Jeremiah Dockray: Castaic water supply in danger of takeover?

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

A friend recently used an excellent comparison to describe why the Castaic/Val Verde area’s Water Works District 36 customers should be concerned about a possible takeover by Castaic Lake Water Agency.

It’s like having an independent gas station. We all know that the independents are cheaper. Why? Because they are not owned by and operated by the refineries. They can buy their gas anywhere.

They are not a “vertical” monopoly. We all know where those independents are in our community and I, for one, search them out to save money.

While we don’t have the option of “shopping around” for water from various sources, we can look at solutions that are the best and most cost-effective for our community.

Under the Castaic Lake Water Agency, we could be forced to buy more expensive state water from Northern California just because CLWA tells us we must.

Our Water District 36 just drilled a new well to ensure we would have that option. We all paid for this well.

A recent article in The Signal quoted several water officials saying that District 36 is not in the legislation that would merge two other water districts and will not be taken over in that merger.

How can we know this? How can a new agency be created with county Water Works District 36 in the middle of it without taking us over? This just doesn’t make sense.

And with all the behind-closed-doors and ad hoc meetings on this issue that the public is not allowed to know about, how can we believe these officials?

For instance, according to the Newhall County Water District April 13 agenda, both board members B.J. Atkins and Maria Gutzeit, who are promoting this mega water district, were paid to attend a meeting with Supervisor Kathryn Barger on March 23.

What was discussed at that meeting? The public can’t know because it was an ad hoc meeting even though these representatives were paid for attending. The county Public Works and Supervisor  Barger are in charge of Water Works District 36.

Is that what this meeting was about? The public should be able to know what was proposed, discussed, and the meeting’s outcome.

For many years both board members and the general manager of Castaic Lake Water Agency have talked about “One Valley, One Water Agency” and promoted this idea.

They have proceeded to act on this idea with the questionable takeovers of Santa Clarita Water Division years ago and Valencia Water Co. in 2012. After both takeovers, rates were raised substantially.

District 36 is in the CLWA service area. How could this not apply to us, too?

In CLWA board member Gary Martin’s testimony before the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee in Sacramento, he stated: “It is in the best interest of all the Santa Clarita Valley.”

“We share the same groundwater source,” Martin said. “There is no reason why we can’t work together as one unified water agency.”

Anyone can view this meeting to assess for themselves what our public officials are saying in Sacramento. Just go to and click on the March 28 meeting of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. The discussion of this new mega water agency begins at 57.04 minutes into the hearing and is easily accessible.

Later in the hearing (beginning at 1:29.38), Sen. Wilk was asked directly about the inclusion of District 36. He replied, “It is not currently in the bill. … I have talked with the county. They do want to bring that entity in. … We will move to bring in Water Works into this district as well.”

It appears the water agency officials are telling us one thing while our senator is saying something different?

A representative from the county Public Works Department and water agency officials have promised to attend our next Castaic Area Town Council meeting to be held at 6:30 p.m. April 19 at Castaic Union School District, 28131 W. Livingston Avenue .

(Yes, the Chiquita Canyon Landfill hearing is in the morning, but I hope you will attend both. Water and a landfill are both really important issues for our community.)

Jeremiah Dockray is a member of the Castaic Area Town Council (Region 2) and also serves on the board of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment.



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