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Water plans may drown in earmark moratorium

Water: Capitol Hill’s ban puts key projects by Castaic Lake Water Agency into area of uncertainty

Posted: February 8, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 8, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

Recent rules on earmarks are casting a cloud of doubt on Capitol Hill over the fate of two key projects pursued by the local water wholesaler: the ongoing cleanup of toxic salts in groundwater and a growing water recycling program.

Anchor Consulting LLC lobbyists, hired by the Castaic Lake Water Agency, recently informed members of the agency’s Governmental Relations and Outreach Committee about the implications posed by the recent earmarking ban and Democrats losing control of the House of Representatives, with 83 new Republican members.

In a memo Anchor sent agency officials last month, lobbyists warned that the Republican takeover and earmark ban “has brought a great deal of confusion as to how legislation will move forward.”

Anchor Consulting lobbyists described the process as “evolving” and “still very fluid.”

Health concerns
Since 2001, the agency has secured more than $12 million for its Eastern Santa Clara River Basin Perchlorate Contamination Initiative.

Perchlorate, a byproduct in the manufacturing of solid rocket fuel, can damage the human thyroid gland.

“It is appropriate that the federal government continue to support the cleanup associated with the manufacture of munitions at the Whittaker-Bermite site,” said Dirk Marks, the agency’s water resources manager.

“Through its efforts the agency has secured more than $12 million of federal funding to assist in the monitoring and cleanup at the site and we plan on pursuing addition funding for future years.”

Anchor Consulting officials reminded agency officials in its memo about one key point to remember about earmarks.

The memo states in underlined bold text:

“The elimination of earmarks does not decrease the overall funding level of the federal government.”

Optimism continues
An earmark is a spending provision that benefits an individual congressional member’s district by directing federal funds to a specific project or providing exemptions from taxes or fees.

House Republicans and President Barack Obama have called for an earmark moratorium. They were joined last week by Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, who said Feb. 1 that the Senate Appropriations Committee, which he chairs, will also implement a moratorium on earmarks.

Local lobbyist Scott Wilk, who works with Anchor Consulting, was optimistic about pushing both interests despite earmark rules.

“Particularly on the issue of perchlorate, that’s a program the fed has already recognized,” Wilk said.

“We’re hoping of increasing that amount to $20 million.”

Wilk is also confident that the agency can secure federal money for its recycled water program.

“We’ve been on Capitol Hill talking it up,” Wilk said. “Particularly for the West, it’s a program of great merit, not only here in California but for the rest of the western states.”

Agency management considers recycled water to be a crucial component of the agency’s water-distribution plan.

“Recycled water represents the single largest future new water supply for the Santa Clarita Valley,” Dirks said.

“There are real advantages to using a water supply that is already in our valley.” 

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