BLM Seeks to Withdraw Trump Administration’s Approval of California Desert Water Pipeline

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other defendants in an environmental challenge suit have asked the Central District of California for permission to halt plans enabling a real estate developer to  operate a pipeline transporting water between Cadiz and Barstow, California. The weekend-filed motion for remand explains that the BLM’s prior decision in favor of Cadiz Real Estate LLC contravened the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and did not sufficiently evaluate possible impacts to historic properties under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). 

According to a press release issued by the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the environmental groups who challenged the decision, the Trump Administration agreed to give Cadiz a right-of-way facilitating its attempt to drain fragile and ancient aquifers under the Mojave Desert to feed new developments in Southern California. The environmental group said that pipeline’s water use would be unsustainable and that Cadiz’s privately funded study exaggerated the aquifer’s recharge rate. 

According to the Center, the project also threatened to desiccate “life-sustaining desert springs,” hurting vegetation and key habitat for wildlife including desert tortoises, bighorn sheep, Mojave fringe-toed lizards, and kit foxes.

For its part, the BLM said that “[d]ue to the lack of analysis, the agency does not kno w the source of the water that will be transported through the pipeline and therefore could not have analyzed the potential impacts on the environment or historic properties of drawing down the water at its source.” As such, the land management authority said vacating the decision was the appropriate action.