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Commentary: Cadiz Water Project Will Safeguard Environment, SCVNews.com

Category : News

Cadiz Water Project Will Safeguard Environment | Commentary by Courtney Degener

SCVNEWS.COM  | MONDAY, JUN 19, 2017

Last week, SCV News featured an opinion piece by Linda Castro of Santa Clarita about the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project (“Protect the Groundwater Beneath Our National Treasures,” June 15). I share with Ms. Castro the affection for the Cadiz Valley and agree it is a “postcard” of the California desert. However, I couldn’t disagree more with Castro’s description of the Cadiz Water Project and was deeply disappointed with the string of factual misrepresentations throughout the piece.

Cadiz Inc. is the largest private landowner in the Mojave Desert’s Cadiz Valley with more than 50 square miles of property. We’ve been farming there since the late 1980s using groundwater for irrigation and are a member of the local community. Our use of groundwater, a constant since 1993, is regulated by San Bernardino County, the public agency with authority over groundwater use in the Cadiz Valley.

It is true that we have also pursued a water supply project for our property to bring a new water supply to users throughout Southern California and to provide groundwater banking, as well. Santa Clarita, like many other Southern California cities, receives its water from the State Water Project, a system that brings water down from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta – a system that is perpetually short of water and faces significant environmental concerns. Almost the entire Southern California region either relies on aquifers or imports from other sources to supply our people, businesses, agricultural and environmental uses. Even in a wet year, our traditional imported supplies are under stress and are projected to be unable to keep up with long-term demand.

The Cadiz Project aims to provide a supplemental supply and storage opportunity in Southern California for local water agencies. It would conserve water presently lost to high-salinity and evaporation at dry lake playas that serve as the only outflow of the vast Cadiz-Fenner watershed, which is 1,300 square miles and contains 17 million to 34 million acre-feet of water in storage. The project would capture less than 1 percent of the water in storage, or 50,000 acre-feet per year, to minimize this ongoing loss and provide new water in Southern California.

By effectively managing this vast basin under the oversight of San Bernardino County, the project also can offer “carry-over” storage capacity up to 150,000 acre-feet, plus 850,000 acre-feet of underground water storage of imported water through a second phase, still subject to additional environmental permitting.

As designed, the project will not adversely impact the environment, nor “drain,” “devastate” or “destroy” the desert. The project was independently reviewed by unpaid, highly respected scientists, then publicly reviewed under CEQA – our nation’s most stringent environmental law – and approved by public agencies.

Castro has alleged that all reviewers have been motivated by money, greed or unspoken loyalties to Cadiz, which is patently false and offensive, considering the reputation all enjoy as either reputable academics or elected officials. Further, their work and approvals have been validated in 12 separate court cases brought by various environmental organizations. In each case, all claims against the project were rejected. The project, its approvals and its extensive groundwater management plan were upheld by an independent judge and a unanimous panel of the California Court of Appeal.

The state and local permitting processes incorporated the input of the public and local, state and federal agencies. All concerns were addressed, mitigated, and the project plan altered to respond to these comments.

One common concern during this process related to the amount of recharge to the groundwater system and the sort of impacts the project might have if the estimates are incorrect. The USGS did not comment on the project, but many opposition groups often cite the USGS’ very low estimates published in the year 2000 as part of an environmental review of a different project. These USGS estimates were never updated for the current project nor to account for any site-specific measurements conducted on site over the past 10 years.

While the USGS did not participate in the review of the current Cadiz Project, hydrologists did utilize a USGS model published years later to estimate recharge in the Cadiz Valley. This model, conducted in 2010, included site-specific measurements and was peer-reviewed by the former director of the USGS. The estimates were then corroborated further still by physically measured evaporation – data not available in 2000 – collected as part of the CEQA review process.

