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Kevin D. Korenthal: Scrap the MOU and support the ratepayers

Candidate Forum

Posted: September 18, 2010 8:45 p.m.
Updated: September 19, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

You’ve heard the saying “The devil’s in the details,” right? It’s traditionally used to describe things that seem good on the surface, but sour when faced with a more thorough examination. 

When it comes to water policy, details matter. They are the only way rate payers can hold water providers accountable. There’s no better example of this fact than my recent analysis of a 29-page memorandum of understanding of the alternative water resources management plan.

The Castaic Lake Water Agency is a signatory to this 2008 agreement, which serves as the foundation for the current debate regarding the construction of an expensive chloride-treatment facility. 

In my work as the executive director of a statewide association of public-works building contractors, I review and comment on detailed legal agreements all the time.

As someone who wants to represent CLWA rate payers, I wanted to better understand what we’d all been committed to, so I jumped in and looked at the details.

The good
The MOU (which defines the management plan) has some positive points, especially as it relates to the document being a comprehensive plan to increase water flow to the Santa Clarita Valley and surrounding areas.

It also reopens the question of what reprocessed sewage water can be used for by requiring a study of its potential uses
.
This, of course, presents a bit of an incongruity because studies, or lack of them, are being blamed in part for the dubious determination that chloride levels in excess of 117 milligrams per liter are harmful to strawberry and avocado crops downstream.

The management plan as defined in the MOU is an extremely complex set of instructions that, if followed, alleges that several water sources currently unavailable to Santa Clarita and the surrounding area (including vast portions of Ventura County) will become available once again.

The bad
The problem is that the management plan deems the construction of various water infrastructure projects necessary to accessing these additional water sources.

The Santa Clarita Sanitation District will be responsible to fund construction of the east Piru well network, as well as east Piru conveyance and extraction wells.

These are examples of projects listed in the MOU that the Los Angeles Sanitation District will fund and build but will not own or benefit directly from.

This means Sanitation District ratepayers in Santa Clarita are going to bear the cost for water infrastructure projects intended to benefit Ventura County farmers with no guarantee the increased water flow will reduce water costs.

Without lower water costs, Santa Clarita ratepayers could face hundreds of dollars annually in higher sanitation fees.

Businesses could also be hammered.

I’m very concerned about how this will impact ratepayers and our local economy.

Moreover, the management plan presupposes that a chloride treatment facility is necessary, yet there isn’t the scientific research to substantiate this claim.  Studies to confirm this were never completed.

The MOU also assumes that a single-use chloride-treatment facility is the only way to bring all chloride levels, whether in Los Angeles or Ventura counties, down to proscribed levels.

Page two, section B of the MOU reads: “The AWRM program, in comparison with the conventional approach, would have economic, public acceptance feasibility, timing, environmental quality and water supply benefit.”

Based on my analysis, I believe the only thing the managment plan ensures is that CLWA ratepayers get the shaft in the name of ensuring downstream interests have access to plenty of chloride-free water with which to address their own water quality problems.

Or better stated, we pay for it and they benefit from it.

Sanitation District ratepayers will see a dramatic increase in sewer fees while businesses seeking to open or expand businesses in Santa Clarita will be greeted with sewer hookup fees four to five times higher than they are today.

Nowhere in the MOU is a guarantee that after spending all this money and building the infrastructure suggested that Santa Clarita will receive additional sources of water.

It really depends on the mood of the powerful other interests. Furthermore, there is nothing that would indicate that an increased water flow will offset rising Sanitation District fees. Again, we’re on the hook to pay for a return that isn’t certain. 

Having pledged in my campaign for Castaic Lake Water Agency to protect ratepayers and ensure that they are receiving quality water that is reliable and reasonably priced, I simply cannot support the management plan.

Instead, I believe we must scrap the MOU, go back to the drawing board and forge a solution that addresses our water quality and supply needs in a fair and equitable way. 

Kevin D. Korenthal is the executive director of the Associated Builders & Contractors, California Cooperation Committee and is a candidate for Castaic Lake Water Agency. He is a 28-year resident of Santa Clarita. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of  The Signal.

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