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State Republicans to offer water fix

Bill could be step toward solving SCV’s chloride dilemma

Posted: October 30, 2009 10:08 p.m.
Updated: October 31, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
With California lawmakers one step closer to fixing the state water crisis, one Santa Clarita Valley water manager is optimistic the state will finally fix a problem that has spanned three decades.

California Assembly Republicans will introduce a bill Monday that will push more conservation and establish a Delta Protection Commission that will oversee operation of the estuary that is the source of 50 percent of Santa Clarita Valley's water.

While the plan does speak to upgrading the way water is transported from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, nowhere in the 98-page bill do the words "peripheral canal" appear.

"Certainly I would have liked to see it in the bill, but it isn't necessary," said Dan Masnada, general manager for Castaic Lake Water Agency. "But this bill greases the skids for a Delta fix, which a peripheral canal is a part of."

If built, a peripheral canal would pull water from the northern reaches of the Delta far from the salt-laced waters where the State Water Project currently takes drinking water for Southern California.

Taking water from the southern portion of the Delta causes high chloride levels in drinking and wastewater in the Santa Clarita Valley, and that high chloride level could force $250 million of upgrades to the Saugus and Valencia wastewater treatment plants.

The current practice of drawing water from the southern Delta has also posed a threat to the Delta smelt, an endangered fish species.

There is mention in the bill of a conveyance system, which Masnada said is state water insider talk for a peripheral canal.

The bill said construction on such a conveyance system can't begin until state water contractors, including Castaic Lake Water Agency, agree to a payment plan to foot the bill for the project.

But the vague references don't make the canal a done deal, Masnada said.

"It doesn't pull the trigger on the peripheral canal," he said about the bill.

But Masnada said this marks a historic level of progress on fixing California's water problems.

"I am satisfied there is progress at all," he said.

He expects lawmakers could have a bill on Gov. Arnold Schwarzennegger's desk by Friday.

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