EIDistrict Comments on Appellate Court Ruling Regarding Shingle Springs Rancheria
On October 4, 2012, the Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District issued its decision on the cross-appeals by the Shingle Springs Rancheria and the Voices for Rural Living from the El Dorado County Superior Court’s decision in Voices for Rural Living v. EID. El Dorado Irrigation District (District) did not appeal this case.
The appellate court upheld the trial court’s ruling with just one technical exception. The appellate court agreed that the District erred in relying on a CEQA exemption when approving a negotiated agreement for water service with the Rancheria, and should have completed an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The CEQA exemption was inappropriate, the court said, because there was at least some evidence in the record to support a fair argument that the increased water service to the Rancheria might inhibit the District’s ability to serve other customers during drought conditions, particularly in a future climate-change scenario, and inhibit the District’s ability to meet its instream flow requirements in the South Fork American River. The Superior Court directed EID to conduct and certify an EIR to address this concern. The appellate court, however, ruled that directing EID to conduct an EIR exceeded the court’s authority, and that instead, the court should have merely directed the District to conduct whatever proceedings the District, in its discretion, determined were sufficient to comply with CEQA.
Notwithstanding the appeal, on May 28, 2012, EID completed and certified an EIR to address all of the points made in the original superior court ruling. “The EIR concludes that EID does, in fact, have enough water to provide to customers in drought conditions, and meet its instream flow requirements in the South Fork American River and that the water service agreement will have no significant impacts on the environment,” said Tom Cumpston, EID’s general counsel. “We are optimistic that the superior court will agree that we did an adequate job when it ultimately rules on the EIR’s validity.”
The appellate court also affirmed that EID did not have the authority to determine on its own that the LAFCO-imposed service restrictions to the Rancheria were unconstitutional and therefore not binding. On July 23, 2012, EID initiated a proceeding to detach and re-annex the Rancheria without the service restrictions LAFCO imposed in 1989. “We will continue to work with LAFCO to resolve any outstanding issues and are confident that we can arrive at an acceptable solution,” said Cumpston. The bottom line is that EID does, as I mentioned before, have enough water to continue to service the Shingle Springs Rancheria (now known as Red Hawk Casino) as well to continue to service homes in our service area in times of drought.”