Posted on | August 4, 2009 | 15 Comments
IN 1998, the private water speculator Cadiz, Inc began selling the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on the idea of a groundwater project in the Mojave Desert. As enthusiasm for it grew, by November 1999, the US Bureau of Land Management and Metropolitan had produced a draft environmental impact statement as to what they imagined that the Cadiz project would entail, its risks, its benefits and its costs.
For the next two years, hydrologists and geologists from the US National Park Service, the US Geological Survey and San Bernardino County vetted the claims of the draft EIS and returned their comments.
In September 2001, a final Environmental Impact Statement was published. The collective commentary was so withering and the risks revealed by independent scrutiny so overwhelming that in 2002 the Metropolitan board voted to abandon the project.
Internet searches for the massive four-volume review, once posted on-line, now result in a series of dead links.
The print edition resides in all its girth in the public library of Needles, Calif., and a few other desert public offices.
It didn’t matter. The project was dead, right?
Wrong. Resumption of the project by Cadiz, Inc last autumn along with a fresh batch of claims that make pumping the Mojave’s groundwater sound positively beneficial for the desert inspired this writer to obtain hard copies of the 2001 Environmental Impact Report.
Its contents varied so markedly from the latest round of Cadiz assertions that, at the risk of being a buzz kill, the only rational response was to come back to Cadiz, Inc and its new partner, the Natural Heritage Institute, and comb through their fresh assertions, claim by claim. This is that effort.
Copies of the following Cadiz claims and often pointed questions about their accuracy will be going by e-mail to Cadiz, Inc and its partner, the Natural Heritage Institute, at the time of posting.
Any and all responses from Cadiz and the NHI, either as comment on line, or privately relayed, will be posted as they come in.
8/5/2009 UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times reports that Cadiz CEO Keith Brackpool and former Assemblyman and Cadiz employee Richard Katz were on Mayor Villariagosa’s recent trip to Iceland. To read more about Cadiz’s pay-to-pump approach to groundwater development, click here.
8/5/2009 FURTHER UPDATE: A few nicely crafted non-answers from the Natural Heritage Institute just in, posted in green after the jump.
1. CADIZ STATEMENT: “The Project will utilize a portion of the aquifer system that underlies our 35,000-acre landholding in the Cadiz and Fenner valleys of eastern San Bernardino County.”
Question: How do you contain the water? Wouldn’t pumping result in a wide cone of depression, uncontrollable from the pumps above?
2. CADIZ STATEMENT: “This aquifer system can accommodate both transfers of indigenous groundwater and storage of approximately 1 million acre-feet of surplus Colorado River water that could be imported from the Colorado River Aqueduct (CRA) in ‘wet’ years. This stored water and/or indigenous groundwater could be delivered to the CRA in “dry” years – via a conveyance pipeline – for delivery to participating water providers throughout Southern California.”
Question: Since the Colorado River is in prolonged drought, how can the storage aspect of the project still be viable?
3. CADIZ STATEMENT: “The aquifer system is naturally recharged by precipitation (rainfall and snow melt) that occurs within a regional watershed of 1,300 square miles. For this reason, any water that is transferred to Southern California will be naturally replenished over time.”
Questions: How is this possible? In the 1999-2001 EIS / EIR process, Cadiz, Inc indicated that the target basins in the Fenner, Bristol and Cadiz watersheds had a natural recharge from 30-50,000 acre feet per year (afy). Interior agencies called in to review the draft EIS found that to be an over-estimate by a magnitude of 5 to 25 times. USGS models calculate a recharge of approximately 2,500 afy. Yet the Cadiz, Inc website now talks in terms taking 150,000 afy.
If the water won’t be coming from the long-gone Colorado River surpluses, and there will be no mining of the Mojave groundwater, where will Cadiz, Inc find this water?
4. CADIZ STATEMENT: “The Project has undergone extensive geotechnical, engineering, and environmental analyses as part of the Final Environmental Impact Report/ Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIR/FEIS) issued in 2002. As part of this review we cooperated with the County of San Bernardino, the US Geological Survey, the US Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California in developing the most comprehensive Groundwater Monitoring and Management Plan ever proposed in California. These agencies have expressed unanimous agreement that compliance with this Management Plan would prevent Project operations from having any adverse impacts to water quality, air quality, springs, and habitat in or surrounding the Project area.”
Rebuttal and question: Presumably you mean the final EIS / EIR issued in 2001. In any case, this is not what the EIS / EIR and its damage monitoring recommendations say. In fact, the four volumes instead describe “unavoidable adverse impacts.” Moreover, the obligation under the proposed monitoring agreement to reduce or stop pumping in the face of those unavoidable adverse impacts combined with the huge financial investment required by Metropolitan are what led the Metropolitan board to vote against pursuing the Cadiz project in October 2002.
Do the new partners and private stockholders involved in the revived Cadiz, Inc project realize that this claim is false?
5: CADIZ STATEMENT: “In June 2009, we signed Letters of Intent with five Southern California water providers to develop a cost-sharing agreement, finalize terms of pricing, design and capital allocation and work towards implementation of the Project.”
Question: Who are those five Southern Californian water providers?
