A company that wants to pump billions of gallons of water from under the Mojave Desert will have a tougher time doing so after a new state law went into effect last week.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law that requires extra environmental reviews before Cadiz Inc. can pump water from a massive aquifer near Route 66 and send it via pipeline to Southern California cities, reported Courthouse News Service.
Conservationists have fought the project since it was first proposed in 1998, warning it would not only drain precious groundwater supplies but ruin the desert habitat that sustains bighorn sheep, desert tortoise and Joshua trees. U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein, D-California, has also more recently opposed the project.
Newsom said in a signing message that more independent scientific analysis and public input is needed to determine whether the project and others like it can be done without environmental harm.
“This fragile ecosystem has existed, in balance, for centuries. Prior to allowing any project to move forward, there must be certainty that it will not threaten the important natural and cultural resources,” the Democrat said. […]
The law requires any project that would transfer groundwater from the Mojave National Preserve and Mojave Trails National Monument to not “adversely affect the natural or cultural resources.” State regulators would have a maximum of two years to review submitted project applications before making a decision.
Cadiz Inc. CEO Scott Slater said he remained confident the tougher environmental reviews required by SB 307 ultimately will prove the project’s merits.
“California is home to over a million people who lack access to safe, clean, reliable drinking water. We believe a fact-based evaluation of the project conducted under the governor’s watchful eye will undoubtedly conclude we can sustainably contribute to this effort.”
Courthouse News doesn’t mention it, a report last year by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife proved damaging to Cadiz Inc.’s efforts and undoubtedly shepherded the law to the governor’s office.
State biologists, using GPS collars on legally protected bighorn sheep, found out the animals use Bonanza Springs, a year-round natural oasis that’s part of a mile-long green corridor in the Clipper Mountains.
Other scientists funded by the Mojave Desert Land Trust used molecular isotopes and temperature measurements to conclude Bonanza Springs is not fed just by rains, but by an ancient underground aquifer connected to wellfield that would be used by the company. Scientists hired by Cadiz Inc. had claimed the spring was not connected to the aquifer.
Cadiz Inc. for years has wanted to pump more than 16 billion gallons of water from under the Mojave Desert and pipe it to Los Angeles and San Diego. Environmentalists said drawing down that much water would threaten natural springs such as Bonanza Springs and jeopardize wildlife there. It’s believed Bonanza Springs, which contains wildlife such as tree frogs, toads and birds, is a remnant of when the desert was much wetter 8,000 years ago.
(Screen-capture image from Cadiz Inc. video of one of the company’s wells in the Mojave Desert)