The Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project is designed to conserve billions of gallons of water lost annually to high-salinity and evaporation in the eastern Mojave Desert so it can become instead a new, reliable water supply for more than 400,000 people in Southern California.
The Project has been developed since 2009 and has achieved numerous permitting milestones, including a successful completion of California’s rigorous environmental review process. On this page, find out what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to the Cadiz Water Project.
Q. What is the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project?
A. The Cadiz Water Project is a water supply project that will actively manage the groundwater basin underlying a portion of the Cadiz and Fenner Valleys in California’s Mojave Desert, conserve renewable native groundwater that would otherwise be lost to evaporation, and create a new reliable water supply for Southern California.
The Project will be implemented in two phases. The first phase would capture approximately 50,000 acre-feet (1 acre-foot = 326,000 gallons, or approximately enough water to meet the annual needs of two suburban households) of groundwater per year from a wellfield on Cadiz Inc. private property and deliver it via a pipeline to the Colorado River Aqueduct, the main artery to the distribution system serving Southern California from Ventura to San Diego County. A second phase of the Project would use the available capacity in the soils beneath the ground to store up to 1 million acre-feet of imported water in wet years so it can be used in dry years. This phase of the project will undergo a separate environmental review and permitting process after the first phase is implemented. <back>
Q. Where is the proposed Project located?
A. The Cadiz Water Project is located in the Mojave Desert at Cadiz, California, at the base of the Fenner Valley and Orange Blossom Wash watersheds, which span approximately 1,300 square miles (roughly the size of the State of Rhode Island). The Project wellfield will be located on the Company’s property and a conveyance pipeline is planned for the Arizona & California Railroad (ARZC) right-of-way to connect the Project wellfield to the Colorado River Aqueduct near Rice, California. Cadiz Inc. is the largest private landowner in the area with over 45,000 acres (70 square miles) of private land.<back>
A. The Southern California area is a semi-arid region and, in addition to frequent droughts, faces a long-term water crisis due to regulatory restrictions on its imported water supplies, population growth and rising costs. As a result, water providers must work to conserve water resources and also identify reliable, high-quality and affordable new water supplies in order to build a balanced water supply portfolio and keep costs low for rate payers. Most Southern California communities, including towns across the inland desert region as well as the coast, rely on water imported from northern California and the Colorado River, and these supplies have become increasingly unreliable, even in wet years, because of regulations and allocation restrictions. The Cadiz Project offers certainty in both wet and dry years that water will be available. <back>
Q. Who is participating in the Project?
A. Multiple water providers that serve millions of Southern California water users have signed letters of intent, option agreements or purchase agreements with Cadiz Inc. to reserve water supplies from the Project. The Santa Margarita Water District, Orange County’s second largest water retailer, was the first provider to join the Project and reserve Project supplies under contract. Additional project participants include Three Valleys Municipal Water District, Golden State Water Company, Suburban Water Systems, California Water Service Company, Otay Water District, Lake Arrowhead Community Services District, the City of Indio and Jurupa Community Services District. Cadiz reserved 20% of Project supplies for use by any San Bernardino County-based water agency.The Arizona & California Railroad Company, which owns the right-of-way where the conveyance pipeline is proposed to be constructed, is also participating in the Cadiz Water Project and will be receiving water and other benefits from the Project to serve critical railroad purposes. <back>
Q. What are the benefits of the Project?
A. The Project will provide numerous benefits for local communities throughout Southern California. According to a study published by Inland Empire economist Dr. John Husing, the Project would create and support over 5,900 jobs and generate more than $878 million in economic activity in the Inland Empire over its two construction phases, and infuse millions of dollars in tax revenue to local governments over the long-term, including approximately $5.4 million per year for San Bernardino County budgets and $613,000 per year for the Needles Unified School District.
The Project also offers numerous water supply benefits for the Southern California region. Implementation of the Project will improve local water supply reliability and reduce the demand for imported water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the Colorado River, both of which continue to be limited by regulatory restrictions even in wet years. Cadiz is closer to Southern California population centers than the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta or the Colorado River, so considerably less energy will be needed to move Project water. This will help manage Southern California’s energy demands, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and stabilize rates for water users. In addition, the Project will create new groundwater storage opportunities and improve water quality by lowering the salt content in the Colorado River Aqueduct.
