Offering the public more opportunities to comment directly on the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Delta Plan, the Delta Stewardship Council recently held the second of two listening sessions seeking input from the public. Five more sessions around the state are scheduled for January.
The Council blocked off three hours of its regularly scheduled Dec. 16 meeting to hear the public testimony. The Council heard comments from three people, who represented various interest groups concerned with the development of the Program EIR process and the Fifth Draft of the Delta Plan.
The EIR was released on November 4, 2011 for a 90-day comment period that ends February 2, 2012. It analyzes the potential environmental impacts of implementing the fifth staff draft of the Delta Plan and compares that with five alternative approaches. Hundreds of comments have been received thus far in the development of the draft plan and will be considered with comments on the EIR in the development of a sixth draft expected to be released in mid-March.
“These hearings on the draft EIR, for purposes of the Council, are in effect listening sessions…for you,” Chief Counsel Chris Stevens told the Council members during the December hearing. “The entire purpose of this EIR hearing is for the public to give the Delta Council staff their comments and suggestions to actually make this document better.”
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) does not mandate that the Council hold hearings to take oral testimony during the EIR comment process. Additionally, the Council voted to extend the comment period to 90 days; CEQA only calls for a 45-day window.
The draft EIR analyzes the environmental impacts of the suite of 12 regulatory policies and 61 recommendations contained in the Fifth Staff Draft Plan. CEQA also requires a lead agency to use its independent judgment to formulate and evaluate a reasonable range of alternatives to the project being assessed. Consequently, the draft EIR also analyzes five alternatives, including: (1) a no project alternative; (2) two alternatives with increased emphasis on water supply reliability; (3) one alternative with increased emphasis on Delta ecosystem restoration; and (4) one alternative with increased emphasis on protection and enhancement of Delta communities and culture.
The five alternatives studied were based on (but not taken verbatim from) comments, input, and in some cases, alternative plans received from statewide water users, environmentalists, Delta interests and communities.
The draft EIR concludes that the draft Delta Plan, comprised of the 12 proposed regulations and 61 recommendations, is environmentally superior to the alternatives because it advocates a hybrid regulatory and collaborative approach for achieving the coequal goals of water supply reliability and restoring the Delta ecosystem.
To view the draft EIR, click here.
To see the listening hearing schedules, click here.
Comments are currently being accepted orally (at hearing dates specified on the Council’s website), in writing and online.