October 5, 2015
Cadiz Inc.’s plans to sell Mojave Desert groundwater to Southern California communities have hit a major federal roadblock.
In a long-awaited decision, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management says Cadiz cannot use an existing railroad right-of-way for a new water pipeline that would carry supplies from the project’s proposed well field to the Colorado River Aqueduct.
By using the railroad right-of-way, Cadiz had hoped to escape federal environmental review of the 43-mile pipeline, one of the project’s most expensive components.
But in a letter to Cadiz on Friday, BLM’s California director informed the company that it needs U.S. approval for a separate pipeline right-of-way over federal land. That would trigger review under federal environmental law, a potentially lengthy and costly process that could impose new conditions on the project.
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Cadiz has acknowledged that over the long term, the project will extract more groundwater than is replenished by nature. And federal scientists have expressed concern that the operation could dry up springs vital to wildlife on the nearby Mojave National Preserve and other public lands.
“The BLM has the responsibility to objectively apply the law using the best available information to determine what rights were conveyed to the railroad under a 19th century law,” BLM State Director Jim Kenna said in a statement. “Because the proposed pipeline is not within the rights conveyed to the railroad, a separate BLM authorization is necessary.”
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