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SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: Chicken Little, Part 2 | Commentary by Dan Masnada | 05-26-2017
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Part 1 of this commentary addressed Lynne Plambeck’s “alternative facts” regarding the proposed merger between Castaic Lake Water Agency and Newhall County Water District (Water Merger Bill: No Say, No Way in the May 6, 2017 edition of SCVNews). This second part addresses her strategy and objectives in opposing the water merger bill and other water supplier actions over the years under the guise of environmental activism.

In fact, her environmental priorities are a distant second to her unstated but conspicuously obvious goal of attempting to undermine local land use planning.

Plambeck has largely failed over the years in convincing Los Angeles County and the City of Santa Clarita to curtail real estate development in the Santa Clarita Valley and otherwise violate their own general plans. Alternatively, she has opposed – also unsuccessfully – numerous water projects and programs to, in effect, create water shortages to prevent such new growth.

In her commentary, Plambeck decries certain actions that are not being taken as part of the water merger legislative process. In Part 1 of my commentary, I addressed why those actions are not appropriate, unnecessary and either costly or less cost-effective than the status quo (i.e., separate water retailers serving our community). Not surprisingly what is unstated in her commentary is that all of her proposed – costly and needless – actions would serve to “slow roll” the legislative process and delay the merger to the detriment of all valley water consumers.

Plambeck states “no say, no way” and insists a vote be held by NCWD customers. I’ve addressed why a public vote is unnecessary and costly. The vote would have to be held throughout CLWA’s entire service area (280,000 population), not, as Plambeck suggests, solely in NCWD’s service area (45,000 population). Board members are elected to represent customers, and NCWD’s publically elected directors have unanimously (save for Plambeck) voted to implement the merger.

Plambeck states no environmental review of the merger is being conducted. I also addressed why this is completely unnecessary – the merger involves no environmental impacts.

However, if she could convince the powers that be of any one thing, it would be to conduct an environmental review of the merger, however meaningless. This would create a litigation opportunity for Plambeck and her environmental activist groups that otherwise does not exist.

Over the years, they have filed countless frivolous “environmental” lawsuits, not because they have a genuine environmental basis, but because, although they ultimately fail, the defendants are subjected to years of delay and millions of dollars of legal expenses.

Plambeck insists the merger should include Valencia Water Co. and Los Angeles County Waterworks District 36. I’ve addressed why the legislation will actually facilitate bringing VWC into the public fold. I’ve also addressed consolidation of District 36, the smallest of the four valley water retailers with a population of less than 5,000, into the merged entity. This is a future possibility that would only be considered if the county wishes to pursue it.

 

Chicken Little’s Track Record

Years ago, Plambeck claimed Santa Clarita Valley groundwater was being overdrafted, which was causing ground surface subsidence and jeopardizing roadways and buildings in the valley. In fact, no overdraft was occurring, and no infrastructure was being jeopardized.

When perchlorate was detected in certain wells in the late 1990s, she insisted the contamination had resulted in a loss of our groundwater supply and could not be counted on. In fact, the supply was not “lost” and only needed treatment, which the local water suppliers ensured was paid for by the polluters.

Over the years, Plambeck and her affiliated local activist groups have sued CLWA numerous times: (1) attempting to stop water transfers to augment the valley’s water supply portfolio; (2) contesting environmentally sound water banking programs to enhance the reliability of our imported water supply; and (3) calling into question proper and prudent long-term planning for valley water demand and supplies (i.e., the SCV Urban Water Management Plan). She sued in 1999 to prevent CLWA’s acquisition of Santa Clarita Water Co. and again in 2013 to overturn its acquisition of Valencia Water Co.

The good news is that all of these meritless lawsuits failed, and the valley is benefitting from these astute and sensible water resource actions and programs.

The bad news is they have cost valley ratepayers and taxpayers millions of dollars to defend.

All of these actions were attempts by Plambeck and her cohorts to undermine our valley’s water supply availability and reliability – all, she claims, in the name of protecting the environment. In reality, her motivation is much less about the environment and even less about our water supply security. Her objective, plain and simple, has always been about stopping development by any means possible. Her strategy involves multiple delay tactics, the worst being groundless litigation.

