Mojave Water Grab: Agencies Concede More Time for Public Scrutiny

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   November 28, 2000
Contact:   Andrea Keller, National Parks Conservation Association, 202-454-3332; Simeon Herskovits, Western Environmental Law Center, 505-751-0351; Elden Hughes, Sierra Club, 562-941-5306


Mojave Water Grab: Agencies Concede More Time for Public Scrutiny

Chambless, CA - Environmentalists welcomed the announcement that the public will have an additional month to respond to the controversial Cadiz proposal to drain up to 652 billion gallons of water from an aquifer in the Mojave Desert that has supported the fragile desert ecosystems of Mojave National Preserve and at least four nearby wilderness areas for millennia. The extension comes on the heels of the disclosure that the aquifer water contains high levels of chromium 6, a cancer-causing toxin made famous by the recent movie, "Erin Brockovich."

"Congress decided to permanently protect these lands for their natural beauty and recreational values," said Simeon Herskovits of Western Environmental Law Center. "This project requires the sacrifice of some of these lands to development. For that, the law requires at least 90 days for the public to review and comment on so drastic a decision."

"The high level of chromium 6 is a problem, and chances are there are other hazards in this water," said Elden Hughes of the Sierra Club's California Desert Committee. "Neighboring water supplies are laced with arsenic. With a drawdown of the water level, there could be salt water intrusion. They are mining salt not very far away. Furthermore, they're pumping in other pollutants from the Colorado River. We're troubled that Cadiz isn't making this kind of information available to the public. State taxpayers are paying for the project—they should know if it might also cost them their health."

Environmentalists are concerned that the project will permanently damage a national park and surrounding wildernesses by drying up the aquifer that supports the region's plants and animals. They also point out the likelihood that the groundwater mining will dry out the moist beds of two large "dry" lakes, potentially creating dust storms twice as large as those generated at Owens Lake.

"This water has collected under the Mojave Desert over many thousands of years," said Steven Krefting of the National Parks Conservation Association. "Los Angeles and San Diego have alternatives to draining this aquifer, including water conservation. The flora and fauna in this region have no alternative. Surely we can take the time to examine whether this project is good for consumers and conservation rather than plunge ahead with a project that could harm both."

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