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Commentary by Courtney Degener
| Monday, Jun 19, 2017

Last week, SCV News featured an opinion piece by Linda Castro of Santa Clarita about the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project (“Protect the Groundwater Beneath Our National Treasures,” June 15). I share with Ms. Castro the affection for the Cadiz Valley and agree it is a “postcard” of the California desert. However, I couldn’t disagree more with Castro’s description of the Cadiz Water Project and was deeply disappointed with the string of factual misrepresentations throughout the piece.

Cadiz Inc. is the largest private landowner in the Mojave Desert’s Cadiz Valley with more than 50 square miles of property. We’ve been farming there since the late 1980s using groundwater for irrigation and are a member of the local community. Our use of groundwater, a constant since 1993, is regulated by San Bernardino County, the public agency with authority over groundwater use in the Cadiz Valley.

It is true that we have also pursued a water supply project for our property to bring a new water supply to users throughout Southern California and to provide groundwater banking, as well. Santa Clarita, like many other Southern California cities, receives its water from the State Water Project, a system that brings water down from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta – a system that is perpetually short of water and faces significant environmental concerns. Almost the entire Southern California region either relies on aquifers or imports from other sources to supply our people, businesses, agricultural and environmental uses. Even in a wet year, our traditional imported supplies are under stress and are projected to be unable to keep up with long-term demand.

The Cadiz Project aims to provide a supplemental supply and storage opportunity in Southern California for local water agencies. It would conserve water presently lost to high-salinity and evaporation at dry lake playas that serve as the only outflow of the vast Cadiz-Fenner watershed, which is 1,300 square miles and contains 17 million to 34 million acre-feet of water in storage. The project would capture less than 1 percent of the water in storage, or 50,000 acre-feet per year, to minimize this ongoing loss and provide new water in Southern California.

By effectively managing this vast basin under the oversight of San Bernardino County, the project also can offer “carry-over” storage capacity up to 150,000 acre-feet, plus 850,000 acre-feet of underground water storage of imported water through a second phase, still subject to additional environmental permitting.

As designed, the project will not adversely impact the environment, nor “drain,” “devastate” or “destroy” the desert. The project was independently reviewed by unpaid, highly respected scientists, then publicly reviewed under CEQA – our nation’s most stringent environmental law – and approved by public agencies.

Castro has alleged that all reviewers have been motivated by money, greed or unspoken loyalties to Cadiz, which is patently false and offensive, considering the reputation all enjoy as either reputable academics or elected officials. Further, their work and approvals have been validated in 12 separate court cases brought by various environmental organizations. In each case, all claims against the project were rejected. The project, its approvals and its extensive groundwater management plan were upheld by an independent judge and a unanimous panel of the California Court of Appeal.

The state and local permitting processes incorporated the input of the public and local, state and federal agencies. All concerns were addressed, mitigated, and the project plan altered to respond to these comments.

One common concern during this process related to the amount of recharge to the groundwater system and the sort of impacts the project might have if the estimates are incorrect. The USGS did not comment on the project, but many opposition groups often cite the USGS’ very low estimates published in the year 2000 as part of an environmental review of a different project. These USGS estimates were never updated for the current project nor to account for any site-specific measurements conducted on site over the past 10 years.

While the USGS did not participate in the review of the current Cadiz Project, hydrologists did utilize a USGS model published years later to estimate recharge in the Cadiz Valley. This model, conducted in 2010, included site-specific measurements and was peer-reviewed by the former director of the USGS. The estimates were then corroborated further still by physically measured evaporation – data not available in 2000 – collected as part of the CEQA review process.

However, despite strong confidence in the numbers, for the avoidance of doubt, the public agencies that reviewed the project assessed the potential for impacts assuming the project’s recharge numbers are off by 85 percent and limited the project based on such an assumption. The County of San Bernardino then also imposed a floor on operations so that if we are wrong and the basin doesn’t recharge in the amounts we expect, then the project could be shut down.

Groundwater is a precious resource, which is why the county put in place such provisions and why our project will abide them. We’ve relied on groundwater for 25 years in the basin with absolutely no impacts, and our groundwater levels are at their highest measurements despite sustained use. Importantly, the plan also incorporated provisions of the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act to support the new statewide policy. Claims made by opponents to the contrary simply are not true.