In a white paper released in January 2014, Southern California economics firm Stratecon estimated that the Project’s water supplies could result in $6.1 billion in savings and avoided costs over a 50-year period. These benefits would not only be realized by Project subscribers, but experienced by all water users throughout the entire Southern California region. <back>
Q. Where does the water come from?
A. The Project is located at the base of the Fenner Valley and Orange Blossom Wash watersheds in California’s Mojave Desert. Every year, precipitation falls on the mountains at the higher elevations of the watersheds as rain and snow. Much of this water gradually percolates underground and is stored deep beneath the surface in the aquifer system. The highly porous underlying rock layers provide ideal conditions for storage of this pure water; research has found that more than 20 million acre-feet of water is currently stored in the alluvium beneath the Project area, as much as is stored in Lake Mead, the nation’s largest surface reservoir. Even more water is believed to be stored further underground in carbonate rock layers.
The groundwater naturally flows downhill through the aquifer system over hundreds of years and ultimately reaches the dry lakes at the base of the watershed, where it becomes highly saline and evaporates through the surface. To minimize the loss of this clean groundwater to evaporation, Project wells will intercept the groundwater and capture it before it reaches the highly-saline brine. Once implemented, the Project would conserve and recover millions of gallons of water every year for beneficial use throughout Southern California. <back>
Q. Is the water supply renewable?
A. Detailed scientific analysis of the Project’s watersheds over many years has confirmed that the groundwater in the system is naturally renewable. A variety of scientific models have been used to estimate the amount of recharge occurring annually in the watersheds surrounding the Project area. In 2008 the United States Geological Survey (USGS) developed a computer model called INFIL 3.0, which uses real data about a local area and local conditions to estimate groundwater recharge. Applying the INFIL 3.0 model, which incorporated extensive data about local soils, vegetation, precipitation, temperatures, rock types, and field research of the Cadiz and Fenner Valleys, an estimated 32,000 acre-feet per year was projected as a long-term average amount of water that reaches below the root zone to become groundwater within the Fenner and Orange Blossom watersheds. <back>
Q. How much water can be delivered to participants?
A. Withdrawals of water will be monitored by the County of San Bernardino and limited to sustainable amounts that preserve the health of the aquifer and safeguard the desert ecosystem. Over the 50-year term of the Project, an average of approximately 50,000 acre-feet of water per year will be conserved and put to beneficial use in Southern California communities. This is enough water to serve about 400,000 people per year and significantly less water than would be used if Cadiz Inc.’s property, which is currently used for agricultural production, is farmed instead. <back>
Q. What is the quality of the groundwater that would be withdrawn from the aquifer?
A. The vast watershed surrounding Cadiz has very few overlying land uses and is free from the threat of bacterial waste and industrial contamination. Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), a key measurement for determining water quality, typically ranges from 300 to 400 milligrams per liter (mg/L) at Cadiz, significantly lower than California’s Colorado River supply which can be as high as 800 mg/L in drier years.
High levels of TDS in water can clog pipes and machinery, drive up water heating prices and can damage agricultural crop production. According to the Southern California Salinity Coalition, increased salinity is one of the most under-recognized water quality threats in the Southwest. A recent report from engineering consulting firm CH2M found that blending Cadiz water into the Colorado River Aqueduct will save Southern California ratepayers $395 million over the life of the Water Project.
Cadiz groundwater has also been tested for metals, including Chromium. Chromium, a heavy metal and the 11th most common element in the earth’s crust, can naturally occur as Chromium-3 or Chromium-6 in groundwater.
In July 2014, the State of California adopted a new Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for Chromium-6 at 10 parts per billion (ppb). Chromium is naturally occurring at Cadiz – not the result of industrial pollution – and Chromium-6 has been measured at levels slightly above the new MCL in some wells. According to the California Department of Public Health, nearly 2,500 public drinking water sources in California have measured levels of Chromium-6 greater than 1 ppb, including other desert groundwater basins such as the Coachella Valley.
