On March 28, 2022, the Governor issued Executive Order N-7-22 to bolster regional water conservation efforts. The Executive Order suspends Public Resources Code, Division 13 (commencing with section 21000, also known as the California Environmental Quality Act or CEQA) and regulations adopted pursuant to that Division under specified circumstances. Specifically, projects may operate under that suspension where the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency determines that the proposed activities are eligible to be conducted under this suspension, taking into account the purpose of accelerating conservation projects that are necessary to address impacts of the drought, while at the same time protecting public health and the environment. The Executive Order also directs the Natural Resources Agency to maintain on its website a list of all activities or approvals for which these provisions are suspended.
On April 19, 2022, the Secretary for Natural Resources determined that a suspension of CEQA was appropriate under the March 28 Executive Order to facilitate a change in land use on a property purchased by the Westlands Water District. The Westlands board intends to remove an almond orchard from the property in order to reduce groundwater pumping and help protect groundwater levels along the California Aqueduct. The Westlands letter requesting an exemption is available here. The Secretary’s letter is available here.