The California Supreme Court has granted review in a second important case relating to water supply planning and the analysis of water issues in environmental impact reports under the California Environmental Quality Act. On January 25, the court granted review of In re Bay-Delta Programmatic Environmental Impact Report Coordinated Proceedings (Case No. S138975).
This case involves multiple legal challenges to the extremely lengthy environmental impact report that was prepared for the "CalFed" muliti-agency program to develop a plan to protect water quality in the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta while also promoting water supply and conservation goals. The Third District Court of Appeal rejected the EIR on several grounds, including a claim that the EIR should have evaluated project alternatives that included substantially reduced water exports from the Delta to Southern California.
The court's decision to grant review is significant; it means that two cases are now before the California Supreme Court dealing with how environmental impact reports must evaluate water projects and water supply issues for other development projects. In the other case, Vineyard Area Citizens for Responsible Growth v. City of Rancho Cordova, Case No. S132972, the Supreme Court is considering whether an EIR for a large development project adequately evaluated the future availability of water and the impacts of supplying water to the project. Briefing in the Vineyard Citizens case is nearly complete.
Both of these cases should be particularly important to all stakeholders in the CEQA process, as it has been many years since the California Supreme Court has considered a CEQA case involving the substantive requirements for environmental impact reports. Also, while there have been a number of Court of Appeal decisions on the application of CEQA to water issues, the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on these important issues.