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MWD Rejects Cadiz Water Project - HOORAY!

by repost: AP via sf gate Wednesday, Oct. 09, 2002 at 4:31 PM

A controversial proposal to store water beneath the Mojave Desert for use in Southern California was killed Tuesday by the Metropolitan Water District. The MWD board voted by a slight margin to not proceed with the $150 million project by Santa Monica-based agricultural company Cadiz Inc.

California water board kills huge desert storage project

ANDREW BRIDGES, Associated Press Writer Tuesday, October 8, 2002
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(10-08) 15:58 PDT LOS ANGELES (AP) --

A controversial proposal to store water beneath the Mojave Desert for use in Southern California was killed Tuesday by the Metropolitan Water District.

The MWD board voted by a slight margin to not proceed with the $150 million project by Santa Monica-based agricultural company Cadiz Inc.

An earlier motion to continue with the project failed to pass.

"We're disappointed, obviously, the project didn't go forward today," said Wendy Mitchell, director of external affairs for Cadiz. "We don't feel the public's interest has been served."

In a weighted vote, the board approved the measure not to proceed with 50.25 percent, or the bare minimum needed for approval.

"The Cadiz project at this point doesn't represent reliability," MWD board member Timothy Brick told his colleagues before the vote. "It represents just the opposite -- risk."

Board member Wesley Bannister said consumers will need water the project could have provided.

"We may not need it now. We may not need it next year, but I guarantee you we will need it," Bannister said during the discussion. "To shut the door on it today is not the right way to go."

Opponents of the project, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., had mounted strong opposition, complaining it will damage the fragile desert environment. They welcomed the move by the MWD, the state's largest water district with 17 million customers.

"It represents a really sound public policy decision," said Simeon Herskovits, senior staff attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, which represents various groups opposed to the project.

The project had been cited as a key part of California's plan to cut its overuse of Colorado River water by 2015. California must have a plan in place by Dec. 31 or could lose a significant portion of its river allotment.

MWD and Cadiz would have jointly owned the project and split the $150 million price tag.

The plan called for the MWD to store surplus Colorado River water in a desert aquifer and would have given the district the right to buy from Cadiz naturally occurring groundwater from the aquifer. Monitoring systems would have been installed to keep the water level from dropping too low to support the environment.

Cadiz stood to earn $500 million to $1 billion from the plan over 50 years.

The Interior Department approved the proposal last month, stating environmental damage could be prevented with the extensive monitoring system.
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