An activist group is hoping to establish independent oversight for the Valencia Water Co. through a possible ballot measure.
“It is our vision to have an elected water district that acts for the best interests of the public, rather than the current situation where the public has no say,” said Patti Sulpizio, the contact person on a press release from a group calling itself “Committee to Save Our Water.” Sulpizo identifies herself in her Facebook profile as the 38the Assembly District delegation chair for the Los Angeles County Democratic Party.
Valencia Water Co. is owned by the Castaic Lake Water Agency, which is governed by a board of directors that meets biweekly. CLWA is the state water wholesaler for the entire Santa Clarita Valley. Valencia Water is one of the valley’s four water retailers.
A CLWA official said lawsuits – one filed by the Newhall County Water District and two from another activist group, Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment – are holding up CLWA’s plans to make Valencia Water a fully separate public agency.
“Our intent has always been to take the Valencia Water Co. public and make it a fully public entity with public representation,” said Tom Campbell, president of the CLWA board of directors.
CLWA purchased Valencia Water Co. from The Newhall Land and Farming Co. in 2012. Before that time, it had always been a privately owned water utility.
“The agreement that was made for the purchase (from Newhall Land) contained a clause that said that the agency (CLWA) couldn’t take the Valencia Water Co. public until the litigation was resolved,” Campbell said. In the meantime, “we have a committee for the Valencia Water Co. who used to meet quarterly (and now meets) semi-annually.”
“The litigation is holding up the agency from taking it public,” he said.
The new group asserts that Valencia Water has promised to provide water for “thousands of new units” in Newhall Land’s planned Newhall Ranch development while residents “are being asked to cut back,” according to the news release.
Campbell said the water company is obligated by law to provide water to customers within its county-designated boundaries.
“What we are obligated to do is serve water to areas within our boundary, and a good portion of Newhall Ranch is within our boundary. We are obligated to serve it,” he said.
“There are provisions and promises by the developer that no imported water be used for the Newhall Ranch community. They want to use agricultural water and purchase additional water from the Kern area,” Campbell added.
The statement from “Committee to Save Our Water” said the group wants to “investigate the possibility of converting Valencia Water to an elected board of directors under the governance structure of a County Water District authority.”
However, CLWA owns Valencia Water Co. County water districts are completely separate government agencies owned by the public.
The group claimed there is “no regulatory oversight” of Valencia Water Co., noting that after the water company was sold to CLWA, it was no longer regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission.
Private water utilities are regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission, whose commissioners are appointed by the governor in Sacramento. With the sale to CLWA, the oversight responsibility shifted to the CLWA board, whose members are elected by the voters of the Santa Clarita Valley.
The group said it plans to holding meetings “over the next several months to determine the level of interest in this proposal.”