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Central Basin Municipal Water District v. Water Replenishment District of Southern California

ELR Citation: 42 ELR 20258
Nos. B235039, (Cal. Ct. App. 2d Dist., 12/10/2012)

A California appellate court affirmed a lower court decision denying a municipal water district's petition challenging a water replenishment district's "water emergency" declaration for California's Central Basin. The water district argued that the replenishment district failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) prior to declaring the emergency. But CEQA does not apply. First, the declaration of a water emergency by itself has no environmental impact and therefore is not a project within the meaning of CEQA. Instead, it is a mere statement that the resources of the Central Basin risk degradation. Second, even if the declaration of the water emergency should be viewed together with its environmental consequences, the replenishment district's decision was ministerial. It had no discretion to alter the physical solution governing the Central Basin. Preparing an environmental impact report, therefore, would have been a futile act.