Valencia Water Company absent in discussion of new SCV water district

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When members of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water reviewed a proposed bill Tuesday calling for the formation of one new all-encompassing water district for the Santa Clarita Valley they found scant reference to the Valencia Water Company.

The proposed Santa Clarita Valley Water District described in Senator Scott Wilk’s SB 634 would include SCV’s water wholesaler, the Castaic Lake Water Agency and its four local water retailers – the Newhall County Water District, the Santa Clarita Water Division, the Valencia Water Company and Los Angeles County Waterworks District #36.

Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, announced Tuesday that the Senate Committee on Natural Resources passed Senate Bill 634, which he called a measure to facilitate the creation of a single water district in the Santa Clarity Valley. The vote was 7 to 0 in support of the bill, he said.

“I am very pleased the Committee sees the value in unifying the current patchwork of regional water management in the Santa Clarita Valley into one streamlined agency,” Wilk said in a prepared statement issued in a news release.

“SB 634 would establish a 21st Century modern government agency that will not only serve the needs of my district, but will become a model for water agencies throughout the state.”

And, although Valencia Water Company is the largest of SCV’s water retailers with 31,400 water service connections – compared to NCWD with 9,715 and SCWD with 28,000 service connections – no significant mention was made during the “merger” talks held throughout 2016 about Valencia and no written mention was made to the retailer in the state legislation proposed in SB 634.

The elephant in the room, however, did not go unnoticed Tuesday by committee members.  In a report prepared by state staffers for the committee, it was pointed out:

“The bill is largely silent on the other two retail water suppliers (Valencia Water Co. and Los Angeles County Waterworks District #36) within the new district’s boundaries.

“CLWA owns and operates the Valencia Water Company as a private water company not under the jurisdiction of the Public Utilities Commission. As such, the water rates are not subject to Propositions 218 or 26.

“Also, management of the water company is not subject to the Brown Act and other transparency and accountability laws with which most special districts must comply.

“In creating a new agency, it is not clear why the Valencia Water Company isn’t also dissolved and made a regular part of the new agency.”

On Wednesday, The Signal sought clarification and asked the head of each agency – the CLWA, NCWD and Valencia Water Company – to define Valencia Water Company’s role in the context of the proposed Santa Clarita Valley Water District.

“Valencia (Water Company) is not involved in these discussions,” Valencia Water Company General Manager Ken Petersen told The Signal Wednesday.

“We’re still a corporation and we’re still serving water,” he said. “But, the future of Valencia is unknown, at least to me.”

Matt Stone, general manager for the Castaic Lake Water Agency, said he wants to discuss the retailer’s role in the planned new agency but was unable to discuss the issue Wednesday due to time constraints. Stone said Tuesday he plans to work with Wilk as the bill “develops and changes.”

“We had some discussion about this at the committee hearing Tuesday,” Stone said. “I hope to discuss it in the next day or two.”

Although Steve Cole, general manager for the Newhall County Water District, could not be reached for comment Wednesday, he did tell The Signal Tuesday, that there is still a “lot of work to be done.”

At present, the Valencia Water Company serves about 31,400 customers in Valencia, Stevenson Ranch, and portions of Newhall, Saugus and Castaic.  The water delivery service works out to about 86 percent resident and about 14 percent serving commercial, industrial, public and irrigation customers.

Every glass of water poured from the tap of a Valencia Water Company customer contains half groundwater pumped from local wells and half water imported from Northern California through the State Water Project.

The company, once owned by Newhall Land and Farming which planned and built Valencia, pumps water from SCV’s shallow Alluvial Aquifer but also taps into the deeper Saugus Formation.

It maintains 364 miles of main pipeline or enough pipe to run from Santa Clarita City Hall to Sacramento.

And those pipes deliver about 7.6 billion gallons of water to customers in a year.

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