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Local sanitation officials bow to Ventura farmers

After closed-door meeting with interest groups, district changes mind on chloride plan

Posted: October 30, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 30, 2013 2:00 a.m.

After years researching and months perfecting one of four plans to reduce salty chloride in the Santa Clara River, local sanitation officials abandoned that plan and chose another following one meeting with Ventura County interests, The Signal has learned.

On Oct. 22 — the day after Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District officials unveiled their preferred chloride-reducing plan at a public meeting at Santa Clarita City Hall — they joined local water officials for a meeting in Santa Paula called by Ventura County farming interests.

Attending the meeting were representatives of the sanitation district; the Castaic Lake Water Agency: Kennedy/Jenks Consultants — a high-powered water consulting firm, the Farm Bureau of Ventura County and the United Water Conservation District — a consortium of Ventura County water interests.

They discussed details of the plan picked by district officials and presented to Santa Clarita Valley residents Oct. 21.

About 30 minutes into the Santa Paula meeting, however, the Ventura County water and farming interests — led by the United Water Conservation District — stood up from the discussion table and asked to speak privately among themselves, according to Dan Masnada, general manager of the Castaic Lake Water Agency.
“When they returned they said, ‘We kind of looked at it and, for a number of reasons, we’re going to support Alternative 2.”

That alternative — calling for reduced chloride discharge through reverse-osmosis technology and deep-well injection — received a unanimous endorsement Monday night from the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District board.

During Monday’s Sanitation District meeting, E. Michael Solomon, the general manager of the United Water Conservation District — the agency that called the Santa Paula meeting — summed up Ventura County farming concerns this way:

“The Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District has made only partial progress towards compliance with its legal obligations to halt contamination of the Santa Clara River with excessive levels of chloride.”

“Although the removal of self re-generating water softeners has lessened the severity of the contamination — and I applaud you for your efforts — Santa Clarita is still no closer to achieving a permanent solution to the problem than it was a decade ago.”

“This violation of state and federal water quality standards has harmed and continues to harm downstream users who rely on that water to irrigate salt-sensitive crops,” he said. “We and our constituents have run out of patience.”

Solomon then urged the board to approve Alternative 2.

Asked why Ventura County interests abandoned Alternative 4, local officials said they understood the problem was technical.

“There were multiple technical issues with the effectiveness of the salt management facilities in Ventura County,” said Sanitation District spokesman Basil Hewitt.

“It was reported to me that they looked at some technical data and decided that they would not get behind (Alternative 4),” said Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar, one of three Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District Board members.

Alternative 2 was the sanitation district’s backup plan.

“They had a few reasons but, number one, they had perhaps some technical issues,” said Masnada. “I got the sense that United (Water Conservation District), the Farm Bureau and Oxnard plain and coastal farmers were conditionally supportive of Alternative 4 but that the farmers in the Piru area were not supportive.”
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