Judge Rejects Environmental Group’s Legal Challenge to Water Authority Plans

Short Title
Judge Rejects Environmental Group’s Legal Challenge
Ruling supports the Water Authority’s long-term efforts to provide safe, reliable water supplies
August 04, 2015

San Diego Superior Court Judge Gregory W. Pollack has rejected all objections raised by San Diego Coastkeeper to the San Diego County Water Authority’s 2014 adoption of its Regional Water Facilities Optimization and Master Plan Update and Climate Action Plan, finding the Water Authority followed all applicable laws and procedures when the agency adopted them last year.

“The ruling confirms that the Water Authority’s Board of Directors properly considered all relevant factors in approving the Master Plan Update and Climate Action Plan,” said Bob Yamada, director of water resources for the Water Authority. “It also confirms that Coastkeeper has been improperly attacking critical water supply choices the Water Authority has made in order to ensure that the San Diego region has a safe and reliable water supply, including its prior decision to pursue the Carlsbad Desalination Project, which will come on line later this year.”

Pollack reflected that point in ruling against Coastkeeper’s argument that the Water Authority’s environmental impact report didn’t comply with the California Environmental Quality Act.

“Although (Coastkeeper) states that its argument is directed at the 2013 SPEIR, the state of the record indicates that it is really taking issue with the water supply decisions (the Water Authority) made via the 2003 Master Plan,” Pollack wrote.

The Water Authority conducted more than 20 public workshops, meetings and hearings about its long-term planning documents in meetings with its Water Planning Committee and Board of Directors before their adoption in March 2014.

The updated water facilities master plan and Climate Action Plan serve as the Water Authority’s roadmap through 2035 for future capital projects and responding to climate change as it relates to activities within the agency. The most recent update builds on a history of successful projects coming out of the 2003 master plan that are helping San Diego County withstand the current drought and will help prepare the region for future droughts and other emergencies that limit water supplies.

“The Master Plan Update did not change these decisions but, instead, added five new infrastructure projects… which were not challenged by (Coastkeeper),” Pollack ruled. “Because the SPEIR is a supplement to an earlier EIR, it cannot be attacked based on things (the Water Authority) did not alter.”

Regional infrastructure development and water conservation efforts over the past decade allowed the Water Authority to defer two major projects and reduce projected capital improvement program costs by more than $650 million through 2025. In addition, Water Authority investments in new energy generation will allow the agency to meet state targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Water Authority was represented in this case by attorney Mark Hattam of Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory & Natsis LLP.

For more information about the Superior Court ruling and the Water Authority’s facilities plan update, visit http://www.sdcwa.org/master-plan-documents