Environmental symposium to tackle California land use, water and CEQA

150 150 Ed Coghlan

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Are the political dynamics in California changing on the sensitive topics of how we use land, water and approach the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)?

The answer is a resounding maybe, which makes the Planning and Conservation League (PCL) meeting in Davis later this month interesting.

Titled “The Future is Now … Moving on Land Use, Water and CEQA”, the environmental symposium is looking to stimulate a conversation.

“Our conferences are different than most because they often generate dialog between diverse viewpoints that result in legislative or regulatory initiatives,” said Jan Chatten Brown, PCL Board Chair. “This year we focus on water, climate change, CEQA and environmental justice.”

These issues have also been important topics within the California Economic Summit, a regions-based, year-long process that explores how to create jobs, increase opportunity for all, and improve environmental quality in all of the state’s diverse regions.

The Summit’s Working Landscape Action Team member Judy Corbett is also an organizer of the PCL event, which will be held at the UC Davis School of Law. Corbett will focus on the paramount issue of water and has written about the economics of protecting groundwater.

“I do know that we must bring together diverse groups including cities, counties, flood control districts, watershed groups and the like if we are to successfully protect our groundwater from being overdrafted,” said Corbett. “Currently, DWR is not addressing this in the implementation guidelines for SGMA but is focusing only on water agencies and counties.”

Corbett added that the political dynamics in the state may be changing on CEQA.

“Several of us have noted that political dynamics may be changing,” said Corbett. “Developers, in the past, have had the most money to spend on lobbying and donating to elected local and state officials. Today, the big money is, instead, in the tech sector. This just might have an influence on what is possible in the State when it comes to CEQA.”

Corbett’s panels will be focused on open space preservation for the purpose of catching rainwater in both rural and urban areas in order to replenish diminishing groundwater supplies. PCL water panelists will focus on understanding and protecting the entire watershed. The state is currently funding Integrated Regional Water Management Plans that address the entire watershed.

Another issue is that there is only one entity in the state in charge of land use planning, the Office of Planning and Research. OPR doesn’t have much regulatory authority when it comes to what is in city and county general plans or making sure that general plans are implemented. This will be another area of discussion for the PCL meeting.

For more information about how to register for the PCL event, click here.

Speakers include:

KEYNOTE: Dr. Peter Gleick – President & Co-Founder, Pacific Institute
Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, City of Benicia
Randall Winston – Executive Director, Strategic Growth Council
Charles Gardiner – Executive Director, Delta Vision Foundation
Tim Quinn – Executive Director, CA Association of Local Water Agencies Feb 27 at UC Davis Law School

The sustainable communities work of the California Economic Summit can be found here.

The California Economic Summit is a year-round effort of California Forward and the California Stewardship Network. The Summit recently released its Roadmap to Shared Prosperity, a set of ambitious goals—the One Million Challenges—that will be vital to expanding sustainable economic growth in every part of California. The Roadmap lays out what the Summit aims to accomplish in 2016 in a detailed set of action plans, with experts from a range of fields cheering the Summit’s focus for the year.


Ed Coghlan

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