A water-mining company in California’s Mojave Desert wants to build a museum and offer rides in an antique steam train. However, environmentalists says this proposal is a ploy to avoid federal scrutiny of its water project, reported The Press-Enterprise last week.
The museum and locomotive would be in the desert settlement of Cadiz, about three miles south of Route 66 from the Cadiz Road intersection.
Cadiz Inc. previously announced a $225 million plan to extract up to 16 billion gallons of underground water from near the Marble Mountains. More about the museum and locomotive plans from the newspaper:
The company said the Cadiz Southeastern Railway would also draw in tourist dollars with a depot-style museum and cultural center on the Cadiz property that would include information on the local desert and railroad history. Slater wants to make it a destination.
One of the steam engines would be locomotive 3751, built in 1927 and housed at the Amtrak locomotive maintenance facility in Los Angeles. The restored engine is owned by the San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society. Cadiz is also negotiating to buy two engines and rail cars that can be opened up to provide star gazing, Slater said. […]
The Cadiz railroad would operate on existing tracks on a portion of the Arizona & California Railroad Co. between Parker, Ariz. and Cadiz, with water stops in the California desert communities of Milligan, Chubbuck, Rice and Vidal.
The route , off historic Route 66, “provides sweeping views of the vast desert wilderness, mountainous terrain and the Colorado River,” the company said.
Cadiz Inc.’s press release about the proposal is here.
A pipeline that would carry the water is along a railroad right-of-way, which means it would come under federal review for its environmental impact. Cadiz Inc. can avoid the review by using the pipeline for “a direct impact” to the railroad.
The big point of contention is how much water can be extracted each year. Cadiz Inc. says the recharge rate is 32,500 acre-feet per year; independent studies show a recharge rate of one-third to one-tenth of that.
If Cadiz Inc. extracts too much water, people worry about what it will do to the delicate desert environment, including natural springs that dot the area and sustain wildlife.