Opponents of a 5,000-unit subdivision and golf resort in the western foothills of Stanislaus County continued their courtroom winning streak when Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Donald Shaver ruled a supplemental environmental impact report was inadequate.
In a July decision, Shaver said the county "failed to adequately evaluate the environmental impacts and the cumulative impacts, failed to accurately describe one portion of the project and failed to recirculate the SEIR."
In the first round of litigation over the Diablo Grande project, the Fifth District Court of Appeal ruled that the county's EIR had improperly deferred analysis of water supply issues. The court in that case, Stanislaus Natural Heritage Project v. County of Stanislaus, (1996) 48 Cal.App.4th 182, said the county could not make an informed decision on the development when the EIR only addressed the first five years of water supply for a 25-year project. Because the area does not contain adequate on-site water, project proponents have pursued a water transfer from the valley floor.
After that decision, now known as Diablo Grande I, the county issued a supplemental EIR. But judge Shaver punched holes in that document too. "Nowhere in the report does it consider or evaluate the impact, alternatives or mitigation of directing 13,000 acre feet per year of valley or outside water to the new community," Shaver wrote.
Shaver said the county misinterpreted Diablo Grande I by discussing in the SEIR a variety of potential water sources, three of which he called "too speculative."
"The purposes of CEQA would be ill-served if the act sanctioned a generalized discussion of a shotgun list of options which leaves the reader to wonder which might or might not be used," Shaver wrote.
Protect Our Water v. County of Stanislaus, Superior Court Case No. 181472, and California Farm Bureau Federation v. County of Stanislaus, Superior Court Case No. 181448.
For Protect Our Water: Rose Zoia, Brandt-Hawley & Zoia, (707) 938-3908.
For Stanislaus County: E. Vernon Seeley, assistant county counsel, (209) 525-6376.