Lawsuit in LA Targets Trump's Pipeline OK for California Desert Water Grab

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Conservation groups sued the U.S. Bureau of Land Management today in Los Angeles for granting a right-of-way to Cadiz Inc. to push billions of gallons of water through an oil-and-gas pipeline that crosses Mojave Trails National Monument and other protected public land in southeastern California.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, alleges that the agency's approval in the final days of ex-President Donald Trump's administration violated federal laws by ignoring requirements to first conduct a full environmental analysis. It would allow Cadiz, former clients of then-Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, to implement a groundwater-mining scheme that would drain ancient aquifers underneath the Mojave Desert to feed sprawling new developments in Southern California, according to the lawsuit.

A BLM spokesman said the bureau had no immediate comment.

Ileene Anderson, a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, a plaintiff with an office in Los Angeles, said the Trump administration “did one last favor to Cadiz by granting this right-of-way without any public review. This massive water-privatization scheme would dry up life-giving desert springs and seeps that some of California's rarest desert species rely on. It's reckless and illegal, and it needs to be stopped.''

The project would pump water from a fragile underground aquifer under the Mojave Trails National Monument and near the Mojave National Preserve. Government hydrologists from the U.S. Geological Survey have said the pipeline's water use is unsustainable and that Cadiz's privately funded study vastly overstates the aquifer's recharge rate.

“The Bureau of Land Management ignored direct and indirect effects of this right of way approval claiming no new disturbance would occur from the existing pipeline,'' said Jeff Aardahl, senior California representative for Defenders of Wildlife, a plaintiff in the suit. “The agency failed to analyze pumping and transporting groundwater impacts on the springs and unique habitats that depend on a stable groundwater supply. This is in direct violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, as well as BLM's internal policies for environmental review.''

The project threatens to dry up life-sustaining desert springs in the monument and the preserve, hurting vegetation and key habitat for iconic desert wildlife, including desert tortoises, bighorn sheep, Mojave fringe-toed lizards and kit foxes, plaintiffs allege.

“The ongoing drought is a reminder to all of us that we need to use our limited water resources wisely,'' said Joan Taylor, vice chair of Sierra Club's California/Nevada Desert Committee. “Approving unsustainable groundwater mining to fuel more urban sprawl takes us in a dangerously wrong direction.''

Photo: Getty Images

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