Thousands Agree: Cadiz Project Economically Faulty, Environmentally Dangerous Letters to Metropolitan Water District Board Oppose Plan

Date:   August 20, 2002
Contact:   Courtney Cuff, NPCA, 510-368-0115

Thousands Agree: Cadiz Project Economically Faulty, Environmentally Dangerous Letters to Metropolitan Water District Board Oppose Plan

Oakland, CA - More than 3,000 letters from Californians opposing the Cadiz water project will be presented this morning in Los Angeles by Courtney Cuff, Pacific Regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association, to Phillip Pace, chairman of the Metropolitan Water District board. The letters ask the board to withdraw its support of the Cadiz Project, which would both store Colorado River water in and take naturally occurring water from an aquifer that underlies southern California desert regions, jeopardizing wildlife and wilderness at great economic cost.
"We collected 4,064 letters from people who oppose the project," Cuff said. "We're turning over only the 3,243 letters from California residents. Copies of the letters have been sent to Representative Dianne Feinstein, who has shown remarkable leadership in trying to block this senseless project while others have stayed silent. These letters show that Californians will not allow water bandits to cash in at the expense of priceless national treasures."
In order to reach its goals for selling water to agricultural interests and urban areas, the Cadiz Project will either cost a lot of money or will use up a lot of groundwater. "In effect, Cadiz, Inc., the private company undertaking the project, will be mining the groundwater - taking it out faster than natural cycles can replace it," Cuff said. "This approach poses risks to Californians and to the California environment, including Mojave National Preserve and four designated wilderness areas."
Opponents outline three main environmental concerns with the Cadiz Project:

1. A virtual consensus in the scientific community indicates that the project relies on an untested and unreliable monitoring system. Project proponents also adhere to exaggerated estimates of the rate of replenishment for the aquifer. Banking on an untried monitoring system and assuming an inflated recharge rate leaves the groundwater highly vulnerable to damaging overdraft, creating the likelihood of massive dust clouds from desiccated playas in the Cadiz and Bristol dry lakes and the possibility of drying up mountain springs on which endangered desert bighorn sheep depend.

2. The project calls for the creation of 390 acres of freshwater spreading basins, or ponds, certain to attract a large population of ravens, which prey heavily on threatened juvenile desert tortoises. Increased raven numbers will doom desert tortoise populations struggling to survive in federally designated critical habitat that overlaps, abuts, or is close to the project site.

3. The project calls for construction of intrusive facilities, including a large pipeline and five story-tall power lines and towers, across a substantial amount of untouched desert. Routing the power lines and pipeline through pristine desert is gratuitously destructive of the environment, given the availability of two existing alternative routes - a pipeline and a railroad - that would add only minimally to the 35 mile length of the planned conveyance facilities.

The project also suffers from profound economic flaws, opponents say, because it is predicated on the assumption that it can safely withdraw from the aquifer large amounts of water that in fact would be environmentally disastrous. Environmental limits on the amount of native groundwater that in reality can be extracted safely will render the cost of water from this project so high that it makes no economic sense for the rate-paying public.
In addition, proponents have failed to analyze the added energy demands that the Cadiz Project will impose on the Metropolitan Water District's whole water-delivery system. Those demands will be real, and they will create environmental impacts of their own. The failure to address these energy demands and environmental impacts undermines the agency's ability reasonably to approve the project.
Further, the company that proposed this project and stands to make an enormous amount of money from it is on the verge of bankruptcy. As their own SEC filings make clear, without the massive infusion of public funds that the project would provide, Cadiz, Inc., will go bankrupt in short order. "Relying on such an unstable and insolvent partner is a terrible way to manage the people of California's critical water resources and storage needs," Cuff said. "The stunning disaster that deregulation of the electricity system brought to our state should have taught us a cautionary lesson about trusting long term resource planning and management to the private sector."
"The Californians who wrote these letters want the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to drop the Cadiz Project," Cuff said. "That's the only common sense approach the Water District can take. The project threatens the environment, makes no economic sense, and will likely advance private interests at the expense of the public trust. Our national parks, our wilderness areas, and the public deserve better."


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