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1738 - Fr. Francisco Garcés born in Spain; came through SCV in 1776, found Tataviam fighting with Coastal Chumash, observed Santa Clara River flowing by night and dry by day despite the season being spring [story]
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Commentary by Lynne Plambeck
| Wednesday, May 25, 2016

mug_lynneplambeckAre you one of the Newhall Water customers who got a deceptive postcard in the mail asking you how your water district should be eliminated, three board members, districts, etc., multiple choice? Of course the post card had no space for “no merger; we like our voter-elected district.” Because that is not a reply that some of the board members want to hear.

What’s going on? Our public agencies are funded with our tax dollars and supposedly run in the best interest of the public. So when a public agency tries to do its business in a deceptive manner and behind closed doors, the public should be asking questions. It usually means a few of the board members have an agenda that they don’t want the public to know about because if it got out to the voters, the community would be furious.

This lack of transparency is exactly what is going on at Newhall County Water District and Castaic Lake Water Agency regarding the dissolution of the Newhall District and its absorption into CLWA. They want to create a valley-wide water monopoly quickly, before the voters can find out what is really going on.

First, three Newhall water board members switched sides a year ago and decided they wanted to dissolve this 60-year-old district that they were elected to oversee. They began having closed-session negotiations about how to accomplish the elimination of this well-managed, voter-elected local agency, the very agency they were elected to oversee and protect, without letting the public know what was going on. People should be asking why this sudden shift in their agenda.

Then they began planning how the water company could be dissolved in closed session. They made contracts with public relations firms to produce material to persuade the public that this was a good idea. To devise a strategy to dissolve the district that the public would accept, they hired a mediation firm to organize and facilitate the public meetings to make sure the information would be presented to persuade for dissolution. They entered into contracts.

So far, about $150,000 of NCWD taxpayers’ money has been spent on this venture without it ever being on a Newhall water board agenda. The one exception is the $77,000 on a recent agenda to begin the required legal process to dissolve the district, although there has never been any public demand to dissolve the district.

The three board members continue to say nothing is decided. Then why do they have to hide their actions behind closed doors? Why are they spending $77,000 to start the dissolution process? Why did they send out this latest deceptive postcard to Newhall County Water District customers? And why are they not disclosing their real motives or the downside of losing a respected, voter-controlled district?

This is nothing new for Castaic Lake Water Agency. CLWA has wanted to control all of the water in this valley for a long time. You may recall their “One Valley, One Water” PR campaign from a few years ago. But there are some really good reasons why CLWA should not be allowed to become a water monopoly.

The biggest reason is they will raise your rates. A monopoly inevitably raises rates and fails to control costs because there are no checks and balances. That’s what happened after CLWA’s illegal acquisition of Santa Clarita Water Co. in 2000 and Valencia Water Co., and to Valencia’s customers, after the 2012 backroom deal. Rates to both customers were raised substantially. (Valencia’s rates went up 17 percent). Now Castaic Lake Water Agency is again proposing rate increases for both of these companies that they own, to fund their out-of-control spending.

When CLWA votes for bond money, pledging your water rates, your vote is not required. CLWA is now almost $400 million in debt. Spending for unneeded projects that benefit special interests may be approved without public oversight.

The last reason to oppose a water monopoly is that water can be directed to certain special interests as it has been to Newhall Land’s 30,000 west-side units including Newhall Ranch. You can request a copy of this CLWA-Newhall Land 2012 Valencia purchase agreement (all negotiated behind closed doors) from CLWA. Just read Section 6 to see how our water was promised in advance to Newhall Land/Lennar Corp. for all of their developments.

So if you are concerned about the cost of water in this valley, water rationing or water directed to massive new developments without considering the needs of current residents, you need to get involved. You can start by returning those misleading postcards with a big, fat “No dissolution or merger – keep our district” written across the front of them.

 

Lynne Plambeck is a board member of the Newhall County Water District.

 

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5 Comments

  1. Cathy says:

    Well that was an eye opening article!

  2. Denny says:

    Is that photo of Lynne Plambeck her high school graduation photo?

  3. jim soliz says:

    Thanks for a Terrific expose of H2O monopoly politics.

  4. Abigail says:

    WOW – we don’t have enough water for what/who is already here so a deep pocket giant project finds a way around it by dirty water politics. All they care about is the big bucks they want to make on MORE development in a place that already is struggling for water. Excellent article!!!

  5. Steve says:

    Once again those who have making sure that others have not.

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