IMPLEMENTING GSPS AND CEQA REVIEW: PLANNING TODAY FOR STREAMLINED GROUNDWATER SUSTAINABILITY
By Sara F. Dudley*
Seven years after the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 ("SGMA") groundwater sustainability agencies ("GSA") have adopted – or soon will adopt – their groundwater sustainability plans. Groundwater sustainability plans ("GSP") are exempt from review under the California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA") but the activities that implement the plans likely are not. GSAs may be tempted to forgo or delay CEQA review, reasoning that it is too costly, too contentious, and unnecessary at this "early stage."
While this line of thinking is understandable, it could hinder achievement of SGMA’s goal of sustainable groundwater management by 2040 or 2042. An integrated approach to CEQA review can save GSAs precious time and money when implementing SGMA. It can also make GSAs more competitive in grant processes that rank projects more highly that are "shovel ready"-i.e., having completed environmental review.