SCV Water sets sights on watershed stewardship

Danielle Loera and Matthew Schmidt walk up from the Santa Clara Riverbed near the Iron Horse Trail on Monday, April 2, 2018. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

SCV Water Agency officials are expected to reaffirm their position as stewards of the Santa Clara River watershed Tuesday when they’re asked to vote on more than half a dozen objectives aimed at preserving the SCV’s most valuable natural resource.

The SCV Water board of directors is slated to meet at the Rio Vista Water Treatment Facility on Bouquet Canyon Road overlooking Central Park. One of the things members are being asked to consider is a resolution in support of Santa Clara River stewardship objectives.

Spearheading the effort to firm up its role on the environmental landscape is Steve Cole, assistant general manager for SCV Water.

“The Santa Clarita Valley shares one river and one watershed,” Cole said Monday. “Tuesday’s action is less about claiming a leadership role, and more about acknowledging our role as the regional policy-making body on matters of our water supply, and our intent and desire to partner with organizations that share common goals.”

In a memo to board members, Cole wrote: “As an integrated regional water agency, it’s more important than ever to make an affirmative statement of the agency’s desire to take a leadership role to preserve and protect the Upper Santa Clara Valley watershed.

Members of the water agency’s Public Outreach Committee reviewed and agreed on seven primary objectives he pointed out. It is expected board members will do the same Tuesday.

The objectives they are asked to consider include:
Work cooperatively with governmental agencies, non-governmental groups and other stakeholders, to develop and implement sustainable efforts for the long-term health of the Santa Clara River.

Pursue and support public ownership of property along the Santa Clara River.

Preserve and protect parcels for water conservation and recharge.

Promote appreciation and enjoyment of the river through signage, mini-parks, respite areas and shade.

Seek options for the removal of invasive plant species from the river (including arundo and tamarisk); and prevention of their return.

Devise, promote and partner in conservation projects.

Manage the river to protect and ensure sustainability of groundwater resources.

Board members touting river stewardship have been walking the talk, agency officials say.

“We have participated in several outreach and relationship building activities this year within the watershed,” Cole wrote in his memo to the board. “At one event, we worked alongside members of the Sierra Club at a forest restoration project in San Francisquito Canyon, coordinated by TreePeople.”

Board members also entered into a memorandum of understanding with their downstream neighbors, the United Water Conservation District, to facilitate cooperative watershed planning, he added.

Agency staff and board members also took part in a small-scale arundo removal effort with the city of Santa Clarita, Cole wrote in his board memo.

Arundo remains one of the fiercest threats to the Santa Clara River watershed. A member of the bamboo family, arundo grows 9 to 18 feet tall, though it occasionally towers to 30 feet tall, with leaves 11 inches to 2 feet long and up to 2 1/2 inches wide.

It sucks up water from groundwater supplies, and its vegetation is highly flammable.

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