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Help we don’t need

Posted: November 28, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: November 28, 2013 2:00 a.m.

As The Signal Editorial Board wrote on Nov. 10, the local chloride salt scam drama ended, for now, with a big flip flop.

A process that started more than seven years ago has resulted in the best of some marginal options being selected as the basis for how we will proceed.

What does this mean to you? Why should you care?

First, it means rates will go up on your property tax. For businesses, start-up and ongoing fees will also go up.

Exactly how much isn’t entirely clear, but when annual costs of hundreds of dollars (for homeowners) and thousands (for businesses) are waved away as if they are nothing — as if we just have piles of cash lying around with nothing better to do with it — I get discouraged.

Second, it means we just accepted new discharge limits that are the lowest in all of Southern California, with the exception of a little creek somewhere in Orange County. This means we accepted a limit that will be a burden on every homeowner, every business, for life.

Suddenly, there is talk of trying to “work with us.” Shouldn’t that have happened BEFORE the regulation was issued and BEFORE millions of dollars were spent on an Environmental Impact Report consulting and lobbying fees, not to mention public angst?

The third point is most important to me. This process documented how poorly our public agencies work together and how poorly they represent the people.

Ever been to a committee meeting where you are told your input is welcome, yet it sounds like no one is listening?

Eventually it becomes obviously a waste of time to participate, at which point an echo chamber develops, with everyone remaining on the committee agreeing they are indeed right about everything.

THAT describes the outreach from day one of the chloride debacle, with the exception of meetings run by our Sacramento elected officials Scott Wilk, Steve Fox and Steve Knight.

Remember the cry about how this was protecting agriculture? Strawberries! Avocados! The same crops that do fine in much higher chloride levels?

In the end, on the sly, we learned that it is really about a historic chloride limit that we haven’t seen, don’t know how statistically valid it is, and, incidentally, is subject to change if studies show change still protects beneficial use.

Technical mumbo jumbo? Too complicated? Perhaps. The take-away is this: This was a dog-and-pony show that frankly outright misled the public.

When we implement regulations, we have a right to know it is necessary in clear, credible explanations. And we have a right to cost-effective, reasonable solutions.

That Alternative 4 in the Environmental Impact Report — the phased Alternative Water Resources Management plan — died upon final consideration by the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District is a win.

The final choice, Alternative 2, keeps water resources local and can be the first step in water reuse.

The flip flop — that Castaic Lake Water Agency and the Sanitation District spent hundreds of thousands of dollars pitching Alternative 4, only to see Alternative 2 survive as the choice of residents and downstream users alike — is another sign of disconnect between agencies and the people.

What do the people know? We know we pretty much live in a desert. We know the statewide water wars are far from over, and that water politics are often messy, convoluted, and illogical.

Water quality and water quantity will massively affect everything from property values to environment to quality of life and economic prosperity for a region.

What else do we know? This was bungled and could have been done better. Residents publicly asked very good questions and brought forth very good ideas and were shut down in this process.

Going forward, as California struggles with water issues, we need fair and unbiased leadership. We need leaders who are inclusive and respectful of the people they serve — not leaders who think they know better and act accordingly.

During testimony on the chloride EIR, the public asked for a coalition effort. And what happened? Already the powers that be that brought us the past debacle have stepped in to “help” one startup group.
We don’t need that kind of help. An echo chamber didn’t work before and is not needed in the future.

The great victory was that people from every corner of this community understood what was going down and spoke up. Those same people, and more, need to be encouraged to form a true coalition that will protect this community and its many resources.

Maria Gutzeit is a local resident, engineer, elected water official and business owner. She has worked in the field of environmental regulation for 25 years.



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