Interior appropriations chair questions legality of Cadiz pipeline right-of-way

Posted on | August 31, 2009 | 2 Comments

US SENATOR Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Interior appropriations committee, has challenged Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to certify the legality of plans by Cadiz Inc to use a 42-mile-long stretch of a Mojave railway line for part of a groundwater project in San Bernardino County.

Meanwhile, lobbyists for the speculators behind the project, Cadiz Inc, have been courting Southland public utilities to sign on to the project, possibly including a lucrative groundwater contract with the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power.

UPDATE: 8/31/2009, 4.02pm  — Cadiz reply after the jump

FURTHER UPDATE: 9/2/2009 — LADWP update after the jump

The Cadiz groundwater project, rejected by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California in 2002, was revived in September 2008 when Cadiz signed an agreement to run a pipeline across railroad rather than federally-owned land.

Since then, Senator Feinstein, a long-time critic of the Cadiz plan and sponsor of the 1994 California Desert Protection Act, has written Bush and Obama Interior secretaries questioning the legality of Cadiz use of the Arizona and California Railroad line to convey water.

The most recent letter, written June 30, 2009, informs the Secretary of the Senator’s intent to demand clarification of the legality of Cadiz’s new railroad right of way for its pipeline before any Interior funds be spent on the project.

A spokeswoman for the Senator said last Friday that Feinstein had not received a response from the Secretary. In the meantime, the Senator has inserted the same requirements of her June 30 letter in the 2010 Interior Appropriations bill, which should come to the Senate floor for a vote when Congress resumes after the summer break.

Meanwhile, Cadiz has been seeking to recruit support from member agencies of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, whose board rejected the Cadiz plan in 2002 after a Department of Interior environmental review convinced Metropolitan directors that it was too expensive and risky to pursue.

So far, according to Cadiz, the revived project has a letter of interest from the City of Anaheim from among the Metropolitan member agencies.

In order to foot formidable construction costs of the contested pipeline along the Arizona and California Railroad, Cadiz lobbyists would need to convince Metropolitan members agencies far larger than the City of Anaheim, most pointedly the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the San Diego County Water Authority, to defy the Metropolitan board to join their project.

Cadiz, whose representatives have been seen meeting with LADWP officials, is thought to be seeking a groundwater storage project contract from LADWP.

If Cadiz were awarded the contract by LADWP, this would be a significant step in circumventing the Metropolitan veto of the project. It would also put  City of Los Angeles water customers on the line to foot the bills for new environmental reviews and pipeline construction voted too risky and expensive by Metropolitan directors in 2002.

A DWP spokesperson was last week unable to confirm Cadiz’s place in the bidding process.

Cadiz was also unavailable for comment.

Cadiz CEO Keith Brackpool is a close friend and former employer of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who appoints DWP leaders.

Last week, a spokesman for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger confirmed that Cadiz would not necessarily be part of a water bill that the governor would sign, but confirmed that the Governor “liked” the project. A Schwarzenegger endorsement of the Cadiz project sent stock prices soaring on June 5, the same day the LADWP call for bids on its groundwater project closed in Los Angeles.

Schwarzenegger’s Chief of Staff, Susan Kennedy, is also a former Cadiz employee.

For a background of Cadiz political connections, click here.

At 8/31/2009, 4.02pm Cadiz Communications / Investor Relations Manager Courtney Degener responded:

As you know, with the state in the midst of a severe long-term water supply crisis, it is imperative that Californians begin making smarter use of water resources through increased conservation and the sustainable use of local resources to meet local needs.  The Cadiz Project represents one of the largest water conservation efforts of its kind in California, offering a sustainable water supply to serve hundreds of thousands of Southern California families and a major water bank with the capacity to conserve approximately one million acre feet with negligible evaporative loss.  Cadiz is proud be partnering with the Natural Heritage Institute, a leading environmental organization dedicated to protecting aquatic ecosystems, to help ensure that the project is designed to achieve the goal of environmental betterment.  Following the release of a new EIR, we look forward to a thorough and reasoned discussion of the project based on the latest and most accurate scientific analysis.

While we generally invite and appreciate any reasonable dialogue, we’re unwilling to engage in an endless back and forth with a blog that has demonstrated a clear bias and disregard for the facts.  Without considering the evidence, you have made your opposition to the project clear.  Under these conditions, we do not believe any response that we could provide will be treated fairly by your blog.

Emily Green responded:

Please let me know if you see any mistakes concerning the Cadiz project on this blog. Mistakes will be prominently corrected.

In the meantime, I will continue putting queries to you as part and parcel of continued reporting on the project.  Whether or not you choose to respond is strictly up to you.

I look forward to the release of a new EIR.

The queries put to Cadiz August 28th in the course of reporting this story:

1. Did Cadiz bid on this RFP from DWP? http://www.labavn.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=contract.opportunity_view&recordid=7440&CFID=333328&CFTOKEN=63215488

2. If so, have you heard back and will LADWP join Golden State Water and the City of Anaheim among the 5 water suppliers said to have signed LOIs to pursue the Cadiz project?

3. How did Cadiz secure Governor Schwarzenegger’s endorsement circulated in its June 5 press release? How and where was it issued?

4. Did any of the Cadiz directors  benefit on the stock market from the release of the Governor’s endorsement?

5. Will Cadiz be changing the amount of water proposed to be taken from the Cadiz, Fenner and Bristol basins as it prepares for a new EIR / EIS process?

6. Are Cadiz assurances to shareholders that a new federal review will be unnecessary correct? Have you approached the relevant Californian agencies?

7. How much will the new EIR / EIS cost and who will pay for it?

8. Will the five new partners be expected to pay for construction of the pipeline from Cadiz land to the CRA?

9. Do you have an estimated cost for that?

9/2/2009: The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power today responded to a query regarding the participating agencies in its Request for Proposals noted in the story:

At this time, we are able to provide you with a list of proposers – those who’ve put in an RFP. To answer your prior question, the actual individual RFPs are not available for review at this time. The proposers are:

1. Indio Water Authority

2. Kern Delta Water District

3. Indian Wells Valley Water District

4. Semitropic-Rosamond Water Bank Authority

5. Cadiz Inc.

This post has been updated.

Comments

2 Responses to “Interior appropriations chair questions legality of Cadiz pipeline right-of-way”

  1. Interview: S. David Freeman | Chance of Rain
    September 15th, 2009 @ 7:34 pm

    […] Finally, what is happening with the Cadiz [application to use its Mojave desert property for a Department of Water & Power groundwater […]

  2. Trouble in paradise | Chance of Rain
    September 16th, 2009 @ 3:08 pm

    […] But what became clear yesterday during an interview with former DWP General Manager and now City of Los Angeles Deputy Mayor S. David Freeman is a tougher line with the mayor’s good friends. According to Freeman, the DWP is dropping Cadiz from consideration for a lucrative water storage project for which it was, until last week, in the running. […]

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