SCV’s groundwater managers identified

Castaic Lake levels - August 30, 2016. Dan Watson/Signal

The first ever agency formed to better manage groundwater in the Santa Clarita Valley is ready to meet the public now that it’s been clearly defined.

Since last month, representatives of public agencies believed to have a stake in how groundwater is managed locally have been getting together to identify who would actually sit on the new state-mandated Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA).

Stakeholders represented on the newly-defined agency include: The City of Santa Clarita; Los Angeles County; the county’s Waterworks District #36; SCV’s water wholesaler – the Castaic Lake Water Agency and two of SCV’s three main water retailers, the Santa Clarita Water Division and the Newhall County Water District.

The key to striking an effective board was ensuring everyone concerned about groundwater was represented, according to Steve Cole, the group’s unofficial head.

“I would say most just want to make sure their interest will have representation,” Cole told The Signal Tuesday. “That’s why we have spent so much effort to ensure everyone has a seat at the table, so that there is diverse representation.”

Members of the newly-defined agency met briefly Monday night to confirm among themselves who would sit at the table.

The next step is for each public agency represented on the agency to get final approval from their own elected bodies – Santa Clarita City Council will be asked endorse the agency, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will be asked to do the same and so on.

“Each of the (GSA members) have been asked to have their agencies adopt a joint Memorandum of Understanding to form the GSA,” Cole said Tuesday.

“Each agency’s Board will consider the adoption of the MOU at a public hearing over the next couple months,” he said.

“Hopefully, that happens and then we are off to the next steps.”

The new agency has until June 30 to submit its paperwork – including its memorandum of understanding – to the state.

Each public agency represented on the GSA is expected to bring its own specific perspective on how to best manager groundwater.

Mitch Glaser, assistant administrator for the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning, has represented the County in all of the public discussions about the GSA so far.

“At the public meetings we have held, I have heard two primary concerns that will be relevant for the County’s GSA Board member – one, potential impacts for unincorporated constituents who currently pump groundwater through privately-owned wells,” Glaser said Tuesday.

“And, two, how new development in the unincorporated areas may impact the groundwater basin,” he said.

Under the state law passed two years ago, a law spurred by drought concerns and conservation, California communities – through their water agencies – are expected to come up with a community-based groundwater sustainability agency.

The groundwater in question involves the Santa Clara River Valley East Sub-Basin which stretches west from Agua Dulce to the Ventura County line and from the northern reaches of Castaic Lake to Calgrove.

The state requires groundwater sustainability agencies be formed to manage each of its 127 underground basins by June 30. The agency, after it’s approved, will be responsible for developing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan by 2022 that will achieve sustainability by 2042.

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