By Jim Steinberg, The Sun
Cadiz Inc. won a decisive courtroom victory Tuesday for its plans to transfer ancient groundwater in a remote part of San Bernardino County’s Mojave Desert to parts of Orange County and other locations.
California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana upheld six lower court decisions dealing with various governmental approvals and environmental reviews of the controversial water project.
“The six Court of Appeal opinions issued today continue an uninterrupted validation of the Cadiz Water Project and its mission to conserve and deliver enough water for 400,000 people without harm to the environment,” said CEO Scott Slater, of Los Angeles-based Cadiz.
“The mountains of evidence, peer review, public agency and judicial scrutiny have all determined that the project is technically and legally sound,” he said.
The Cadiz project is being developed in a partnership with the Santa Margarita Water District and other Southern California water agencies.
“We were disappointed. We thought we had a good case,” said Aruna Prabhala, a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity in Oakland.
The Center challenged the project on two fronts: the California Environmental Quality Act study that was used in the approval process and a second case dealing with San Bernardino County’s approval of the project, she said.
“We remain very concerned about the project and its impact on desert water resources” which will effect desert wildlife such as Bighorn Sheep and Desert tortoise, Prabhala said.
“This project is a boondoggle… not where California should be heading,” she said.
Despite the legal victory, the Cadiz project does not have a green light, Prabhala said.
In October, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management rejected Cadiz’s proposed use of an 1875 railway right-of-way to build a critical 43-mile pipeline from the Fenner Valley — about 40 miles northeast of Twentynine Palms — to the Colorado River Aqueduct, where it could be delivered to future customers.
Said Slater on Tuesday: “We will now turn to demonstrating through all legal means that our proposed use of the ARZC railroad route for the project’s pipeline is within the scope of the existing right of way.”