Sacramento – Senate Bill 634, a measure to create a new valley-wide water district in the Santa Clarita Valley, was approved by the full Assembly, Senator Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, announced today.
“Today we are one step closer to the finish line. SB 634 will provide residents of the Santa Clarita Valley with a new, 21st-century water agency while providing jobs for local workers and veterans,” Wilk said.
“I see it as a win-win for our area,” he said. “Not only will we be on the cutting edge of environmentally sustainable and cost effective water delivery, our local workforce will benefit from the jobs. I am very proud of our efforts, and appreciate the insight of my colleagues and stakeholders along the way.”
Late last year the boards of the Castaic Lake Water Agency and Newhall County Water District voted to dissolve the two agencies and create a new valley-wide water agency. Senate Bill 634 is the fruit of those negotiations.
Economic impact and efficiency studies have found that the new district will generate millions of dollars in savings, create more transparency for the ratepayer and enhance environmental and watershed protections.
Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), who presented the bill in the Assembly added: “SB 634 will establish a new water agency that will unify regional water resource management for joint efforts to address the many water challenges faced in the Santa Clarita Valley. This is a well-drafted and well-thought-out bill, and it’s one that will benefit the local community, the environment and the state of California in innumerable ways.”
The bill has one final stop in the Senate for concurrence in Assembly amendments before going to the governor’s desk for his decision.
If the bill is passed, then approved and signed by the governor, the new agency would take effect in early next year.
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Maria Gutzeit, president of Newhall County Water District, and Bob DiPrimio, president of Castaic Lake Water Agency, issued a joint statement about the water bill Wednesday afternoon:
“The Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency Act is the product of two years of negotiations and public outreach to unify water governance in the region. A new public water district would cut costs, create efficiencies and bring new, cost-effective and reliable sources of water to reality.
“We are extremely pleased the Assembly passed the bill today and sees the value in creating this new public water agency, so we can begin to benefit from unified water management in our region. With this bill, Senator Wilk has been a true champion for our region and we are grateful to be in final steps of the of legislative process.”
The CWLA/NCWD statement continued:
“The bill is supported by a broad and diverse coalition of environmental, business, labor, and government leaders. Additionally, dozens of local residents and businesses have expressed strong support for SB 634.
“The purpose of the new district would be to provide, sell, manage, and deliver surface water, groundwater, and recycled water for municipal, industrial, domestic, and other purposes at retail and wholesale, and provide a means to unify and modernize water resource management within the Santa Clarita Valley.
“It would provide new jobs for local residents and veterans to help build approximately $200 million of recycled water infrastructure. It would also create more unified environmental stewardship within the region, specifically regarding the Upper Santa Clara River watershed.
“A comprehensive economics and efficiencies study found that the new agency would generate $14 million in savings in its first 10 years, create a new, more accessible governance structure, enhance environmental and watershed protections, and lead to stronger local water reliability, including the development of recycled water.”
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Not everyone agrees with Assemblyman Lackey’s description and assessment of SB 634, or with the way the bill was created:
“Many of us were watching it online and we were disappointed with Mr. Lackey’s statements because he seemed to be making statements that really weren’t reflected in the bill,” said Lynne Plambeck, president of Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment. “He may have given a false impression to the Assembly about what the bill was actually about.”
Specifically, Plambeck questioned Lackey’s comments about jobs. “For instance, he said it was going to create a lot of jobs,” she said. “Well, we’ve been told we wouldn’t lose any jobs, that’s how they’re going to save money, they’re going to combine all these services and it’s going to be more efficient. So how is this creating more jobs? He said there’s going to be jobs for veterans…it was very strange.”
Plambeck also takes issue with how the bill came about.
“Many, many people in the Newhall County Water District are very disturbed to have their vote taken away from them,” she said. “This is a local issue. It should start with a vote of the Newhall Water District to see if they want to be dissolved or not. Here we are trying to encourage voter turnout and the first thing these water agencies do is take away every right, every way that the Newhall Water District constituents would have a chance to say ‘no’ on this.
“So between misinformation in the Assembly and a place where local people have no say at all to taking people’s vote away,” Plambeck said, “I just don’t understand how anybody feels this is a good bill.”
More information on the proposed new water district can be found at www.YourSCVWater.com.