Senator Grove’s Bill to Streamline Permits for Water, Groundwater Recharge Projects Moves Forward

Senator Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) announced that her bill SB 651, which directs the State Judicial Council to limit the ability to stall water conservation and groundwater recharge projects, passed its first committee. Once signed into law SB 651, would cap at 270 days the ability to challenge under the environmental impact report these needed projects. The bill is similar to Sections 12 and 13 of Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-7-22, which addresses water conservation and groundwater recharge projects as it relates to the drought state of emergency.

In August 2022, Governor Newsom released “California’s Water Supply Strategy, Adapting to a Hotter, Drier Future,” which indicates that our state is “experiencing extreme, sustained drought conditions” due to climate change, and prioritizes the need for our state to modernize our state’s water system. The report states the Administration’s intention to create “a more expeditious process for completing, reviewing and finalizing CEQA reviews” and “a voluntary permitting process for water infrastructure projects.”

“We know that for every wet year in our state we have many more dry years. It’s a not a new reality—the recent floods just bring attention to an issue we’ve had for decades,” said Senator Grove. “If we don’t have a process to capture this water quickly, we won’t be prepared for the next drought.”

Governor Newsom has recently re-affirmed his intention to create an expedited process for completing, reviewing and finalizing CEQA reviews for drought resilience projects. However, previous legislative attempts to enact changes to CEQA have failed. Therefore, a new method that establishes an expedited judicial review process and builds upon an already-implemented process by the Governor is needed to cut unnecessary red tape.

“Californians are tired of hearing excuses when it comes to the lack of water storage,” said Senator Shannon Grove. “Frivolous environmental lawsuits continue to hold up projects that would help restore our groundwater and provide water for the world’s most productive agriculture lands.”

SB 651 will next be heard by the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.