News: Controversial Pipeline Project in the Mojave Desert Surges Forward

San Bernardino Sun, Joe Nelson

Orange County Superior Court Judge Gail Andler’s ruling Thursday dismissed each of six complaints filed against the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project, according to a news release and attached court order.

The project would divert surplus groundwater from the Fenner Valley, about 40 miles northeast of Twentynine Palms and south of the Mojave National Preserve, to the Colorado River Aqueduct. The groundwater would then be sold to other water agencies for municipal and industrial use. The plan proposes pumping 50,000 to 75,000 acre-feet of groundwater a year from the aquifer during the project’s 50-year projected lifespan.

Delaware Tetra Technologies and the Center for Biological Diversity filed the petitions challenging the project’s environmental approvals and groundwater management plan.

The San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, the San Gorgonio Sierra Club and the National Parks Conservation Association joined the Center for Biological Diversity in the litigation.

Among their arguments was that the Santa Margarita Water District in Rancho Santa Margarita was not the proper lead agency for the project, and that the project’s environmental impact report did not include a proper description of the project. They also argued there was an inadequate analysis of the potential impacts to the water supply, air quality, and biological resources.

Andler heard the cases consecutively before issuing her final ruling.

Cadiz officials released a statement Friday that they were pleased with the trial court’s ruling after three months of hearings.

But environmentalists called the court’s decision disheartening.

“Needless to say, we were very disappointed with the court’s ruling,” said Ileene Anderson, senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re very much opposed to this and we’ll consider our options and move on from there…. We can always appeal it.”

The court did voice concern over the lead agency being the Santa Margarita Water District, but it wasn’t enough to rule in favor of that complaint.

Biological Diversity officials argued that Santa Margarita Water District should not be the lead agency on the project because it’s not in the action area where the impact’s going to occur, Anderson said.

Supporters of the project said it’s a step in the right direction.

Brian Bowcock who sits on the board for Three Valleys Municipal Water District, which serves about 500,000 people in Claremont, Pomona and surrounding cities, said he doesn’t share some of the concerns of opponents.

“If it’s really and truly a project of California, then we need to work with the Cadiz project just like everybody needs to work together to try and bring water out of the Delta to the south. And if that can happen, it’s best for California,” Bowcock said.

He said the lead agency is not relevant, as long as all parties are involved.

“If we’re gonna be a player, we’re gonna be involved. To be the lead agency, that’s immaterial,” Bowcock said. “If everybody is going to be a player with the same ball, then I don’t care who the lead agency is.”

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