Reasons for Exemption
The proposed action is statutorily exempt under California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Statute 21080(b)(4) and State CEQA Guidelines 15269(b)(c), which provides that specific actions necessary to prevent or mitigate an emergency are exempt from CEQA; categorically exempt from CEQA under the State CEQA Guidelines Sections 15301(b)(f) and 15304(f); and under Section 12 of the Governor's March 28, 2022, Executive Order (EO) N-7-22.
On April 21, 2021, Governor Newsom issued a Proclamation of a State of Emergency in Sonoma and Mendocino counties due to drought conditions in the Russian River Watershed (Governor's Drought Proclamation). The Governor has continued that proclamation for Sonoma and Mendocino counties through further drought proclamations on May 10, July 8, October 19, 2021, and most recently with EO N-7-22 on March 28, 2022. Section 12 of EO N-7-22 suspends CEQA to advance groundwater recharge projects that address the impacts of drought.
On April 27, 2021, the Board of Supervisors for the County of Sonoma proclaimed a local emergency for the Sonoma County Operational Area due to drought conditions, which was most recently continued on December 13, 2022. On June 16, 2021, the General Manager of Sonoma Water determined that due to drought conditions, an emergency exists that poses a clear and imminent danger, requiring immediate action to prevent or mitigate the loss or impairment of life, health, property, or essential public services, necessitating immediate action pursuant to the authority of the County of Sonoma Resolution #06-0649. On June 18, 2021, the Sonoma Water Board of Directors adopted a resolution ratifying the General Manager’s emergency determination and declaring the need to do emergency work related to drought and that such projects are exempt for the requirements of CEQA. The Board of Directors has since continuously renewed the emergency determination every two weeks.
Sonoma Water staff are proposing work necessary to bring the existing Occidental Road Well Station into operation to increase regional and community drought resiliency. Also, ASR components would be installed and pilot testing would be conducted. Section 12 of EO N-7-22 suspends CEQA to advance groundwater recharge projects and to demonstrate feasibility of projects that can use available high water flows to recharge local groundwater while minimizing flood risk and applies to any actions taken by local agencies where the state agency with primary responsibility for the implementation of directives concurs that local action is required. The State of California Department of Water Resources (DWR) provided grant funding for the Santa Rosa Plain Water Supply Resiliency Project, which includes funding for the Emergency Occidental Road Well Activation and Aquifer Storage and Recovery Project, under the Urban and Multibenefit Drought Relief Grant on December 22, 2021. In addition to the suspension of CEQA provided by EO N-7-22, CEQA Guidelines Section 15301 provides that the operation, repair, maintenance or minor alteration of existing facilities involving negligible or no expansion of use beyond that existing at the time of the lead agency's determination is categorically exempt from CEQA. Section 15301(b) exempts existing facilities, including public utility services. Section 15301(f) specifies that health protection devices for use in conjunction with existing facilities are exempt under CEQA. CEQA Guidelines Section 15304(f) provides that minor alterations to land, such as trenching and backfilling, where the surface is restored and there is no removal of healthy, mature, scenic trees is categorically exempt from CEQA. The proposed project would add chlorination to provide safe potable water that meets regulatory requirements, have minor ground disturbance at an existing facility where the surface will be restored, and will not remove any trees.