• Steve Brown

Department of Fish & Wildlife voice concerns over Cadiz water project

California's Department of Fish and Wildlife has submitted a letter voicing serious concerns over the impact the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery, and Storage Project would have on fish and wildlife resources. The letter, sent December 4, is addressed to Cadiz CEO Scott Slater, and could create a serious obstacle to the water project, which would be devastating to wildlife in the eastern Mojave Desert.

The letter notes that the Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted a review of environmental information and "identified information of substantial importance that was developed after the District (the Santa Margarita Water District which took lead on the Cadiz project) certified the Project EIR. This new information indicates the Project may cause significant effects not discussed or substantially more severe effects than shown in the Project EIR."

The Department of Fish and Wildlife letter notes that the new information, specifically the study that found a hydrologic connection between the aquifer Cadiz would pump water from, and Bonanza Spring, a major spring in the eastern Mojave. This raises concerns, Fish and Wildlife notes, over the likely impact on desert bighorn sheep that utilize the spring for their survival.

The new information directly contradicts conclusions made in the Project EIR that claims springs are not connected to the aquifer, and impacts to desert bighorn sheep in the area would be "less than significant."

"Based on the Department's review of this new information, the Department believes the Project EIR would not be adequate for the Department's use, as a CEQA responsible agency and the public trustee for wildlife, for regulatory approval of a Project LSA (lake and streambed alteration) agreement...

"In short, the best available science regarding the Project and its potentially significant impacts to nearby Bonanza Spring and desert bighorn sheep has progressed since the District certified the Project EIR... the Project's groundwater source is now seen to be connected to the spring, raising the potential of a substantially increased risk of negative impacts to the desert bighorn sheep that frequent Bonanza Spring....

"Further analysis and additional review of these important issues will be necessary for the Department to evaluate the anticipated LSA notification, to consider and take appropriate action in response under the Fish and Game code, and to fulfill the Department's public trust responsibility."

“The Department of Fish and Wildlife letter to Cadiz Inc. validates concerns raised by so many organizations and community members about the potential impact of the Cadiz groundwater pumping project," notes Jessica Dacey, Director of Communications for the Mojave Desert Land Trust. "In the letter, the Department recognizes that new research shows potentially significant harm to Mojave Desert fish and wildlife resources from the groundwater pumping proposal. Fish and Wildlife recognizes that the implications of new scientific findings are substantial enough to warrant further analysis, which means that the environmental impact report Cadiz finalized in 2012 is out of date.

“As local landowners, we are sensitive to the concerns of our neighbors, such as the tribal members who have expressed strong opposition to the Cadiz proposal," Dacey continues.

“We are heartened by the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s careful review of recent research and the results of its own five-year effort to collar and track desert bighorn sheep," Dacey adds. "Their own research shows that desert bighorn sheep frequent Bonanza Spring, and newly published, peer reviewed science connects the Cadiz project wellfield aquifer and Bonanza Spring. We echo the department’s call for further analysis and deeper environmental review.”

Read the letter HERE.

Mojave Watch coverage of the Cadiz project:

Study shows Cadiz water project would threaten spring in national monument

New study finds serious flaws in Cadiz environmental review

Senator Feinstein makes it clear - No Cadiz water project

Public water expert calls out Cadiz project

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