Santa Clarita Valley water agency officials are applying to annexation officials to spell out the precise conditions and services they plan to provide to SCV ratepayers.
Board members of the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency met Monday night to vote, specifically, on a recommendation to submit an application for “conditions and plan for services” the agency would be extending to its ratepayers.
Water officials agreed to apply to commissioners with the Local Agency Formation Commission for Los Angeles – or LA LAFCO – whose job it is to assess and then approve or deny annexations and mergers.
The SCV Water Agency had until Wednesday to submit such an application, according to the demands spelled out in the senate bill that created it.
Under the terms of Senate Bill 634, signed by the governor in October, the new water agency had until Jan. 31 to apply to LAFCO.
“This step continues on the promise of SB 634,” SCV Water Agency President Bill Cooper told The Signal on Tuesday. “The LAFCO application spells out how SCV Water will provide modernized and integrated services to the Santa Clarita Valley, delivering greater economies of scale, effectiveness and enhanced water management.”
Finding the appropriate way of dealing with LAFCO, proved a constant challenge for legislators last year as they reviewed details of the new agency’s formation which, in its initial language, excluded LAFCO all together.
In the end, a tweaked version of SB 634 outlined precisely how LAFCO would be called on to define the new agency’s conditions and services.
The application, now on its way to LAFCO, contains a copy of SB 634, a map and description of the boundaries of the agency and a plan for providing services.
The plan must include the Valencia Water Company and must identify the type of services traditionally offered by SCV’S now-defunct water wholesaler, the Castaic Lake Water Agency, and the Newhall County Water District, which for half a century operated as one of SCV’s main water retailers, according to the edicts of the bill.
In a memo to the board, SCV Water Assistant General Manager Steve Cole points out that the plan considered by LAFCO reflects the integration of the Valencia Water Company and details on how water is currently distributed.
The plan would also include – aside from water – details about sewer facilities, power generation and recycled water.
Once it receives the application, LAFCO is expected to hold a public hearing on the matter and prepare a written report for the public’s review.
Members of the SCV’s new water agency understand that the LAFCO report, when it’s unveiled, may contain specific conditions that the agency would be bound to uphold.
The LAFCO report would certify the function of the agency and its class of services provided.
The senate bill’s road to becoming law was a rocky one when it came to discussions about its relationship with LAFCO.
On at least two occasions last year, as the bill made its way through various committees, County commissioners did not back the bill – voting early on to “oppose unless amended” and later voting to remain “neutral” on the bill – neither opposing it, nor supporting it.
One concern shared by commissioners hinged on prejudice – that if the bill goes through, LAFCO could be called upon to impose conditions on the merger application farther down the road. Supporting the bill now could be construed as a statement in support of the application.
LAFCO’s fundamental concern about the bill, however, was that the new district would be created by the Legislature and not by LA LAFCO.
Tuesday’s decision by SCV Water members to submit an application, puts the agency at LAFCO’s feet.
For more than a year, officials with the CLWA and the NCWD – SCV’s water wholesaler and one of its four local water retailers, respectively – hammered out details of a merger, eliciting input from the public at four public meetings.
In December 2016, both the CLWA and NCWD signed a settlement agreement calling for legislation to be drafted and submitted.
In February, SB 634 was introduced to create one new all-encompassing water agency that would manage and distribute water throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.
In October, Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law.
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