On November 6th, the Newsom Administration announced that the Sites Reservoir project will be the first to benefit from new judicial review streamlining provisions authorized by this summer’s legislative infrastructure package. The new streamlining provisions apply to qualifying public projects, limiting the time for judicial review from CEQA challenges to eligible projects to a total of 270 days, if determined feasible by the court where the challenge is heard.
By utilizing the new streamlining provisions enacted by SB 149 (Caballero, 2023), the Administration is asserting that this week’s action will meaningfully reduce the time to complete the Sites project. However, it should be noted that the 270-day judicial review provisions are not a mandatory requirement on California courts, and that judicial review is only one part of a more lengthy permitting, entitlement, and financial process required for completing large public projects. Even with this new expedited authority in place, completion of the Sites Project is expected to happen no sooner than a decade from now.
Still, this designation by the Newsom Administration is important, not only to possibly shorten the timeline for the project, but it may also reduce costs and bolster market certainty and confidence in the project. In its press release, the Administration notes that the project has received a total of $46.75 million in early funding from the state, and that, in all, the project is eligible for up to $875.4 million of Proposition 1 funding. The estimated total project cost is north of $4 billion.
To read the Administration’s certification of the project, see here. For more information on RCRC’s advocacy for Sites and other surface storage projects, please contact RCRC Policy Advocate Sidd Nag.