Bill to create one new water agency gets last minute tweaking

Proposed districts if the consolidation of Castaic Lake Water Agency and the Newhall County Water District are finalized via legislation.
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Local water officials have three days remaining to introduce a proposed bill that would ratify the creation of one new water agency for the Santa Clarita Valley.

The SCV’s water wholesaler, Castaic Lake Water Agency, and one of SCV’s three main water retailers, the Newhall County Water District, voted in favor of a settlement agreement on Dec. 13 and for the creation of one all-encompassing water agency.

“I understand the deadline is Friday,” NCWD General Manager Steve Cole told The Signal late Tuesday afternoon.

Local water officials appear to have met their first deadline of Jan. 20 in drafting a proposal – a copy of which has been obtained by The Signal.

That was the date the water people were told by their legal advisors that their proposed legislation had to be submitted to the  California Office of Legislative Counsel if it was to be considered this legislative session.

“We’re still working on it,” Cole said, calling the editing and tweaking process “dynamic” and “fluid.”

Water officials first, however, need to find a representative to sponsor their legislation. They were advised by counsel that the last day bills could be introduced for the current session of the legislature was Feb. 17.

“We’re still working with local legislators,” he said. “Anyone can introduce it.”

Cole mentioned Assemblyman Dante Acosta, state Sen. Henry Stern and state Sen. Scott Wilk as local elected officials to whom water officials have been talking.

The historic document poised to become law promises – according to bill proponents – to transform what they call a “patchwork of numerous water providers that creates redundant services, stifled integration, inherent conflicts and added costs” into a “new regional water district that would integrate systems”.

Is Wilk expected to introduce the proposed bill Friday?  A message sent from his office to The Signal Tuesday reads: “He is still evaluating the proposal.”

The state senator met with about twenty constituents on Saturday at City Hall to discuss any possible concerns about the establishment of the new agency.

Emerging from those talks, Wilk said: “I’ve read through the legislation and I have some questions and concerns.

“It’s legislation, these things are always fluid. I understand the advantages of having it valley-wide, if we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right,” Wilk said Saturday.

Water rates under the new water agency are described in the proposed legislation as:

“On or before Jan. 1, 2019, the district shall develop a rate-setting process that includes an independent ratepayer advocate to advise the board of directors and provide information to the public before the adoption of new rates.”

Language is also contained in the proposed bill to have the number of elected board members serving on the new water agency board reduced from 15 to 12 and eventually down to nine elected board members representing three SCV districts.

Under the proposed water agency, Santa Clarita Valley residents would receive their water in three defined service areas: A western area serviced by the Valencia Water Company, a southern area serviced by the Newhall County Water District and a northern area serviced by the Santa Clarita Water Division.


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