Environmental groups are suing the Trump administration over its decision supporting a company’s plan to pump up to 16.3 billion gallons of groundwater each year from a Mojave Desert aquifer and build a pipeline to sell that water to Southern California cities.
Conservationists say the plan proposed by Los Angeles-based Cadiz Inc. would threaten natural springs and wildlife in Mojave Trails National Monument, which surrounds Cadiz’s land, 75 miles northeast of Palm Springs. Company officials disagree.
To get the water to coastal cities, Cadiz wants to build a 43-mile pipeline alongside railroad tracks to the Colorado River Aqueduct, which would carry the water the rest of the way.
…The Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety are challenging that decision. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in Los Angeles, the groups argue that the Bureau of Land Management, under Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, made an “illegal determination” that Cadiz’s pipeline does not need a new federal permit.
Cadiz Inc. “is just another corporation looking to profit by selling off an irreplaceable public resource,” said Greg Loarie, an attorney at Earthjustice, which is representing the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety in their lawsuit.
… Sen. Dianne Feinstein has been one of the project’s fiercest critics. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power also opposes the groundwater pumping plan, saying the potential benefits are outweighed by the risk of harm to the desert environmental.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which operates the Colorado River Aqueduct, has also raised concerns, saying the groundwater Cadiz wants to transport through its aqueduct could contaminate drinking water supplies for Los Angeles and other cities. In a letter to Cadiz, Jeffrey Kightlinger, Metropolitan’s general manager, said the groundwater contains chemicals such as arsenic, fluoride, chromium, nitrate and bromide, some of them at levels exceeding drinking water standards.
Cadiz has powerful supporters too, including gubernatorial candidate and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who worked as a consultant for the company. Earlier this year, 18 members of Congress urged Zinke to approve the water pipeline, including five Californians: Tony Cárdenas (D-Los Angeles), Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley), Jim Costa (D-Fresno), Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) and Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove)…