Mojave Water Agency Holds Off On Purchasing Arrangement With Cadiz, Inc

(February 13)  The Mojave Water Agency’s Tactical Advisory Committee has recommended against the agency relying upon water available from the Cadiz Water Project as part of its integrated water management plan.
Los Angeles-based Cadiz, Inc. is undertaking what is officially known as the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project, a plan to siphon billions of gallons of water from the East Mojave Desert for use elsewhere.  Since the 1980s, Cadiz, Inc. has operated a 500-acre organic grape, citrus, melon and pepper farm in the Cadiz Valley, thereby obtaining water pumping rights. In 2012 Cadiz, Inc.arranged to have the Santa Margarita Water District, to which it is contracted to deliver a portion of the water to be extracted from the desert, assume lead agency status for the project’s approval. Many of those opposed to the project considered that to be a conflict of interest.
San Bernardino County contemplated, but in March 2012 ultimately elected against, challenging Orange County-based Santa Margarita’s assumption of that lead agency status on the project. Instead on May 1, 2012 the county entered into a memorandum of understanding with that district and Cadiz, Inc. and its corporate entities, including the Fenner Valley Mutual Water Company, allowing Santa Margarita to oversee the environmental impact report for the project and conduct the public hearings related to project approval.
On July 31, 2012, the Santa Margarita Water District Board of Directors approved the Cadiz Water Project and certified the environmental impact report for the Cadiz Water project.
On October 1, 2012, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors gave approval to a groundwater monitoring plan to facilitate completion of the project.
Cadiz intends to import the lion’s share of the water to Orange and Los Angeles counties but is also looking to sell water to other entities in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
The Mojave Water Agency, which oversees water usage in the western Mojave communities of Apple Valley, Adelanto, Hesperia, Baldy Mesa, Victorville and Barstow, Helendale and Oro Grande, is interested in augmenting that region’s water supply and has done so by purchasing water from the State Water Project.
As part of its Integrated Water Management Plan, the agency contemplated becoming one of Cadiz, Inc.’s customers.
Last week, however, the Mojave Water Agency heard protests from various individuals opposed to the Cadiz project.
Historically, entities in San Bernardino, Redlands, Riverside, Rialto, Anaheim and Los Angeles have sought to commandeer water originating in the western Mojave Desert, all of which included elaborate schemes involving large scale aqueducts to carry the water down the Cajon Pass. None of those succeeded after residents of the Victor Valley opposed those efforts. Indeed, the Mojave Water Agency was formed in part to manage the West Mojave’s water resources and prevent it from being diverted elsewhere.
At least one of those protesting against incorporating Cadiz, Inc.’s water into the MWA Integrated Water Management Plan referenced those earlier efforts to seize the Victor Valley’s water for distant use, asserting the Mojave Water Agency would set a bad legal precedent and lose its moral authority to oppose any efforts to take local water if it went along with the Orange County raid on the East Mojave’s water supply.
Those opposed to the Cadiz project object to the use of the terms “conservation” and “storage” in the official name of the project, maintaining that the project purports to “conserve” water by exporting it for consumptive use. Legal challenges to the project, which are ongoing, contend that Cadiz, Inc. and the Santa Margarita Water District should have included the Metropolitan Water District, state or regional water resources control boards, and the California Department of Fish and Game, and the state Department of Water Resources as responsible agencies in the environmental impact reporting drafting process. The Santa Margarita Water District did not do so.
Opponents of the project also maintain that the county of San Bernardino should have been the lead agency overseeing the approval of the project and its environmental certification as opposed to the Santa Margarita Water District.
The MWA’s Tactical Advisory Committee on February 6, after a protracted debate, voted to advise the Mojave Water Agency board of directors to not incorporate Cadiz Water Project water as an element of its water management plan.
Cadiz, Inc. and the Santa Margarita maintain that there is adequate legal precedent for diverting water from one region to another.

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