As sanitation officials fall behind in their four-year plan to reduce the amount of chloride that ends up in the Santa Clara River – as promised to state officials, they released a tweaked version of their plan Wednesday, hoping it meets with the satisfaction of the court that put them off schedule over environmental concerns.
The report is being made available to the public for public review and comment until June 19, as required by law.
In June 2016, sanitation officials stopped all work on their four-year plan to reduce the amount of salty chloride that ends up in the river – as promised to state water officials in 2013 – when Judge James C. Chalfant ordered them to go back to the drawing board and come up with a more environmentally-friendly plan.
Judge Chalfant issued his judgment in response to a lawsuit filed by a group of disgruntled SCV taxpayers who sued, challenging the feasibility of the chloride plan.
Sanitation officials went back to the drawing board and – rather than come up with an entirely different report on its environmental impact – chose to tweak specific sections of their plan.
The tweaked report released Wednesday is called: the Draft Recirculated Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District Chloride Compliance Project Environmental Impact Report – Separation of Recycled Water Project.
The latter part of its name regarding “recycled water” is that part of the plan which sanitation officials hope will convince the judge that they have addressed his concerns over disrupting the habitat of the endangered fish, the unarmored threespine stickleback.
It’s been the ongoing strategy of district officials to isolate that part of their environmental impact report pertaining to recycled water, since that’s the part of the plan which affects the endangered finger-sized fish.
Critics, however, contend still – as they did when the strategy was unveiled a year ago – that cutting “recycled water” out of the plan does not address the judge’s environmental concerns.
Sanitation officials believe the changes they’ve made will be upheld in court and put them back on track to reducing the level of chloride in the river by 2019.
The district’s revised EIR completed in February does not change the Chloride Compliance Project it previously presented to the community, but is “expected to contain few changes to the environmental analysis previously released for public review,” officials said in a news release issued two months ago.
The revised environmental impact report – tweaked to address concerns raised by Judge Chalfant – is being “recirculated” for public review.
The environment impact of the sanitation district’s plan to reduce chloride, approved by state officials in 2013, was challenged in court on two key fronts.
The judge wanted an additional study done on the impacts the chloride reduction plan would have on the endangered unarmored threespine stickleback fish, and on the potential impacts on the fish associated with the district’s recycled water project.
According to sanitation officials, the revised report addresses those two concerns.
“We are a year behind schedule,” Paul Prestia, spokesman for the sanitation district told The Signal.
“In order to meet our deadlines, we want to now separate the stickleback from the chloride issue,” he said, referring to the endangered unarmored threespine stickleback fish which is the core of Judge Chalfant’s concerns.
The tweaked report is posted online at www.lascsd.org.
Anyone in the SCV who wants to comment on the district’s latest plan is invited to put their comments in writing and send them to: Jodie Panza, P.E.; Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, 1955 Workman Mill Road Whittier, CA 90601.
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