The four candidates who are vying for two seats on the Newhall County Water Board faced off Saturday in a forum hosted by KHTS AM-1220, SCVTV, The Signal and COC Cougar News.
The forum will be televised beginning this week and will run through the Nov. 3 election on SCVTV (Time Warner Channel 20, AT&T U-verse 99, and online 24/7 at SCVTV.com).
The forum was held at the SCVTV studio in Newhall and a panel of Santa Clarita Valley journalists asked each of the candidates questions.
Leon Worden, president and CEO of SCVTV, moderated the forum. He kicked it off by allowing each of the candidates a 90 second opening statement.
First was current board member Lynne Plambeck, who has been a member of the district since 1996.
Plambeck opened with explaining her concern for water pollution from contaminated sources, such as the Whittaker Bermite property and her fight against it inside the district.
Next was Jeff Ford who talked about his past experience as a member of the Castaic Lake Water Agency, an employee of L.A. Department of Water and Power and Metropolitan Water District. He has also been involved with environmental and water resource planning.
Don Cruikshank, owner of AV Equipment Rental, followed detailing his history as a long time business owner and resident of Santa Clarita Valley. His goal is to bring sensible and controlled growth to the district, he said.
Dan Mortensen, another current sitting board member, finished the opening statements by explaining his record at the district.
Mortensen claimed that since he joined in 2008, the district has revamped the way it does business, where the district is almost debt free and plans to be by 2018, Mortensen said.
The candidates were then asked questions, which included topics such as how they, as candidates, expect customers to conserve water when there is new development plans using water.
“The allotment to the new developments going on in the Santa Clarita Valley, which doesn’t have a lot to do with the NCWD, but has a lot to do with the outlying areas,” Cruikshank said.
There is options that the NCWD has, such as buying water supply from agriculture sources and water banking, said Mortensen.
“The governor said, everybody with a ‘meat cleaver’ approach, will conserve 25 percent or you’ll receive huge fines,” Mortensen said. “However it is not necessary for us to do so.”
“I don’t support approving new development and, in fact, our urban water management plan doesn’t either,” Plambeck said. “It says when a water emergency is declared, that we suggest to the city and county that they consider delaying housing.”
Ford explained that the development plans were part of a long term plan, which is changed every five years and makes adjustments for short term needs. Though when it is next updated, Ford believes that it will have tighter constraints due to the drought.
The candidates were also given a chance to ask each other questions,
Plambeck simply asked Ford why he was running for the office.
Ford responded by telling Plambeck that after one district filed lawsuits against the others in Santa Clarita, there is animosity between them and he wishes to build cooperation between all the districts in Santa Clarita.
Ford asked Mortensen why, when the district was asked to annex some areas and de-annex others, why the de-annexing didn’t happen.
Mortensen explained that the district has the ability to assess what agency is best to serve that area, and if the area was better serviced by another agency, NCWD would let them.
Cruikshank asked Plambeck, “over the past 10 or 15 years you’ve been involved with several activist groups in the valley. Those activists brought up lawsuits against Castaic Lake Water Agency, is your motivation to file those lawsuits strictly for the purposes of anti-growth.”
Plambeck responded to both explaining that she was not responsible for the lawsuits directly and also responded to a “hit piece” that was sent out against her on her website.
The NCWD election will be held on Nov. 3, 2015 for areas that are serviced by NCWD.
| Skylar Barti