Route 66 News

Tribal, national parks groups file suit to protect Mojave Desert from Cadiz water project

The Native American Land Conservancy and National Parks Conservation Association last month filed a federal lawsuit that challenges the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s decision in the final days of the Trump administration that benefitted the Cadiz water proposal. 

According to a news release posted in the Sierra Sun Times:

The BLM issued a right-of-way to Cadiz Real Estate LLC, allowing the transport of pumped groundwater through an existing gas pipeline without undertaking legally required tribal consultation and environmental review of the impacts of the decision on national parks, national monuments, and sacred sites. The pipeline would help Cadiz pump 16 billion gallons of water annually from an aquifer beneath Mojave Trails National Monument and lands that tribes have used since time immemorial.
Throughout the previous administration, the Cadiz, Inc. water mining project received considerable favorable treatment including reversal of an Obama administration decision that required appropriate federal review and permitting for the water mining project. The final action came in December 2020, when the BLM rapidly approved new access to a pipeline for Cadiz, while denying calls from tribal communities, environmental groups, the California Office of Historic Preservation, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation for required review. […}
Through the BLM’s rapid approval of the pipeline, National Park Service and U.S. Geological Survey scientists were also blocked from legally required review. Federal scientists have previously found that Cadiz Inc. would extract up to 25 times more groundwater than is naturally recharged, severely damaging resources throughout the Mojave Desert.

Cadiz Inc. issued this statement in the wake of the lawsuit:

“While we will not comment on the pending litigation to which we are not a named party, we are deeply saddened but not surprised by the latest attempts by opponents of new water supply to delay and obstruct federal permits that could augment California’s water supply infrastructure, especially as the State is staring down another drought and continues to have more than 1 million people without reliable access to clean water.
The parties that filed the lawsuits have repeatedly filed legal challenges to permits granted for Cadiz’s water projects and Cadiz has prevailed in each of the six cases, at trial and on appeal. They also routinely oppose virtually every water supply and infrastructure project in California. These opponents callously disregard the needs of communities benefitted by improved access to clean, reliable water supplies in their relentless efforts to deny economic opportunity, fair housing, and affordable water to all Californians. Rather than openly oppose affordable housing, they hide behind pretextual environmental claims.
In this instance, Cadiz has been working for five years to ready an idle, already constructed oil and gas pipeline to use for the better environmental purpose of transporting needed water between disadvantaged and underserved communities in Inland California. A need acknowledged by all. Repurposed for water transportation, the idle oil and gas pipeline that is already in the ground has the potential to benefit tens of thousands of people. Any specific activity to convey water in the line would be subject to all applicable state and federal laws.
Members of the organizations funding these lawsuits and spreading the misinformation about the pipeline’s use should be ashamed of the frivolous spending of their dues to fund attacks on water access in California.
Cadiz is confident that the two lawsuits that were filed today challenging BLM’s decisions are without merit and will continue its efforts whole-heartedly to make the existing pipeline available to communities in need.”

California state regulators for years have fought Cadiz’s attempts to mine water from under the Mojave Desert.

Environmentalists have said drawing down the billions of gallons of 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.

Route 66 also bisects Mojave Trails National Monument, which environmentalists also fear would be adversely affected by the loss of all that underground water.

Cadiz Inc. for nearly 40 years has wanted to pump the water from the desert and pipe it to the Los Angeles and San Diego metropolitan areas.

(Screen-capture image from Cadiz Inc. video of one of the company’s wells in the Mojave Desert)

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