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Southern California Water Grab Scheme Would Rob Wildlife, Desert of Billions of Gallons Per Year


By: Center for Biological Diversity

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. Nov. 1, 2012 - Conservation groups filed a second lawsuit today in San Bernardino County superior court challenging San Bernardino County for failing to provide environmental review and violating its own groundwater ordinance on the Cadiz water project, which would take more than 16 billion gallons of water per year from the Mojave Desert and pump it to southern Orange County. The project would mine underground water near the town of Cadiz, in eastern San Bernardino County, to fuel Orange County growth, creating numerous problems for plants and animals both in the Mojave Desert and coastal Southern California.

Despite the project being widely opposed by Orange County ratepayers, San Bernardino County residents, state and federal public agencies, and a local mining company, San Bernardino County approved this project in direct violation of its own groundwater ordinance, which had originally been created to thwart a similar project by the Cadiz Corporation more than 10 years ago. The project threatens to dry up life-sustaining desert springs in the Mojave National Preserve, hurting vegetation and key habitat for iconic desert wildlife species including desert tortoises, bighorn sheep, Mojave fringe-toed lizards and kit foxes.

"This shortsighted water grab will benefit those pushing more sprawl in Orange County, but it'll rob some of California's rare species of the water they need to survive," said Adam Lazar, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Our desert, the residents of San Bernardino County and Orange County ratepayers all deserve better."

The Cadiz Corporation has faced a series of rejections of similar proposals from larger water districts in Southern California over the past decade. Former government hydrologists from the U.S. Geological Survey have disagreed with the Cadiz consultants on the recharge rate of the aquifer and identified the project as unsustainable over the long term.

"We are very disappointed that San Bernardino County has decided to ignore the need for the County to act as Lead Agency on this project and to complete a full environmental review. San Bernardino County Sierra Club members expect this minimum level of responsibility on the part of the County," said Kim Floyd, conservation chair for the San Gorgonio Chapter of the Sierra Club. "Full compliance with the County's own ground water ordinance would seem to be a reasonable expectation but the County has decided that Cadiz deserves a "free pass" around the County's own ordinance."

"The so-called Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery, and Storage Project will actually take water away from ordinary citizens and responsible business operations, not just wildlife" said Drew Feldmann, conservation chair of the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society.



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