Peer-Reviewed Geologic Study Concludes That Cadiz Water Project Will Not Harm Bonanza Spring; New Challenge to the Project Arises

Cadiz Inc. announced on January 30, 2018, that a peer-reviewed geologic study will not adversely impact Bonanza Spring. The spring is the closest continually-flowing natural spring to the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project (“Cadiz Water Project”). The study was conducted by California Professional Geologist Miles Kenney, Ph.D. and California Certified Hydrogeologist Terry Foreman, who engaged in extensive field work, site observation, and geologic mapping.

The authors explain that geologic features prevent the Cadiz Water Project from impacting the spring. They highlighted two convergent fault zones that intersect at Bonanza Spring. Dr. Kenney explains that these fault zones separate the spring from the alluvial aquifer and act as a catchment that feeds the spring.

John Sharp Jr., Ph.D., Professor of Geology at the University of Texas at Austin, reviewed the study and further explained the mechanics.

“Dr. Kenney mapped a fault where the spring occurs that acts as a dam. When you get rainfall coming down, it gets into the cracks in the rocks at higher elevations and flows downhill until it hits the fault and backs up. The water exits right at the spring, where there are fractures in the rock,” said Sharp. “Bonanza Spring and Cadiz are not connected. If it was a connected system, the spring wouldn’t be there, it would be flowing farther downhill,” he added.

The study was conducted in response to continuing concerns from project opponents about the potential impacts of the project.

“While the extensive body of work to date has already assured that the Project will not harm any desert resources, we commissioned Miles’ peer-reviewed geologic investigation to address lingering questions as to whether the Project could impact Bonanza Spring under any circumstance. That question has now been answered definitively no,” said Cadiz CEO Scott Slater.

Mark Wildermuth, President and Principal Engineer at Wildermuth Environmental Inc., concurs with the conclusion.

“This study disproves an earlier speculation that contends groundwater was going to flow 30 miles across the valley by some undefined means and show up at the Bonanza Spring. Miles’ assessment shows there is no connection between the regional aquifer system and the spring, making such a groundwater flow impossible,” said Wildermuth.

The Cadiz Project has also faced a series of challenges, including a 2015 determination by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) that federal approval was required for the Cadiz Project to use the Arizona & California Railroad (“ARZC”) right-of-way. In March 2017, BLM rescinded the policies that led to the 2015 determination. A new determination that proposed use of the railroad right-of-way falls within the scope of the rights granted to ARZC under the General Railroad Act of 1875 was issued in October 2017. While the BLM decision seemed to settle the right-of-way issue and allow Cadiz to move forward with final engineering design, establishing contracts with the participating partners, and developing a conveyance agreement with the Metropolitan Water District for use of the Colorado River Aqueduct, a new lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety argue that BLM “improperly concluded” that the pipeline falls within the ARZC right-of-way when it issued the new determination. They cite the need for a full evaluation due to environmental impacts and the presence of hexavalent chromium in the water. (For additional background and analysis of the 2015 determination, see “BLM Determines that Cadiz Project Needs Federal Approval,” JOW October 2015. For additional background on the March 2017 action rescinding the 2015 policy determination, see “BLM Rescinds Policies That Led to Determination Requiring Federal Review of Cadiz Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project,” JOW Spring 2017, and for more on the October 2017 determination, see “BLM Decision Allows Cadiz Project to Move Forward, JOW Fall 2017).

The Cadiz Water Project’s potential environmental impacts have been studied in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”). Santa Margarita Water District, the lead public agency for the project completed an environmental review and finalized an Environmental Impact Report under CEQA, and the issue was further vetted when  lawsuits were filed challenging the environmental review and project approvals. In 2014, a California Superior Court judge rejected the challenges, and in 2016, an appellate court affirmed that decision. (For more on the 2014 and 2016 court decisions rejecting the environmental litigation against the project, see “Superior Court Rejects Environmental Challenges to the Cadiz Project,” JOW May 2014 and “Appellate Court Affirms Cadiz Project’s Environmental Approvals,” JOW June 2016).

The water quality issue was addressed in response to comments made by Senator Dianne Feinstein in September 2017. In light of Cadiz’s proposal to use Colorado River Aqueduct, which is owned by Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (“Metropolitan”), Senator Feinstein submitted a letter to Metropolitan that included questions about the quality of the water from the Cadiz Water Project. In a letter of response, Metropolitan noted that the water does include “arsenic, fluoride, chromium (including hexavalent chromium), nitrate, and bromide in concentrations that exceed the long-term average of Colorado River water supplies.” Metropolitan also noted the Cadiz’s proposal would be evaluated to ensure that Metropolitan and the Colorado River Aqueduct would not be adversely impacted. Cadiz called Feinstein’s comments “irresponsible” and maintained that water from the Cadiz Water Project is tested regularly and that “delivery of Cadiz groundwater to the CRA will be done in full accordance with applicable federal and state standards.”

 

Written by Marta L. Weismann