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Dealing with the chloride predicament

Posted: October 20, 2013 1:50 p.m.
Updated: October 20, 2013 1:50 p.m.

No matter how you look at it, it’s bad public policy.

A group of appointed — not elected — officials pretending to represent the Los Angeles area — though not a single one is from the Santa Clarita Valley — is authorized to set policies that could have grave financial impacts on the SCV on behalf of interests not in this valley.

In other words, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, made up mostly of rich beach community residents appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown, agrees with Ventura County growers’ arguments that Santa Clara River water has too much chloride. And Santa Clarita Valley residents need to pay for its removal.

The situation is as absurd as Santa Clarita’s water dilemma several years ago in the Canyon Country hillside community of Shangri-La, northwest of Sierra Highway and Soledad Canyon Road.
The city was pumping water out of the ground to prevent a landslide and dumping it into the Santa Clara River — exactly where it was bound. For that it was fined an initial $69,000 (later negotiated to a lesser amount) due to levels of chloride and other pollutants in the water — water that would have made it to the river without the city’s help.

Yes, the people who fined us for taking water out of the ground and putting it right back into the ground say we have to pay so Ventura County growers can select crops ill suited to local conditions and grow those selected crops locally anyway.

And fine us they can. The amounts could be staggeringly high.

It’s all legal under the state’s interpretation of the federal Clean Water Act. And truth be told, we haven’t done everything we could to change these absurd water policies.

When the opportunity to win a seat on the Regional Water Quality Control Board presented itself with the retirement of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, nobody from the Santa Clarita Valley made a bid to get himself or herself appointed to the board.

Our local state representatives are mostly hamstrung Republicans in a superminority party. Neither of our Democratic state representatives has a sizable portion of the Santa Clarita Valley in his/her district, and to our knowledge neither has taken any steps toward revising any aspect of California’s implementation of the Clean Water Act.

That’s not to say we haven’t done anything. In 2008 we voted to ban salt-discharging water softeners — the first city in the nation to do so — in a bid to reduce chloride in the river.

And three years ago we stood up to the folks charged with figuring out how to meet the ridiculous chloridedemands, presenting them with a resounding “no” to a costly proposal.

In a raucous public meeting on the issue in July 2010, we told our Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District board that we weren’t paying for a $210-million-plus reverse-osmosis plant to please Ventura County farmers.

The board and its staff did what we asked: They went back to the drawing board to look for a more reasonable proposal. In April they presented us with four chloride-cleanup options, and this month they selected the option that would cost us the least amount of money, that would spare us from building a super-expensive reverse-osmosis plant, and that would provide us with some valuable infrastructure.

Option 4 Phase 1 requires a careful balancing of chloride-reduction practices. Sanitation District officials say they have a high level of confidence — though they won’t say how high — that Option 4 Phase 1 will work.

The alternative isn’t pretty: If Phase1 doesn’t work, then Option 4 Phase 2 kicks in, and it’s the most costly of the options presented last April.

There are still plenty of questions to be asked. But we believe our Sanitation District has acted in good faith to meet residents’ demands presented in 2010.

And while this isn’t a good plan, we believe it’s the best we’re going to see under current state law.

The alternative is changing state policy. That’s a long road, and the Santa Clarita Valley hasn’t taken even the first step in that direction.

So we pay fines that could skyrocket to millions of dollars, or we bring our questions and an open mind to hear the presentation on Option 4 Phase 1 during Monday night’s public meeting on the issue of ridding the Santa Clara River of chloride.

We encourage you to attend. The presentation will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall.


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