Trial Court Validates Agreements and Plans for Large Public-Private Water Project and Approves CEQA Review
The Orange County Superior Court last week issued rulings rejecting all six challenges to the environmental review and approvals by the Santa Margarita Water District and County of San Bernardino relating to the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project. Specifically, the court upheld the environmental impact report (EIR) certified by SMWD and its approval of the Project, a public-private partnership with Cadiz Inc. to pump and transmit groundwater for delivery to SMWD and other water users throughout Southern California. The court also upheld the County’s approval of a Groundwater Monitoring Mitigation and Management Plan and Memorandum of Understanding relating to the groundwater pumping portion of the Project.
The court considered a variety of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) claims by the Center for Biological Diversity and Delaware Tetra Technologies Inc., including arguments that the County should have served as lead agency for the Project and that the EIR did not fully consider and mitigate for the hydrological impacts of the Project. Ultimately, the court found that the petitioners were not entitled to any relief and, specifically, that the lead agency concerns “did not rise to the level of a CEQA violation” and thus did not “constitute sufficient grounds under existing law for the granting of any writs.”