Bill was passed by Senate in May, now heads to governor’s desk
Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released the following statement on SB 307, California Senator Richard Roth’s (D-Riverside) bill to protect the Mojave Desert, after it was passed by the California Assembly and sent to the governor to be signed into law:
“The California legislature has delivered a major victory for the Mojave Desert and our treasured natural resources. Once Governor Newsom signs the bill, this will pose a key obstacle to the Cadiz effort to drain a vital desert aquifer.
“Water is the lifeblood of California’s desert. It supports the unique flora and fauna – from bighorn sheep and desert tortoises to Joshua trees and breathtaking wildflower blooms – that define California’s iconic desert landscapes.
“For decades, Cadiz has threatened to drain a vital desert aquifer, robbing the desert of its most precious resource, in order to line corporate pockets. Thanks to today’s vote, we’re closer to ending that threat.
“I want to thank all of the senators and assembly members who stood up for our desert, particularly California Speaker Rendon, Senator Roth and Assemblymember Friedman who spearheaded this effort.”
- Cadiz for years has sought to exploit an 1875 railroad law to use an existing railroad right of way to escape any federal environmental review of its proposed pipeline.
- In 2011, the Obama administration issued guidelines for railroad rights of way. Those guidelines were in response to two federal court rulings requiring environmental reviews for projects that don’t serve a railroad purpose.
- After a multi-year review, the Obama administration determined in 2015 that Cadiz’s project did not further a railroad purpose and therefore must obtain federal permits and undergo a NEPA review like all similar projects.
- In 2017, the Trump administration reversed the 2011 legal opinion and the 2015 determination to allow Cadiz to move forward without federal permits.
- Last month, a federal judge rejected the 20105 determination and blocked Cadiz from using the railroad right of way without a federal permit. Cadiz’s CEO has stated he’ll ask the Trump administration to rewrite its determination in a more favorable way.
- The Cadiz Water Project would drain an underground aquifer in the Mojave Desert at a rate that independent scientists have determined is unsustainable.
- Cadiz asserts that the aquifer’s water natural recharge rate is 32,000 acre-feet per year and proposes to export an average of 50,000 acre-feet from the region each year over a 50-year period.
- However, the U.S. Geological Survey has stated the recharge rate is only 2,000 to 10,000 acre-feet per year. The National Park Service has confirmed that analysis.
- In its comments on the Cadiz project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report, the National Park Service concluded that Cadiz’s estimated annual recharge rates “are not reasonable and should not even be considered.”
- State Senator Richard Roth (D-Riverside) introduced SB 307 to create a commonsense state review process that safeguards California’s fragile desert lands and groundwater basins. The bill was passed by the state Senate in May.