Catch up: Water district continues deliberation on Cadiz Project | Cadiz Project advances with approval of environmental report | San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approve desert groundwater pipeline plan
A federal lawsuit aiming to block a controversial pipeline project in the Mojave Desert has been dismissed, according to one of the defendants.
Los Angeles-based Cadiz Inc., which has teamed with the Santa Margarita Water District in Rancho Santa Margarita on the 43-mile pipeline project, said Friday in a news release that a U.S. District Court Court judge dismissed the case.
"The dismissal now ends the pending federal court litigation over the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project," according to the news release.
On Aug. 30, Needles-based archaeologist Ruth Musser-Lopez, on behalf of her organization Archaeological Heritage Association, River Branch, filed the lawsuit naming Cadiz Inc., the U.S. Department of Interior, the Bureau of Land Management, San Bernardino County and the Santa Margarita Water Co. as defendants.
The lawsuit alleged violations of the National Historic Preservation Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, and that the Bureau of Land Management failed to conduct a proper review of the cultural and environmental impacts of the project and prepare a plan that would allow the project to move forward in the specially designated California Desert Conservation Area.
In a motion to dismiss the case, Cadiz attorney Diane C. DeFelice said the proposed pipeline is not a federal water project and that the court did not have jurisdiction to hear the matter.
In addition, DeFelice said in her motion that because the project was not on public lands or within an existing right of way that predates the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the federal law was not applicable.
Musser-Lopez said Friday she had already planned to withdraw the lawsuit, given the procedural glitches, before the defendants' request for dismissal.
"The laws need to be changed and made stronger because people don't have the right to challenge the government," she said.
Musser-Lopez said her aim is to protect pristine areas of the Mojave Desert potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, and to ensure the pipeline project does not encroach on those areas.
She said she will continue pressing the federal government on the issue.
"I plan on doing what I can," Musser-Lopez said.
Two additional lawsuits remain pending at the state level.
In August, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society filed a lawsuit in San Bernardino County Superior Court challenging the project.
The environmental groups allege Cadiz plans to sap ancient aquifers in the Fenner Valley, south of the Mojave National Preserve and north of Twentynine Palms, which would have an adverse impact on the environment and natural springs in the preserve.
They say the 50,000 acre-feet of groundwater Cadiz plans to pump annually from the dry lake beds exceeds the annual groundwater recharge rate by roughly 45,000 acre-feet.
In June, Delaware Tetra Technologies Inc. sued the county, the Santa Margarita Water District and Cadiz Inc., alleging, among other things, that the project would deplete the groundwater essential for the company's brine mining facility and would force the company to shutter its mining operation.
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