Talk of a converged water agency dominated the conversation at the Castaic Area Town Council meeting Wednesday night.
Much concern from Castaic residents and councilmembers surrounds the proposed Santa Clarita Valley agency outlined in Senate Bill 634. Under the legislation, the Castaic Lake Water Agency and Newhall County Water District would be combined, but will not affect the county-run County Waterworks District #36 many Castaic ratepayers use.
“What we were looking for from you is where District #36 stands,” Council Treasurer Lloyd Carder II said to a representative from Supervisor Barger’s office.
Edel Vizcarra, Planning and Public Works Deputy for Kathryn Barger’s office, verified District #36 will not be a part of the district.
“I was talking to Supervisor Barger, and the county is not interested in selling 36,” Vizcarra said. “As far as the district being absorbed by the water agency, it’s not going to happen.”
Lynne Plambeck, a Newhall County Water District Board Member, expressed concerned with the merger, saying she thought it was a monopoly. She said she thinks the districts work well on their own and does not believe they should be combined.
“If we’re doing well, why are we combining?” Plambeck said. “It’s a shame to lose it.”
Plambeck also said the district is hundreds of thousands of dollars over budget for public relations for the new merger.
Valencia resident Sally White said the control of water is valuable, and thinks calling the new combination water agency a merger is a “misnomer” because it excludes District #36 and Valencia Water Company.
“Water is the new oil,” White said. “I would urge you to get that letter that you asked for to ensure that (District #36 merging) does not happen.”
White also said she thinks all ratepayers should have a chance to vote on the merger.
Councilmember Jim D’Addario also said he thought community members should have input on the merger.
“Why is this not being voted on by the residents?” D’Addario said. “It seems like something we should have been involved with and voted on.”
Maria Gutzeit, Newhall County Water District board president, said the CLWD and NCWD believed the 14-1 vote in favor of the merger sufficed for input, also saving costs on election fees. She noted that opinion polling was conducted, getting community input.
Gutzeit also spoke to affirm District #36 would be unaffected by the merger.
Gutzeit informed councilmembers that they could reach out to the district to get details on the merger and ask Senator Scott Wilk’s office for changes to the legislation, which will be out within the next day or so, she said.
“If you have trouble getting answers, give us a ring at Newhall,” she said. “We want everyone to have the details going forward.”
She also said homeowners and businesses would have access to the language in plain terms in search of transparency.
The board will report back to the public to inform them of updates, she said.
Jeremiah Dockrey, a councilmember, directly opposed the senate bill and said he did not agree with the merger as it appeared in the legislation.
“I personally have a lot of issues with SB 634 and I’m not ready to be part of it,” Dockrey said.
Councilmembers also inquired when certain wells were purchased, which Adam Ariki, Assistant Deputy Director for the Los Angeles County Waterworks answered.
Ariki also said there is no contractual obligation how much water is pumped out of Castaic.
“The groundwater basin here is collaboratively managed, it’s not adjudicated,” he said.
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