Marina Coast Water District v. County of MontereyAnnotate this Case
Cal-Am, an investor-owned utility that supplies water to much of the Monterey Peninsula, was subject to a state order to cease its decades-long overuse of certain water sources. Cal-Am sought to comply by drawing seawater and brackish water from coastal aquifers for desalination. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), acting under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA, Pub. Resources Code, 21050), certified a final environmental impact report (EIR), and granted Cal-Am a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. The City denied Cal-Am coastal development permits to install the intake wells. Cal-Am appealed to the California Coastal Commission.
The County approved a permit to construct the desalination plant in unincorporated Monterey County. Marina Coast Water District challenged that approval, arguing that the County violated CEQA by failing to prepare a subsequent or supplemental EIR and adopting an unsupported statement of overriding considerations, and violated its own general plan by approving a project that lacked a long-term sustainable water supply.
The trial court ruled that the County was not required to prepare another EIR and did not violate its own general plan, but unlawfully relied on the water-related benefits of the desalination plant in its statement of overriding considerations without addressing the uncertainty introduced by the City’s denial of the coastal development permit. The court of appeal reversed; the County’s statement of overriding considerations was supported by substantial evidence and any remaining deficiency in the statement was not prejudicial.