CEQA Exemptions Granted for Certain State Agency Actions by Gov. Brown Proclamation

Proclamation of Continued State of Emergency Declared as Record Drought Continues

Gov. Jerry Brown has issued a Proclamation of a Continued State of Emergency in response to California’s record low water conditions and in anticipation of extended dry months throughout the summer. The proclamation builds upon the Governor’s January 2014 Emergency Drought Declaration, and strengthens the State’s ability to effectively manage water resources while calling on all Californians to redouble their efforts to conserve water.

Last Friday’s proclamation moves beyond the original drought declaration by further waiving compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act for certain actions taken by State agencies. Specifically, the proclamation suspends CEQA to allow the following to occur:

  • The processing of requests to transfer water to areas of need by the Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board;
  • The implementation of water reduction plans to reduce potable water usage for outdoor irrigation at recreational facilities and large institutional complexes;
  • The immediate monitoring of endangered species (such as the Sacramento River’s winter-run Chinook salmon) by the Department of Fish and Wildlife;
  • The implementation of projects by DWR for the benefit of fish and wildlife impacted by the drought, including certain projects in priority watersheds that will protect threatened and endangered species;
  • The implementation of pump-back water deliveries by DWR through the State Water Project on behalf of water districts;
  • The adoption of statewide general waste discharge requirements by the Water Board to facilitate the use of recycled water and reduce demand on potable supplies;
  • The provision of assistance by DWR and the Water Board to public agencies or private water companies to establish temporary water supply connections;
  • The implementation of an agricultural assistance program by the California Department of Food and Agriculture; and
  • The adoption of emergency regulations by the Water Board relating to water conservation.

Significantly, and subject to certain conditions, CEQA is also suspended for local agency actions necessary to implement measures recommended by the Department of Public Health to abate acute drinking water shortages.

Finally, the proclamation requires the Water Board to direct any urban water suppliers that are not already implementing drought response plans to limit outdoor irrigation and other wasteful water practices. By June 15, the Water Board must also request an update from urban water suppliers on the effectiveness of their current actions to reduce water usage.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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