If Cadiz Inc. goes forward with its plan to pump 50 billion gallons of water out of the aquifer in the desert east of Twentynine Palms, the process cannot adversely affect the groundwater, habitat, or natural or cultural resources of the state and federal lands. Cadiz Inc. plans to pump water from below the desert and send it to Orange County. Newsom said in a signing statement that the desert’s “fragile ecosystem has existed, in balance, for centuries. Prior to allowing any project to move forward there must be certainty that it will not threaten the important natural and cultural resources.”
The bill will ensure that independent scientific analysis is conducted and reviewed prior to any major water transfer. Cadiz said in a statement that its project is “environmentally sound” and while the company intends to comply with the law’s requirements, it says the law sets a “troubling precedent.”
Governor Gavin Newsom’s signing statement:
“I am signing Senate Bill 307, which requires the State Lands Commission, in consultation with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Water Resources, to find that the transfer of the water from a groundwater basin underlying specified desert lands will not adversely affect the natural or cultural resources, including groundwater resources or habitat, of those federal and state lands in order for that transfer to be allowed.
“Water has flowed underneath the Mojave for thousands of years, sustaining the Native Americans, bighorn sheep, the threatened desert tortoise and a variety of other plant and animal life that have made the Mojave Desert their home.
“This fragile ecosystem has existed in balance for centuries. Prior to allowing any project to move forward there must be certainty that it will not threaten the important natural and cultural resources.
“SB 307 will ensure that independent scientific, analysis is conducted and reviewed in a public and transparent process. Such a process will determine if any major water transfer project in the Mojave desert will unreasonably affect the environment and water dependent ecosystem in the surrounding watersheds prior to any project being approved.”
Cadiz CEO Scott Slater made the following statement following Governor Newsom’s action:
“While we believe SB 307 is a troubling precedent for infrastructure development, it will not stop the Cadiz Water Project, a sustainable project designed to safely make available new water for 400,000 people in California. We stand ready to comply with SB 307, just as we have complied with all of California’s stringent environmental laws.
“We look forward to working closely with the Governor’s office, the State Lands Commission and other State Agencies as we complete this public, and transparent procedural step and we are confident that we will continue to demonstrate that the Project is environmentally sound and a worthy part of the solution to California’s persistent water supply challenges.
“California is home to over a million people who lack access to safe, clean, reliable drinking water. Over the long-term we face a statewide supply-demand imbalance that requires a successful water resiliency strategy, especially if we seek to achieve the State’s objectives of providing water and housing for all. We believe a fact-based evaluation of the Project conducted under the Governor’s watchful eye will undoubtedly conclude we can sustainably contribute to this effort.”
“Importantly, SB 307, which regulates the transfer of groundwater from Cadiz into urban Southern California, does not affect our ongoing efforts to conserve and efficiently use groundwater in our substantial agricultural ventures. SB 307 also does not limit the direct delivery of water or the storage of imported water at Cadiz as evaluated in the Project’s court-approved permits. We will continue to pursue these opportunities concurrently with compliance with SB 307 and the remaining permitting milestones for the Water Project.”