In 2015, Cadiz partnered with ATEC Systems Associates Inc., a water treatment technology firm, to treat Project water supplies on site to below the Chromium-6 MCL prior to entering the Colorado River Aqueduct. Pilot testing results demonstrate that the ATEC technology can cost-effectively remove Chromium-6 at Cadiz to a level substantially below the new California State standard. Water will never be delivered to any end user of the Cadiz Project that exceeds an MCL for any constituent, including Chromium–6. <back>
Q: Has the hydrology of the Cadiz Valley and surrounding area been studied? Can the Project operate sustainably?
A. Extensive research by hydrology, geology and environmental experts has been conducted over several years to evaluate, corroborate and validate the Project’s environmental feasibility and sustainability.
From 2009 – 2010, an 18-month study was conducted by industry experts, involving geology mapping, soil samples, precipitation measurements, and hydrology analyses throughout the 1,300 square mile watershed surrounding the Project. Drawing on a U.S. Geological Survey model designed specifically for Southwestern U.S. desert ecosystems, engineering consulting firms CH2M and GeoScience found that the watershed area has 17-34 million acre feet of water already in storage, and assessed its natural recharge rate at 32,000 acre-feet per year (AFY, or 10.4 billion gallons). This recharge rate is consistent with measured evaporation from the dry lake playas at the base of the watershed, which validates the hydrology computer model’s findings.
In 2011, a peer review committee, called the Groundwater Stewardship Committee, comprised of 13 experts from various fields including geology, groundwater, hydrology, water regulation, environmental protection and academia, reviewed the Project’s technical analysis and concluded that with long-term management and monitoring, the Project could offer a significant water supply without harm to the desert environment based on the number of stringent monitoring measurements being incorporated. All monitoring recommended by the Committee was incorporated into the Project’s groundwater management plan.
In 2011 and 2012, as part of the California environmental permitting process conducted, experts assessed potential Project impacts that could occur if the Project’s hydrological studies were incorrect and had overestimated groundwater supplies and recharge. Using a range of recharge scenarios of 32,000 AFY, 16,000 AFY, and 5,000 AFY, the models found that the Project could operate without harm to vital desert environmental resources even at the lowest recharge rate. The Project’s approved groundwater management plan grants the County of San Bernardino the right to take corrective action or shut down the Project if it results in outcomes not expected or modeled.
The Project’s hydrology and environmental impact analysis was subsequently certified in 2012 as part of an extensive Environmental Impact Report and upheld in Orange County Superior Court in 2014, with no deficiencies identified. <back>
Q. What type of facilities will be constructed?
A. Project facilities would be constructed in two phases:
Phase 1 – Conservation and Recovery.
To ensure minimal disturbance of the desert landscape and habitats, Project operations will be concentrated on Cadiz’s pre-disturbed agricultural land and other private lands. A wellfield would be constructed on Cadiz Inc. property to actively manage the aquifer system and minimize loss of groundwater to evaporation. Significant parts of the wellfield and its supporting infrastructure will be built soon to support expanding agricultural operations, then would be transferred to the water Project upon completion of Project construction.
A 43-mile underground steel pipeline would also be constructed and buried within a privately-owned and previously disturbed active railroad right-of-way between Cadiz and Rice, California. The pipeline would connect the wellfield to the Colorado River Aqueduct allowing for delivery throughout Southern California.
Phase 2 – Imported Storage.
The Project would add capacity to the Phase 1 wellfield and pipeline to provide one million acre-feet of groundwater storage space in the aquifer system for water imported to the Project area. Recharge basins would also be constructed on Cadiz Inc. property to percolate imported water into the aquifer system. The Metropolitan Water District and Cadiz built test recharge basins at the site several years ago and found percolation rates to be exceptionally good. The imported water would be held and maintained in storage in the aquifer system underground using the wellfield. <back>
Q: Is the conservation strategy for Cadiz Water Project unique to this aquifer system?
A. The Project provides for a temporally limited and planned draw-down of the existing water table over 50 years. Lowering the water table at the Cadiz Water Project area will reverse the direction of water flow at the base of the watershed, so groundwater will be prevented from traveling to the highly-saline dry lakes, where it would become undrinkable and evaporate.
The Project’s conservation strategy is similar to strategies used in basins where water is being lost by natural processes, including in basins that flow to the ocean or to contaminated water bodies. Some examples include the San Fernando Valley Groundwater Basin, San Gabriel Valley Groundwater Basin, Raymond Groundwater Basin, Orange County Groundwater Basin, and Chino Groundwater Basin.
