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Our View: Staying the course in the water war

Posted: July 31, 2010 7:30 p.m.
Updated: August 1, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

A lot of kudos are due for Tuesday night’s decision to delay raising sewer rates in the Santa Clarita Valley.

County Supervisor Michael Antonovich and Santa Clarita City Council members Laurene Weste and Marsha McLean deserve credit for the tough decision they made.

Facing the threat of looming fines that some estimated at nearly $200,000 a day, the three members of the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District board listened to speaker after speaker protest the rate increases Tuesday night and decided there must be other options. And they would work to find them.

Kudos also go out to the 7,000-plus concerned property owners who submitted protest forms opposing the rate hike, and to the more than 100 people who packed the City Council Chambers for Tuesday’s public hearing.

It was democracy at its most grassroots — and we say at its best.

There are lots of reasons why those other options to the rate hike must be found.

A 50 percent increase in the cost of using valley sewer lines could be a hardship on residents who live on a fixed income.

But the numbers indicate it could be devastating to the Santa Clarita Valley economy because the increases could mount into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for local businesses, especially restaurants.

Longtime valley residents remember the days of scarce choices among eateries, and none of us want to see those days return.

There’s also the principle of the thing: Why should local residents foot 100 percent of the bill to remove chloride from our wastewater when the water comes to us from the state heavily laden with the forbidden salt?

If we’re responsible for taking chloride out of the water that runs downstream to Ventura County farmers, why isn’t the state responsible for delivering clean water to us in the first place?

Now that the decision to delay a vote while alternatives are found — and the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board has indicated it will be patient, at least for a while — it’s time to move to the next phase.

First, we need to see definitive scientific research that concludes chloride in the river damages the crops downstream.

The Regional Water Quality Control Board issued its call for reduced chloride based on peer reviews done in places like Israel — and peer reviews of peer reviews. The board’s conclusion is not adequately justified.

Second, alternatives to a $210 million chloride-removing plant — paid for entirely by Santa Clarita Valley residents and businesses — need to be found.

Mayor Weste has indicated other treatments may be available. Let’s investigate them.

Let’s lobby the state to acquire a dose of good sense so it recognizes how its different departments, boards and agencies are producing conflicting directives and orders, creating unfair situations for the good people, and good businesses, who want to live in and help build the Golden State.

Lastly, we, the residents of the Santa Clarita Valley, need to keep the pressure on.

To protect our low residential sewage fee structure — the result of good planning on our valley’s founders’ part — and to protect our economy, we must continue to make our voices heard on this issue.

The fight isn’t over. Tell the Regional Water Quality Control Board where you stand by writing to 320 W. Fourth St., Suite 200, Los Angeles, CA, 90013.

Read The Signal for updates on the issue, and exercise your freedom of speech when opportunities present themselves.
Together, we can find a better way to solve this issue than throwing money down our sewer system.

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