Cadiz Inc. Chief Executive Scott Slater

Cadiz Inc. Chief Executive Scott Slater

Downtown-based water infrastructure company Cadiz Inc. has codified through a management reorganization a shift in focus for its massive Mojave Desert land holding.

The company’s long-term goal is still to complete a project to allow the transfer of up to 1.6 billion gallons of water a year from an aquifer under its land to six Southern California water agencies.

But for the short-term, Cadiz is looking toward agricultural development on its 45,000 acres of land about 30 miles northeast of Joshua Tree National Park.

Cadiz announced May 21 that it has added a director of development position, filling the post with longtime Chief Financial Officer Tim Shaheen. In this new role, “Shaheen will provide focused leadership and oversight as the company executes on its plans to continue its successful expansion of agricultural operations and water infrastructure at the Cadiz Ranch,” the announcement said.

The company moved outside financial consultant Stan Speer in-house to fill Shaheen’s CFO post. Speer had previously served as Cadiz CFO from 1997-2003.

Cadiz Chief Executive Scott Slater also said in a May 1 letter to shareholders that to support both the immediate agricultural operations and the longer-term water transfer project, the company during the first quarter completed three new wells capable of producing 12,000 acre-feet of water.

Slater added in emailed comments that these moves to support agricultural operations in no way signify a retreat from the longer- term water transfer project. He said a new study of the desert region’s ability to support Cadiz’s planned aquifer withdrawals should be completed by the end of this year, with review of the project by the State Lands Commission to begin shortly after that.

Just a couple of years ago, that project seemed imminent, and Cadiz was busy lining up financing. But with passage last summer of a state law requiring an additional layer of regulatory review for the project, getting that water flowing is once again years away.

While Cadiz has for decades grown a small lemon crop on the land, last year it began growing hemp through a partnership with Long Beach-based Glass House Group. The current spring planting takes up 240 acres, with plans for exponential increases in acreage in coming seasons.

Cadiz is the largest private landowner in eastern San Bernardino County, with more than 45,000 acres, including 9,600 acres permitted for agricultural development.

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