However, despite strong confidence in the numbers, for the avoidance of doubt, the public agencies that reviewed the project assessed the potential for impacts assuming the project’s recharge numbers are off by 85 percent and limited the project based on such an assumption. The County of San Bernardino then also imposed a floor on operations so that if we are wrong and the basin doesn’t recharge in the amounts we expect, then the project could be shut down.

Groundwater is a precious resource, which is why the county put in place such provisions and why our project will abide them. We’ve relied on groundwater for 25 years in the basin with absolutely no impacts, and our groundwater levels are at their highest measurements despite sustained use. Importantly, the plan also incorporated provisions of the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act to support the new statewide policy. Claims made by opponents to the contrary simply are not true.

In today’s heated political climate, it’s an easy rallying cry to assign the project with partisan labels and continue to assert disproven environmental impacts. But it truly is a false narrative. This project is supported by elected officials from both sides of the aisle, has successfully completed eight years of review under California law and local county ordinances, and will protect the desert we’ve called home for 30 years.

These are the facts. You can learn more at www.cadizwaterproject.com.

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Threatened Desert Tortoise receives a helping hand from Cadiz Water Project

Category : News

http://californiawaternewsdaily.com/conservation/threatened-desert-tortoise-receives-a-helping-hand-from-cadiz-water-project/

By California Water News Daily on June 15, 2017

The once common desert tortoise has had a rough road in the past 20 years and one California desert landowner has – and is – going above and beyond to ensure the well-being and conservation of the iconic desert tortoise. Though the desert tortoise has been around for millions of years, a variety of factors have resulted in the desert tortoise’s threatened status. In conjunction with several governmental entities and the San Diego Zoo, Cadiz Inc. stands at the forefront in helping to protect the desert tortoise (Gopherus Agassizii).

In 2015, approximately 7,400 acres of Cadiz Inc.’s private land holdings in eastern San Bernardino County were set aside for the permanent protection of habitat for the desert tortoise. The Fenner Valley Desert Tortoise Conservation Bank is the largest-ever land bank to be approved by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) for the protection of the tortoise.  Under the Bank enabling documents, parties that may impact the tortoise in other parts of the California desert can purchase credits that will fund the permanent protection of the tortoise at the Bank properties.  Cadiz will also place a permanent easement on its private land prohibiting development.

The Mojave desert tortoise is the largest surface-dwelling turtle in the United States and is key to the Mojave Desert ecosystem. The desert tortoise was declared a threatened species in 1990 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The desert tortoise is found in the areas north and west of the Colorado River in California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. But their population has declined some 90 percent in the last 20 years due to new housing developments and solar energy projects, off-road vehicles that fail to heed recreational rules and/or run over the tortoises as well as the region’s increasing human garbage that attracts ravens, feral dogs and other animals that seek out and kill the desert tortoises, young and old.

To further the conservation of the desert tortoise Cadiz and its Fenner Conservation Bank have signed a Memo of Understanding with the San Diego Zoo to assist in the development of conservation management strategies for the desert tortoise and other conservation-dependent wildlife within the bank’s acreage. The Zoo’s research staff are renowned for their work related to species conservation and the reintroduction of native species to the wild, including its successful work with California condors, kangaroo rats and the desert tortoise.  The Zoo is presently evaluating a tortoise reintroduction program for the Cadiz Fenner site.

“We’re pleased to be working with the Zoo to aid in the conservation of the desert tortoise,” said Courtney Degener, Cadiz Inc. vice president and spokeswoman. “This gentle reptile is a lynchpin in the Mojave Desert, which is why we have worked hard to ensure all of our projects absolutely do no harm to the tortoise.  We’ve been concerned about the limited public resources available to defend them from threats and are hopeful the Bank and our work with the Zoo can assist in their long-term protection and revitalization.”

Cadiz, which owns over 70 square miles of property in the eastern Mojave Desert portion of San Bernardino County, manages various businesses in the oft-perceived barren desert. But their Cadiz Valley property is home to large agricultural development including permanent crops – lemons and certified-organic dried-on-the-vine raisins – as well as seasonal crops such as squash, melons, peppers, asparagus, and other fruits and vegetables. The Cadiz property has significant groundwater resources and the company has pursued water and storage projects, as well as cultural projects including a tourist-based steam train.

