Summary: The Cadiz Groundwater Storage and Dry-Year Supply Program involves a
cooperative effort between Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
(MWD) and Cadiz Inc. to use the groundwater basin underlying part of the Cadiz
and Fenner Valleys in San Bernardino County for storage of water from the
Colorado River for later recovery and transfer of indigenous groundwater under
specified conditions for use in dry years to supply water for Southern
Californians. The project includes a 34.6-mile pipeline that would cross BLM
public lands from MWD’s aqueduct to the Cadiz, Inc. private

Issues: The influx of people and industry into Southern California, and an accompanying
growth in demand for water supplies has resulted in an expanded need for MWD to
enhance its management of water from the Colorado River. Anticipated
reductions in the amount of water that will be available to California from the
river as other western states begin to fully utilize their water entitlements
requires that California, and MWD, implement a change in water management
practices, as required by the Federal-State 4.4 Plan. The proposed Cadiz
project represents part of MWD's ongoing efforts to maintain a reliable supply
of water by improving the management of available water supplies.
MWD proposes to construct a 6-foot diameter, 34.6 mile long pipeline across
public lands to be used in conjunction with MWD's existing aqueduct system to
take water during wet years from the Colorado River and store it for future
usage. The proposed pipeline, originating at the Iron Mountain pumping plant,
would transport the water to spreading basins located on land owned by Cadiz,
Inc. The water would be stored underground until needed by MWD, and then pumped
back to the aqueduct via the same pipeline and delivered to MWD customers. The
proposal would also involve the transfer of available indigenous groundwater
under specified conditions over the project's 50 year life.
The proposed BLM action is a right-of-way for the pipeline and a land use plan
amendment, necessary because the proposed pipeline is outside a California
Desert Conservation Area Plan utility corridor. MWD (as the State lead under
the California Environmental Quality Act) and BLM (the Federal lead under the
National Environmental Policy Act) jointly prepared a Draft Environmental
Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) released for a 90 day
public review on November 26, 1999. Public hearings were held in Cadiz,
Twentynine Palms and Needles on December 15 & 16, 1999. The draft EIS/EIR was
available for public review through February 23, 2000. However, due to public
requests, the public comment period was extended through March 8, 2000.

In early December 1999, due to concerns about impacts of the project on the
groundwater, BLM requested a special review of the groundwater issue from
USGS. The USGS's February 24, 2000 comments raised significant concerns about
the hydrologic projections in the EIS/EIR prepared by proponents' consultants.
USGS stated those projections overestimated the natural groundwater recharge to
the basin by 5 to 25 times.

About 60 comment letters were received on the draft EIS/EIR. Some comments,
including those from environmental groups, NPS and San Bernardino County, urged
further environmental analysis. NPS was concerned that any overdraft of the
groundwater basin would eventually lead to impacts on the Mojave National
Preserve, particularly to springs, reserved water rights, and diminished air
quality due to dust.

On March 30, 2000, BLM, MWD and Cadiz Inc. decided a Supplement to the Draft
EIS/EIR was needed. NPS, USGS, and USFWS were invited to participate as
cooperating agencies. NPS and USGS accepted and participated in the
preparation of the supplement to the draft and the final EIS/EIRs. USFWS
declined, deciding that its concerns could be dealt with through the biological
opinion process.

The supplement was published for a 45-day public comment on October 19, 2000.
The initial comment period through December 4, 2000, was extended upon public
request through January 8, 2001. Public meetings were held in Twentynine Palms
and Los Angeles. To resolve the differences in recharge estimates for the
groundwater basin, the supplement focused on clarifying the project description
and development of a detailed Groundwater Monitoring and Management Plan. This
plan would govern all water use, storage and extraction for the project. The
plan is designed to ensure there would be no adverse impacts of critical
resources by providing "early warning" through monitoring indicators or
"triggers" of any potential impacts and requiring implementation of corrective
actions to prevent adverse impacts from occurring. The plan also includes a
process for scientific reviews of all actions and decisions through
establishment of a Technical Review Panel, made up of representatives from the
BLM, USGS, NPS, and the County, and other Federal and State agencies as

The joint final EIS/EIR was developed by BLM and MWD in cooperation with NPS
and USGS. The agencies also worked closely with the County of San Bernardino
in refining the Groundwater Monitoring and Management Plan. The final EIS/EIR
was made available to the public on September 28, 2001. The official Federal
Register notice of availability from EPA was published October 5, 2001. The
Final EIS/EIR includes responses to the public comments submitted and
identifies a preferred alternative, the eastern alignment alternative, to
authorize the 34.6 mile pipeline right-of-way (the Federal action) with
mitigating measures. The plan amendment protest period ended November 5, 2001,
with five protests received. Due to the "Brentwood" mail problem in Washington
D.C., the DOI issued a notice which opened up the protest period for two weeks
for resubmittal of protests. A total of 9 protest letters were received.
Responses are now being reviewed in Washington for signature by the Director.
Records of decision on both the ROW and the plan amendment should be completed
sometime in March 2002.

Senator Dianne Feinstein has sent several letters to the Secretary regarding
the Cadiz Project. Her concerns focus on the groundwater recharge issue and
how much indigenous groundwater is allowed to be transferred. She recommended
a cap on the take of indigenous groundwater of 5,000 acre feet per year,
pending better information on natural recharge. She also recommended a larger
role for the USGS in oversight of the project.

Status: The Final EIS/EIR has been released incorporating changes resulting from
public/agency reviews. Following resolution of the plan protests and
incorporation of changes resulting from consideration of Senator Feinstein's
concerns, a decision will then be made on the plan amendment and the
right-of-way grant.

BLM California, 3/12/02

News.bytes, issue 50 - online copy