In 2015, the State of California enacted groundwater laws recommending local government entities, including Counties, manage and monitor all groundwater use. As part of the Water Project, the County of San Bernardino will independently enforce a groundwater management and monitoring program, which will employ more than 40 monitoring wells, air-monitoring devices and new weather stations. All monitoring reports will be filed with the County and made available to the public. The plan also includes corrective actions and mitigations measures that would be implemented to prevent any potential adverse impacts. In addition, the County established a “floor,” or maximum drawdown level, for Project operations, which means that groundwater levels will not be allowed to fall more than 80 feet below the current water table over a two mile radius from the center of the Project wellfield area. Combined, these features will ensure the Project operates safely and sustainably and without harm to the aquifer, the local area or the environment. <back>
Q: How does the Cadiz Water Project differ from groundwater “mining”?
A. While mining generally refers to the removal of a limited and non-renewable resource, extensive, peer-reviewed hydrological studies have demonstrated that the groundwater in the Cadiz area is a renewable resource recharged at a rate of at least 32,000 acre-feet per year of water (10.4 billion gallons) that otherwise would evaporate.
Indeed, the science shows that groundwater within the Cadiz/Fenner Valley system is presently being discharged into the atmosphere from the two dry, desert playas (dry lakes) at the base of the watershed. By the time the fresh groundwater reaches the dry lakes it has a salinity 10 times higher than the Pacific Ocean and is incapable of supporting life. After reaching the dry lakes, the brine water eventually evaporates through the surface crust, and opportunities to put it to beneficial use are lost. This wasteful loss of fresh water at the dry lakes is a condition that can be managed sustainably to provide a new water supply.
The Project therefore bears no resemblance to mining, and is instead comparable to conservation strategies such as such as capturing and reusing run-off, covering reservoirs, and improving irrigation efficiencies. <back>
Q: Does Cadiz Inc. have rights to groundwater in the Cadiz Valley?
A. State and federal laws define water as a public resource, but private entities can possess ownership rights to groundwater or surface water at their property.
For example, under California law, water that falls in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is used to irrigate private fields in the Central Valley, and farmers with water rights to this supply can sell their water resources to urban water agencies in transfers. It does not change the water right if the water originally first fell to public land or private land.
Cadiz Inc. is the largest private landowner in California’s eastern Mojave Desert and has held its properties in the area for over 30 years. Since the 1980s, the Company has maintained various levels of agriculture that relies on groundwater for irrigation. As the owner of 50 square miles of property overlying the Cadiz/Fenner groundwater basin, Cadiz Inc. owns the rights to utilize the underlying groundwater too. Cadiz can choose how to realize these water rights and presently utilizes the rights by irrigating its property for agriculture. Under the permits received for the Water Project, Cadiz Inc. would instead conserve 50,000 acre-feet per year (16.3 billion gallons) for municipal use rather than agricultural use. This water is only a very slight percentage (3-6%) of the total water in the groundwater system and on par with the Cadiz’s permits to irrigate up to 10,000 acres of its lands in the Cadiz Valley. <back>
Q: Is there support for the Cadiz Water Project? Who are its opponents?
A. Support for the Project and its water supply and economic benefits stretches far and wide across government, business, academic and NGO sectors. A current list of these supporters is available at this link: https://missionaguacadiz.com/projectsupport/. Thousands of local California residents and individuals concerned about California’s long term systemic water supply shortages have also voiced their support for the Project. The primary opponents to the Project include the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and Tetra Technologies Inc. CBD’s well publicized deep-seeded opposition to public/private infrastructure is masquerading as a contention that the Santa Margarita Water District and the County of San Bernardino violated the California Environmental Quality Act by proceeding with their independent approvals in the wrong order and with the wrong agency taking the lead, even though both approved the environmental documents. CBD has a lengthy track record of opposing urban growth and according to its website, currently has a legal staff of more than 40 people, but only eight scientists. CBD is known for using state and federal environmental laws to block infrastructure and urban/suburban development nationwide. In 2010, it was estimated by the New York Times that CBD had filed over 700 lawsuits against a range of development projects. Their active lawsuits in 2016 seek to block bottled water, suburban retail development, and countless pipeline and energy projects throughout the West. Their challenges to the implementation of the Colorado River delivery agreements initially adopted in 2003 took more than a decade to resolve before all of their cases were dismissed.
