In April 2021, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) entered into a Proposition 1 Round 1 Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Implementation Grant Agreement, providing that SAWPA would serve as the program manager for $23 million in IRWMP grant funds to be disbursed to sub-grantees, consistent with IRWMP and California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA") requirements and ensuring that the maximum benefit of such funds are realized in the Santa Ana River Watershed. SAWPA seeks to disburse up to $4,563,338 of this funding to BBARWA through the Sub-Grant Agreement.
The Sub-Grant Agreement provides BBARWA with funding to cover costs for Replenish Big Bear. Work performed after January 1, 2015 is eligible to be counted as local match and work performed after June 2, 2020 is eligible for grant reimbursement. Tasks under the agreement include project management; reporting; relevant feasibility studies; CEQA documentation; permitting with the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, Colorado River Basin Regional Board, State Water Resources Control Board, Caltrans, San Bernardino County, South Coast Air Quality Management District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife; design; the project monitoring plan; contract services; construction administration; and construction of approximately seven miles of pipeline from BBARWA to Stanfield Marsh, a 2,500 gallon-per-minute pumping plant to pump advance-treated water to Stanfield Marsh, and retrofitting/constructing treatment plant upgrades.
The Sub-Grant Agreement is not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). It constitutes a government funding mechanism or other government fiscal activity which does not involve any commitment to any specific project. The Sub-Grant Agreement merely constitutes an agreement by which BBARWA may obtain funds from IRWM to cover the costs it has incurred or will incur in connection with the Replenish Big Bear Project. BBARWA's approval of the Sub-Grant Agreement in no way commits BBARWA to the Replenish Big Bear Project. The Sub-Grant Agreement is thus not subject to CEQA. (State CEQA Guidelines sections 15060, subd. (c)(3), 15378, subd. (b)(4).) Even assuming the Sub-Grant Agreement is a "project" under CEQA, it will have no significant effect on the environment, as it is a government funding mechanism and is therefore covered by the common sense exemption. (State CEQA Guidelines section 15061, subd. (b)(3).)