Archaeological Association Drops Water Suit To Pursue Administrative Remedies

A federal lawsuit against the Cadiz, Inc. water project has been vacated, at least temporarily.
The River Branch of the Archaeological Heritage Association filed suit against the county of San Bernardino, Cadiz, Inc., Santa Margarita Water District, the U.S. Department of the Interior, its secretary Ken Salazar, and the Bureau of Land Management over Santa Margarita’s approval of the so-called Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project, which would extract an average of 50,000 acre-feet of water from the East Mojave Desert and convey it via pipeline to Orange and Los Angeles counties for use there.
San Bernardino County contemplated but ultimately elected against challenging Orange County-based Santa Margarita’s assumption of lead agency status on the project and  entered into a memorandum of understanding with that district and Cadiz, Inc. and its corporate entities over a groundwater monitoring plan to facilitate completion of the project. The Santa Margarita Water District lies some 217 miles from the Cadiz Valley.
The River Branch of the Archaeological Heritage Association suit took issue with the failure of both the county and the federal government to ensure that federal protocols with regard to the approval of the project were followed, including protection of Native American and historical artifacts on federal land the project’s pipeline will cross over which might be disturbed or destroyed as a consequence of the project.
That lawsuit, the only federal complaint filed against Cadiz Inc.’s water mining project, was withdrawn by  the River Branch of the Archaeological Heritage Association last week.
Three related lawsuits filed against the Cadiz project are active in California State courts.
The federal lawsuit filed by Ruth Musser-Lopez, on behalf of the River Branch of the Archaeological Heritage Association, sought a temporary restraining order, and an injunction, to halt the county from signing off on Santa Margarita’s approval of the project until the environmental study included a federal review under the National Historic Preservation Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.
The federal court denied the requests based upon lack of jurisdiction and procedural issues. Previously, a spokesman for Cadiz, Inc. erroneously reported the court had dismissed the case.
Musser-Lopez said that report was inaccurate.
“The court did not dismiss the case,”  she said.  “The court gave instruction that the cited federal protective laws do not allow individuals the right to file a redress action prior to the exhaustion of administrative remedies,” Musser-Lopez said. “I withdrew the complaint to fully comply with that instruction. Depending on the outcome of that effort, we may refile.”
The voluntarily dismissal was without prejudice and leaves open the legal merits of issues that have arisen over the failure of the Barack Obama Administration to enforce established regulations that protect federal resources.
Salazar’s office has been non-responsive to repeated requests for information filed under the federal Freedom of Information Act.
Senator Feinstein (D-CA) has voiced concerns over the project and is considering legislation to protect the desert from the project. Cadiz has presented groundwater recharge rates that conflict with U.S. Geological Survey findings.  Cadiz’s geologists have asserted recharge rates at 5 to 25 times higher than the U.S.G.S.
According to, the lack of Salazar’s enforcement has reportedly benefited the Cadiz project by ignoring historical and environmental concerns.
The same Browntstein law firm that is representing Cadiz, Inc. conducted Secretary Salazar’s earlier successful campaigns for Colorado Attorney General and for the U.S. Senate.
Citing quarterly reports and SEC filings, Rancho Santa Margarita resident, Craig Innis is concerned that potential defaults and foreclosures on million dollar loans taken out by Cadiz, Inc., could place project liability upon ratepayers.

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