Cadiz’s properties dedicated to the Fenner Valley Tortoise Bank are in a separate watershed from its Cadiz Valley agricultural properties. The Bank is approximately 30 miles away in an area known as Piute, near Needles, and is in critical desert tortoise habitat.

Currently, Cadiz is awaiting final certification by the federal government for their Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project. The project is designed to provide a reliable water supply in Southern California by conserving water that otherwise would have been lost to evaporation at desert hypersaline dry lakes. The project also offers the ability to store groundwater supplies and imported surplus water in wet years. Although the most recent five-year drought is behind us, Californians are now keenly aware of the need to conserve water and plan for the next inevitable drought.

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Sacramento Bee Op-Ed: Sen. Feinstein should study the facts before rejecting Cadiz’s desert water project

Category : News

http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/soapbox/article154700299.html

Sen. Feinstein should study the facts before rejecting Cadiz’s desert water project

BY WINSTON H. HICKOX

Special to The Bee, Soapbox

While I was California Environmental Protection Agency secretary, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and I often worked collaboratively on important statewide water issues. That is why I found her op-ed regarding the Cadiz water project so troubling (Water extraction project would be destructive to California’s Mojave Desert, May 24). The project has followed the law and offers immense benefits for her constituents. Yet the senator’s opinions are disconnected from facts in this case.

The project will conserve enough water for 400,000 Californians each year for 50 years without causing a single adverse environmental impact. The best scientists and engineers assured that sustainability and protection of the environment were paramount. The project was approved in accordance with the toughest environmental law in America, the California Environmental Quality Act. It was challenged in court, but judges in 12 separate opinions affirmed the project and its protections, and rejected the flawed positions represented by the senator’s op-ed. The desert will not be destroyed, nor will the bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, springs or wildflowers.

More in sorrow than in anger, I wonder why Feinstein would use her stature to misrepresent facts. She claims the U.S. Geological Survey reaffirmed its year 2000 estimates for Cadiz groundwater recharge. But the USGS told the senator it has no opinion on the current project, because its scientists “have not conducted new site specific studies or data collection in the Cadiz area since our 2000 review” and are aware of more recent work conducted.

Similarly, she cites the National Park Service to assert a threat to springs and animals that rely on them. But as the service explains on its website, springs in the area, more than 11 miles from the project area, are filled by precipitation from above, not from the aquifer below, and will not be impacted.

The Cadiz Project has been approved under the State’s rigorous environmental laws and will add a new water supply in a safe and sustainable manner. I encourage Sen. Feinstein to sit with the project’s proponents and understand all they’ve done to protect the desert she holds dear.

Winston H. Hickox was CalEPA secretary from 1999-2003, and special assistant to Gov. Jerry Brown for environmental affairs from 1975-1983). He is on Cadiz Inc.’s board of directors.

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Cadiz Announces $255 Million in Construction Financing for Desert Water Project

Category : News

LA Business Journal, 5-2-17

By Howard Fine

With the Trump administration soon likely to approve its long-sought desert water storage and transmission project, Cadiz Inc. announced Tuesday it has arranged up to $255 million in construction financing from giant private equity firm Apollo Global Management.

Cadiz signed agreements with several funds managed by Apollo affiliates that will provide an immediate injection of $60 million, including $45 million to refinance senior secured mortgage debt and $15 million for initial construction expenditure.

Apollo affiliated funds have also conditionally committed $240 million in construction financing to complete the first phase of the Cadiz project, though in the announcement, Cadiz warned investors that this commitment is “highly conditional” and is not guaranteed to close.

Nonetheless, the financing package represents a significant milestone for Cadiz, the downtown water company that for the past 25 years has been trying to develop a water storage and sales project for an aquifer under its 45,000-acre holdings in the Cadiz Valley east of the 29 Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in the Mojave Desert.

