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SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: Chicken Little, Part 1 | Commentary by Dan Masnada | 05-25-2017
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After reading Lynne Plambeck’s commentary, “Water Merger Bill: No Say, No Way” (May 6 edition of SCVNews), it is apparent she is using “alternative facts” as the basis for her opposition to the proposed merger of Castaic Lake Water Agency and Newhall County Water District.

Over the years, Plambeck has proclaimed the sky is falling time and again when it comes to the management and availability of the Santa Clarita Valley’s water supply portfolio. And time and again, she has been proved wrong.

Plambeck’s commentary is full of fallacies and misstatements. In order to address the most egregious of her arguments and also explain her real motivations and objectives, this is a two-part commentary. The first part addresses the so-called alternative facts regarding the water merger that are of greatest relevance to Valley water consumers.

Alternative Fact No. 1:

Plambeck claims without corroboration that Senate Bill 634 has “unforeseen consequences for California Water Law and LAFCO (local government agency formation) law;” “is being rushed through the Legislature;” and sanctions a water governance structure that she infers violates a number of laws relating to public oversight.

The Real Facts:

SB 634 is fairly simple and straightforward. In short, it merges CLWA and NCWD into one regional water supplier. Combining the two entities requires legislation to revise current law relating to the original legislation that created CLWA in 1962.

The bill does not violate any laws and has been unanimously approved by two legislative committees to date. It is not being rushed and is going through the lawmaking process in full accordance with the state’s legislative calendar and associated deadlines.

Alternative Fact No. 2:

Plambeck characterizes the bill “as a takeover of the Newhall County Water District … without a vote of the people in that district despite their demand to have a vote” and “makes sure no public input of any kind, referendum, environmental (CEQA) review or even forming a new district could be used by the public to stop the takeover of Newhall County Water.”

The Real Facts:

First, the merger is not a takeover, as Plambeck repeatedly insists. It is the product of months of discussion between two willing parties, which could be terminated at any time by either party or both parties.

Second, leaving aside the fact that both water boards have the full legal right to agree to and implement the merger without a public vote, she ignores that the vast majority of voters in both the broader CLWA and NCWD service areas have not expressed the desire to incur the significant cost of an election.

Third, she also ignores that an environmental review is not legally required or necessary, since the merger involves no environmental impacts of any kind.

Last, the long-term financial benefits of a merger – that is, the resultant operational synergies and economies of scale of the combined entity – are greatest to NCWD customers simply because NCWD’s retail water rates are higher than the retail rates of either of the two CLWA-owned water retailers.

Accordingly, after deliberate and thorough consideration, the NCWD board, which is elected by its customers to represent their best interests, is taking an action that is without question in their best interests.

Alternative Fact No. 3:

Plambeck states: “this proposal leaves huge and questionable gaps that will supposedly be addressed in the future” because “the deferral of Valencia Water Co. and (Los Angeles County Waterworks) District 36 into the future leaves a hole in the middle of the district and the fate of over 30,000 connections to future actions by a board that has a bad record of not following its own laws.”

The Real Facts:

This is the biggest doozy of Plambeck’s commentary. Until just recently, she had argued the merger would create a water monopoly, insinuating for unspecified reasons that it would not be in the best interest of valley water consumers. Apparently, she has abandoned that alternative fact and is now insisting the merger is flawed because it doesn’t include all four SCV water retailers.

With regard to District 36, it will remain a wholesale customer no different than it has been to date. The county has the right to negotiate with CLWA or its successor consolidation of the district at any time in the future. However, CLWA and NCWD cannot force the county to take an action that it is not prepared to take at this time.

With respect to Valencia Water Co., Plambeck can rest assured the water merger bill will facilitate bringing it into the public fold, as was done after CLWA acquired Santa Clarita Water Co. (now the Santa Clarita Water Division) in 1999.

However, she ignores the fact that litigation to unravel CLWA’s acquisition of VWC must be completely resolved before VWC’s regulatory limbo is cleared up and it becomes the Valencia Water Division. As a lead negotiator for CLWA for the VWC acquisition, I can unequivocally state that bringing VWC into the public sector was and still is one of the principal objectives.

So, once again, the sky is not falling. The water merger will result in (1) more cost-effective and efficient water service, (2) greater water supply reliability, and (3) cohesive and consistent management of an ever-increasingly valuable resource that is essential to the SCV’s quality of life and environmental well-being.

 

Dan Masnada is the former general manager of the Castaic Lake Water Agency.

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8 Comments

  1. jim says:

    Gee Dan, how nice of you to notice that not everyone in Awesome Town has fallen into step with you and the Big Kids’ plan to control all of the water in and coming into the SCV.

