Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/01/2012 12:01:04 PM PDT
The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors on Monday approved a management plan for an ambitious pipeline project that will pump groundwater from dry lake beds near the Mojave National Preserve to the Colorado River Aqueduct.
Los Angeles-based Cadiz, Inc. and the Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) in Rancho Santa Margarita, the lead agency on the project, plan to divert and store the groundwater over a 50-year period, then sell the water for commercial and industrial use for customers in South Orange County.
Cadiz owns 45,000 acres in eastern San Bernardino County, most of which overlies the Cadiz and Bristol dry lake beds comprising the Fenner Valley aquifer system. Cadiz and the SMWD plan to pump 50,000 acre feet of groundwater from the aquifers annually.
Opponents of the project, namely various environmental groups, say that amount would exceed the natural recharge rate of the groundwater basins and that springs within the Mojave National Preserve link to the aquifers and could be jeopardized should the project move forward.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein also has reservations about the project. In a letter to board Chairwoman Josie Gonzales on Monday, Feinsten said she continues to oppose the project after more than a decade, and urged county supervisors to oppose the project if the amount of groundwater to be extracted from the aquifers exceeds the natural annual recharge rate of the basins, which the United States Geological Survey (USGS) determined to be 5,000 acre feet per year in 2001.
Proponents of the project, however, say it is environmentally sound and would create much needed jobs.
Opponents and proponents crowded board chambers Monday during the daylong public hearing.
Michael LaBroad, southwest sales manager for Northwest Pipe Company in Adelanto, told the board the project is good for the county.
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