DWR EXPLAINER: The Army Corps Delta Conveyance Project EIS and the Delta Conveyance Project EIR: What are the differences?

From the Department of Water Resources:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Delta Conveyance Project for public review. The document is available here and the USACE Draft EIS public review and comment period lasts until February 14, 2023.  

For more information on the Draft EIS and USACE public review period, visit the USACE website

USACE’s Draft EIS assesses the exact same proposed Delta Conveyance Project analyzed in the Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR), available for public review July 27, 2022 – December 16, 2022. USACE’s Draft EIS is different from DWR’s Draft EIR as follows:

  • The Draft EIS complies with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Draft EIR complies with the California Environmental Policy Act (CEQA).
  • NEPA is a federal law and USACE is the federal lead agency for preparation of the Draft EIS, while CEQA is a state law and DWR is the state lead agency for preparation of the Draft EIR. 

Nothing published in USACE’s Draft EIS changes what has been published in DWR’s Draft EIR. The Draft EIS is not an update to the Draft EIR. They are stand-alone documents. Here are some important things to know about the similarities and differences: 

  • NEPA and CEQA have the same basic purpose: to evaluate the potential environmental effects of a proposed project and project alternatives, including a “no project” (or as NEPA calls it, the “no action”) option. 
  • While DWR is a project proponent seeking to study whether it should implement the proposed project, USACE is not a project proponent. Rather, USACE is a regulator with responsibility for deciding whether to authorize the proposed project. The scope of the Draft EIS is limited to only those aspects of the proposed project that are within USACE purview.
  • DWR, as the project proponent, will ultimately determine whether or not to certify the EIR pursuant to CEQA and approve and implement the proposed project. USACE will not be involved in the initial project approval, nor will it implement the project, if approved.
  • The Draft EIR and Draft EIS cover different topics and are organized differently.
  • While the Draft EIR evaluates 9 project alternatives, the Draft EIS evaluates 5 project alternatives. Both the Draft EIR and Draft EIS include analysis of not approving the proposed project (referred to in the Draft EIS as the “No Action” alternative). 
  • Sometimes, an EIR and an EIS will be prepared by the state and federal lead agencies as a joint document. Other times, as is the case here, the documents are created and published separately. Although the Draft EIR and Draft EIS were prepared independently, DWR and USACE have coordinated throughout the CEQA and NEPA document preparation processes to ensure consistency between the Draft EIR and Draft EIS for ease of public review.  

For the full list of the similarities and differences between the Draft EIR and Draft EIS, click here.

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