Prior to construction, the project was required to undergo an environmental review and approval process in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the County of San Bernardino’s groundwater ordinance. In 2009, the federal government opined that the project would not require any federal permits or federal environmental review in accordance with NEPA since the project had no federal nexus and its pipeline would be within the scope of the existing ARZC right-of-way.
The Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD), the first water agency to participate in the project and the agency with responsibility over the operation of the entire project from the wellfield to the water user, acted as Lead Agency of the CEQA process and issued a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) in December 2011 for public review. SMWD accepted comments on the Draft EIR for 100 days and held an informational workshop and two public comment meetings during the public comment period. To review SMWD’s website on the project, click here.
A Final EIR was released in July 2012 responding to all comments received on the draft environmental documents. The Final EIR summarized that with implementation of the Project’s extensive groundwater monitoring program, Project operations would avoid any significant impacts to the environment. On July 31, 2012, the Board of Directors of SMWD voted unanimously to certify the Final EIR and approve the Project. To view the Final EIR, click here.
The County of San Bernardino served as a Responsible Agency in the CEQA review process as the local government entity responsible for oversight over groundwater resources in the Cadiz Valley. On October 1, 2012, the County was the first Responsible Agency to take an approving action pursuant to the certified EIR when it approved the Project’s Groundwater Management, Monitoring and Mitigation Plan (GMMMP) and adopted certain findings under CEQA. To review the GMMMP, click here.
Following the receipt of Project approvals in 2012, Cadiz was named as a real party in interest in various lawsuits seeking to overturn the Project approvals granted by SMWD and the County. Six cases went to trial in December 2013. In May 2014, the Judge in the cases denied all claims against the Project and upheld the Project approvals. In May 2016, the California Court of Appeal, 4th District, unanimously sustained the lower Court’s rulings and again upheld the Project’s approvals without any changes. The cases were not further appealed to the California State Supreme Court. As of July 2016, the Company’s permits to capture and conserve 2.5 million acre-feet of groundwater at our property for beneficial use over 50 years are fully vested and entitled. To review the opinions of the Appeals Court, click here.
In October 2015, the Bureau of Land Management California Office issued an evaluation of the Cadiz Project pipeline and related railroad benefits summarizing that the Project’s proposed use of the ARZC right-of-way was no longer within the right-of-way’s scope. According to this evaluation, the Project would need to file an application for a new right-of-way permit or face trespassing charges. Such a determination had never been applied to any other use of an existing right-of-way for longitudinal infrastructure and was considered controversial by many parties, including a bipartisan group of Congressional members. In March 2017, the BLM withdrew the policy framework that BLM California had used to inform its Cadiz evaluation in 2015 and referred all further evaluations of third party use of existing rights-of-way to the Washington D.C. office. A bipartisan group of Members of Congress have asked BLM to also formally withdraw BLM California’s 2015 Cadiz evaluation. In October 2017, BLM rescinded the California office’s 2015 evaluation and concluded that the Project is within the scope of the railroad’s right-of-way. No further federal permitting is required to construct the pipeline or related facilities within the ARZC right-of-way. To read BLM’s letter to Cadiz and ARZC, click here.
For conserved water supplies from Cadiz to reach water retail agencies in Southern California, it must be moved in the Colorado River Aqueduct (CRA) and facilities owned and operated by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Therefore, MWD must make and approve conveyance (wheeling) arrangements with the Project’s participating water agencies, including some of its own member retail agencies. Under California law, MWD must move water for third parties so long as they have adequate capacity and receive fair compensation. The Project participating agencies have not yet filed a formal application with MWD to secure wheeling arrangements. They are not expected to do so until the Company clarifies the scope of railroad right-of-way for its pipeline to the CRA. To learn more about MWD’s role in the Project, click here.