The Sentinel

By Richard Sierra, Business Manager
Laborers International Union of North America, Local 783
Posted on December 5, 2014

(December 2) Recently, Congressman Paul Cook sent a letter to the US Department of the Interior recommending against any further federal environmental review of the water project proposed by local renewable resources company Cadiz, Inc. This new position of support by Congressman Cook is a logical and positive change; one that promotes economic growth, jobs and safe water resource conservation. It is a welcome development for those of us fighting for sustainable economic development in the Inland Empire.

The Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project is a $1 billion infrastructure development designed to capture millions of acre-feet of groundwater that would otherwise be lost to natural evaporation. It will deliver that water to San Bernardino County-based customers and others throughout Southern California.

Last year, Congressman Cook requested that the 43 mile pipeline portion of the project that will be constructed beneath existing railroad right of way be reviewed under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). The project had already been approved under the more stringent requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the most extensive environmental law in the country. But, at the time, these approvals were being challenged in state Superior Court.

Early in the project development process, the Arizona and California Railroad granted the project access to its right of way located near Route 66 to construct the pipeline and will receive water supplies from the project. This is similar to how railroads grant easements for other utilities, including fiber optic cable and natural gas and petroleum pipelines. In fact, existing rights-of-way are often the preferred route for infrastructure development rather than building new paths across open public land where species could be affected.

Approval of the project followed nearly a decade of extensive scientific study and review by numerous government agencies throughout San Bernardino County of all aspects of the Project including the development of the pipeline in the railroad right-of-way. The Environmental Impact Report received comments from thousands of individuals, numerous environmental organizations and local and federal agencies.

The project approvals required monitoring by the County of San Bernardino, in order to guarantee that water quality and aquifer levels meet standards agreed upon in the ground water management plan. The aquifer will be monitored regularly, with results reported online. The county has authority to reduce or stop pumping if the project exceeds the agreed upon levels.
Then, last month, the Superior Court issued its judgments in the outstanding CEQA cases, wherein Cadiz, Inc. and its public agency partners prevailed on all counts. The court’s decision verified the Environmental Impact Report and made no changes to the permits or project description.

Following these decisions, Congressman Cook wrote his letter and stated that, “Further developments have changed the dynamics surrounding the project, calling into question the need for federal environmental review and signaling a need for the project to move forward.”

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