Cadiz Valley EIR and Public Comment

posted Feb 10, 2012, 2:43 PM by JTCA Contact   [ updated Feb 18, 2012, 10:49 AM ]

The draft environmental impact report was release in December 2011 and will be open for public comment until February 13th, 2012. We have a very short amount of time to act. Seth Shteir has outlined reasons for an extension of the comment period and a brief overview of the project.

Send in your comments to: John Schatz, GM of the Santa Margarita Water District’s e-mail johns@smwd.com.

To show community concern please copy your comments to: Chris Carillo Field Representative for Dianne Feinstein chris_carillo@feinstein.senate.gov

I am requesting an additional 90-day extension to the public comment period for the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation and Recovery Draft Environmental Impact Report. I believe that such an extension is warranted because:

  • The Draft EIR is highly technical, scientific and lengthy. Processing and commenting on the relevant hydrological data will take more time than is currently allotted.
  • The Santa Margarita Water District and Cadiz, Inc. have refused to make the Project’s Modflow files public. This has added significant additional work for reviewers analyzing its hydrologic models and data.
  • The project has potentially adverse impacts to regional groundwater and air quality and, even in the best-case scenario, will affect aquifer water levels for over a century. People living in the region and the environmental community require more time to consider the consequences of this large-scale endeavor.
  • The project might adversely impact federally-designated Bureau of Land Management wilderness areas and the Mojave National Preserve. These resources are of substantial regional and national concern. Interested parties must have sufficient time to consider the project and provide detailed comments.
  • The Santa Margarita Water District has expressed its commitment to make the draft EIR accessible to diverse communities and stakeholders so that they may submit meaningful comments about its scope and impact. This goal cannot be fully realized without more time.

Overview

The Cadiz Inc. has resurrected a plan to intercept groundwater from the Fenner Watershed on its way to Bristol and Cadiz Dry Lake beds, transfer it through a 42 mile conveyance pipeline to the Colorado River Aqueduct and send it to thirsty southern California water districts. The groundwater would be taken from the Fenner Watershed, some of which comes from sources high in the mountains of the Mojave National Preserve.

Cadiz’s plan raises numerous questions about the project’s environmental impacts to groundwater, air quality and the Mojave National Preserve. Though the Cadiz Inc. is billing this project as sustainable, there’s a lot of evidence to the contrary. One issue is the amount of water that will be transferred. The Santa Margarita Water District, the lead agency for this project, states that Cadiz will transfer up to 50,000 acre feet per year to several cooperating water districts from water intercepted from the Fenner Watershed on Cadiz property. They also claim that the recharge rate of the Watersheds is 32,500 acre feet per year. We believe that Cadiz’s recharge rates are too high and even if one accepts their number, the extensive groundwater pumping would result in overdraft- a condition where more water is being pumped out of the aquifer than replaced- over the project’s life span.

And what of climate change? There’s significant scientific data that indicates the climate of the Mojave Desert will see increasing variability in precipitation, meaning that over the project’s proposed 50 year life span, the rate of recharge won’t remain constant. The California Climate Adaptation Strategy, a report published by the State Natural Resources Agency, cites Scripps Oceanographic Institute climate change models that predict a 12-35% reduction in average annual precipitation for California by 2050. How will this Cadiz and the Santa Margarita Water District accurately calculate the amount of groundwater recharge for an uncertain future?

Yet another cause for concern is the project’s impact to air quality in our desert region. Bristol and Cadiz dry lake beds, deprived of all moisture, could contribute to airborne dust particles and jeopardize air quality. There’s no way of knowing what the exact ramifications of the project will be on air quality, but the U.S. geological Survey states that Owen’s Lake, a dried lake bed that for many years was deprived of water resources, has produced enormous amounts of windblown dust since its desiccation and that it is probably the largest source of PM 10 in the United States.

Yet another cause for concern is the project’s impact to air quality in our desert region. Bristol and Cadiz dry lake beds, deprived of all moisture, could contribute to airborne dust particles and jeopardize air quality. There’s no way of knowing what the exact ramifications of the project will be on air quality, but the U.S. geological Survey states that Owen’s Lake, a dried lake bed that for many years was deprived of water resources, has produced enormous amounts of windblown dust since its desiccation and that it is probably the largest source of PM 10 in the United States.

Seth Shteir works as California Desert Field Representative to the National Parks Conservation Association.

Seth Shteir
California Desert Field Representative
National Parks Conservation Association
61325 Twentynine Palms Highway, Suite B
Joshua Tree, CA 92252
760-366-7785- Office
760-332-9776- Cell

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