NGOs, local government groups, labor, construction trades and water agencies apply to file amicus “friends of the court” briefs with the California Court of Appeals in support of project’s trial court victory
08.31.15. Los Angeles, CA (GlobeNewswire) – Today Cadiz Inc. (NASDAQ: CDZI) is pleased to announce that the Cadiz Valley Water, Conservation, Recovery & Storage Project (“Cadiz Water Project”) has secured significant amici “friend of the court” support from a broad cross-section of local government bodies, trade groups, labor groups, water agencies, non-governmental organizations and other interested parties in pending appellate proceedings before the California Court of Appeals 4th District. Following the 2012 independent approvals of the Cadiz Water Project by the Santa Margarita Water District (“SMWD”) and the County of San Bernardino, the Center for Biological Diversity et al. (“CBD”) and Tetra Technologies Inc. (“Tetra”), a Texas-based oil and gas conglomerate, filed challenges to the approvals in Superior Court. In 2014, Orange County Superior Court Judge Gail Andler rejected the claims against the Project and upheld the independent public agency approvals. Earlier this year, Tetra and CBD appealed these decisions.
The amicus support announced today has been filed as part of the appeals process and provides important legal and policy context to the Appellate Court for upholding the resounding 2014 trial court victories. The following agencies filed as amici in 11 separate briefs among the six cases under appeal:
- American Groundwater Trust(“AGWT”)
- Association of California Water Agencies(“ACWA”)
- Building Industry Legal Defense Foundation (“BILD”)
- Building Industry Association of the Bay Area(“BIABA”)
- California Building Industry Association(“CBIA”)
- California Business Property Association(“CBPA”)
- California Chamber of Commerce(“Cal Chamber”)
- California Association of Sanitation Agencies(“CASA”)
- California State Association of Counties(“CSAC”)
- Property & Environment Research Center(“PERC”)
- Southern California District Council of Laborers(“Laborers”)
“In a time of unprecedented drought and with the herculean efforts that will be required to solve our state’s water challenges, supporting a project that will carefully protect the resource and generate water by curtailing evaporation was the right thing to do as a friend of the Court,” said James Markman, long time water law expert and pro bono amici counsel for the AGWT and PERC briefs.
The Cadiz Water Project is a public-private partnership that has been developed by the Company in partnership with SMWD, Orange County’s second largest water supplier, and proposes to deliver a new, reliable annual water supply to 400,000 people in Southern California. Under a groundwater management program to be enforced by San Bernardino County, the Project will conserve groundwater that is presently lost to evaporation and high salinity in the eastern Mojave Desert and deliver that water via the Colorado River Aqueduct to multiple water providers without any significant environmental impacts attributable to Project operations, except for potential growth in the Project participants service areas.
“The Project provides resource protection and makes available for beneficial use an enormous amount of water now being uselessly evaporated in desert dry lakes,” stated amici PERC and AGWT in their joint brief.
The widely supported Cadiz Water Project was reviewed in accordance with CEQA in a public process over 18 months from 2011 to 2012. SMWD served as lead agency and the County of San Bernardino, which regulates groundwater use at the Project area, served as a responsible agency in the CEQA process. SMWD and the County agreed to these roles in a Memorandum of Understanding entered into during the CEQA process. After an extended comment period and extensive public hearings, SMWD certified the Final Environmental Impact Report and approved the Project in July 2012. The County separately affirmed the adequacy of the EIR when it approved the GMMMP for the Project under its Desert Groundwater Management Ordinance in October 2012.
In their brief in support of the arrangements among SMWD and the County, amici CSAC and CASA explained, “Appellants would have [the] Court wipe away half a decade worth of agency work for no other reason than they believe the incorrect agency ultimately assumed the role of lead agency, even though the decision was the product of deliberation, was made in good faith and resulted in no prejudice. Such an outcome would be unjust…and create substantial uncertainty.”
Amici ACWA further explained in its brief, “[M]ulti-jurisdictional projects are crucial to California’s future, and clear and proper application of CEQA is critical to their expeditious development. Accordingly, the legally incorrect assertions advanced by Appellants … should be soundly rejected.”
The Cadiz Water Project would create significant local economic benefits, including the creation of nearly 1,500 direct and indirect jobs during construction, and would also diversify the water resources portfolio of many water providers throughout Southern California at a time when water supply reliability is urgently needed.
“In seeking to delay the Project through the Appellate process, CBD and Tetra have sought to needlessly defer its many benefits for the Southern California region,” said Scott S. Slater, Cadiz CEO and President.
In urging the Court to sustain SMWD’s certification of the EIR as Lead Agency, amici CBIA, Cal Chamber and Laborers write, “CEQA has been described as the guerilla war of attrition, where project opponents try to wear down project applicants…[T]he rules appellants have urged this Court to adopt would have adverse implications across this state and …are at odds with the plain text of CEQA.”
“We are grateful for the tremendous diversity of support for the Project and the assistance in thwarting efforts that would unjustly seek to block the implementation of an important, environmentally sound water infrastructure project” continued Slater.
The Cadiz Water Project is presently preparing to begin construction in 2016 and is finalizing transportation arrangements that would allow water conserved at the project area to be delivered to water users across Southern California. The appellate cases are expected to be heard before the end of the year.
To view the Amicus Briefs, Click Here.