Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released the following statement after a federal judge blocked a Bureau of Land Management decision that would have allowed the Cadiz Water Project to use an existing railroad right of way without federal permits:
“I’m pleased the federal judge saw this move for what it was: an end run around the law. While this is a victory for the Mojave Desert, California must still enact stronger protections to ensure the desert isn’t plundered of its vital water by this company.
“The judge ruled that the administration lacked a justifiable rationale when it reversed the 2015 determination that Cadiz must undergo the normal federal environmental review process.
“Unfortunately, the judge’s ruling leaves open the possibility that the Trump administration could still find a way to let Cadiz use the railroad right of way without any federal environmental review.
“Cadiz’s CEO has already stated he’ll ask the Trump administration to rewrite its reversal of the 2015 determination in a more favorable way.
“That’s why the California Assembly must pass SB 307 as soon as possible to protect the desert, regardless of what move Cadiz plans next. The administration has shown its willingness to stack the deck in Cadiz’s favor so we must be ready.”
- 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.
- 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.”
- The bill was passed by the state Senate in May. It was passed by the Assembly Natural Resources Committee earlier this month and referred to the Appropriations Committee.
- The Cadiz Water Project would drain an underground aquifer in the Mojave Desert at a rate that independent scientists have determined is unsustainable.
- 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.