Smell something? It’s Cadiz, Inc

Posted on | June 11, 2009 | No Comments

PULITZER PRIZE-winning columnist Michael Hiltzik is one of a formidable team of Los Angeles Times reporters, including Frank Clifford, Tony Perry, Bettina Boxall and Duke Helfand, who have been all over the Cadiz, Inc ground water mining wheeze for the last ten years. Today, Hiltzik is back in the Times doing what he does best: Calling a stinker a stinker.

From his report:

People who say that nothing’s harder to get rid of than a bad penny must never have met Keith Brackpool.

 The British-born promoter, who has spent the last dozen years pushing a scheme to pump water to Southern California from beneath 35,000 acres his Cadiz Inc. owns in the Mojave Desert, just won’t go away.

 On the contrary, he continues to attract political sycophants happy to attest to his wisdom in the ways of water policy — while they accept campaign contributions and consulting fees from him and his company.

 In the past his posse has included ex-Gov. Gray Davis and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Now he has added Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who last week publicly endorsed the scheme as “a path-breaking, new, sustainable groundwater conservation and storage project.”

 The endorsement was embedded in an announcement Cadiz issued Friday, saying it executed letters of intent with four Southern California municipal water agencies to jointly investigate reviving the water scheme, which was rejected by the Metropolitan Water District seven years ago.

 Curiously, the release didn’t identify the four public agencies. Schwarzenegger’s office and a Cadiz spokesman both turned down my request for their names.

 So we’re left with a company headed by a man with political juice making a deal with four unidentified public water agencies to revive a $200-million project that was already shelved once.

 As taxpayers, do you smell something? Me too.

 One might feel better about such maneuvering if Cadiz Inc. were a strong company, but it hasn’t had a profitable year since at least 1999. Last year’s loss was nearly $16 million. The Los Angeles-based company has been kept on life support by its lenders, who have repeatedly extended their loans, presumably on a bet that Brackpool’s project will someday take flight.

 At the end of March the company disclosed that its working capital was down to $4.3 million, enough to last another year.

 Failure to get the water project moving or to line up new investments by then could force it to cut back in a way that might affect its “viability as a company.”

The whole story is here.


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