Cambrian: Opinion

Suit unnecessary, not inexpensive

By Greg Sanders

If the Landwatch v. CCSD lawsuit was not such an enormous, unnecessary waste of Cambrians’ water rate and tax dollars, the Viewpoint article on the purported justification for the lawsuit authored by LandWatch San Luis Obispo County attorney, Cynthia Hawley, in the Nov. 5 edition of The Cambrian, would be humorous.

Ms. Hawley alleges that CCSD’s Water Master Plan Environmental Impact Report (EIR) somehow concludes that there will be no environmental impacts associated with construction and operation of a desalination plant in Cambria that haven’t been properly mitigated.

Ms. Hawley further alleges that this conclusion means that the CCSD will not have to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and do an environmental impact report when actual construction and operation of a desalination plant are proposed.

Ms. Hawley is either not familiar with CEQA (which she ought to be since she is representing a client in a lawsuit against the CCSD that alleges violations of CEQA) or she has failed to read the Water Master Plan EIR. The Water Master Plan EIR is a “program EIR,” which is permitted by CEQA. Program EIRs address broad concepts and policies proposed for implementation by an agency like the CCSD and analyze environmental impacts with a fairly broad brush.

Environmental impacts associated with specific projects recommended in a program EIR are analyzed in environmental documents that are prepared for those projects. That is precisely what the Water Master Plan EIR says.

Section 3.3 (Seawater Desalination), beginning on Page 3-9 of the Water Master Plan EIR, makes this very clear: “The Program EIR (Water Master Plan EIR) serves as the master environmental documentation in order to properly tier from the programmatic analysis. The project level study for the seawater desalination would provide the comprehensive construction and operations analysis.

The study will also be subject to compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) requirements due to federal funding. Thus a joint EIR/EIS will be prepared specifically for the seawater desalination element. The EIR/EIS shall include all elements of building and operation of the desalination plant, including, but not limited to, any physical operations involved in feasibility studies and all piping connecting seawater intake and brine discharge to the desalination plant.”

The Water Master Plan EIR is posted on the CCSD Web site at

The CCSD Board of Directors extended an offer to Landwatch and Cynthia Hawley to settle this frivolous lawsuit months ago. The settlement offer consisted of a proposed agreement that the CCSD will comply with CEQA when a specific desalination project is proposed as the Water Master Plan EIR requires. Landwatch and Ms. Hawley never responded.

It’s your money that Landwatch and Ms. Hawley are wasting.

Greg Sanders is president of the Cambria Community Services District Board of Directors.