FEB. 15, 2019 – Today, Senator Richard Roth (D-Riverside) introduced Senate Bill 307, a bill that seeks to create new, additional environmental review requirements for the Cadiz Water Project outside the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) processes. Last year, Roth authored SB 120, with identical language as SB 307; SB 120 garnered strong opposition from nearly 80 organizations representing labor, business, community groups and local government and ultimately failed to pass out of the Legislature at the end of session.
Since that time, we have engaged in a dialogue with Senator Roth to address his questions about the long-term sustainability of the Project and the State’s role in groundwater management in the vast Mojave Desert. We understand that Senator Roth intends to continue to engage with us and our opponents throughout the legislative session to ensure that the Project can be a part of the solution to California’s long-term water challenge, while also protecting state desert resources. We appreciate the Senator’s willingness to engage with us and welcome a continued dialogue with the Legislature and the bill’s proponents.
Cadiz is and has always been committed to making reliable, clean drinking water available to Southern California in a safe, sustainable way. We have followed the law to develop a project that can be part of the solution to California’s long-term water challenges and are proud of our plan to manage groundwater at our private property in San Bernardino County so it can provide new water for 400,000 people across Southern California as well as new groundwater storage for our growing State.
We agree with Senator Roth and his co-sponsor Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) that thorough review of groundwater projects in desert ecosystems is important. Indeed, that’s why Cadiz has worked with dozens of expert hydrologists and geologists from leading universities to evaluate the science behind this project and help design a project that will not harm the desert environment. It’s also why Cadiz has followed California’s stringent environmental laws to permit the project and worked with the County of San Bernardino on a detailed groundwater management plan to limit the project to safe and sustainable levels of operation. The project’s numerous permits and approvals have been upheld by California’s Courts, confirming this commitment.
We are also committed to providing Senator Roth the assurance he is seeking that our project is sustainable, but we disagree that SB 307 is the appropriate vehicle or solution given its laser focus on one specific project in one small section of the Mojave Desert instead of subjecting all groundwater use in the Mojave Desert to the same standards. Furthermore, as drafted, SB 307 proposes to subject court-approved decisions made under CEQA, and in accordance with local groundwater law, to new, undefined reviews. Were the Legislature to enact such a policy, it would be establishing a troubling precedent for infrastructure development and groundwater management across California.
Therefore, we will strongly oppose SB 307, unless amended to address our concerns, as we opposed its predecessors SB 120 and AB 1000. However, we look forward to continued good faith dialogue with the Legislature to substantiate our commitment to environmental sustainability.
SB 307 will be subject to regular order and cannot be amended or heard for at least 30 days. After 30 days, the measure will be eligible for amendment and can be heard by a policy committee in the Senate. Information about SB 307 will be available through the Legislature’s website – https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billSearchClient.xhtml