    As someone who is familiar with the significance of Water and its control, I have watched and read both sides of the battles in this town over who will control the water. That includes reading the text of the lawsuits over Valencia Water Company’s absorption by you(CLWA)and the takeover of the Santa Clarita Water District.

    I don’t know Lynn Plambeck personally, but I will say that she and her supporters have raised important questions about the gamesmanship that has replaced public control of the water resources in the SCV.

    By the way, your statement that: “the vast majority of voters in both the broader CLWA and NCWD service areas have not expressed the desire to incur the significant cost of an election” is just so much spin. I am one of those people and no one ever asked me for my opinion on the matter. No mailers, no phone calls, no public postings, no apparent interest in what the “vast majority” of NCWD users aka “owners” wanted.

    My personal opinion is that you and your fellow water overlords at the CLWA (aka Water Engineers from MWD and LADWP) have decided that you know more and are better able to decide important decisions than your owners – aka The People of the SCV. Frankly, the only thing that has let you and your ilk prevail is the ignorance and apathy of those “owners”, and sly political operations on your part.

    So stop with the biased and politically slanted denigration of those who oppose you. It is unseemly and clearly the behavior of someone who is re-painting the picture to ensure that those who follow you will think well of you in the future.

    By the way, where are you working now that you have retired from the CLWA? Having finished your work here, are you off to another opportunity to both shine up your biography and slide into a new very well paying job?

  2. Dr Randy Martin says:

    Lynn’s comments are actually not the alternative facts at all. Her facts and point of view are the reality. I urge the reader to carefully examine Lynn’s argument, as she has her finger on the reality of the situation. Merger is NOT good for residents of SCV at all.

  3. Carl Boyer says:

    Dan Masnada has his bloody nerve accusing Lynne Plambeck of using alternative facts. 1) LAFCO voted to oppose the water merger bill because it sidesteps the LAFCO process. This is an unwise move because the politicians in Sacramento are not versed in such local questions. 2) The forced merger does indeed sidestep the will of the people in the Newhall County Water District. The CLWA takeover of the Santa Clarita Water Company cost the taxpayers far more than CLWA needed to pay. The CLWA purchase of Valencia Water Company resulted in rates well known to customers in Valencia. 3) Dan knows that CLWA has a bad record of following the law, and they have had to go to Sacramento to get the law changed as a result. The trouble with the CLWA is that the people keep electing “water experts” to the board instead of people who know how to represent the people.

  4. Carl Boyer says:

    Dan Masnada has his bloody nerve accusing Lynne Plambeck of using alternative facts. 1) LAFCO voted to oppose the water merger bill because it sidesteps the LAFCO process. This is an unwise move because the politicians in Sacramento are not versed in such local questions. 2) The forced merger does indeed sidestep the will of the people in the Newhall County Water District. The CLWA takeover of the Santa Clarita Water Company cost the taxpayers far more than CLWA needed to pay. The CLWA purchase of Valencia Water Company resulted in rates well known to customers in Valencia. 3) Dan knows that CLWA has a bad record of following the law, and they have had to go to Sacramento to get the law changed as a result.

  5. Karen Cameron says:

    Dear Friends…………Shades of Chinatown ! The history of water in the world’s various countries over time is very complex and fascinating when unraveled.
    Secret cabals, greed, broken agreements. Situations like the 1920’s and 30’s Water Wars in California can provide a glimpse into the short sighted thuggery that seems to follow water in its wake.
    Dan Masada, who is no longer with the Castaic Lake Water Agency, wrote a lengthy puffed up two part commentary about one individual, Lynne Plambeck. Great courage Dan ! Dan charges that Ms. Plambeck has recommended that the public should have a chance
    to vote about water issues affecting them. Dan states that he has already addressed those issues for us, and that an election is not required because he has already weighed in on what he wants. Sounds a little condescending and patronizing, but it is fine that Dan has so much confidence in himself.

    He further charges that Ms Plambeck has recommended that the merger of two public agencies should have an environmental review prior to voting on it, so that the public can be adequately informed. Dan sees this as opening up the water agencies to lawsuits. He does know that if the agencies are combined without public review and without an analysis of how this will effect the environment, then Ms. Plambeck, or any of the other thousands of residents, would have strong legal standing to bring suit for the lack of public process review, and the lack of environmental assessment of the long term challenges that this merger brings with it….. . No facts and no public process in a merger that not only effects residents now, but could also negatively effect future generations.
    The third charge Dan brings against Ms. Plambeck is that her “activism” has the purpose of “attempting
    to undermine local land use planning:. It appears that Dan’s fears of a public election could be interpreted as an effort to make certain that residents are not involved, and do not have a say in local land use planning.

