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TimBen Boydston: Just say no to $250M salt tax

SCV Voices

Posted: May 23, 2009 10:18 p.m.
Updated: May 24, 2009 4:55 a.m.
For out-of-control government spending plans, one does not need to look as far as Sacramento.

On Tuesday, Mayor Frank Ferry, City Councilwoman Laurene Weste and county Supervisor Don Knabe are slated to vote on the first part of the rate increases from the Sanitation District that are projected to total $600 per year for the average household by the year 2015.

That is compared to the $180 a year that we currently pay.

The projected increases will amount to an estimated $10,000 over 20 years, and that's if everything goes as planned, which in the world of government is highly unlikely.

This "salt tax" being proposed comes as quite a shock to those of us who believed we had solved our salt-water problem when we voted overwhelmingly for Measure S in November 2008, which outlawed salt-based water softeners.

Our government officials have been telling us for the last several years that the solution to our "chloride problem" was the removal of the offending softeners.

In an article dated March 26, 2004, we were led to believe that "If homeowners do not remove the devices, then Santa Clarita residents could be charged an additional $400 a year to help build a $300 million, 45-mile pipeline from the Santa Clarita Valley to the ocean to remove the salt." (According to Sanitation District officials, this absurd 45-mile pipeline exists nowhere else in the world.)

So now - in a move that our state Sen. George Runner believes is a breach of trust - our Sanitation District, in conjunction with the state Regional Water Quality Control Board - says that taking out the softeners is not enough.

They want an arbitrary, unscientifically supported, and unreasonable level of chloride in our river of 117 mg/liter (as measured at the L.A. County/Ventura County Line).

Understand that readings of chloride in our river were as high as 400 mg/liter in 1964. Also know that there is no scientific evidence of crop damage in the Highway 126 corridor as a result of elevated chloride levels.

Most importantly, know that for the last few months the chloride level has been measured at 120 mg/liter. Instead of passing whopping tax increases now, why not wait until we have actual accurate data to see if we drop another 3mg/liter and come into compliance?

When you dig into the specifics of this $250-million tax increase, you find some very disturbing things. After we spend millions to build a plant to take out the salt, we are going to ship some of that "cleaned" water to the strawberry farmers in Ventura so they can water their crops with it.

They need this water because they have over-pumped their aquifer and have a real salt-water problem. The ocean is seeping into their water supply, and those levels of salt really will kill crops.

Disturbing also is the estimated $26 million worth of water that will be purchased with our tax money so that in drought years we can pump more from our aquifer and put it into the river at the edge of the county, for the use of agriculture or development downstream in Ventura County.

Perhaps this whole boondoggle is more understandable when you realize that the interpretation of the Literature Survey that the water board used to establish the "scientific" levels of chlorides was done by a panel of six "experts" - half of whom have had ties to, or are working for, agricultural interests in Ventura County.

Lastly, understand that the only crop that supposedly could be negatively affected by some level of chloride above 117 mg/liter (one of the unbiased PhD experts on the panel says the level would be at least 178 mg/liter before there was any damage) is avocados.

In the approximately eight miles of river that we would be paying $250 million to "protect," there is exactly one farmer with about 100 acres planted in avocados, with no proven crop damage from chloride.

I call upon our elected officials to stop this insanity and to stand up to the water board, as we have stood up to multinational companies and the federal government, and vote "no" on this outrageous tax increase.

TimBen Boydston is a former Santa Clarita City Council member. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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