Shares of downtown-based Cadiz Inc. soared last week on a double dose of good news: A bill aimed at stopping its desert water project failed to clear a state Senate committee and a federal agency signaled it might allow the plan to move forward.
“This project is on its way to becoming real,” said Larry Kosmont, a Manhattan Beach economic development consultant and longtime observer of the project who served on the Metropolitan Water District board. “There will likely be additional last ditch efforts to derail the project, but those will likely be too little, too late.”
The bill, AB 1000, by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, specifically targeted the Cadiz water-pumping and transfer project, proposing to require an additional approval from the state Lands Commission before it could go forward. The legislation was viewed as a last-ditch attempt by project opponents to block the venture, but it failed to clear the Senate Appropriations Committee by the Sept. 1 legislative deadline.
The same day saw the U.S. Department of the Interior issue an opinion that appears to lay the groundwork for reversing an October 2015 ruling by the California office of the Bureau of Land Management that the project’s water pipeline would need a full environmental review.
A BLM determination was still pending.
The company has been trying for a quarter-century to get approvals to store, pump and transfer water from an aquifer beneath its 45,000-acre holdings in the Cadiz Valley east of Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in the Mojave Desert.
The company’s stock had dropped 20 percent going in to the bill’s consideration, then shot up 31 percent to $12.75 on Sept. 5, the first day of trading after the bill’s failure and release of the Department of Interior opinion. The stock fell back slightly on Sept. 6 to close at $12.30 a share, up 3.8 percent from a week earlier.
– Howard Fine