    Ms. Plambeck was part of a group that formed the City of Santa Clarita. She does not have a secret nor a public goal of wanting to litigate. Lynne’s goal has always been to strengthen the quality of life for Santa Clarita residents. She is paid by no one to fight for quality development of the city. She purchases her own documents, pays for computer time, pays for copying of legal, planning and economic documents. She makes numerous trips to City Hall, to Los Angeles County, and to the scores of quasi governmental agencies that govern our lives on a daily basis. She has never been compensated for her time nor her recommendations. Her major finding over the years is that many people do not have the luxury of time to study every document related to any one issue. We all have extremely busy lives, and we feel guilty that we cannot handle everything perfectly. Ms. Plambeck is supporting and endorsing democracy. She fights for citizen engagement and
    involvement in affairs that will effect the quality in all our lives. Ms. Plambeck should be acknowledged and rewarded for the thousands of hours she has spent alone reading sophisticated legal documents on behalf of the public. She has no “cohorts” as Dan so crudely puts it. There are 8 or 10 organizations within Santa Clarita that share
    some of their values in common, but they all have their own particular points of view.

    Dan’s attempt at humor, stating that Ms. Plambeck uses “alternate facts”, is not a very robust joke.
    Perhaps he is the one being emotional and overly
    dramatic with his use of phrases like “the sky is falling time and again”. Perhaps he is in the middle of a mid life crises, or maybe he wants to mimic Trump. It might contribute more to our community if Dan would just buy a red sportscar or something, and let the people handle our own city.

  6. FRANK SMATHERS says:

    What we have here is a classic confrontation between big business and We The People. A few years back, I ran for a seat on the Castaic Lake Water Agency I quickly became aware of the skullduggery and politics that dominated the agency. The board is a hand picked group of water experts whose campaigns are paid for by developers. And guess who is in charge of water supplies for the 20,000 new homes the developers want to build off the 126 near Magic Mountain. The Newhall Water District has long been a thorn in the developers sides and they have now succeeded in getting their shills on that agency’s board. Additionally, they got Scott Wilk elected to dance to their tune in our state senate. Who sponsored the bill to allow the CWLA to swallow the Newhall district ??? Scott Wilk. The power brokers want one water board to rule them all. That cuts down on the number of board members they need to bribe to do their bidding. And among all the hundreds of thousands of people in our water district – who is the one who has consistently stood up and fought against the corporate water barons ??? Lynne Plambeck of SCOPE. Ms. Plambeck has brought several challenges and lawsuits against the developers and they hate her for that – because the courts have ruled in her favor. And Lynne does not receive any salary or payment for her activism – unlike the water board members, the state senator, and the developers – who are willing to degrade the environment and the quality of our water supply to increase their power and their bank accounts.

  7. Judy Reinsma says:

    In the more than twenty five years I have known Lynne Plambeck, I have never known her to use “alternative facts”, period. The water powers in this community have long had the goal of consolidating their power into a little LADWP, if you will. Some fifteen years ago, when local water well owners formed an organization to try to have their rights and concerns about water usage in this community and the outlying areas that overlay the common groundwater resource, we were at first ignored, and then when they saw we were serious, they very patronizingly assured us that they would never, no never, do anything to harm private well owners. Our water usage was a property right, and our rights would be respected by every water agency in Santa Clarita. Lynne and a retired California State Water Resources Board member both told me, “Don’t you believe it. Someday they will go after your water. It’s the nature of these entities.”
    Now SB #634 has passed, with the enthusiastic support of Mr. Masnada and all of the other water power brokers in Santa Clarita. Throughout the bill the “district” is given various powers and responsibilities. Under another current California State water management law, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act requires that the groundwater in the Santa Clara River East Valley Subbasin be managed for long term sustainability. The new water district formed by SB 634 will be the main entity deciding how to fulfill the requirements of this law.
    Now we come to the text of SB 634 and two of the powers given the district that are extremely threatening to private well owners.
    Section 18 states “The district shall have the power to do all of the following:”
    (Item a) To acquire, hold, and utilize water and water rights, including, but not limited to, water available from the state under the State Water Resources development System, and to provide, sell, manage and deliver surface water, groundwater, and recycled water for municipal, industrial, domestic, and other purposes at retail and wholesale throughout the territory of the district.”
    I can foresee that the water district will, within time, seek to “acquire, hold, and utilize water rights” throughout the Groundwater Management district, not just the physical boundaries of their present service areas. This on the pretext of good management of a resource they control 90% of, and in the interests of the good governance and sustainable management of the groundwater resource in the Santa Clarita Valley. Kind of benevolent theft of private property, if you will.

