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Chloride bill gets stalled

Recently re-introduced, proposal to standardize statewide chloride level hits another snag

Posted: April 24, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 24, 2011 1:55 a.m.

A recently introduced bill calling for a statewide chloride standard is already opposed by agriculture interests eager to sit down and talk before it becomes law, a local lawmaker said this week.

“We’ve had a long relationship with agricultural folks, so certainly, they had concerns with the bill,” Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, said Friday. Smyth wrote the bill. “And, because of our relationship, we’ve decided to step back and see if we can come up with an agreement.”

So Smyth decided to put a two-year hold on the bill while talks with the agriculture industry continue.

Crop concerns
Removing chloride — a naturally occurring salt — from Santa Clarita Valley’s discharged water became a hotly debated topic last summer, when downstream Ventura County farmers said it was damaging to their crops.

The cost of removing chloride to avoid fines issued by the regional board for noncompliance could be $500 million, SCV residents were told. The bill would have to be paid by local water users.

That could skyrocket sewer rates and cripple local businesses, especially those that use lots of water, such as restaurants.

Smyth’s bill
Smyth introduced Assembly Bill 1058 on March 31. The bill calls for the state to adopt a policy establishing a statewide water-quality objective and plan of implementation for levels of chloride.”

The bill, which would amend a section of the state’s Water Bond Law adopted in 1970, drew the immediate attention of agricultural interests in Sacramento.

Under the proposed bill, the State Water Resources Control Board to set a statewide water quality objective for chloride by July 1, 2013, and outline a way to implement the plan.

The objective should take into account that “Other measures of salinity may affect the suitability of water used for agricultural purposes,” according to the bill.

Smyth’s bill was turned over to the state’s Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials committee for discussion and consideration.

Smyth, who served on that committee for four years, said he doubts it will endorse his bill.

Fearing it would die in committee and seeing an opportunity to hammer out an agreement with the Farm Bureau, Smyth said he decided to “park the bill in committee for two years.” The stall gives him time to meet with farm interests, come up with an agreement and perhaps draft a more comprehensive version of the current bill, Smyth said.

“The positive thing about this is that it’s brought both sides to the table,” he said.

Local support
The Santa Clarita City Council is expected Tuesday to vote on whether to endorse it.

“This is a bill that would make science the indicator for where chloride levels should be (in terms of) a certain rate,” city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said.

The city reached out to Gov. Jerry Brown on the issue of chloride for the first time Thursday during Brown’s first visit to Santa Clarita since he was elected governor. Santa Clarita Mayor Marsha McLean asked the governor for a meeting to discuss the issue.

Brown, speaking at the invitation-only town-hall meeting at Hart High School, told her: “Maybe we could do something.”

In September, McLean drafted a resolution now being considered by the League of California Cities demanding that the state provide cities with adequate funding to pay for special regulatory fees such as water quality fines issued by the water resources control board and its nine regional boards.


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