Judge denies 2008 request to halt Cambria desalination project

The Cambria Community Services District could not be expected to address specific impacts of a proposed desalination plant in the environmental impact report covering the district’s water master plan, a judge has ruled.

Those impacts “are dependent upon final improvement plans for the facilities,” Judge Martin Tangeman ruled Aug. 9.

LandWatch San Luis Obispo County, a nonprofit environmental watchdog group, filed a lawsuit in October 2008 against the district and the Army Corps of Engineers, asking the court to rescind the environmental document and suspend all planning and testing and any other work on a desalination plant.

The court found established precedent allows public agencies to file environmental impact documents when it wants “to consider broad policy alternatives,” and, when consideration leads to more specific plans, “a new initial study would need to be prepared.”

The district’s environmental report, “continually states that further study will be required with site specific plan,” the ruling states, adding that LandWatch’s suit “conveys a misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of programmatic EIR such as this one, where specific findings, analysis, and mitigation measures must necessarily await identification of a specific project.”