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For Immediate Release, August 31, 2012

Contact:  Adam Lazar, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 670-0797,
Seth Shteir, National Parks Conservation Association, (760) 332-9776,
Kim Floyd, Sierra Club, (760) 680-9479
Drew Feldmann, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, (909) 881-6081
Michael Robinson-Dorn, UC Irvine School of Law, (949) 824-1043

 Cadiz Water Project Challenged in Court

Project Would Suck 16 Billion Gallons of Water Per Year From Mojave Desert,
Threatening Wildlife, Costing Ratepayers  

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.— A coalition of conservation groups filed a lawsuit in San Bernardino County superior court today challenging 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, creating numerous problems for desert lands and animals. The project would mine underground water near the town of Cadiz, in eastern San Bernardino County, to fuel Orange County growth.

Widely opposed by Orange County ratepayers, San Bernardino County residents, state and federal public agencies, and a local mining company, the ill-conceived plan 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.”

Although the project’s environmental review should have been conducted by San Bernardino County, it was actually done by a water district in Orange County about 200 miles away, disregarding San Bernardino County’s groundwater ordinance. “Santa Margarita is the wrong agency, in the wrong county, serving the wrong interests for reviewing the environmental impacts of a project that will drain the groundwater from the eastern Mojave in San Bernardino County,” said Lazar.

“On behalf of our over 90,000 California members and supporters, we sent a strong message to the Santa Margarita Water District that this ill-conceived project was a significant threat to the Mojave Desert in general and the Mojave National Preserve in particular,” said Seth Shteir, California desert field representative for the National Parks Conservation Association. “Our voice — and the law — was disregarded throughout this process, and taking legal action is our only viable next step.”

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.

“Any effort to mine the water source for the vast desert area adjacent to the national treasures of the Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park must be looked at very carefully, and the environmental documents that have been produced do not adequately address the multitude of issues and concerns of our members and residents of the desert,” said Kim Floyd, conservation chair for the San Gorgonio Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Our 145,000 California members feel strongly that the desert and our national parks must be protected from wanton, profit-driven destruction that will likely result from this proposal.”

“The so-called Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery, and Storage Project is none of those things. It’s just a scheme to destroy the aquifer so a single corporation can make more money using a water company that will charge higher rates,” said Drew Feldmann, conservation chair of the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society.

The groups filing today’s suit were the Center for Biological Diversity, National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club and San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society.

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