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Groundwater bill examined

Local water agency opposes proposed changes; feels current rules are adequate

Posted: May 20, 2008 6:42 p.m.
Updated: July 21, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
Groundwater is stirring up deep opposition and resentment among some Santa Clarita residents who fear the resource is being manipulated by local water officials in order to facilitate more urban development.

Submitted to members of the Newhall County Water District Thursday night was a memo from the water district's General Manager Steve Cole on pending state legislation that would change the way groundwater is assessed.

Assembly Bill AB2046 requires water suppliers such as the Newhall County Water District to submit to the state the quantity and quality of groundwater being assessed in relation to supplying that water ultimately to an identified group, such as a 500-unit housing development.

If the groundwater assessed proves contaminated with a substance such as perchlorate the bill as it stands now requires the water supplier to submit additional information as to how the water will be treated and
assurances that the water treaters know how to remove the contaminant.

If those conditions are met, groundwater assessments are allowed to stand. Assessments often lead to planning, and planning often paves the way for development.

Proposed changes to the bill, however, would preclude water suppliers from relying on groundwater in calculating their water supplies.

Specifically, AB2046 would preclude the supplier from relying on groundwater as a supply earmarked for any proposed development project (such as a 500-unit housing development) if the groundwater does not
meet applicable state standards - such as the standard set for safe drinking water - on the date the water supply assessment is prepared.

An urban water supplier would not be able to include such water in its urban water management plan, for example, under the new rules, if approved.

Members of the Newhall County Water District voted Thursday 4-1 in favor of sending a formal letter of opposition to the proposed changes to Sacramento.

"The Board feels that the existing AB2046 legislation is adequate," Cole told The Signal.

"This whole thing deals with long-term planning. This bill (with its proposed changes) would make you treat it first before you can assess it. And, when it comes to Santa Clarita, it's all about perchlorate.

"With this (proposed) bill you have to treat all of it before you could include it in your plan," Cole explained. "It doesn't work that way in the long-term."

Cam Noltemeyer, a Santa Clarita resident concerned about how water is obtained and disseminated locally, said she urged the water board to uphold the proposed changes.

"I requested that they support it," she told The Signal, referring to the proposed changes. "I really question why a company like the water district would not support that bill.

"I believe, basically, that they are controlled by the building industry... If they're really looking out for the health and safety of Santa Clarita residents then it should not be counted until its cleaned up," she said about contaminated groundwater.

"Just don't count it, that's what we're saying."

Right now, the clock is ticking for proponents of the proposed changes.

In order for the Bill to remain active this year, AB2046 must pass the state Assembly by May 30. If the bill passes, it would next have to pass the Senate by August 31, the last day for any bill to be passed this year.

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