Each public agency is responsible for complying with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and with the State CEQA Guidelines (Title 14, Chapter 3 of the California Code of Regulations)
CEQA requires that public agencies document and consider the potential environmental effects of any agency’s actions that meet the definition of a “project” under CEQA. A “project” is an action that has the potential to result in direct or indirect physical changes to the environment. This includes the agency’s direct activities as well as activities that involve the agency’s approvals or funding.
Section 15022 of the State CEQA Guidelines requires each agency to adopt objectives, criteria and specific procedures consistent with CEQA for administering its responsibilities. A public agency may elect to adopt the State CEQA Guidelines and then adopt only those required procedures or provisions that are specific to the operations of that agency. Under Resolution No. 09-15-2014-B the City Council adopted the State CEQA Guidelines along with the City of Sonora Local Implementation Guidelines – California Environmental Quality Act. All applicable projects submitted to the City will be subject to the pertinent requirements under both CEQA Guidelines. The City of Sonora’s Community Development Department oversees CEQA implementation for the City.
Provided that a project is not found to be exempt from CEQA, the first step in the agency’s evaluation of the potential environmental effects of the project is the preparation of an Initial Study. The purpose of the Initial Study is to determine whether the project would involve “significant” environmental effects as defined by CEQA and to describe feasible mitigation measures that would be necessary to avoid the significant effects or reduce them to a less than significant level. In the event that the Initial Study does not identify significant effects or identifies mitigation measures that would reduce all of the significant effects of the project to a less than significant level, the City may prepare a Negative Declaration. If this is not the case, the City must prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The City may also decide to proceed directly with the preparation of an EIR without the preparation of an Initial Study.