In an unpublished decision, the Consolidated Irrigation District filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the City of Selma’s use of a mitigated negative declaration in approving a 160-unit, 44-acre residential development (Consolidated Irrig. Dist. v. City of Selma, Fifth Appellate District Case No. F061103 (Feb. 8, 2012 – unpublished)). The trial court granted the writ. On appeal, the City argued that (1) the irrigation district lacked standing to bring the CEQA challenge, (2) the trial court relied on documents that were not before the City Council when it approved the project to rule against the City, and (3) substantial evidence did not support a fair argument that the proposed development might have a significant effect on the environment. The Court upheld the trial court on all three accounts. First, the Court held the irrigation district has standing to sue pursuant to Water Code section 22650 because it has beneficial interests that might be affected by the project. Second, the Court held substantial evidence supports the trial court’s determination that the documents the trial court ordered to be included in the record were submitted to the City prior to the City Council approving the project. Third, the irrigation district presented substantial evidence of a fair argument that the project would result in at least two potentially significant impacts. Specifically, the Court held the project will contribute to this cumulative impact on groundwater due to that fact that the project requires 80.65 acre-feet of groundwater per year in a groundwater basin currently impacted by existing overdraft, and the project may have a cumulative impact on agricultural land because the MND entirely failed to analyze this issue. The Court declined to address any other impact arguments advanced by the irrigation district because the City was required to produce an EIR. Therefore, the Court concluded it would serve no purpose for it to address every claimed flaw in the MND.
Written By: Tina Thomas and Chris Butcher
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