Dan Masnada: Staying the water-security course


Recently, I received election material from Stacy Fortner and Lynne Plambeck for the Division 2 and At-Large seats, respectively, for the Castaic Lake Water Agency Board of Directors.

Their campaign statements highlight opposition to the so-called “water monopoly grab” by CLWA – the moniker they have been using to describe specifically the proposed merger by Castaic Lake Water Agency and Newhall County Water District and the two agencies’ general efforts to consolidate Santa Clarita Valley water resources management and service under one public umbrella.

Both Fortner and Plambeck also criticize Castaic Lake’s debt service without explaining why the debt was incurred, the critical facilities it has financed and the source of funding (e.g., not all of it is coming from “us,” as they state).

They ignore that cutbacks during the drought were conservation actions mandated by the governor and not due to lack of water locally, alleging there is insufficient water for new development.

They criticize water rates set by the two retailers that Castaic Lake owns – Santa Clarita Water Division and Valencia Water Company – while conveniently disregarding that they are the lowest in the valley and among the lowest in Southern California.

However, it seems the supposed water monopoly is the issue of greatest concern to Fortner and Plambeck. Although water utilities, like most other utilities, are often monopolies, they ostensibly think that five local water districts (i.e., CLWA, Newhall County, Santa Clarita Water, Valencia Water and Los Angeles Waterworks District #36, which serves Val Verde) are preferable to a single public entity managing the valley’s water resources.

They don’t explain the basis for their flawed opinion, which makes as little sense as having multiple electric, gas and sewer utilities serving the valley.

They fail to explain why the basic concepts of “economies of scale” and “operational synergies” do not apply to the valley’s water infrastructure and operations.

They also fail to recognize that, during the current drought, CLWA and the local water retailers have closely coordinated their operations to most efficiently deliver water and best ensure water supply availability valleywide – in short, operating as if they were a single entity.

Finally, they fail to acknowledge the obvious fact that the valley no longer consists of a number of separate communities that necessitated formation of multiple water retailers to begin with.

Plambeck is a known quantity in the valley. She, either individually or as a member of local activist groups, has taken the lead in repeatedly suing CLWA to influence city and county land use planning by attempting to constrict water supply for new development.

She has filed lawsuits to stop water banking (an effective and critical industry practice that enhances water supply availability during dry years and droughts), a water acquisition (which increased the valley’s overall water supply) and acquisitions of the two retailers it now owns.

Without question, had Plambeck been successful in stopping any of the banking programs or the water acquisition, the local water retailers’ ability to address the recent drought would have been significantly hampered.

Adding insult to injury, valley ratepayers and taxpayers have paid millions of dollars over the years defending her frivolous – and, fortunately for our community, largely unsuccessful – lawsuits.

Plambeck and her associates call themselves environmental advocates. Yet, when CLWA and three of the local water retailers filed suit in 2000 to compel the owners of the Whittaker-Bermite site to remediate groundwater contaminated by decades of munitions manufacturing – the single greatest environmental challenge our valley has ever faced – they remained curiously silent.

They chose to not even file a simple – and inexpensive – amicus brief, which would have informed the court they sided with valley water suppliers in their efforts to ensure that the polluters fulfilled their environmental responsibility.

Fortner, on the other hand, is a relative unknown. She unsuccessfully ran for the CLWA board two years ago; I have not seen her in attendance at any CLWA meetings during my 13-plus years as CLWA general manager.

The incumbents opposed by Fortner and Plambeck, Jerry Gladbach and Bill Cooper, respectively, both have many years of professional water industry experience and many years of service on the CLWA board.

During their respective tenures they have overseen (1) timely expansion of CLWA’s infrastructure and acquisition of additional imported water supplies to meet the water needs of our growing community; (2) participation in water-banking programs to enhance dry-year water supply reliability; (3) bringing into public ownership the valley’s two largest water retailers; (4) many more actions to consistently accomplish CLWA’s mission of “providing reliable quality water at a reasonable cost to the Santa Clarita Valley.”

I urge you to vote for them and the other two CLWA board incumbents, Bill Pecsi and R.J. Kelly. Our water supply is much too important to be placed in the hands of individuals who are less interested in our water security than they are in advancing their self-interests.

Dan Masnada was CLWA general manager from April 2002 until December 2015 and served as principal adviser to the GM in 2016. He is currently on the Valencia Water Company Board of Directors and serves on two HOA boards.

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