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Doubling water demand

Posted: May 9, 2009 10:13 p.m.
Updated: May 10, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Looking west at the end of Pico Canyon, the Newhall Ranch high country spreads out to the west of Santa Clarita. As part of the development of the 20,000-home Newhall Ranch community, 5,700 acres of the high country will be set aside as open space managed by a joint powers authority including the city of Santa Clarita, Los Angeles County and the...

When the Valencia-sized Newhall Ranch community is finished, it will consume more than double the amount of water that’s been used for agricultural purposes on the sprawling site.

Nevertheless, according to the developer, there will be no shortage of water.

Newhall Ranch will ultimately consume about 17,000 acre-feet of water per year, according to Marlee Lauffer, spokeswoman for Newhall Land and Farming Co.

An acre-foot of water — a foot of water standing on an area measuring one acre, or 325,851 gallons — is roughly what a typical household uses annually.

The project site has historically used about 7,038 acre-feet of water annually for agricultural purposes.

Water availability for Newhall Land’s last big project is but one item addressed in the resource management and development plan released last month with the draft environmental impact report for Newhall Ranch.

Company officials expect construction to begin on the 21,000-home, 12,000-acre community southwest of the Interstate 5/Highway 126 junction within the next three or four years.

Newhall Ranch’s water will come from several sources, according to information provided by Lauffer.

About 7,000 acre-feet per year will come from former agricultural supplies and the remainder will come from a planned Newhall Ranch Water Reclamation Plant. The plant, Lauffer said, will serve Newhall Ranch with a capacity of 6.8 million gallons per day.

Newhall Ranch  also will receive 3,200 acre-feet of recycled water annually from the Valencia Wastewater Treatment Plant, said Dan Masnada, general manager of the Castaic Lake Water Agency.

At the tail end of the development, he said, Newhall Ranch will also annually receive 1,600 acre-feet of repurposed agricultural water from Kern County.

According to Lauffer: “Newhall Ranch, as a result, will have more than enough water to meet ... demand in both wet and dry years.”

As part of Newhall Ranch’s development, 5,700 acres of high country will be set aside as open space. In addition, 970 acres of the Santa Clara River will be protected, and five areas — totaling 167 acres — are set aside for protection of the San Fernando Valley spineflower, once thought extinct.

Lauffer said Newhall Land will provide a $2 million endowment to the Center for Natural Lands Management for preservation and conservation.

She said Newhall Ranch residents will pay a small annual assessment for conservation.

The open space will be overseen by the Newhall Ranch High Country Recreation and Conservation Joint Powers Authority. The JPA board will include two Santa Clarita officials, said Rick Gould, director of city parks, recreation and community services. It will also include two representatives from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, one Newhall Land official — who will eventually be replaced by a Newhall Ranch resident — two county officials and one person from the Center for Natural Lands Management.

The open space will be managed by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, Gould said. That is the same arm of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy that manages Ed Davis Towsley Canyon Park.

“It’s just one more piece in the green belt,” Gould said, referring to the swaths of open space in which Santa Clarita officials have been laboring to ensconce the city.

The Newhall Ranch Specific Plan was approved in 2003 by the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission, and the EIR was compiled over the last five years at a cost of millions.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Fish and Game are the lead agencies overseeing the EIR. Lauffer said Newhall Land expects the Army Corps to make its final decision on the report in early 2010.

If the EIR is approved, Newhall Land can begin obtaining the necessary permits required for Newhall Ranch.
The report can be viewed online at



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