“Apollo is a leading sponsor of private project financing with a long track record of success,” Cadiz Chief Executive Scott Slater said in a statement. “We believe the Apollo Funds’ financing of the Cadiz water project will enable us to more readily customize contractual arrangements for the benefit of project participants and increase both the competitiveness and overall versatility of the project.”

Cadiz has signed agreements with six California water agencies to pump up to 50,000 acre-feet of water a year out of its aquifer and send it via pipeline to the Colorado River Aqueduct and then onto 400,000 customers of those water agencies. The plan received environmental approvals four years ago and survived numerous legal challenges from environmental groups that said pumping out groundwater would impact the desert ecosystem. The last of those challenges was exhausted last year when the state Supreme Court denied an appeal.

Environmental groups saw a new chance to challenge the project, however, when the federal Bureau of Land Management in October 2015 unexpectedly blocked Cadiz from receiving a ministerial approval for its pipeline, thus requiring another complete environmental review and several more years of waiting for a final Land Management determination.

But within days of taking office, President Donald Trump’s administration placed the Cadiz project on its priority list of infrastructure projects and then, last month, the Bureau of Land Management rescinded its decision to block the pipeline approval, clearing the way for the final government approval needed for the project.

That move spurred the construction finance agreement with Apollo Global Management, a behemoth New York private equity firm with $197 billion in assets under management as of March 31.

“We are excited by the unique opportunity to support Cadiz at this critical juncture,” Antoine Munfakh, a partner at Apollo Global Management, said in a statement. “As active infrastructure investors, we believe innovative projects, like Cadiz, can solve many of the important issues facing municipalities today. The project brings a reliable and vital new water resource and water storage option to the Southern California region,” he said.

Cadiz shares rose 80 cents or 5 percent to close Tuesday at $15.80 a share, close to its 52-week high of $15.90.

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Cadiz Inc. Announces Strategic Transaction with Apollo to Finance Cadiz Water Project Construction

Category : News

Funds affiliated with Apollo will provide $60M of capital to repay Cadiz Senior Secured Mortgage Debt of $45M and to provide $15M in construction capital, and will also provide a conditional commitment for up to an additional $240M in construction financing
May 2, 2017

(LOS ANGELES, CA) –Today, Cadiz Inc. [NASDAQ:CDZI] (“Cadiz”, the “Company”) is pleased to announce it has entered into a strategic transaction with funds affiliated with Apollo Global Management, LLC (together with its consolidated subsidiaries, “Apollo”) [NYSE: APO] to initiate financial arrangements for the construction and implementation of the Company’s Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery & Storage Project (“Cadiz Water Project” or the “Project”). In furtherance of the strategic transaction, funds managed by affiliates of Apollo (the “Apollo Funds”) and Cadiz executed a series of agreements that will replace and refinance Cadiz’s senior secured mortgage debt and provide $15M of new senior debt to fund immediate construction related expenditures. Apollo Funds also executed a conditional commitment letter to fund up to $240M in construction finance expenditures for the Cadiz Water Project, subject to the satisfaction of conditions precedent.

The Cadiz Water Project is a public-private partnership that in its initial phase will conserve and deliver a new, reliable water supply for 400,000 Californians every year without adverse environmental impacts. Phase 2 of the Project will build upon the foundation established in Phase 1 to enable the storage of up to 1M acre-feet of imported water and make possible the interconnection of Colorado River Aqueduct (“CRA”) and Northern California sources in a common groundwater storage program. Phase 1 is nearly shovel-ready and completing final regulatory permitting related to transportation of conserved water from Cadiz’s private property in the Mojave Desert to public water purveyors throughout the region via a 43-mile pipeline to be constructed in an active railroad right-of-way to the CRA. Construction of the Project is expected to create and support nearly 6,000 jobs.

