U.S. Senate Committee on Judiciary

12/04/2021 | Press release | Archived content

Feinstein Applauds Biden Administration for Protecting Mojave Desert from Cadiz Water Project

Washington-Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released the following statement after the Biden administration took steps to yesterday invalidate a permit for Cadiz to use a gas pipeline to remove water from the Mojave Desert.

Senator Feinstein called on the Biden administration to rescind the permit because it was rushed through in the closing days of the Trump administration without the required environmental impact review or tribal consultation.

"It's great news that the Biden administration is revoking Cadiz's pipeline permit that was rushed through by the previous administration without appropriate oversight. This is a major win for the Mojave Desert.

"For decades, Cadiz has tried to avoid the federal permitting process in order to drain a vital desert aquifer. If successful, it would rob the desert of its most precious resource: water. Everything that makes our desert special - from the iconic Joshua trees and breathtaking wildflower blooms to the majestic bighorn sheep and rare desert tortoises - would be lost.

"Cadiz needs to follow the same permitting procedures as all other companies. It shouldn't have been allowed to skirt the rules. Thankfully, the Biden administration is requiring Cadiz to abide by the same rules as everyone else."


  • Cadiz for years has sought to exploit an 1875 railroad law to use an existing railroad right of way to escape any federal environmental review of its proposed pipeline.
    • In 2011, the Obama administration issued guidelines for railroad rights of way. Those guidelines were in response to two federal court rulings requiring environmental reviews for projects that don't serve a railroad purpose.
    • After a multi-year review, the Obama administration determined in 2015 that Cadiz's project did not further a railroad purpose and therefore must obtain federal permits and undergo a NEPA review like all similar projects.
    • In 2017, the Trump administration reversed the 2011 Obama administration guidelines and the 2015 determination, allowing Cadiz to move forward without federal permits.
    • In 2019, a federal judge rejected the Trump administration's 2017 determination and blocked Cadiz from using the railroad right of way without a federal permit. Cadiz's CEO stated he would ask the Trump administration to rewrite its determination in a more favorable, which the administration did in 2020.
  • The Cadiz Water Project would drain an underground aquifer in the Mojave Desert at a rate that independent scientists have determined to be unsustainable.
    • Cadiz asserts that the aquifer's water natural recharge rate is 32,000 acre-feet per year and proposes to export an average of 50,000 acre-feet from the region each year over a 50-year period.
    • However, the U.S. Geological Survey has stated the recharge rate is only 2,000 to 10,000 acre-feet per year. The National Park Service has confirmed that analysis.
    • 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."