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Inyo, County of v. Los Angeles, City of

Citation: 11 ELR 21093
No. No. 3 Civ. 13886, 177 Cal. Rptr. 479/124 Cal. App. 3d 1, (Cal. Ct. App., 09/30/1981) Injunction issued

The court rules that an environmental impact report (EIR) prepared by respondents for a water project in Owens Valley does not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In 1977, the court placed a limit on the extraction of subsurface water for export from Owens Valley, 7 ELR 20583, ruling that Los Angeles' initial EIR did not comply with CEQA's meaningful alternative requirement. The court rules that the final EIR prepared by Los Angeles fails to provide an informed and accurate analysis of the project and its impacts. The project calls for increased withdrawals of groundwater and surface water for transport to Los Angeles, but the EIR fails to discuss where the increased surface water is to come from, or the impacts on Owens Valley. The court also holds that the EIR fails to include a genuine "no-project" alternative or to discuss other alternatives. Los Angeles incorrectly established a no-project alternative based on conditions different from those which preceded the project, while CEQA requires the project to be compared to pre-project conditions. The court also finds that the EIR fails to meet CEQA's goal of ensuring that "the long-term protection of the environment shall be the guiding criterion in public decisions."

A dissenting judge would find that the majority improperly enlarged the required scope of the EIR from an analysis of water extraction from Owens Valley to an analysis of Los Angeles' entire water system and disagrees with the majority's conclusion that a "no-project" alternative and other alternatives were not adequately considered.

Counsel for Petitioner
L. H. Gibbons Jr., District Attorney
168 N. Edwards St., Independence CA 93526
(714) 878-2411

Counsel for Respondents
Burt Pines, City Attorney
200 N. Main St., Los Angeles CA 90012
(213) 485-4461

Kenneth W. Downey, Edward A. Schlotman
Legal Division, Dep't of Water and Power
P.O. Box 111, Los Angeles CA 90039
(213) 481-4211

Counsel for Amici Curiae
Fredrick P. Sutherland
Center for Law in the Public Interest
10303 Santa Monico Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90067
(213) 879-5588

Ralph Winter, Richard E. Gutting Jr.
Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund
311 California St., Suite 311, San Francisco CA 94101
(415) 567-6100

Joined by Puglia, J.