Responding to concerns voiced here and in Sacramento over apparent omissions that involve at least two local water retailers, Senator Scott Wilk has amended his bill accordingly.
Amendments to SB634 were put across the desk earlier this week by the committee staff, Eileen Richter, the senator’s representative told The Signal Friday.
The senator could not be reached for comment Friday; however, his words on paper amending SB634 were lauded by Santa Clarita Valley water officials as paving the way to a brand new era of uniformity and increased efficiency in how water is distributed throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.
The amendments reflect concerns voiced about the undefined role of two water retailers – Valencia Water Company and Los Angeles County Waterworks District #36.
Specific language in the revised bill spells out the unique role of each retailer in the grand scheme of a new agency to be called, the Santa Clarita Valley Water District.
Language added to the bill also spells out the role of the Los Angeles County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) – mandated by the state to rule on annexations and the creation of new districts – in finalizing formation of the new district.
For more than a year, officials with SCV’s water wholesaler – the Castaic Lake Water Agency – and one of 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.
Last month, however, when members of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water reviewed the proposed bill they found scant reference to the Valencia Water Company, Waterworks District #36 and LAFCO.
The revamped SB634 was unveiled this week to the applause of its stakeholders.
Valencia Water Company
The amendments to SB 634 include putting Valencia Water Company on a “pathway to public status,” officials said.
The bill, according to local water officials, requires an effort by the new agency to make the Valencia water company a public entity by June 30, 2018, six months following the creation of the enactment of SB 634.
In the interim, it would continue as a customer of the new agency, as it is of CLWA today.
Valencia Water Company is currently a private entity. CLWA owns its stock.
Steve Greyshock, who prepared a news release, was asked ‘who in the state would enforce such a stipulation if it wasn’t followed?’
“It’s open to litigation,” he told The Signal. “People can take us to court for (allegedly) not upholding our part of the deal.”
As for LAFCO – whose commissioners twice opposed the bill in votes taken last month if LAFCO was not included in the bill – discovered Friday that the regulatory and planning agency was formally included in the finalization process.
“The new agency would be required to file a formal application with the LAFCO within 30 days of the bill becoming law,” NCWD and CLWA officials said about the amendment.
As for Waterworks District #36 whose ratepayers in Val Verde and Castaic get their water from Los Angeles County – and who voiced concerns of a new district “takeover’ and with it the possibility of higher water rates, Wilk wrote language into the bill allaying those fears.
Waterworks District #36 would continue to operate as it has always done. The amended SB634 now includes a you’re-welcome-to-join-the-party clause, allowing the tiny water district to join the new water district at any time.
Representatives of both CLWA and NCWD expressed their support Friday for Wilk’s amendments that they say clarify the future of Valencia Water Company and establish a formal role for LAFCO.
The reworked bill is a better proposal, said Maria Gutzeit, President of the NCWD board.
“Senator Wilk recognized that VWC should be placed on a pathway to becoming a public agency and that we need a role for LAFCO. This is the process at its best and we are proud to support these amendments.”
The Senate Governance and Finance Committee is scheduled to consider the amended bill at its April 26 hearing.
“The bill has improved as we have continued to have a dialogue with Senator Wilk and the community,” Bob DiPrimio, President of CLWA board, said in Friday’s news release.
“It’s now time we move this idea forward so we can begin to benefit from unified water management in our region,” he said.
Local water officials believe a newly-formed Santa Clarita Valley Water District would save about $14 million in the first 10 years.
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