1998 – 2002: Cadiz Inc. and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California develop a water storage and supply project that is approved by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. However, Metropolitan decides not to proceed, citing uncertainties about area hydrology.
2008 – 2009: Cadiz begins developing a new, smaller project focused on better managing the groundwater aquifer system and eliminating impacts by using a nearby railroad’s existing right-of-way instead of constructing its primary conveyance pipeline on federal land. As part of a lease with the Arizona & California Railroad Company (ARZC), Cadiz agrees to contribute water for fire suppression, generate power and create other benefits for the railroad along the right-of-way.
January 2009: The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) opines that the pipeline would be within the scope of the existing ARZC right-of-way and no federal permits would be required for the Project.
February 2010: Engineering firm CH2M releases results of an 18-month, peer-reviewed study measuring the vast scale and productivity of the Cadiz aquifer system and surrounding watershed. The study is based on new and independent field work and a new U.S. Geological Survey computer model of the desert’s hydrology, and it confirms that the Cadiz Valley aquifer system contains 17 to 34 million acre-feet of water in storage and is naturally recharging at 32,500 acre-feet per year.
February 2011: Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) – Cadiz’s partner agency – formally begins the Project’s environmental review process in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act, the most stringent environmental law in the nation.
November 2011: DOI issues Opinion M–37025, a change in federal policy that requires projects built within existing railroad rights-of-way – such as the Cadiz Water Project – to further a railroad purpose at least in part. M-37025 did not define railroad purposes, but used an example of a fiber optic cable with one strand of capacity dedicated to the host railroad. In accordance with its 2008 lease, Cadiz had already agreed to provide various railroad benefits, including dedicating water and power from the pipeline to the ARZC, in furtherance of railroad purposes.
December 2011: SMWD releases the Project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for public review. Two hundred individuals and local, state and federal agencies participate in the 70-day public comment period.
July 2012: SMWD releases the Final EIR and holds public hearings. On July 31, the SMWD Board votes unanimously to certify the Final EIR and approve the Project and its groundwater management plan.
October 2012: The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors votes 4-1 to approve the Project’s groundwater management plan and, in doing so, agrees to take regulatory control over the Project’s use of groundwater.
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 and 2013.
May 2014: Superior Court Judge issues a sweeping victory for the Project in the remaining six cases, rejecting all claims brought by Project opponents and upholding the EIR, groundwater management plan, and roles of SMWD and San Bernardino County in the Project’s review.
November 2014: Santa Margarita Water District approves a Joint Powers Agreement with Cadiz Inc. and the Fenner Valley Mutual Water Company to establish the Fenner Valley Water Authority, which will manage the Project’s day-to-day operations once it is built. In the same month, the Center for Biological Diversity and Tetra Technologies, Inc. file appeals in the six CEQA cases with the California Court of Appeal, 4th District.
October 2015: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issues a non-binding guidance letter to Cadiz reversing its 2009 opinion and finding that the Project’s pipeline is outside the scope of Arizona and California Railroad’s (ARZC) right-of-way. A first of its kind evaluation, this means Cadiz would need a new federal right-of-way permit to co-locate its pipeline within the ARZC right-of-way, despite furthering railroad purposes.
December 2015: Out of concern for a dangerous, new federal policy precedent that could impact existing co-located infrastructure and proposed projects nationwide, nine bipartisan House Members send a letter to BLM Director Neil Kornze calling BLM’s October guidance contrary to federal law and policy and requesting reconsideration.
March 2016: Twenty-three bipartisan members of Congress send a letter to the House Appropriations Interior & the Environment Sub-Committee in opposition to BLM’s 2015 evaluation and request appropriations language that confirms existing practice allowing co-located infrastructure within existing railroad rights-of-way without separate BLM permitting.
May 2016: The Fourth District California Court of Appeal 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 and California law. No components of the environmental documents were changed and no further studies were required.
Fall 2016: Language is included in the House Interior & the Environment Appropriations bill responsive to the March 2016 bipartisan request and the House of Representatives passes the bill. This language ultimately does not become law following an Omnibus appropriations process in early 2017 after the presidential election.
March 2017: Eighteen members of Congress from both parties write a letter to new Interior Secretary Zinke requesting that the BLM (1) withdraw its policy memoranda regarding global uses of railroad rights-of-way, (2) rescind its 2015 Cadiz evaluation and (3) find that the Project is consistent with the scope of the railroad right-of-way. Later that month, the BLM withdraws its Instruction Memoranda regarding third party use of railroad rights-of-way.
September 2017: The U.S. Department of the Interior withdraws Opinion M–37025 and issues M-37048, clarifying federal policy pertaining to third-party use of railroad rights-of-way. M-37048 summarizes that “railroad purposes,” as have been required for third-party uses, should be interpreted broadly and that railroads have “wide discretion” in leasing access to rights-of-way. This clarification is in line with previous policy under multiple Democratic and Republican federal administrations and consistent with historic practice of co-locating infrastructure within already disturbed rights-of-way to avoid impacts to public lands.
October 2017: The BLM issues a letter to Cadiz withdrawing its October 2015 guidance letter and finding that the Project’s proposed pipeline is within the scope of the existing railroad right-of-way and therefore does not require any federal permitting to be constructed within the right-of-way.