Friedman Unveils Bill to Protect the Mojave Desert

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

SACRAMENTO - California Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) today introduced Assembly Bill 1000, the California Desert Protection Act, in response to growing threats by the Trump Administration and the Cadiz water extraction project to the California desert. AB 1000 strengthens protections for the ecologically fragile Mojave Desert by ensuring any water transfers from desert groundwater basins do not adversely affect the region’s natural or cultural resources, including vital groundwater or habitat.

The Trump Administration has prioritized the Cadiz water extraction project—a proposed environmentally harmful groundwater extraction project in the Mojave Desert—by rescinding policies that would trigger a federal environmental review of the project. The project was also included on the “Emergency and National Security Projects” list developed by the administration.

“The old adage is true: ‘water is worth fighting for’—as are our incredible state and national parks, national monuments and areas of cultural significance,” said Assemblymember Laura Friedman. “California must protect its land and water in the face of dangerous threats such as the Cadiz water mining project, which would drain 16 billion gallons of water each year from the Mojave Desert. There is no time to waste in saving this picture-postcard landscape.”

“Cadiz wants to rob the Mojave Desert of its most valuable resource—water,” said U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein. “Cadiz has ignored independent scientific analysis that shows this project would decimate a life-sustaining desert aquifer. Now it’s using allies in the Trump Administration to try to circumvent any federal environmental review. Assemblymember Friedman’s bill shows that California is united at the state and federal level against any threats to our protected desert lands. I urge and support its adoption as soon as possible because time is wasting.” 

“Water is life, and in no place is that more clear or important than the desert,” said Michael Madrigal, president of the Native American Land Conservancy and a member of the Cahuilla Band of Indians. “That is why the Native American Land Conservancy continues to lead efforts to resist threats to our finite resources, especially our sacred desert springs. We must defend the desert lands and waters for our heritage and for our future generations.”

The legislation continues Assemblymember Friedman’s commitment to ensuring smart management and conservations of the state’s water resources. In response to the recent six-year drought, she has proposed several water conservation bills to build on newly-learned lessons and implement new recommendations.

“As a member of the California State Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee and a Californian who lived through one of the most severe droughts in our state’s history, I have a professional and personal commitment to ensuring smart and sustainable water management. Protecting fragile Mojave Desert water resources and the life and economy that depends on them is common sense,” said Friedman.

“Assemblymember Laura Friedman’s legislation strengthens that promise to protect our public lands,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of the Hispanic Access Foundation. “The Latino community has such an important voice in the protection of our public lands and has played a critical role in encouraging stewardship of our outdoor and cultural heritage. Our community helped designate Mojave Trails National Monument and do not want to see it drained by Cadiz.”

AB 1000 would prohibit transferring groundwater from a desert groundwater basin in the vicinity of federal or state protected lands unless the California State Lands Commission, in consultation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, certifies that the transfer will not adversely affect natural or cultural resources, including groundwater, tribal interests or habitat. 

Scientists have determined that the Cadiz project would draw out up to 10 times more water from the desert aquifer than can be naturally recharged.

Cadiz asserts that the aquifer’s water recharge rate is 32,000 acre feet per year and proposes to export an average of 50,000 acre feet of groundwater from the region each year over a 50-year period.

  • However, the U.S. Geological Survey has stated the recharge rate is less than 5,000 acre feet per year.
  • Additionally, the National Park Service believes the groundwater recharge in the basin ranges from 4,650 to 7,750 acre feet per year “at best.”
  • In its comments on the Cadiz project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report, the National Park Service concluded that Cadiz’s estimated annual recharge rates “are not reasonable and should not even be considered.”

 

AB 1000 will be heard in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee on Tuesday, July 11, 2017 at 9 am.