A Republican congressman who represents the northern Mojave Desert has asked the federal government to launch a full-fledged environmental review of
The request by U.S. Rep.
In a June letter to U.S. Interior Secretary
The project, Cook wrote, "is likely to impact San Bernardino County's water resources, harming ranchers, rural communities, East Mojave landowners" and a company that mines salts from a dry lake bed near proposed wells.
“Moreover,” Cook continued, “the aggressive project pumping could harm the springs of the
Cook also requested that the
The project has been approved by San Bernardino County and was certified under state environmental law by its biggest customer, the Santa Margarita Water District in Orange County. But it faces a number of environmental lawsuits as well as Feinstein's adamant opposition.
The aquifer that Cadiz wants to tap is largely replenished by groundwater flows from beneath federal lands near the proposed project -- including the Mojave preserve, which lies to the north.
Cadiz proposes to pipe the water to the nearby Colorado River Aqueduct using an existing railroad right-of-way that crosses federal land. Feinstein and opponents argue the use of a federal right-of-way should trigger a federal environmental review.
Cadiz, a publicly held company, counters that no federal approval is necessary and says conditions imposed by the county ensure that the groundwater pumping will not harm the desert environment.
"The call for a duplicative federal review is wasteful and unnecessarily undermines the serious efforts of Southern California water providers to safely and sustainably serve the region's water needs and create local jobs," the company said Thursday in a statement.
The Interior department, which has had the matter under consideration for more than a year, is expected to soon decide whether to require approval under the National Environmental Policy Act. Such a review would slow the project and possibly produce strict conditions on the desert pumping that would make the project less attractive to investors.
Cook, a former state Assembly member and ex-Marine colonel, was elected last fall to represent a sprawling, redrawn district that covers the northern Mojave and includes the project site. Republican
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