NEWS WORTH NOTING: Proposed comprehensive update to CEQA guidelines released; Wildlife Conservation Board funds enviro improvement projects; Interior executes water rights settlement agreement with Pechanga Band of Luiseño Mission Indians

Proposed comprehensive update to state CEQA guidelines released

From Best, Best, & Krieger:

Following several years of public involvement, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research has just issued comprehensive Proposed Updates to the CEQA Guidelines. In addition to proposing changes or additions to nearly 30 different sections of the Guidelines, the proposed package includes updates related to analyzing transportation impacts under Senate Bill 743.

In its 150-plus page update package, OPR recommends numerous revisions to the Guidelines.

Continue reading from Best Best & Krieger here:  Proposed comprehensive update to state CEQA guidelines released

Read the guidelines here:  Proposed updates to CEQA guidelines

Wildlife Conservation Board funds Environmental Improvement and Acquisition Projects

From the Department of Fish and Wildlife:

At its Nov. 30 quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $2.6 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. Some of the 12 approved projects will benefit fish and wildlife—including some endangered species—while others will provide public access to important natural resources. Several projects will also demonstrate the importance of protecting working landscapes that integrate economic, social and environmental stewardship practices beneficial to the environment, landowners and the local community. The state funds for all these projects come from bond measures approved by voters to help preserve and protect California’s natural resources. Funded projects include:

  • A $310,000 grant to the California Waterfowl Association for a cooperative project with the North American Wetlands Conservation Council to construct water conveyance infrastructure and restore wetlands and upland habitats on 507 acres of privately owned property, approximately seven miles south of Oroville in Butte County.
  • A $385,000 grant to the U.S. Forest Service for a cooperative project with the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to restore five meadows, stabilize head-cuts and fill sections of incised stream channels. This project will restore channel form, floodplain connectivity, stream bank stability and meadow vegetation on Stanislaus National Forest lands, seven miles northeast of Pinecrest in Tuolumne County.
  • $340,000 for in-fee acquisition of approximately 12 acres of land by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and a Transfer of Jurisdiction of the land by CDFW to the San Joaquin River Conservancy (SJRC), to protect riparian habitat and provide future wildlife-oriented public use opportunities within the San Joaquin River Parkway, near the City of Fresno in Madera County.
  • A $400,000 augmentation to an existing grant to the Elkhorn Slough Foundation for a cooperative project with CDFW, California State Coastal Conservancy, DWR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Santa Cruz County Public Works. This project will restore 46 acres of tidal marsh and five acres of perennial grasses on CDFW’s Elkhorn Slough National Marine Estuarine Research Reserve, two miles east of Moss Landing in Monterey County.

For more information about the WCB please visit www.wcb.ca.gov.

Interior Executes Water Rights Settlement Agreement with Pechanga Band of Luiseño Mission Indians

From the Department of the Interior:

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Mark Macarro, Chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Mission Indians today signed the Pechanga Water Rights Settlement Agreement (Agreement), formally executing a Congressionally authorized pact that protects the Pechanga Band’s access to groundwater in the region and provides the tribe with more than $30 million in federal funding to pay for water storage projects.

The Agreement quantifies the water rights claims for the Pechanga Band in Southern California’s Temecula Valley, which had been pending in an adjudication dating back to the 1950s; resolves potential liability for both the United States and other parties; and establishes a cooperative and efficient water management regime involving Pechanga and local agencies.

“The Federal Government has a critical responsibility to uphold our trust responsibilities, especially Tribal water rights,” Secretary Zinke said. “This is why we are continuing to work on Indian Water Settlements with Tribes, States, and all water users to ensure there is certainty for all and an opportunity for economic development in local communities. As a former State Senator and Congressman who helped usher the Blackfeet compact through to fruition, I understand all too well the hard work and enormous struggle that goes into making these important water rights settlements possible. I congratulate all of you for your perseverance, dedication, and commitment to making this settlements happen.”

“The Pechanga Band has tirelessly pursued the quantification of its water rights and, through negotiations, engaged its neighbors in a multiyear process of building mutual trust and understanding,” said Pechanga Chairman Macarro. “Generations of tribal leaders have fought from the courts to Capitol Hill to protect this vital resource for future generations. This settlement agreement benefits all of the parties by securing adequate water supplies for the Pechanga Band and its members and encouraging cooperative water resources management among all of the parties.”

Zinke commended the congressional sponsors of the Settlement Act legislation, saying they “fought to bring these settlements across the finish line.” The agreement – introduced by Rep. Ken Calvert, (R-Corona) – settles competing claims involving the Rancho California Water District and the Eastern Municipal Water District, which both draw from the large aquifer in the region that stretches 750 square miles from Southwest Riverside County to north San Diego County .

“For the tribe, local community, and the many federal employees who have contributed to these settlements, seeing these agreements signed is the culmination of years of dedication and hard work. I think we all recognize that this is just the start of the journey towards settlement finality,” Zinke said.

“The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, as well as all of the parties to this settlement, deserve to have some certainty on the future of their water supply,” Rep. Calvert said. “I’m grateful we have been able to enact the settlement and ensure all of the stakeholders in the Santa Margarita River Watershed can better shape their future.”

Interior is in the initial stages of implementing the Settlement Act, which was enacted as part of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (P.L. 114-322) in 2016. The Departments of Justice and Interior have an established protocol for processing settlement agreements for execution.

The Act and Agreement establishes the Pechanga Settlement Fund and authorizes the appropriation of about $3 million to be deposited into the fund to construct a storage pond. The legislation also authorizes the appropriation of about $26 million, with about $4 million in construction overrun costs, to build interim and permanent capacity for water storage, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Also attending today’s event were Pechanga Council Members, including Catalina R. Chacon; Robert Munoa; Russell Murphy; Marc Luker; Raymond Basquez Jr. and Michael Vasquez. Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhard and Associate Deputy Secretary Jim Cason also joined the ceremony.

Water resources and management of scare water supplies are central concerns in the Western states. Additionally, in many parts of the West, water resources are now either fully appropriated or over-appropriated. These situations underscore the need for cooperative management of water supplies, and highlight the important role that Indian water rights settlements can play in the West.

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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