A. Texas-based oil & gas company, Tetra Technologies carries out vast strip-mining operations eight miles below the Cadiz Project on the Cadiz and Bristol Dry-Lakes. These processes involve removing the surface crust of the saline dry lakes, then mining and selling the residual salts for various industrial purposes. According to multiple hydrological studies and the Final Environmental Impact Report, the Water Project is not expected to have anyimpact on Tetra’s operations, which require just 500 acre-feet of water per year. However, for the avoidance of doubt, the County required the Project to include extensive mitigation measures to ensure Tetra’s operations are not impacted and will continue once the Water Project is operational. <back>
Q. Are the Project’s environmental studies credible?
A. Yes. All the studies were performed by experts in the various fields – hydrology, biology, air quality, etc. – who had access to the project site for their field work. All used analysis techniques that are standard to their fields of study, and many of the studies underwent third-party reviews prior to completion. The most critical area of study, regarding the area’s hydrology and the potential Project impacts upon it, were particularly detailed as explained in the question “Has the hydrology of the Cadiz Valley and surrounding area been studied? Can the Project operate sustainably?” [LINK] above. The studies were incorporated into a Draft Environmental Impact report that was reviewed by the permitting agencies (Santa Margarita Water District and San Bernardino County), other government agencies, environmental groups and the public prior to the EIR’s certification by the Santa Margarita Water District’s elected Board of Directors. The public review process is described further in the question “Has the Project been subject to all relevant regulatory processes, including public commentary?” [LINK] below.
Subsequently, the EIR’s findings and certification were challenged in court by project opponents. In December 2014, a California Superior Court judge rejected all arguments against the EIR and its certification process. Her ruling did not change a single word of the EIR. <back>
Q. Will the Project harm the environment or “drain the desert”?
A. The Cadiz Water Project’s approved Groundwater Management, Monitoring and Mitigation Plan (GMMMP) and Environmental Impact Report (EIR) carefully consider the Project’s environmental implications. They present comprehensive operational and monitoring protocols that will protect the aquifer and the surrounding desert environment. A number of well-respected independent environmental experts, public agencies, and regulatory bodies have verified the feasibility of these plans. In 2011, the Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) formed a multidisciplinary Groundwater Stewardship Committee (GSC) to assess the Project’s safety and sustainability, and the panel found that the proposed plans would bolster the Southern California water supply without harming the ecosystem. In 2012, the SMWD approved the Project’s EIR and GMMMP under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
When the Laborers International Union of North America challenged the Project’s CEQA approval in 2012, Anthony Brown, M.Sc. Engineering Hydrology, worked on the union’s behalf to review the Project’s scientific analyses. He found criticisms of the Project’s hydrology to be unsupportable, noting that current groundwater evaporation levels and the Project’s proposed pumping operations would allow for the beneficial use of water resources without any environmental harm.
Six legal cases challenging the Project’s CEQA approval and its underlying science went to court, and in 2014, the Superior Court Judge ruled against all petitions in the six cases, finding no scientific deficiencies in the Cadiz GMMMP and EIR.
It is incredible and simply untrue to claim the Water Project will “drain the desert.” The Watershed that is tributary to the Cadiz Water Project contains 17-34 million acre-feet in storage, a quantity on par with Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir. Under the Project’s conservation strategy, only 3 – 6 % of groundwater in storage will be accessed by the Project. Further, the Project’s groundwater management plan, to be enforced by the Count of San Bernardino, limits any drawdown of the aquifer to 80 ft. below the current water table. (Wells throughout the area demonstrate that the water table in the groundwater basin extends at least 1000 ft. below ground surface.) If this or any of the other of the numerous action criteria are triggered by Project operations, the Project can be shut down by the County. Monthly use reports and monitoring will be published online and local members of the public will also participate in a Technical Review Panel to monitor operations.
