Eli Branden: SB 634 would put too much power in CLWA hands

Swimmers in the second start wave of the World Police and Fire Games triathlon held this summer in Paradise Cove at Castaic Lake, part of the State Water Project that delivers water from Northern California. August 14, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

If passed, Senate Bill 634 would reorganize the Castaic Lake Water Agency (CLWA) and the Newhall County Water District (NCWD) into a single entity called the “Santa Clarita Valley Water District.” This mega-merger, effective potentially as early as January 2018, has incited serious concerns for residents of the Santa Clarita Valley.

With the passage of this bill, there would likely be a significant water rate hike to customers, as well as a redistribution of water that would affect current water supplies.

Simply put, CLWA, by controlling all the Santa Clarita Valley water retailers, could charge the community anything it wants, and it could send the water anywhere it wants.

It had already proposed a 17 percent rate hike on its currently owned Valencia Water Company, and it is proposing increases for its Santa Clarita Water division. And given that CLWA is currently more than $300 million in debt, is it wise for it to expand?

CLWA has another motive worth noting; it has made an agreement with Newhall Land and Farming Company to supply water for future housing developments. Newhall Ranch has recently been approved for 21,000 new households.

SB 634 is basically a “water grab” that would permit CLWA to pump ground water anywhere, allowing Valencia Water to serve Newhall Ranch, which is currently outside its service area. It is legislation that is too risky for the water consumers of the Santa Clarita Valley.

Among those opposed to SB634 are the Sierra Club, The Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment, and many community members.

Eli Branden is a Santa Clarita resident.


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