    Item (f) “To require reporting to the district of all production, distribution and reclamation of water within the district in excess of 10 acre-feet per annum.”
    Since the water purveyors already know how much they produce from every single well they own, then what wells does this refer to? Private wells, or course. And how do they know what private wells produce more than 10 acre feet per annum? This would require that meters be put on all private wells, and if there is a meter, how long does it take for the “district” to charge for the water pumped? Not just the water in excess of 10 acre feet per annum, but every drop.
    In my opinion, (and I hope I do not live long enough to see this) the “district” will, in the future get the power to acquire, hold and utilize every well owner’s water rights in the interests of “sustainable” management of the Santa Clara River East Valley Subbasin. Since they can hardly afford to run their water lines to these remote ranches and residences, they will use the meters on these private wells (water systems that cost these well owners tens of thousands of dollars to install and maintain) to measure and charge for the water pumped. It’s a win-win for the local water district. They will not have to spend a dime on infrastructure, and will still get to charge for the water used.
    In my opinion, this is the long term goal for the water powers that be in our community and all the outlying areas that are included in the water management area. This has always been their goal, a powerful and all inclusive water authority similar to the LADWP.
    I’m sure Mr Masnada and all of the other members of the CLWA-NCWD merger team will say that I, too, am deluded like Lynne Plambeck, but she foresaw this merger years ago. She predicted rampant development years ago, she foresaw many of the actions by the local “power brokers” that have turned the Santa Clarita Valley and environs from a livable and likable medium sized community into a mini-version of the San Fernando Valley, with it’s congestion, traffic and problems. Finally, she has never made a single penny off of her community action endeavors. Every cause or concern she has fought for or against she has done with her own money. NONE of her traditional opponents can claim that. How one woman can have had so much influence and gets these people so upset boggles the mind, unless she is the one who has been telling the truth all along. Time will tell. For me, I vote with Lynne Plambeck.

  8. Coastal Sage says:

    No one should forget the following FACTS concerning Dan Masnada:

    (1) In the 1980’s-1990’s Dan Masnada was the top manager/leader of Valencia Water Company which was wholly owned by Newhall Land & Farming.

    (2) Between 1992 and 2002 Dan Masnada was the Executive Director of Central Coast Water Authority, whose jurisdictional limits included a lot of land owned by an affiliate of Newhall Land & Farming.

    (3) Then Dan Masnada came back to Santa Clarita to run Castaic Lake Water Agency to be its General Manager. Castaic Lake Water Agency is a public agency created by the Legislature whose publicly elected Board of Directors have a long history of acting very favorably towards Newhall Land & Farming. For example on 12/12/12 when Newhall Land & Farming contracted to sell Valencia Water Company to Castaic Lake Water Agency, Dan Masnada signed a contract which was incredibly favorable towards Newhall Land & Farming, including a provision that in the future Castaic Lake Water Agency would provide ‘all the water needed’ for development and occupancy of Newhall Ranch…thereby agreeing on behalf of Castaic Lake Water Agency to take water away from all of that agency’s other customers if necessary to fulfill that promise. Neither the public nor many of the CLWA Directors got to see that contract before Dan Masnada signed it.

    While acting as General Manager of Castaic Lake Water Agency, Dan Masnada was the highest paid public employee in the Santa Clarita Valley. His pay checks were paid with revenue collected from Santa Clarita Valley taxpayers’ real estate taxes and monthly water bill payments paid by Santa Clarita Valley homeowners, business owners, school districts and hospitals. Every cash dollar spent in the Santa Clarita Valley indirectly put money in Dan Masnada’s pocket, yet he never showed any loyalty to Santa Clarita’s hard working residents.

    Dan Masnada retired from the staff of Castaic Lake Water Agency in 2016, but he still lives in Santa Clarita and continues to influence Castaic Lake Water Agency’s publicly elected Directors and the Santa Clarita City Council. It’s hard to tell if Dan Masnada is doing so because his ego will not allow him to let go of Santa Clarita’s water issues, or if Dan Masnada is acting as a paid lobbyist. There’s simply no way to find out.

    Dan Masnada has absolutely no credibility on any water issue because his entire career has been focused on pandering to the owners of Newhall Land & Farming and every action he took in Santa Clarita indirectly paid high-dollar pay checks and his health and retirement benefits.

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