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Central Delta Water Agency v. California Department of Water Resources

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20052
Nos. 34-2010-80000561, (Cal. Super. Ct., 03/05/2014)

A California appellate court, in a pair of related cases, held that the California Department of Water Resources's environmental impact report (EIR) for an underground water bank in southern California violated the California Environmental Quality Act. The bank occupies nearly 30 square miles of undeveloped land along the Kern River in San Joaquin Valley. It was originally developed by the state but then transferred to private entities in 1997. The lawsuits sought to undo changes to the State Water Project (SWP), which supplies Southern California cities and some irrigation districts in the southern San Joaquin Valley, that were made in a 1994 settlement agreement intended to settle disputes between SWP contractors. Although the court ruled against the plaintiffs on all their other claims in the lawsuits, it did hold that the EIR for the bank failed to adequately discuss, analyze, and mitigate the potential impacts associated with the bank's use and operation, particularly with regard to groundwater hydrology and water quality. This failure to include relevant information regarding bank operations precluded informed decisionmaking and public participation, thereby thwarting the statutory goals of the EIR process. The court will hold a hearing to address the appropriate remedy.