SCV Water firms up its role managing SCV groundwater for the state

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SCV Water Agency logo. Courtesy
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Local water officials voted in favor Tuesday of creating a seven-member governing body that would report to the state on managing groundwater in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Members of the SCV Water board of directors approved a resolution authorizing SCV Water General Manager Matt Stone to strike up an agreement that forms the joint powers authority for the Santa Clarita Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency.

They also authorized him to draw up a contract for SCV Water to provide management and technical services to the SCV Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA).

The SCV GSA was formed a little over a year ago with participating agencies — all stakeholders in how groundwater is managed — but the group was bound only by a memorandum of understanding.

Forming a Joint Powers Authority for the SCV GSA cements the agreement and allows each of the member agencies — including representatives of the city of Santa Clarita and Los Angeles County — to specify a particular member agency responsible for such tasks as contracting with consultants.

Under the terms of the more casual memorandum of understanding, or MOU, without a lead agency approved to make such decisions for the group, each member agency would have to go each and every time to its respective board of directors to approve funding and contracts.

“The MOU was light on details on how it would operate,” said Rick Viergutz, principal water resources planner for the SCV Water Agency, referring to the existing SCV GSA.

“This allows the GSA to operate more efficiently,” he said, referring to the Joint Powers Authority.

The structure of the JPA SCV-GSA would include seven members: four members appointed by SCV Water, and one member each appointed by the city of Santa Clarita, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Los Angeles County Waterworks Division 36.

A joint powers authority is a contract between an agency such as SCV Water and the special district, agreeing to perform services for, cooperate with and lend its powers to the special district.

In this case, SCV Water would provide management and technical services to the Joint Powers Authority SCV GSA.

The deal to be hammered out now permits the JPA to hire full-time and/or part time employees and hire independent contractors in order to meet the purposes of the SCV GSA.

Members of the SCV GSA informed state officials a year ago — as was demanded of them by the state — of their intent to manage local water more effectively.

Representatives of public agencies believed to have a stake in how groundwater is managed locally had been meeting to identify who would actually sit on the new state-mandated GSA.

Those invited to sit at the table of the first SCV groundwater management agency were expected to ask each of their respective agencies to adopt a joint MOU in setting up and contributing to the emerging GSA.

Each respective agency signed the MOU on the understanding that it would be firmed up with a more permanent governing structure down the road.

In July 2017, after all the stakeholder agencies signed the MOU, Steve Cole, the unofficial head of the existing SCV GSA, said: “Work will begin soon on developing a Joint Powers Authority to govern the process going forward.”

On Tuesday, that process began in earnest with board members approving the Joint Powers Authority agreement.

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