Amended water bill good for some, bad for others

Proposed districts if the consolidation of Castaic Lake Water Agency and the Newhall County Water District are finalized via legislation.

With the future of Valencia Water Company outlined clearly in amendments made by Senator Scott Wilk to his water agency bill, including a deadline for it to go public in just over a year, some love it, others hate it.

Valencia Water Company General Manager Ken Petersen calls it step in the right direction.

“Personally, Senate Bill 634 is a positive step for water resource management and governance in Santa Clarita Valley,” the water retailer’s top boss said.

“The recent amended bill brings more clarity to the future of Valencia Water Company.”

Wilk, having responded to concerns voiced here and in Sacramento over apparent omissions that involve at least two local water retailers, amended his bill accordingly last week.

Some of the amendments reflect concerns voiced about Valencia Water Company’s undefined role in the new district.

The new language puts VWC on the path to becoming a public agency – with elected members – by June 30, 2018, six months following the creation of the enactment of SB 634.

Valencia Water Company is currently a private entity. CLWA owns its stock. In the interim, however, it would continue as a customer of the new agency, as it is of CLWA today.

For Petersen, it’s business as usual.

“It still remains that VWC is committed to delivering a dependable supply of high quality water with excellent customer service,” he told The Signal Monday.

“The Valencia Water Company and its employees have always worked well with the employees of all the other agencies in SCV,” he said. “We look forward to exploring ways to enhance our services as part of a new water district.”

For more than a year, officials with SCV’s water wholesaler – the Castaic Lake Water Agency – and one four local water retailers – the Newhall County Water District – have been hammering out details of a merger, eliciting input from the public at four public meetings.

In December, both the CLWA and NCWD signed a settlement agreement calling for legislation to be drafted and submitted.

In February, Wilk introduced legislation to create one new all-encompassing water agency that would manage and distribute water throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.

Flawed plan

For Lynne Plambeck, outspoken critic of the promised all-encompassing new water agency and long-standing NCWD board member, the deal remains flawed and so are its amendments.

“This bill and its newly offered amendments make a ‘hodgepodge’ of changes that will have potentially detrimental and unforeseen consequences for California Water Law,” Plambeck said in a written statement issued Monday.

“These changes are made to legitimize the questionable acquisition of Valencia Water Company, a private company formerly owned by the Newhall Land/Lennar Corporation and developers of the 21,000 unit Newhall Ranch project,” she said.

“It will also allow the takeover of Newhall County Water District, a 60 year old voting district without a vote of the people in that district despite their demand to have a vote,” she said.

“Valencia Water Company was acquired through a ‘friendly’ eminent domain proceeding in 2012 from Newhall Land/Lennar Corp., developers of the 21,000 unit Newhall Ranch project, as a private investment, held by Castaic Lake Water Agency, the sole shareholder.”

“This governance structure of a private water company, held by a public agency, is not sanctioned currently anywhere in California law, but would be codified as legitimately existing if SB 634 is approved,” Plambeck said.”

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