Water merger bill now in governor’s hands

Proposed districts if the consolidation of Castaic Lake Water Agency and the Newhall County Water District are finalized via legislation.
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Whether Santa Clarita’s water districts will merge is now entirely up to Governor Jerry Brown.

In its last legislative hurdle, Senate Bill 634 passed the Senate floor on Thursday.

If the governor signs the bill, Castaic Lake Water Agency and Newhall County Water District will unite to become one district. Both districts voted last year to dissolve the two agencies, leading to the formation of the bill.

Two other water retailers would fall into the fold of a new water district as well – Santa Clarita Water District and Valencia Water Company are already under the Castaic Lake Water Agency’s umbrella.

The process of getting the bill through nine legislative hurdles was bipartisan and collaborative, Newhall County Water District President Maria Gutzeit and Castaic Lake Water Agency President Bob DiPrimio said in a joint statement.

“We are extremely pleased with the Senate’s vote today,” Gutzeit and DiPrimio said. “This bold idea will have a profoundly positive impact on water resource management for the Santa Clarita Valley and we’re eager to make it a reality.”

The bill making it this far is “a shame,” according to Newhall County Water District board member and water merger adversary Lynne Plambeck.

She was the lone “no” when the agencies voted to merge the districts.

“I think this is really quite a hoist on our community,” Plambeck said.

The public should have gotten to vote on the merger, she said.

Plambeck said she assumes the governor will vote in favor of the bill.

Merging the districts will be beneficial to Newhall Ranch, now known as FivePoint, where the governor’s sister Kathleen Brown sits on the board, Plambeck said.

Governor Brown has 30 days to decide if he wants to sign Senate Bill 634 into law.

“Bringing good jobs to our valley, improving transparency for ratepayers and ensuring a strong ratepayer advocate was in place were some of the objectives we hoped to achieve, and with this bill, we have,” Senator Scott Wilk, author of the bill, said in a statement.

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