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The California Supreme Court on Thursday put more pressure on builders and government leaders to ensure that water resources for large-scale developments are examined sufficiently to minimize environmental problems. The 6-1 decision puts on hold a massive residential development near Sacramento by declaring that the state-mandated environmental impact report didn’t guarantee an adequate long-term water supply for the project or measure the future impact on nearby rivers and streams. “While the EIR identifies the intended water sources in general terms,” Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar wrote, “it does not clearly and coherently explain � how the long-term demand is likely to be met with those sources, the environmental impact of exploiting those sources, and how those impacts are to be mitigated.” Justice Marvin Baxter, in a partially dissenting opinion, accused the majority of unrealistically requiring developers to make long-term water resource plans not only for their own project, but for all other projects nearby. He said that would “discourage new housing development, increase its cost, create uncertainty, and trigger more litigation.” The ruling forces a reassessment of the Sunrise Douglas Community Plan, the largest land-use development ever approved in Sacramento County. According to the court’s ruling, the project includes more than 22,000 residential units � housing as many as 60,000 people � on 6,000 acres of land within the city of Rancho Cordova. Sacramento-based Deputy Attorney General Gordon Burns, who argued part of the case as an amicus curiae in support of a group opposing the development, said the court’s decision makes the rules clearer. “As a practical matter,” he said, “it means that water planning and land-use planning are going to have to be more closely coordinated.” The ruling is Vineyard Area Citizens for Responsible Growth Inc. v. City of Rancho Cordova (Sunrise Douglas Property Owners Association), 07 C.D.O.S. 1131.

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