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SD Coastkeeper files suit against Water Authority's master plan

San Diego Coastkeeper has filed a lawsuit against the San Diego County Water Authority that alleges the Water Authority failed to account for the environmental impacts of its latest master plan update, which was adopted in late March.

Filed on Friday in San Diego Superior Court, the environmental group's lawsuit calls on the Water Authority to amend its plans in order to, as Coastkeeper sees it, more accurately recognize and account for the energy used in moving and treating the region’s water. The lawsuit's basis of argument is the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires the identification of environmental impacts and measures with which to address them in project planning.

Coastkeeper's target in the suit is the greenhouse gas emissions from planned capital improvements in the Water Authority's roughly 20-year infrastructure blueprint — projects such as the Carlsbad desalination project that is still under construction. Other environmental groups, such as the California Environmental Rights Foundation, hinted at the possibility of legal action before the Water Authority adopted the long-term plan, known as the Regional Water Facilities Optimization and Master Plan Update.

San Diego Coastkeeper waterkeeper Matt O’Malley said in a statement that because of what Coastkeeper sees as an inadequate planning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its projects, the Water Authority's plan "could jeopardize the health and economic viability of San Diego County."

The group said its input during the planning process was not included in the master plan update. Coastkeeper said it repeatedly called on the Water Authority to implement an "appropriate" greenhouse gas reduction plan, and to prioritize and incentivize conservation and water recycling.

“The Water Authority claims they approved only a couple minor amendments to their plans and operations and can therefore avoid any real scrutiny,” Escondido attorney Everett DeLano said on behalf of Coastkeeper. “In reality, the plans they approved will pose profound negative impacts to San Diego’s environment and ratepayers for years to come.”

Ken Weinberg, director of water resources for the Water Authority, said the master plan update and related environmental documents were developed throught two dozen public workshops, meetings and hearings since September 2011, and that they "not only meet the letter of the law," but "are good for the environment and good for the region."

Weinberg added that the plan continues to place an increased emphasis on water conservation and the local water supply development that was established in the Water Authority’s 2010 Urban Water Management Plan.

The Water Authority has 20 days from its receipt of the service to set a settlement conference date if it wishes to do so, according to Coastkeeper.

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