I am urging residents to stand up and oppose the water merger bill, SB 634, which goes before the Senate Appropriations Committee for a closer look on Wednesday. I moved to the Santa Clarita Valley 45 years ago in the depths of a five-year drought. I’ve watched as the community has grown exponentially – and as homeowners’ wells have dried up drought after drought. Again, this time around individual wells and small community wells have dried up. The municipal water suppliers required people to dramatically reduce their water use. We have our own groundwater in this valley and want to be able to decide locally, in each neighborhood, how we use that water. Castaic Lake Water Agency represents the California Water Project, with Northern California water coming through the aqueduct and delivered here in the SCV. Castaic Lake is not my local supplier, and I don’t want it to be in control of the valleywide watershed! There were wise laws to prevent this, and underhanded political interests have changed some of those laws already. I want to see a sustainable local community rate-payer process protected. I want sustainable local water planning and financial accountability. No back-room deals here, nor in Sacramento, to change laws to benefit mega-development that will commit our local water to an unsustainable future. I want to see what my local communities want and need;
- A forensic audit of Castaic Lake Water Agency should be conducted immediately to find out the true state of that agency’s finances before any merger legislation is considered. (CLWA is more than $300 million in debt and using swaps and borrowing from corporations it has created. It is also reported to be borrowing from a property tax fund that is supposed to be reserved for capital improvements of existing infrastructure that benefits existing taxpayers, i.e. current residents.)
- Newhall County Water District voters should be protected by ensuring them a referendum process on any decision to dissolve their water district. In fact, a similar protection is already in legislation to guard against dissolution by LAFCO. No merger without a public vote. Valencia Water Company must be included in the LAFCO process.
- Include a law stating that any private water company owned by a public company must either have Public Utilities Commission oversight or be subject to all laws governing public process for a public water agency such as the Brown Act, Political Reform Act and Public Records Act.
- Groundwater in existing service areas, including Santa Clarita Water Division and NCWD, may not be transferred for use outside those areas.
- Create legislation enabling the formation of a County Water District from the current Valencia Water Company service area so that those ratepayers can elect their own board.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak out for our community! Barbara Wampole is a Castaic resident.