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“Paper Water” and OWL Foundation’s Legal Action

[On Rohnert Park’s Water Supply Assessment (WSA) and EIR which is what the WSA is supposed to be based on] Here’s some more background. This EIR was presented to the RP city council the very day before we were supposed to go to court. I asked RP City Council to delay certification until the court handed down a decision; they refused and approved the EIR. When they lost in court, our lawyers instantly demanded that they de-certify the EIR because the EIR requires by law a valid WSA; they refused again. This recalcitrance forced us to file a CEQA suit against the EIR, which we did immediately. This suit is also pending. The City and the developers have stipulated that the CEQA suit against the EIR will rise or fall with the appeals case on the WSA, in effect placing the CEQA suit in suspension.

LAFCO told us that without a court injunction they are free to vote an what they like. They are absolutely correct. City councils, LAFCOs or any legal institution can vote, stamp papers, dance a jig, paint their faces, perform whatever legal behavior they wish and no court would ever issue an injunction against them. But—and this is important—the University District Project is still barred from building. If they dared to break ground (and they frequently have boasted that they will, court ruling notwithstanding) then a judge would indeed stop them with a court order. This because they do not have a legally valid EIR. The WSA they produced for that EIR was ruled legally invalid by a trial court and the EIR requires a valid WSA.

LAFCO, in the person of Tim Smith, announced that it would be “spooky” to have to wait for a court to decide on the validity of documents that LAFCO can still legally approve of or disapprove. The problem with this is that If the WSA ruling is upheld on appeal, then LAFCO will have wasted everyone’s time on December 13th when it could have been doing something useful. Moreover, and this is where LAFCO failed to do its job, O.W.L. has raised sufficient and credible doubts about the accuracy, even the veracity, of the WSA that, if nothing else, prudence would demand waiting until a final decision emerges. Why approve of a document that is missing a required component? And why approve of a document that stands alone, among a myriad of other studies, in claiming sufficient water supplies? That right there should raise eyebrows. Rushing ahead is stark evidence that none of these people want to do the right thing. “Spooky” indeed.

O.W.L.’s attorneys have been served with opening briefs in the appeals process. We file our opposition brief by the end of January. RP and the UDP have until March 5th to respond. The court will pick a date after that, so the earliest would be sometime in April (?), could be later depending on the schedules of the three judges involved.

The outcome of this case is important. Will the appellate court really tell the State of California that from here on out, planning major projects with “paper water” is legally acceptable? Or are they going to provide SB 610 with teeth and give citizens a tool with which to rescue our damaged water resources?