Press Release Feb 15, 2019

California Legislation Protects Desert, Calls Water Mining Proposal Into Question

Legislation defends California's national parks and monuments from the greatest, most urgent threat. 

SACRAMENTO, CA – National Parks Conservation Association, in partnership with tribal leaders and a broad range of desert community leaders, commend Senator Richard Roth (Riverside) for introducing commonsense legislation today to defend California desert water, communities, national parks and monuments.

SB 307 responds to the immediate need for groundwater safeguards in California’s Mojave Desert, which sustains legally-protected wildlife and millions of acres of national parks and public lands. The Trump administration has threatened such resources through the removal of long-standing regulations applying to the Cadiz Inc. groundwater mining proposal, considered the greatest, most urgent threat to any of California’s national parks and monuments.

Cadiz Inc. seeks to pump 16 billion gallons of groundwater each year for 50 years from an aquifer beneath Mojave Trails National Monument, Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park. While federal scientists have found Cadiz would overdraft the aquifer by up to 25 times the safe yield, the Trump administration has eliminated required federal review and placed the project in its top “Emergency and National Security” projects list. Responding to the Federal government’s abdication of responsibility, the legislation would authorize the state government to ensure future water transfers – from groundwater basins underlying desert lands – do not adversely affect the desert’s natural or cultural resources, including groundwater resources or sensitive habitats.

“Senator Roth is answering the calls of communities, water agencies, tribes and conservation organizations by defending California desert water,” said David Lamfrom, California Desert Director for National Parks Conservation Association. “Generations of people who live in the desert and love the desert have fought this harmful proposal, which endangers one of our country’s most unique, precious and important places. With acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s long-time connections to the Cadiz proposal and the Trump administration’s actions to eliminate safeguards, the time for California to take action is now.”

SB 307 follows a recent letter (PDF) from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife to the CEO of Cadiz Inc. that states the project’s research is severely flawed and threatens protected wildlife including desert bighorn sheep.

SB 307 is principal co-authored by Senator Anthony Portantino (La Cañada-Flintridge) and Assemblymember Laura Friedman (Glendale), and co-authored by Senator Ben Allen (Santa Monica).

“Water is life, and in no place is that more clear or important than the desert,” said Michael Madrigal, Native American Land Conservancy President and member of the Cahuilla Band of Indians. That is why the Native American Land Conservancy continues to lead efforts to resist threats to our finite resources, especially our sacred desert springs. We must defend the desert lands and waters for our heritage and for our future generations.”

“We applaud Senator Roth for introducing legislation that would close a loophole created by the Trump Administration when it decided to exempt the Cadiz project from federal environmental review,” said Kim Delfino, California Program Director for Defenders of Wildlife. “This bill will ensure that this project will receive the scientific review necessary to ensure that this project does not drain fragile desert groundwater and springs thus impacting iconic wildlife like the desert bighorn sheep.”

“The California League of Conservation Voters applauds Senator Roth for taking a stand against the Trump Administration’s fast-tracking of the Cadiz project, which would cause real harm to our natural resources and to California’s largest National Monument, Mojave Trails,” said Mary Creasman, CEO of the California League of Conservation Voters. “Cadiz has been widely opposed for decades by tribes, communities, businesses, and organizations in the California desert. This project, which jeopardizes California’s water quality, is one of the clearest examples of how the Trump Administration is changing the rules to allow dangerous projects to move forward without adequate review.”

Former Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, former Governor Jerry Brown, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) Chair Mel Levine are among the many public officials who have opposed the Cadiz proposal or expressed the need for California state government review.


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