From 1998 – 2002, Cadiz Inc. and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California developed a water storage and supply project that would have (1) imported Colorado River water to Cadiz, California for storage underground and (2) exported groundwater from Cadiz to more than one million people annually in the Metropolitan service area. In August 2002, this project received federal approvals from the Bureau of Land Management, including a right-of-way to build a pipeline over federal lands, but Metropolitan decided not to proceed citing uncertainties about potential for environmental impacts.
Following improvements to available data and modeling for the Cadiz area watershed, Cadiz Inc. began developing a new project in 2008. The new project focused on better managing the groundwater aquifer system, eliminating impacts, and was smaller is size and scope; it would conserve water in a first phase and, in a second phase, import water for storage in the aquifer. Cadiz also secured a long-term lease to a nearby railroad right-of-way for construction of its pipeline, which eliminated species impacts of the earlier project’s pipeline route on federal land.
After a lengthy environmental review and permitting process, the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery & Storage Project has received all of its required environmental permits, including a certified Environmental Impact Report and a Groundwater Management Plan approved by the County of San Bernardino. Prior to Phase 1 construction, the Project must finalize transportation arrangements to move conserved groundwater via a pipeline to the Colorado River Aqueduct and then to project participating agencies and their water users.
Please see key dates in the Project’s history below.
September 2008 Cadiz enters into an agreement with the Arizona & California Railroad Company to build a water conveyance pipeline within the railroad’s existing right-of-way. The pipeline would be built parallel to the railroad tracks along 43-miles of the active ARZC route. The route is free from adverse impacts on any species. As a condition of the lease, the pipeline must further railroad purposes including contributing water for fire suppression, generating power, and other benefits.
January 2009 Department of the Interior responds to an inquiry from Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) about the proposed use of the ARZC right-of-way for the Cadiz pipeline. Interior summarizes that based on federal law and right-of-way policy, “no federal participation is required for Cadiz to go forward with the project.”
February 2010 International engineering firm CH2M releases results of a year-long, peer-reviewed study measuring the vast scale and productivity of the Cadiz aquifer system and surrounding watershed. The study, which was conducted utilizing new and independent field work and a new desert model created and published by the U.S. Geological Survey, confirms that the Cadiz Valley aquifer system contains 17-34 million acre-feet in storage, is naturally recharging at 32,500 acre-feet/year and can sustainably support a water supply and storage project.
February 2011 Santa Margarita Water District issues a Notice of Preparation (NOP) of a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) formally commencing the environmental review process under CEQA, the most stringent environmental law in the U.S.
November 2011 U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) issues Opinion M–37025, which partially withdraws previous agency guidance about third party use of railroad right-of-ways over federal lands. The new M-Opinion summarizes that third party use is acceptable without separate permitting so long as the use “furthers a railroad purposes at least in part.”
Senator Feinstein also includes a “rider” on the federal appropriations bill instructing DOI to certify that the Cadiz pipeline is within the scope of the ARZC right-of-way. The rider also prohibits BLM spending on any federal environmental review should the Project apply for a separate right-of-way permit.
December 2011 SMWD releases the Project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for public review. Public comment period is opened until February 13 (70 days). 200 local, state and federal agencies, as well as local individuals respond.
July 2012 Final EIR released by SMWD and public hearings held. On July 31st, the SMWD Board voted 5-0 to certify the Final EIR and approve the Project. The Board also approved the Project’s GMMMP and a Purchase and Sale Agreement with Cadiz, which finalized economic terms for SMWD’s participation in the Project.
October 2012 The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to approve the final GMMMP for the Project as the entity with regulatory control over the Project’s use of groundwater. As a Responsible Agency in the CEQA review process, in addition to approving the GMMMP, the County adopted certain findings under CEQA and became the first Responsible Agency to take an approving action pursuant to the certified EIR. Under the approvals from the County and SMWD, the Project can make available 2.5 million acre-feet of conserved groundwater over 50 years.
Late 2012 Nine lawsuits challenging the approvals are filed by five different parties in state and federal court. Three of the petitioners’ cases are dismissed or otherwise settled in 2012 & 2013, leaving six cases brought by two petitioners – the Center for Biological Diversity and Tetra Technologies, Inc.
May 2014 Superior Court Judge issues sweeping victory for the Project, denying all claims brought by the petitioners. The EIR, the groundwater management plan, and roles of Santa Margarita Water District and San Bernardino County in the Project’s review are upheld and sustained.
November 2014 (1) Santa Margarita Water District approves a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) with Cadiz Inc. and the Fenner Valley Mutual Water Company (comprised of the Project participating agencies receiving water) to establish the Fenner Valley Water Authority (FVWA), an entity that will control and operate the capital facilities for the Project following construction. Once built, Cadiz will lease the Project facilities to the FVWA for day to day operation of the well field, and carrying out the Project’s compliance with government approvals.
(2) Center for Biological Diversity and Tetra Technologies, Inc. file appeals of the trial court rulings in the six CEQA cases. Appeals filed with the California Court of Appeals, 4th District.
August 2015 (1) Cadiz enters strategic alliance with water treatment company ATEC Systems Associates, Inc. and CH2M for the expanded use of an innovative technology to cost-effectively treat and remove Chromium-6 from Cadiz groundwater. ATEC’s Chrome 6 removal technology is approximately 20% less than the industry’s prevailing cost, or < $50 per/ acre-foot.
(2) 11 organizations including: California Chamber of Commerce, the Building Industry Association, the Association of California Water Agencies, the California Counties Association, the California Sanitation Districts, PERC, and American Groundwater Trust among others file “Friends of the Court” briefs in appellate litigation. Lawyers write all briefs pro-bono.
October 2015 BLM issues a first-of-its-kind guidance letter to Cadiz, finding the Project’s pipeline is outside the scope of ARZC’s ROW. In the non-binding guidance, signed by the retiring California State Director on his last day in office, BLM advises Cadiz and SMWD that they will need to apply for a new federal right-of-way permit prior to construction or face trespassing charges in federal court.
December 2015 Nine House Members send letter to BLM’s Director Neil Kornze calling BLM’s October guidance contrary to federal law and policy. They request a reconsideration of the guidance.
March 2016 Twenty-three members of the U.S. House of Representatives send a letter to the House’s Appropriations Interior & the Environment Sub-Committee regarding the BLM October guidance and request language be included in the FY2017 Interior Appropriations Bill to clarify the scope of railroad right-of-ways over federal lands. Members suggest language that would make right-of-way interpretation consistent with historical practice and allow third parties to co-locate infrastructure within existing right-of-ways without separate BLM permitting.
May 2016 California Court of Appeal, 4th District sustains all lower court rulings and issues sweeping opinions in all six cases finding that the Project adhered to all environmental standards and rules under CEQA. No components of the environmental documents changed and no further study required.
July 2016 (1) Time expires for CBD and Tetra to seek judicial review of the Appellate Court rulings in California State Supreme Court, thus making final the Appellate Court’s opinions in favor of the Project.
(2) House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee includes language in the FY2017 Interior Appropriations bill that would clarify the scope of railroad right-of-way over federal land, reverting to interpretations before November 2011. The full House Appropriations Committee and the House of Representatives consider the bill and adopt it. (HR 5538)
August 2016 The House Oversight & Government Reform Committee sends letters to BLM Director Neil Kornze regarding communications between BLM California staff and third parties regarding the Cadiz Water Project decision. House Oversight requests documents and testimony from parties involved. (View Letters: A and B)
BLM California Director submits emails between BLM and third parties about the Cadiz Water Project to the DOI Inspector General.
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