Deadline On Desert Water EIR Feedback Extended

The review period for the draft environmental impact report on the  Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery, and Storage Project has been extended until March 14.
The Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery, and Storage Project is a plan by Cadiz, Inc., which is also known as the Cadiz Land Company, to pump an average of 50,000 acre-feet of water per year out of the aquifer in San Bernardino County’s eastern Mojave Desert and convey it in a pipeline to Riverside, Orange and Los Angeles counties to replenish the water supply there.
The Santa Margarita Water District in Orange County was designated as the lead agency on the project with a tentative budget of $536.25 million that is to entail the sinking of 34 wells into the Cadiz Valley’s desert floor, together with the construction of a 44-mile pipeline along a railroad right-of-way until it meets up with the aqueduct that carries Colorado River water to the Los Angeles and Orange County metropolitan areas.
The Cadiz Land Company has proposed that the Santa Margarita Water District will receive the lion’s share of the water to be extracted from the desert aquifer. In addition, Cadiz, Inc. has entered into agreements with Three Valleys Water District, which provides water to the Pomona Valley, Walnut Valley, and Eastern San Gabriel Valley; the Golden State Water Company, which serves several communities in Southern California, including Claremont;   Suburban Water Systems, which serves Covina, West Covina and La Mirada; and the Jurupa Community Services District, which serves Mira Loma in Riverside County.
The Cadiz Valley is located just south of the Marble Mountains and northeast of the Sheep Hole Mountains near the National Trails Highway. Cadiz is home to a former railroad stop along the Santa Fe line, 17 miles east of Amboy and 70 miles from Needles.
A firestorm of protest erupted earlier this month as East Mojave residents and landowners, as well as environmentalists learned that the comment period with regard to the environmental impact report was set to lapse on February 13 and that the county of San Bernardino was not serving as the lead agency on the project and was instead allowing the Santa Margarita Water District, which is located some 217 miles from the Cadiz Valley, to conduct the public hearings for the project and carry out its environmental certification under the California Environmental Quality Act.
While the Cadiz Land Company and the Santa Margarita Water Agency maintain that the proposed project will be a beneficial one that will only extract water that would otherwise be lost to evaporation, opponents maintain the environmental impact report (EIR), which is being undertaken by Environmental Science Associates, is flawed and that the project will deprive the Cadiz Valley of a precious resource for generations while wreaking ecological havoc not only on the Cadiz Valley, but on adjoining desert areas and their water tables which are interconnected to the Cadiz Valley aquifer.
The Santa Margarita Water District published a draft environmental impact report  on the project on December 5, 2011, at which point 70 days for comment were provided. Many residents and landowners within the Cadiz Valley have said they had not received notification of the report.  The district received dozens of letters demanding that fuller notice be provided and that the comment period on the environmental impact report be extended. In response, the  Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) last week issued a terse notice to the California Office of Planning and Research, which stated, “Although the initial comment period exceeded the minimal time requirements  set forth under the California Environmental Quality Act, SMWD has received several requests to further extend the comment period. In response to these requests and in recognition of the importance of providing ample review of the project, SMWD is extending the comment period an additional 30 days, bringing the total public review period to 100 days. The comment period on the draft EIR will now close on March 14, 2012.”
Copies of the draft EIR and appendices are available at the Santa Margarita Water District Website,; the Santa Margarita Water District Office, at 26111 Antonio Parkway, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688; the Twentynine Palms Library, at 6078 Adobe Road, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277; the Rancho Santa Margarita Public Library, located at 30902 La Promesa Drive, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688; the Joshua Tree Library, located at 6465 Park Blvd, Joshua Tree, CA 92252; and at the San Bernardino County Library, located at 104 W. 4th Street, San Bernardino, CA 92415.
Those wishing to comment upon the environmental impact report may do so by providing those comments in writing, together with a return address and contact name, on or before March 14 to Environmental Science Associates c/o Tom Barnes, 626 Wilshire Boulevard, Ste. 1100, Los Angeles, CA 90017, Telephone: 213-599-4300, FAX:  213-599-4301; or by email to:
Meanwhile, a coalition of desert residents and environmentalists are pushing the California Office of Planning and Research to use its authority to extend the comment period 60 days beyond the March 14 deadline and substitute San Bernardino County as the lead agency on the project.

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