Further, as a member of the Cadiz Valley community for over 30 years, Cadiz Inc. is committed to the highest standard of environmental protection and good stewardship of the surrounding desert environment and water resources. In 2009, we entered into a Green Compact with the Natural Heritage Institute (NHI) to ensure that all of our projects operate sustainably. Since that time, the Company has also invested in and made commitments to construction of a new cultural center, a tourist-based steam train operation, a desert tortoise habitat conservation bank and a research facility for the desert kit fox, to ensure that our local environment is always revered and protected. <back>
Q. Will the Project impact regional springs and wildlife?
A. The Cadiz Water Project poses no threat to the springs within the Mojave National Preserve. Because springs receive water via precipitation flowing down the mountain above, the springs in the project area will not be impacted by fluctuations in the groundwater table below. Furthermore, the closest spring flows at an elevation that is 1,000 feet above the aquifer system and 11 miles from the Project area.
“An evaluation of the springs concluded that there is no physical connection of the springs in the higher elevation mountains to the groundwater in the aquifer in the valleys where Project pumping would occur… The springs receive all of their water supply first before the remaining water flows down slope or infiltrates into the fractured rock, subsequently migrating down slope into the alluvium of the valley floors.” – EIR 4.9 Hydrology and Water Quality
The Project also will not affect the region’s wildlife, as plants and animals receive their water from precipitation rather than stored groundwater, which is 100 feet or more below the surface, far too deep for plant roots to reach, let alone animals.
Q. Will the Project reduce water levels in other private wells?
A. Most of the area’s private wells are located at higher points in elevation and draw water before it reaches the alluvial aquifer system at the Project area. As a result, other private wells are not expected to be affected by the Water Project. Water levels may fluctuate closer to the project area and operations could lead to fluctuations (both up and down) in nearby wells. To ensure that the Project does not impact private wells, any well owner can be monitored by the Project’s groundwater management plan at no cost. The monitoring features will quickly identify and address any indications of negative impacts to well levels and under the terms of the County’s pumping permit, these impacts would be mitigated. <back>
Q. Will Project operations increase dust in the area?
A. Extensive study of the chemistry composition of the Bristol and Cadiz Dry Lakes confirms that they are not susceptible to increased dust emissions from dewatering. These dry lakes, which are fed only by groundwater, have crusts that are comprised of calcium chloride, a chemical is known to bind rather than disperse. This is very different from other California dry lakes, like Owens Lake, that are fed by surface water and therefore lack a calcium chloride crust, making them prone to dust. Even though extensive scientific study has found that Project operations will not harm air quality in the area, monitoring devices, including air nephelometers, will be deployed throughout the Project area to ensure there are no unexpected impacts. <back>
ABOUT PERMITTING THE PROJECT
Q. Has the Project been subject to all relevant regulatory processes, including public commentary?
A. The Project has been extensively reviewed pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). From 2011 – 2012, the Santa Margarita Water District (“SMWD”) conducted an 18-month public review process, during which informational workshops, educational seminars and public hearings were held to encourage comment and dialogue from the community.
In July 2012, following years of careful technical analysis, field surveys of the Project area and public review, SMWD certified the Final Environmental Impact Report (“FEIR”) and approved the Project under CEQA. The FEIR summarized that the Project would avoid any significant impacts to desert resources, including critical resources of the desert environment such as vegetation, mountain springs, and water and air quality.
As a Responsible Agency in the CEQA process, the County of San Bernardino also facilitated a public review process of the Project’s GMMMP. This process resulted in the addition of several provisions that increased public data access and added more stringent environmental requirements. The County approved the GMMMP in October 2012.
In 2012 and 2013, the approvals of the Cadiz Water Project were challenged in Superior Court in nine separate cases. Three cases were withdrawn or otherwise dismissed and six proceeded to trial in December 2013. In May 2014, the Orange County Superior Court denied all CEQA claims against the Project and upheld the Project environmental review and approvals. These rulings have been appealed to the California Court of Appeals, 4th District and are scheduled to be heard in March 2016.
Prior to construction, the Project will require an agreement with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to convey water in the Colorado River Aqueduct, as well as a certification from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management that the Project pipeline will further, in part, railroad purposes or a new pipeline right-of-way. <back>
Q. Has the Project been federally reviewed under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA)?
A. The current Cadiz Water Project has not been reviewed under NEPA because there is no federal permitting or regulatory nexus for any of the Project components. This is because the Project’s facilities will be constructed on private land or within existing right-of-ways. Moreover, federal endangered species are not in the Project area nor are any impacted by Project operations.