Fortunately, Plambeck will not be able to sue our state Legislature and governor when SB 634 becomes law. Although she will claim the sky is falling once again, we will instead be witnessing a bright, sunny day, the first of a brighter and more secure water future.\

 

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

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10 Comments

  1. jim says:

    Yessir, It’s a bright, bright sun-shiny Day…

    For you and your cohorts. We’ll have to stick around to find out if you’re telling the truth or not. And if not, well then you will still do fine. You’ve moved on and will only be trotted out if necessary to insist that all is well.

    Leon can give you my email, so feel free to contact me and let me know the truth as you see it. And I don’t mean a rehash of these puff pieces.

    Leon – if Dan wishes to do so, you have my permission to provide my email address to him.

  2. waterwatcher says:

    Typical of the power brokers in this community. Make personal attacks against a well-respected environmental leader who has staunchly stood up for the public in spite of such unfounded attacks. So CLWA breaks the law and the person that tries to challenge this bad behavior is the cause? Like blaming a rape on the victim?

    Just in case you don’t get it, Mr. Masnada, we all know that your first boss was Newhall Land and Farming/Lennar/now Five Point. We all know that under your watch at CLWA you promised to give Newhall Ranch all the water they needed, let them calculate the demand and always tell the agencies there is enough for Newhall’s projects. We all know that your are or were still on the Board of Valencia Water Company, though it is difficult to find our anything about them because they don’t have public meetings or respond to public records. Heck, they won’t even publish their 2016 or 2017 financials.

    So what is Valencia Water hiding behind those closed doors that you so cunnibgly helped create? $800,000 in annual dividends for one thing, that Valencia Water customers must pay to Castaic – this is outrageous.

    Just wondering why SCVTV didn’t list Masnada’s other employers and current positions.

    And the only people that want the Newhall Ranch project are the people that think they are going to make money off of it. Everyone else wishes it would go away.

  3. Dan Masnada is nothing more then a appointed board member of the Valencia Water Company. Apparently he has not even read Senate Bill No. 634 which now has been amended three times. Once on May 26, 2017 the day after it cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee.

    Why is the first action of this bill to repeal the provision of law that allowed a petition to request a confirmation by the voters? Why were they so afraid of a vote?

    Sec.4 (i) states that steps to be taken by CLWA and the board of directors of the Valencia Water Company to “dissolve Valencia Water Company and to transfer the company’s assets, property,liabilities,and indebtedness to the district as soon as practicable ,but no later than July 1,2018”

    Since Dan Masnada was the manger of Castaic Lake Water Agency when they bought the stock of Valencia Water Company with the additional agreements perhaps he should write about that and not his foolish rant about those that try to inform the ratepayers about what is happening to their retail water providers which will be deleted by Senate Bill No. 634.

  4. Mama Bear says:

    Iused to think SCOPE had a legitimate reason for existing. Now I think they are simply mis-named. They should consider re-naming themselves The Litigious Society. All they do is line the pockets of lawyers.
    And don’t even get me started on the lawsuits making local lawmaking bodies vote by district. The only result I’ve seen is that the districting voted out the only true Latino official on a school board! The poor dupes that have allowed the lawyers to file the lawsuits in their names are laughable. The only purpose is to fill the lawyers’ pockets!

  5. Steve says:

    I for one would like someone to stand up against the massive building here in Santa Clarita Valley. When I visit my friends in the California Delta and in Northern California they are more than upset about the massive amounts of water we take from them. Their farms are failing and salt water is infiltrating the California Delta. All the time here we say that there is enough water. We cannot keep robbing from Northern California to ensure that Southern California continues in their careless regard for the importance of water, to keep lawns green when farms are going under. I hope Lynn continues to fight for a sustainable growth, and against the greed that is currently taking over this valley.

  6. Carl Boyer says:

    You cost the taxpayers of our valley millions by paying far more for the Santa Clarita Water Co. than its value. I was on the city council when you do, and had all the facts at hand.

    • Coastal Sage says:

      You are probably right Carl. CLWA, under Dan Masnada’s and Bob Sagehorn’s control, paid $65 Million in taxpayers cash to the Bonelli Family for all of the stock in Santa Clarita Water Company AND THEY DIDN’T EVEN GET AN APPRAISAL OF THE VALUE OF THE COMPANY’S PHYSICAL ASSETS BEFORE WIRE TRANSFERRING THE MONEY!

