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North Coast Rivers Alliance v. Westlands Water District

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20152
Nos. F067383, (Cal. Ct. App. 5th Dist., 07/03/2014)

A California appellate court held that interim renewal contracts concerning BLM's ongoing provision of Central Valley Project water to California water districts are exempt from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The purpose of the interim renewal contracts was to continue the existing terms for water delivery in advance of the parties’ anticipated execution of new, 25-year renewal contracts, which were awaiting BLM's completion of environmental documentation necessary for the execution of such long-term agreements. When the water district approved the interim renewal contracts, they made specific findings that the renewals were exempt from CEQA. Accordingly, the districts did not undertake their own environmental review prior to such approval. Environmental groups then filed suit. But the statutory exemption for ongoing pre-CEQA projects, as well as the categorical exemption for the continued operation of existing facilities at the same level of use, support the water districts' decision. The contracts, therefore, are exempt from CEQA review.