California Environmental Law & Policy Update - May 2015 #2

Allen Matkins

Environmental and Policy Focus

California approves sweeping urban water cuts

U-T San Diego - May 5

On May 5, the State Water Resources Control Board voted to approve mandatory water cuts of up to 36 percent for cities and towns in the drought-ridden state. The 5-0 vote by the Board follows Governor Jerry Brown’s unprecedented order last month that the state reduce its overall water usage by 25 percent. Water districts that don’t meet the state mandates face the prospect of $10,000 per day fines, though the state panel has emphasized its goal is conservation, not fines. The mandatory cuts range from 8 percent for water districts with the smallest per capita water usage to 36 percent for those with the highest.

California approves first statewide seawater desalination rules

Reuters - May 6

California regulators on May 6 adopted the first statewide rules for the permitting of seawater desalination projects that are expected to proliferate as drought-stricken communities increasingly turn to the ocean to supplement their drinking supplies. The action, which sets uniform standards for minimizing harm to marine life, was welcomed by developers of the state's two largest desalination projects as a measure that brings much-needed certainty and clarity to the regulatory approval process. The measure leaves the permitting process in the hands of the state's regional water boards while establishing a single framework for them to follow in evaluating applications to build seawater treatment plants, expand existing ones, and renew old permits.

Drought kills 12 million trees in California's national forests

Los Angeles Times - May 5

Years of extremely dry conditions are taking a heavy toll on forest lands across California and heightening the fire risk as summer approaches. A new study by the U.S. Forest Service estimates that the drought has killed off at least 12.5 million trees in California’s national forests. The scientists expect the die-off to continue. U.S. Forest Service researchers conducted an aerial survey of more than 8.2 million acres of forest last month and found 999,000 acres of dead trees. The scarcity of water is not the trees’ only enemy amid the drought. Weakened and dehydrated, many of the trees are being finished off by bark beetles, tiny brown insects that thrive in dry conditions, chewing away at pines and making them brittle.

Inyo County off-road plan scaled back

KCET - May 5

A controversial plan to open up hundreds of miles of dirt roads and city streets to off-road vehicles (ORVs) in Inyo County has been cut back by 95 percent as the result of a settlement in a legal battle over the plan. Inyo County's Adventure Trails System, which would originally have opened up 242 miles of roads in the county for off-road vehicle users, was the subject of a lawsuit by conservation groups who charged the plan would endanger both the environment and public safety, including the safety of ORV riders. Under the terms of a legal settlement announced on May 5, Inyo will be scaling back the Adventure Trails System to just 44 miles along seven trails.


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Allen Matkins

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