The Delta Stewardship Council now has a clearer road map to meeting its goal of delivering a completed Delta Plan by Jan. 1, 2012 as mandated by the State Legislature.
After hearing a presentation from Jim Andrew from the Attorney General’s Office on the difference between the Delta Plan and the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) – and how the two interact – certain deadlines and timetables have become less muddied.
The EIR for the Delta Plan must be completed to fulfill the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
“The Delta Plan and the EIR are not the same. They are separate documents. The EIR is an objective analysis of the Delta Plan,” Andrew said.
“The May version of the Delta Plan should be as close to what you feel has the major meat as possible,” Andrew said. “The EIR will analyze various alternatives and various components of the [May] Delta Plan.”
Andrew explained that the Plan could still be amended to reflect useful public comments even if they are received after the environmental review has begun.
“You can make changes to the Delta Plan as long as the EIR generally covers the potential consequences of those changes,” Andrew said. “You can pick and choose from whatever the EIR envelope analyzed.”
In order to undergo study in an EIR as an alternative, a project must meet four objectives:
• The alternative must avoid or lessen environmental effects
• The alternative must attain primary project objectives
• The alternative must be at least potentially feasible as legally defined by CEQA
• The alternative must be reasonable or realistic
“We have to have a project first before we can formulate what alternatives to it are. The first step is coming up with a Delta Plan that reflects what the Council actually wants,” Andrew said.
The Council’s Chief Counsel Chris Stevens explained that the Delta Plan will contain sections that are clearly marked as regulatory policies, and other sections that are clearly marked as recommendations.
“We are going to have a plan that has objectives, that has factual findings, and the question is, ‘What do you do about that?’” Stevens said. “The answer is we look at the statute and where the legislature told us to take certain actions and it is clear that the Plan is meant to be a legally enforceable plan.”
In order to meet the Jan. 1, 2012 deadline, the Council must submit the Delta Plan to the Office of Administrative Law in mid-September.
“This plan has to go through the state regulatory process, what we call the administrative procedures act. We have to have a plan that is clear. It’s a clarity test. Whether or not the so-called regulated community can figure out what the heck you are trying to do to them and why and how you came up with it,” Stevens said.
For more information about the CEQA process, please click here.