09 Jan OPINION: New administration should end BLM’s stalling of Cadiz water project San Bernardino Sun
Jan. 7, 2017
By ROCCO DAVIS / Contributing writer
There’s a new threat to California’s water supply and it’s not drought — it’s the phenomena of fake news and fact-free assertions taking aim at the Cadiz water project.
In communications throughout the state, those fighting this project have painted it as being on federal land, harmful to national parks, and being approved by pressure, circumventing routine review processes. Shame on them. Facts matter and misleading state residents, the news media and regulators is indefensible.
The project is not on federal land; it is located entirely on private land. It will have no impact on national parks. The project was approved through the rigorous, multi-level process used for every similar project in recent history. And while opponents attempt to portray the Cadiz Water Project as only in corporate interests, it is in fact a public-private partnership that could create 3,000 family-supporting jobs, and has been applauded by unions, workers, consumers and groundwater experts. These facts are indisputable and no amount of obfuscation can change them.
Here are more facts about the project. It will serve 400,000 people a year by capturing and conserving water currently lost to evaporation. The project was conceived and designed in coordination with public agencies whose mission is conservation and protecting the environment. The project was approved by these agencies and validated by the court system. Among those who had a role is San Bernardino County, recently saluted as the most knowledgeable desert groundwater authority, and which will enforce an extensive Cadiz management plan. And the California Court of Appeals has denied all challenges of the project’s environmental review, upholding permits.
Opponents know these facts and are distorting what is currently delaying approval. It is not the approval process, which was followed to the letter of the law, but rather their own high-pressure attack on one government agency — the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
BLM has a say because Cadiz will be built largely on railroad right-of-ways. This is smart and conservation-minded use of land that will also benefit rail transportation by providing superior firefighting capabilities in the event of a fire emergency.
BLM has authority to consider railroad right-of-way uses and under high pressure, the agency reversed its policy, saying the project’s benefits to the railroad are not good enough — blocking the project, despite its extensive review and approval. In doing so, the BLM denied more than 100 years of precedent, putting Cadiz at risk as well as more than 3,500 instances of rail rights-of-way being used across the West.
With their BLM smokescreen, opponents found a way, at least temporarily, to block this major water resources project. They would be more honest if they argued what may be their true position: that only conservation, not additional water resources are needed; that perhaps we should all dig our own wells; or that millions of Californians should be forced closer to sources of fresh water rather than bringing water to them.
We hope the incoming federal administration quickly reverses the BLM so this important project can move forward this year. And until those opposing it ditch their fake news and fact-free assertions, they should not be granted any credibility in water resources policy or debate.
Rocco Davis is vice president and Pacific Southwest regional manager for LIUNA, the Laborers’ International Union of North America, representing 70,000 workers predominantly in the construction industry.