Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today called on the California Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee to support Assembly Bill 1000, the California Desert Protection Act. The legislation, introduced by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), would protect the ecologically fragile Mojave Desert from harmful projects like the Cadiz water extraction project.
“In light of recent rollbacks of federal protections for public lands, and reviews of national monument designations, including Mojave Trails and Sand to Snow in the California desert, state protections for the desert are needed more than ever," Senator Feinstein wrote. “AB-1000 would require designated state agencies to ensure there would be no adverse impacts to the desert’s most vital resource—water.”
Full text of the letter follows:
July 10, 2017
The Honorable Robert Hertzberg
Chair, Committee on Natural Resources and Water
1020 N Street, Room 5046
Sacramento, California 95814
Re: AB-1000 (Friedman) – STRONG SUPPORT
Dear Chair Hertzberg,
I strongly support AB-1000 – California Desert Protection: Groundwater Transfers, which is before your committee on July 11, 2017.
The Cadiz water extraction project proposal illustrates why state protections of desert groundwater basins are critical. Cadiz, Inc., a private company that owns 45,000 acres in the Mojave Desert, wants to exploit the Fenner, Cadiz and Bristol Valley aquifers underneath the land they own and the adjacent desert. They propose to extract these limited water resources to sell to southern California at withdrawal rates that would decimate the desert. I have attached a United States Geological Survey map that shows the location of the Cadiz, Fenner, and Bristol Valleys within the Mojave Desert.
Now, with support within the current federal Administration, Cadiz is trying to push their project forward. Efforts have already begun to dismantle the regulatory framework created by the Bureau of Land Management that would require Cadiz to seek federal environmental reviews for their project.
I met with Cadiz about their project in 1999 and had serious concerns of its projects’ impact on the desert. With Cadiz’s knowledge, I requested the United States Geological Survey, an independent scientific agency, to provide an objective assessment of the natural recharge rate of the project’s targeted groundwater basins—the Fenner, Bristol, and Cadiz aquifers. The objective assessment would help to determine if there was a way for their project to proceed without depleting the aquifers and destroying the desert.
I have attached letters from the United States Geological Survey and the National Park Service dating back to 2002 explaining their scientific assessments of the groundwater recharge potential of the region and summarized their findings below:
- The U.S. Geological Survey has stated since 2002 that they believe the recharge rate in the basins is between 2,000 and 10,000 acre feet per year.
- The U.S. Geological Survey reaffirmed their findings in May 2017 stating, “We are not aware of new information that would change our recharge estimates.”
- Additionally, the National Park Service believes the groundwater recharge in the basin ranges from 4,650 to 7,750 acre feet per year “at best.”
- In its 2012 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” and are “3 to 16 times too high.”
- National Park Service described the U.S. Geological Survey study as “computed by a scientific agency with no financial stake in the proposed project, peer-reviewed and made available to the public, provide a reasonable range of recharge estimates for the Project area.”
Cadiz chose to disregard these objective scientific analyses from the United States Geological Survey and the National Park Service about how devastating their proposal would be to the desert and its wildlife, as well as local communities and industries.
Instead, Cadiz continues to assert that the recharge rate for the aquifer is 32,000 acre feet per year and proposes to export an average of 50,000 acre feet of groundwater from the region each year over a 50-year period. Even their most recent project proposal does not account for the objective assessments by the neutral federal agencies. Withdrawing water from these fragile aquifers at Cadiz’s proposed rate of 50,000 acre feet per year would decimate the desert, including the neighboring Mojave Trails National Monument.
This aquifer serves to refresh the desert and provide food for the desert tortoise and the bighorn sheep as well as the magnificent plants and flowers found only in this desert. A healthy and vibrant desert also supports communities of tribes, municipalities, ranchers, salt miners, recreationists, tourists and local industries.
AB-1000 is key to ensuring desert groundwater basins are not harmfully exploited and creates a commonsense state review process that safeguards California’s fragile desert lands and groundwater basins.
California water issues are some of the most challenging issues for our state and passing a water bill for California last year was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The bill authorizes $515 million in water infrastructure investments to improve our state’s water supply, including recycling, desalination, and storage projects. While I strongly support water infrastructure investments, we need to focus on smart uses of resources and sustainable, and efficient projects.
Supporting projects like Cadiz is not supporting smart water infrastructure or sound science. It’s putting private profit over public lands that belong to all Californians. Project proponents argue job creation and their infrastructure project should outweigh any other concerns. However, the national parks that the Cadiz project would irreparably damage generated over $155 million of visitor spending alone in 2016 and supports more than 2,100 local, permanent jobs.
For the past 24 years, I have fought to protect and restore the unique landscape of the Mojave Desert. The California Desert Protection Act of 1994 permanently protected more than 7.5 million acres of pristine desert land in national parks and preserves, and I worked closely with President Obama to designate three new desert national monuments last year that protected a further 1.8 million acres.
In light of recent rollbacks of federal protections for public lands, and reviews of national monument designations, including Mojave Trails and Sand to Snow in the California desert, state protections for the desert are needed more than ever. AB-1000 would require designated state agencies to ensure there would be no adverse impacts to the desert’s most vital resource—water.
Projects like Cadiz would irrevocably destroy our iconic desert, and the local communities and businesses that depend on it. This is why I strongly support AB-1000 and bolstering state level reviews of projects that threaten fragile California desert groundwater resources.
United States Senator
Letter from USGS dated May 5, 2017
Letter from National Park Service dated February 13, 2012
Letter from USGS dated January 15, 2002
U.S. Geological Survey Map of Fenner, Bristol, and Cadiz Valleys