6. CADIZ / NATURAL HERITAGE INSTITUTE STATEMENT: “Cadiz will use reasonable best efforts to make up to 20,000 acres of land and provide a reliable water supply for the development of photovoltaic and solar thermal technologies.” (Source: Cadiz-Natural Heritage Institute MOU, May 11, 2009).
Questions: Will Cadiz be submitting these plans for environmental review? Are there more details as to the water budget and cost for the new energy production component of the project?
7. CADIZ / NATURAL HERITAGE INSTITUTE STATEMENT: “NHI has an interest in the operation of alternative energy and in the design of renewable power generation that contributes to the achievement of SB 32 obligations, exploration of transmission opportunities and constraints and the availability of federal stimulus and qualification for feed tariffs for innovative renewable technologies.”
Questions: By achievement of SB32 obligations, do you mean the opportunity to charge more for the electricity that you produce, as SB32 seems to allow? Have Cadiz and/or NHI applied for federal stimulus funds for the Cadiz property? If so, in the absence of any record of it at Recovery.gov, how can taxpayers, energy users and public stakeholders keep track of developments?
8. CONTRADICTORY CADIZ STATEMENTS:
a) From the website Project description: “Construction of Project facilities can commence following completion of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)”
b) From the April 8, 2009 Letter to Shareholders: “Last September we announced a decisive step forward in the Project. In an agreement with the Arizona and California Railroad Company, we gained the right to build an underground water conveyance pipeline linking our property and the Colorado River Aqueduct using a portion of the railroad’s private right-of-way. Because this new pipeline route does not cross federal land, as previous plans envisioned, the Project requires approval only by local and state agencies, a process already underway.”
c) From a June 5 press release entitled ‘Cadiz Signs Letters of Intent with Five California Water Providers:’ “Specifically, Cadiz and the interested water providers have agreed to undertake a mutual project evaluation and seek an agreement identifying and apportioning expected environmental review costs, including the preparation and submittal of a Project description for review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The environmental review process is expected to begin shortly following the submittal of the Project description.”
Questions: Is the April 8, 2009 letter to shareholders correct? There is no record of the resumption of a CEQA process on the Cadiz project noted anywhere online with the California Natural Resources Agency.
Or is the press release of June 5 correct in saying the review will begin shortly?
If so, when?
Further, given the changing scope of the project to include energy development seeking federal funding, and given the proximity of the project to federal land and the Mojave National Preserve, is it in fact correct to assure shareholders that a new federal EIS / EIR will not be required?
If so, who will be the participating agencies in the CEQA review and when will they be notified that a review process is in order?
The Cadiz, Inc website leaves the impression that the Natural Heritage Institute in San Francisco will ensure good environmental stewardship. Why and how would a group of San Francisco lawyers be able to take 5-25 times the amount of water naturally recharged in the pumping area without damaging the Mojave while the seasoned park keepers and scientists involved in the 1999-2001 EIS / EIR say it can’t be done without inevitable damage?
Is NHI on the Cadiz payroll or remunerated by Cadiz?
If so, for how much?
With only assertions from the NHI lawyers, but in the professed absence of a new federal EIS / EIR, how will the new water companies signing MOUs with Cadiz, Inc address the risks that drove Metropolitan from the project?
Finally, if the project goes ahead, who will be responsible when “unavoidable adverse impacts” occur?
-Emily Green, Los Angeles, August 4, 2009
August 5, 2009. NHI President Gregory A. Thomas responded:
Point 7: “NHI will produce no electricity. NHI has not applied for any Stimulus funds for the Cadiz property.”
Point 8: “NHI is not on the Cadiz payroll. NHI will take no water from the Mojave.”
And to the question is NHI remunerated by Cadiz, NHI responded “No.”
August 5, 2009. Emily Green responded:
As the first of several follow up questions,
1. Is NHI able or willing to answer the bulk of the queries?
2. Re: your response “NHI will produce no electricity” and “NHI has not applied for any Stimulus funds for the Cadiz property.” A funny answer. So it will be your partners at Cadiz producing the energy? While enjoying the wit, could you please describe what the reference to NHI’s interest in “the design of renewable power generation that contributes to the achievement of SB 32 obligations” means as described in the Cadiz-NHI MOU?
3. The Riverside Press Enterprise reported on July 17 that “The company [Cadiz, Inc] has partnered with the Natural Heritage Institute to ensure the project’s sustainability will allow solar development on up to 20,000 acres and is open to dedicating land for open space.” Was this incorrect? What does that mean? Do you represent energy companies wishing to partner with Cadiz? Could you be more specific?
4. Who, if not NHI, will be seeking federal Stimulus funds as suggested by the Cadiz website? And what will your role be as the professed ensurer of sustainability?
5. I enjoyed your answer to the questions in point 8 “NHI will take no water from the Mojave.” Of course, you will not be doing the pumping, but you are partnered with the firm that will. So, allow me to be more specific. How can NHI assure sustainability of the project , or stand by as its partners at Cadiz do, when the best experts in the field estimate the Cadiz plan is unsustainable without inevitable damage?
6. Thank you for specifying that NHI is not on the Cadiz payroll. May I ask: What then is the incentive to become involved? Are there financial interests, direct or indirect for NHI to become involved in the Cadiz project?
This post has been updated.