In today’s heated political climate, it’s an easy rallying cry to assign the project with partisan labels and continue to assert disproven environmental impacts. But it truly is a false narrative. This project is supported by elected officials from both sides of the aisle, has successfully completed eight years of review under California law and local county ordinances, and will protect the desert we’ve called home for 30 years.

These are the facts. You can learn more at www.cadizwaterproject.com.

 

Courtney Degener is vice president of communications and external relations for Cadiz Inc.

 

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6 Comments

  1. jim says:

    Wow, not just a press release, but an actual focused and “personal” reply to an earlier opinion piece. I am impressed.

    Well, not really. As head PR flack, responding to threats to the company’s plans is Ms. Degener’s job. I’ll bet that she does this a lot. And she did a nice job, since nobody out here in average-human-land is going to wade through the hundreds of pages of the EIR to try and find an untruth in her follow-up opinion piece.

    Because these are all opinions. Even the EIR is an opinion, because it was paid for by Cadiz, and designed to meet all the requirements of the state of California. And in so doing, to present Cadiz’ interests in the best possible light. It’s not as though there are thousands (or even hundreds)of California citizens out there in those desert valleys who will be marching in protest. Hell, it’s well over 100 degrees out there! Just like here.

    Cadiz got a bump from the new heads of the US Gov’t to allow it to use the railroad right-of-way for their pipeline to Orange County’s Santa Margarita Water District. The SMWD seems like a happy partner for Cadiz, although I can’t tell from this item since Ms. Degener doesn’t mention them.

    She does mention San Berdoo County several times, although how the SBC benefits from sending their water (from underground aquifers in the SBC) to Orange County is a mystery to me.

    Figure it out for yourself folks. Unless you don’t care.

    In which case, “Let them eat Cake!”

  2. Laer Pearce says:

    Funny how Jim fails to mention how the courts handled the Cadiz EIR. He didn’t because doing so doesn’t fit the opposition narrative. Six lawsuits challenged the EIR; all lost in Superior Court, then were appealed, then lost at the Court of Appeals, after which the opponents decided not to appeal further. The courts are by definition unbiased and they rejected all the arguments Linda Castro and Jim made as “having no merit.” No wonder opponents never mention the courts, sticking instead to the false narratives that the courts considered and rejected.

  3. jim says:

    Ooh a sharp riposte, and one dragging into the mix a whole bunch of stuff I didn’t say and frankly don’t know about.

    Thank you for all that interesting information Sr.Pearce. Digame, quien es sus empleado?

    And I really like your statement, “The courts by definition are unbiased..” Really. You must be very young, very inexperienced, or perhaps just very convinced.

    IF only I had the faith that you apparently have in the courts.

    More importantly, just exactly what did you decide I posted that was any kind of “argument”?

    For your information, what I posted was a “comment”, as in a bit of my opinion based on the original article and Ms. Degener’s well crafted piece of the company’s position.

    That and having read an article about the new administration taking a different approach (i.e. railroad right-of-ways) to the project. Oh, and I have read a few EIRs in my day.

    So, since you have apparently decided that I am the “opposition” are you and your cohorts going to picket in front of my home? Or do you just want to buy me lunch in hopes of convincing me of the righteousness of your particular argument/position?

    I know a place near here that makes a helluva breakfast. It’s called Crazy Otto’s.

    By the way, I don’t know Linda Castro, other than from her commentaries on SCVNews. You don’t need to invite her to breakfast/lunch if you don’t want to.

  4. jim says:

    IF I may, I have a correction to my earlier post: I should have typed “empleador” instead of “empleado”.

  5. jim says:

    Well, Sr. Pearce has decided not to reply, and I understand that. The entire reason for the “riposte” to Ms. Castro’s article was to deluge any reader with the facts of Cadiz’ case regarding this water project.

    The clown job by Sr. Pearce was obvious, a quick and uninformative slant piece.

    Again, I say “Cadiz’s case”. I’m not against their interest in making tons of money off pumping water from the San Berdoo desert to Orange County. They’ve been trying to make money from that property for the last 10+ years. As well they should since somebody told them it was a great deal.

    I just hate thinking that nobody cares about what happens.

    Reply, and I’ll tell you more. Don’t, and I’ll know that nobody cares. And then neither should I.

  6. jim says:

    Er, except for one thing. I’m still waiting for the invite to breakfast/lunch at Crazy Otto’s.

    Sr. Pearce?

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