Although the Project’s current groundwater management plan and EIR have not been reviewed under NEPA, they have earned state approval under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a law widely regarded as the nation’s most stringent environmental regulation. While NEPA only requires that projects consider their effects on the environment, CEQA requires a more robust scientific analysis, as well as protective and mitigating actions that make it far more than “a procedural box to be checked off.” (See, White House CEQA v. NEPA handbook for more information).
In 2002, an earlier iteration of the Project that would have constructed facilities on federal lands underwent a NEPA review and received NEPA approval from the US Department of the Interior. As this former project design was larger and considered more impactful that the current version, it is expected that the current project, in its more modest form, would receive NEPA approval should such a review ever be conducted for any Project component. <back>
Q. What, if any, is role of the US Bureau of Land Management in the Project?
A. The proposed Project will construct a water conveyance pipeline along the tracks of the Arizona and California Railroad (ARZC), within a 200 ft. wide longitudinal path or “right-of-way,” that was originally granted to the railroad by the federal government under the General Railroad Right of Way Act of 1875. In 2011, the lead attorney, or Solicitor, for the U.S. Department of the Interior issued a federally binding opinion on the legality of third party activities within federal railroad right-of-ways, such as the one held by the ARZC. According to the opinion, federal law allows railroads to authorize third-party activities without any additional permitting or review by the BLM if they either “derive from OR further” the purposes of a railroad.
The Cadiz Water Project includes $12 million of infrastructure development and improvements that will directly enhance and benefit the railroad, including a new road for maintenance, emergency, and employee access; remotely operated fire suppression systems on all the railroad’s wood trestle bridges along the pipeline route; inline power generation for use at a railroad switching yard that currently is not electrified; and a fiber optic information transmission network. The Project will also facilitate water distribution for purposes such as steam locomotives and fire suppression. Experts from the railroad industry have confirmed that the Project will provide ARZC with a number of relevant, tangible benefits. As a result, the Project did not seek a separate permit from the BLM when it conducted its environmental review from 2011 – 2012.
However, a rider to the US Appropriations Bill and a new policy issued by the BLM in 2014 applying to all railroads over federal lands, led to the Project being required to submit information to the BLM to demonstrate that the pipeline would be within the scope of the ARZC’s right-of-way. (In other words, that it would further railroad purposes.) This is a ministerial authorization that doesn’t require NEPA review.
In October 2015, the state director of the BLM California office, on his last day before retiring, issued a preliminary “non-binding” guidance letter finding that the Project’s pipeline is outside the scope of the railroad right-of-way. He based this decision on the fact that the Project would provide water for public consumption in addition to providing railroad benefits. Consequently, as the guidance stated, the BLM would require a new, separate right-of-way permit for pipeline construction to proceed. Cadiz Inc., as well as railroad legal experts and many Members of Congress, believe this finding is contrary to law and the framework established by BLM for the evaluation of railroad purpose. If the Project must ultimately apply for a new right-of-way permit, the permit would be subject to NEPA review conducted by the BLM. Cadiz, its public agency partners and Congressional supporters are currently seeking a reconsideration of the BLM California guidance through contact with the BLM National Office. <back>
Q. What is the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s role in the Project?
A. In order for conserved water supplies from Cadiz to reach retail water agencies in Southern California, it must be moved in conveyance facilities owned and operated by Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD). Under California law and MWD’s Administrative Code, MWD must move water for third parties so long as it has adequate capacity and the agency receives fair compensation.
MWD’s role in the Cadiz Water Project is solely focused on the review of the request of the Southern California retail water agencies participating in the Water Project to convey Project supplies in MWD facilities on their behalf. The negotiation of these conveyance terms occurs between MWD and the retail water agencies participating the Project, not directly between MWD and Cadiz. Importantly, MWD itself is not a “Project participant” – it is not currently planning to purchase water directly from Cadiz or store its water supplies at Cadiz.
