State water officials put Cemex request for water on hold

The Cemex mining site in Canyon Country. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Citing the uncertainty about Cemex ever mining in Soledad Canyon, state water officials have put the mining company’s application for water on hold, according to a letter sent by state officials to State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, who had inquired about the company’s water application.

Wilk received a letter dated Tuesday from Eileen Sobeck, executive director of the State Water Resources Control Board, explaining the board’s decision.

According to a copy of the letter Wilk shared with The Signal, the senator had expressed concerns over how the board was handling Cemex’s application for water.

Attempts Tuesday night to reach a designated on-call spokesman for Cemex were unsuccessful.

Wilk’s letter mailed to the board in September struck a nerve with state water officials, according to his representative Eileen Ricker.

“The SWRCB said our letter resulted in a lot of conversations in their shop and as a result they have decided to move the project status from ‘pending’ to ‘on hold,’” Ricker wrote in an email Tuesday.

“It also said that if Cemex were to resolve the litigation with the federal government, the SWRCB would require public review again,” she added.

Sobeck, in her letter, explains the board’s decision as: “The State Water Board notified Cemex on Nov. 20, 2019, that its water right application has been moved from a pending status to a hold status until a final decision is reached on Cemex’s contracts for  mineral materials, due to the uncertainty of the project’s viability and the State Water Board’s limited staff resources.”

“This means that the State Water Board is suspending all staff processing efforts, including review or generation of work products, until the Cemex litigation against the federal government has been fully resolved by the courts,” she added.

The letter received by Wilk Tuesday arrived a day after officials with the Bureau of Land Management announced Cemex owes the BLM more than $25 million for unpaid annual payments “in lieu of production.”

The BLM decisions state: “Cemex has a contractual and legal obligation to produce material or to make annual payments in lieu of production … Cemex’s failure to comply with the terms and conditions of producing mineral material or making timely in lieu payments is contrary to the terms of the contract and in violation of federal regulation.” 

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