State Department of Transportation officials said Thursday they "will work with property owners" in the Delta to ensure that signs protesting a controversial water tunnel project comply with state law.
"Caltrans will never seek to impede California residents from expressing their views, as long as that expression does not impede the right-of-way," Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty said in a letter to Restore the Delta, the group that provided many of the signs to residents.
The letter follows news this week that Caltrans removed yard signs along Highway 160 in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta saying "Save the Delta! Stop the Tunnels." The signs object to Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to build a pair of water diversion tunnels on the Sacramento River.
Officials at Caltrans said it is illegal to post "any private sign" within 14 feet of a highway right of way. Dougherty reiterated that in his letter.
Jeff Aran, an attorney at the California Sign Association who has practiced in the field for 20 years, told The Bee he has never heard of such a law.
"Caltrans clearly has the power to remove temporary, dangerous structures from the roadway, whether they're signs or not," Aran said. "But to only pick on these signs, that's pretty bad."
Restore the Delta still plans a protest at 10 a.m. today at Caltrans headquarters, 1120 N St. in Sacramento.
Contact The Bee's Matt Weiser at (916) 321-1264. Follow him on Twitter @matt_weiser.