The Project participants and Cadiz have committed that the conveyance of Project supplies will not harm MWD in any way. Cadiz will treat water at the wellhead to standards established by MWD for its facilities. The participating agencies will pay published wheeling (transporting) rates and move water when space is available in the MWD system. MWD also will have an opportunity to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefits, such as reduced treatment costs, by moving Cadiz water into the service area.
MWD had a direct business relationship with Cadiz from 1997 to 2002, when the agency considered purchasing and storing water in the Cadiz Valley under an earlier iteration of the Project that is no longer being pursued. In 2002, MWD decided not to proceed with that project (called the Cadiz Valley Groundwater Storage & Dry Year Supply Program) and it did not go forward. In that instance, MWD was the only participating agency and was also the lead agency in the CEQA/NEPA environmental review. In 2003, Cadiz filed litigation against MWD challenging its decision not to accept permits offered to the project in 2002 by the US Bureau of Land Management. However, there is no current or continuing litigation as both parties dismissed their suits in 2009, each agreeing to bear their own costs.
There are no similarities between MWD’s role in 2002, when the question was whether or not to purchase water and implement the whole Project, and the present activity, in which MWD is establishing terms to convey conserved water for agencies within its service area at their request.
Today’s Project participants have representation on the MWD Board of Directors and when the conveyance terms are finalized, they will request the Board approve the terms on their behalf. <back>
Q. Does the creation of the Mojave Trails National Monument by President Obama impact the Cadiz Water Project or Cadiz Inc. property rights?
A. On February 12, 2015, President Obama exercised his powers under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate National Monuments in the Southern California desert, including the Mojave Trails National Monument, a 1.6 million acre swath of federal land in the eastern Mojave Desert. Cadiz Inc. owns private properties inside, outside and adjacent to the Monument boundary.
Under the Antiquities Act, Monument designations are limited only to federal lands within the boundary designated. As a result, none of Cadiz’s private properties are subject to, or impaired by, an Antiquities Act Monument designation. This includes private properties whether they are within the Monument boundary or near or adjacent to the Monument boundary. The authorizing documents for Mojave Trails expressly include a reservation of valid existing rights, and therefore cannot impact the Cadiz’s vested property rights, water rights, agricultural rights, or any easements or rights-of-way within the Monument boundary, including pipeline and railroad rights-of-way. Therefore, we foresee no adverse impact of any kind on its current and planned land use activities as a result of the Mojave Trails National Monument designation.
Even so, Cadiz joins others in the region in opposing the use of the Antiquities Act unilaterally to establish monuments in the California desert when viable legislative options remain open, including a bill by Congressman Paul Cook, who represents the entire proposed Monument area. In our view, a locally-developed, Congressional solution with federal appropriations outlined for maintenance and protection is greatly preferred by the local, affected communities and is more likely to be successful over the long-term than a unilateral presidential action.
To view a map of the Mojave Trails Monument area, click here.
To view the Proclamation designating the Mojave Trails Monument, click here.
Q. How will a “rider” placed by Senator Dianne Feinstein on the 2016 Appropriations bill impact the Cadiz Water Project?
A. The 2016 “rider” pertaining to the Cadiz Water Project that was attached by Senator Feinstein contains two provisions.
Provision (A) of the rider directs the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to evaluate whether the installation of the Cadiz Water Project pipeline in a railroad right-of-way is within the scope of the original federal right-of-way grant. To be “within the scope,” the pipeline must be found to derive from or further railroad purposes. This evaluation has already been undertaken by BLM California office, which published preliminary guidance in October 2015 finding that the pipeline is outside the scope of the grant and may need a new ROW permit to proceed. However, this guidance has become the subject of dispute and opposition from Project stakeholders, Members of Congress and the rail and infrastructure industries. As a result, the BLM National Director has asked BLM CA’s new State Director to review the matter. See “What, if any, is role of the US Bureau of Land Management in the Project? [LINK] above for more detail on BLM’s role.
Provision (B) of the rider would limit BLM from processing a new right-of-way application for any “proposal to store water underground for the purpose of export,” which is the description of Phase 2 of the Cadiz Water Project. It does not preclude BLM from processing an application to conserve and export water for municipal use, which is Phase 1 of the Cadiz Water Project. It also does not preclude BLM from doing any of the work referenced in Provision (A). <back>