and private right-of-way lines, and Helix facilities. If you become aware of encroachment on existing improvements on your property and would like to apply for an encroachment agreement, staff will collaborate with each applicant on a case-by-case basis to process and try to accommodate your request to the extent possible without impacting our facilities.