While I was California Environmental Protection Agency secretary, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and I often worked collaboratively on important statewide water issues. That is why I found her op-ed regarding the Cadiz water project so troubling (Water extraction project would be destructive to California’s Mojave Desert, May 24). The project has followed the law and offers immense benefits for her constituents. Yet the senator’s opinions are disconnected from facts in this case.
The project will conserve enough water for 400,000 Californians each year for 50 years without causing a single adverse environmental impact. The best scientists and engineers assured that sustainability and protection of the environment were paramount. The project was approved in accordance with the toughest environmental law in America, the California Environmental Quality Act. It was challenged in court, but judges in 12 separate opinions affirmed the project and its protections, and rejected the flawed positions represented by the senator’s op-ed. The desert will not be destroyed, nor will the bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, springs or wildflowers.
More in sorrow than in anger, I wonder why Feinstein would use her stature to misrepresent facts. She claims the U.S. Geological Survey reaffirmed its year 2000 estimates for Cadiz groundwater recharge. But the USGS told the senator it has no opinion on the current project, because its scientists “have not conducted new site specific studies or data collection in the Cadiz area since our 2000 review” and are aware of more recent work conducted.
Similarly, she cites the National Park Service to assert a threat to springs and animals that rely on them. But as the service explains on its website, springs in the area, more than 11 miles from the project area, are filled by precipitation from above, not from the aquifer below, and will not be impacted.
The Cadiz Project has been approved under the State’s rigorous environmental laws and will add a new water supply in a safe and sustainable manner. I encourage Sen. Feinstein to sit with the project’s proponents and understand all they’ve done to protect the desert she holds dear.
Winston H. Hickox was CalEPA secretary from 1999-2003, and special assistant to Gov. Jerry Brown for environmental affairs from 1975-1983). He is on Cadiz Inc.’s board of directors.