“We are excited by the unique opportunity to support Cadiz at this critical juncture. As active infrastructure investors, we believe innovative projects, like Cadiz, can solve many of the important issues facing municipalities today. The Project brings a reliable and vital new water resource and water storage option to the Southern California region,” said Antoine Munfakh, a Partner at Apollo Global Management. “As one of the world’s leading private equity and alternative credit managers with more than 25 years of experience, we believe that in our capacity as a financing source to Cadiz, we can add value to help the Company progress this important Project.”

Apollo is a leading global alternative investment manager with approximately $197 billion of assets under management (as of March 31, 2017). Founded in 1990, Apollo has a demonstrated expertise in private capital investment opportunities across industries, asset classes, geographies, and capital structures with a focus on real estate and infrastructure development which includes an investment in CH2M Hill.

“Apollo is a leading sponsor of private project financing with a long track record of success,” Scott Slater, Cadiz CEO & President. “We believe the Apollo Funds’ financing of the Cadiz Water Project will enable us to more readily customize contractual arrangements for the benefit of Project participants and increase both the competitiveness and overall versatility of the Project.”

As a first step in the strategic transaction, the Apollo Funds entered into an agreement to provide $60M of capital to refinance Cadiz’s $45M senior secured mortgage debt and provide an initial $15M tranche of construction capital. The new $60M facility will accrue 8% annual interest, with 6% PIK and 2% paid quarterly in cash. The new credit agreement terms are definitive, yet subject to traditional conditions precedent, and the transaction is scheduled to close within 45 days. The conditional commitment for up to $240M is intended to provide the additional resources necessary to complete the construction of Phase I of the Cadiz Water Project. However, given that Cadiz is not obligated to accept such financing from Apollo, and, given the highly conditional nature of the commitment, investors in Cadiz should not place undue reliance on the closing of the $240M debt financing from Apollo.

“Regardless of the ultimate financing decision that is made for the Project, Cadiz’ securing of the support and involvement of Apollo enhances the relative strength of the team and gives us more options that improve the Project’s ability to move forward successfully.” said Dan Ferons, General Manager of Santa Margarita Water District, the lead agency in this innovative public-private partnership.

All documents and agreements related to the strategic transaction described in this press release have been filed today with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission on Form 8K. Investors in Cadiz are cautioned not to rely on the summary description of the $240M conditional commitment in the press release and are urged to refer to the full agreements and descriptions.

About Apollo

Apollo (NYSE: APO) is a leading global alternative investment manager with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, St. Louis, Bethesda, Toronto, London, Frankfurt, Madrid, Luxembourg, Singapore, Mumbai, Delhi, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Apollo had assets under management of approximately $197 billion as of March 31, 2017, in private equity, credit and real estate funds invested across a core group of nine industries where Apollo has considerable knowledge and resources. For more information about Apollo, please visit www.agm.com.

About Cadiz

Founded in 1983, Cadiz Inc. is a publicly-held renewable resources company that owns 70 square miles of property with significant water resources in Southern California. The Company maintains an organic agricultural development in the Cadiz Valley of eastern San Bernardino County, California and is partnering with public water agencies to implement the Cadiz Water Project, which over two phases will create a new water supply for approximately 100,000 Southern California families and make available up to 1 million acre-feet of new groundwater storage capacity for the region. Cadiz abides by a wide-ranging “Green Compact” focused on environmental conservation and sustainable practices to manage its land, water and agricultural resources. For more information, please visit www.cadizinc.com

FORWARD LOOKING STATEMENT: This release contains forward-looking statements that are subject to significant risks and uncertainties, including statements related to the future operating and financial performance of the Company and the financing activities of the Company. Although the Company believes that the expectations reflected in our forward-looking statements are reasonable, it can give no assurance that such expectations will prove to be correct. Factors that could cause actual results or events to differ materially from those reflected in the Company’s forward-looking statements include the Company’s ability to maximize value for Cadiz land and water resources, the Company’s ability to obtain new financing as needed, the receipt of additional permits for the water project and other factors and considerations detailed in the Company’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

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