      At the time of the stock purchase, that water company’s ground water wells near Bermite were profoundly polluted with the solvents TCE and PCE and with a rocket fuel called perchlorate. One of the reasons the “men who run the water companies” wanted to avoid a professional appraisal of the Santa Clarita Water Company’s properties was that under the rules under which licensed appraisers operate, the mega-million dollar cost of cleaning up the water in SCWC’s territory should have been deducted from the “value” of the water company’s assets.

      Instead, merely as a housekeeping matter, CLWA ordered an “appraisal” of Santa Clarita Water Company’s assets by one of their “consultants” well after the cash was out the door. The person who did the appraisal was not licensed by the State of California as an appraiser, and of course the cost of cleaning the toxic chemicals out of SCWC’s underground water supply was not even mentioned.

      Once CLWA owned Santa Clarita Water Company, CLWA described it as a “division” of the public agency and SCWC began complying with California law concerning public agencies, including the California Public Records Act.

      Then in December 2012, Dan Masnada as General Manager of CLWA did it again, BY USING TAXPAYER MONEY to purchase all the stock in Valencia Water Company from The Newhall Land and Farming Company, AGAIN without a professional appraisal of that company. That deal, under a contract dated 12/12/12, was made with less that a week’s notice to the public.

      The terms of the 12/12/12 contract, allegedly negotiated by Masnada and CLWA’s lawyer, were very far from favorable to the taxpayers and CLWA as a public agency. Exactly how unfavorable were the deal terms? CLWA’s publicly elected directors don’t want the public to know.

      CLWA’s publicly elected directors have spent almost 5 years litigating a California Public Records Act case to keep all of the “other contracts” to which Valencia Water Company is still bound a deep, dark secret from the public and the press.

      One contract which CLWA has stubbornly tried to hide is a “Management Contract” which Valencia Water Company entered into effective in 2007 where Valencia Water Company agreed to be directly managed by Lennar Corporation, the NYSE traded company run out of Miami. (The Newhall Land bankruptcy did not terminate that contract, because Valencia Water Company was not a debtor in the bankruptcy.)

      The 12/12/12 contract under which CLWA bought all of the Valencia Water Company stock says absolutely nothing about whether or not Lennar Corporation has formally given up the management control of Valencia Water Company which it gained in the 2007 Management Contract.

      Here we are, 10 years later, and CLWA does not want the public to see the proof on paper that Lennar Corporation’s management control of Valencia Water Company has ended.

      The California Public Utilities Commission is no help. They have ruled that they have no power to regulate Valencia Water Company for the benefit of the ratepayers/public because Valencia Water Company’s sole shareholder is a public agency.

      The overall refusal of CLWA to have Valencia Water Company comply with the California Public Records Act, allowing the taxpayers to see all of the documents affecting a water company the public paid to buy, is all the more suspicious because under the Wilk & CLWA sponsored bill to merge Newhall County Water District into Castaic Lake Water Agency, the bill text DOES NOT merge Valencia Water Company into CLWA as well.

      Valencia Water Company remaining a private stock company, coincidentally owned by a public agency (CLWA), allows all of the contracts binding on Valencia Water Company to remain a secret, barring a court order binding on VWC to the contrary.

      One might ask “What is Valencia Water Company hiding from the taxpayers…over and above the Management Contract where Valencia Water Company agreed to be directly managed by Lennar Corporation?”

  7. Steve6 Kassel says:

    “Newhall Water District has been a voting district for 60 years. They should have a say in whether or not their district is dissolved. They have eliminated every way for the people to object to this. Lynne is standing up for people’s right to have a voice. I applaud her for that.”

  8. What is needed to protect the ratepayers is a vote and an audit of how Castaic Lake Water Agency and Santa Clarita Water got their bond rating.

    All Dan Masdada is doing is trying to divert attention from the actions of the this so called merger.

  9. Robin Clough and Gene Dorio, M.D. says:

    The basis of the Paris Climate Accord started on the local level around the world. In the Santa Clarita Valley, Lynne Plambeck, is our leader.

    She has environmentally protected the air, water, and land space of our community against those who have attempted to contaminate this valley.

    These two commentaries using labeling and name-calling is an inappropriate attempt to slur Ms. Plambeck’s efforts and promote a nefarious big business scheme to takeover water and blindfold the citizens of this valley.

    For years, she has worn her cape, and used her voice to assure the Santa Clarita environment remains healthy for our citizens.

    She is our hero.

    Robin Clough and Gene Dorio, M.D.

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