A Superior Court judge has invalidated the environmental documents and overturned all approvals relating to the removal of chloride from the Santa Clara River.
On Wednesday, Judge James C. Chalfant granted a judgment in favor of the citizens’ group Affordable Clean Water Alliance, which sued the SCV Sanitation District in order to stop it from complying with a state mandate.
The L.A. Regional Water Quality Control Board, a regional state agency, has determined that the valley must reduce the amount of chloride – a type of salt – that it sends downriver to strawberry and avocado farms in Ventura County.
Chalfant agreed with the plaintiffs that the project’s environmental impact report didn’t adequately assess the impacts on an endangered species, the unarmored threespine stickleback fish.
Plaintiffs originally filed the complaint in early 2013, when the Sanitation District intended to dilute salty water with clean water and send it downriver to salt management facilities that it would have to build in Ventura County. Later that year, the district’s three-person board approved plans to inject highly concentrated salt water (brine) into 1- to 2-mile-deep wells near Stevenson Ranch instead.
Facing public outcry, the Sanitation District board voted in March 2015 to concentrate the brine at an advanced treatment facility it would build alongside its existing wastewater treatment plant near Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia. From there, it would truck the brine to an existing facility in Carson.
The plaintiffs modified their lawsuit along the way, but the environmental documents didn’t reflect all of the changes.
The EIR continued to describe the effects of a municipal water reuse project, which a Sanitation District official characterized Friday as a separate project to “make as much use as possible of recycled water” through a “purple pipe.”
The potential trouble for the stickleback fish is that if more water is recycled, less will be sent downriver where the fish can use it.
The plaintiffs allege, and the court upheld, that the EIR failed to gauge the severity of that loss of flow.
Bryan Langpap, a supervising engineer with the L.A. County Sanitation Districts, said right now, 19 million to 20 million gallons are sent downriver daily from the districts’ two SCV treatment facilities. The recycling plan would cut that amount to about 13 million gallons a day.
So when the SCV Sanitation District board meets March 23 at 6 p.m. at Santa Clarita City Hall, the Sanitation District staff will recommend that the “recertify the old EIR minus the water reuse component,” Langpap said.
If the board wants to consider the recycling project, it could do so separately with a separate environmental review process, he said.
District officials were putting the finishing touches Friday afternoon on supplemental environmental documents relating to the stickleback fish. The supplement was already scheduled for release Friday, irrespective of Wednesday’s ruling.
Another supplement released in November reflects a change in the “trucking” component of the plan. When the EIR was drafted, it contemplated 60 to 90 daily truck trips to remove the brine. Now, with current technology to concentrate the brine, just six to 10 daily truck trips are anticipated, Langpap said.
“We don’t believe (the ruling) is going to delay the project or the schedule for state compliance,” he said.
FINAL EIR RELEASED MARCH 11, 2016: