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Timothy Myers: Gearing up for a chloride war

Posted: April 27, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: April 27, 2013 2:00 a.m.

One of my favorite tales of Santa Clarita political lore involves former Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, and I happen to know that it actually occurred.

After his (only) electoral loss when seeking a seat on the Santa Clarita City Council in 1998, Mr. Smyth seriously networked in local and regional political organizations. He recalled attending an event and meeting some folks from a mining company that talked about its plans to start an operation in Soledad Canyon.

Realizing the heat that could surround a mining operation, the young(er) Mr. Smyth joked that he hoped the permitting of the mine would not create controversy during the 2000 City Council election, when he planned to run again.

The confident mine folk stated they believed that after a couple of perfunctory public hearings, they would receive their permits and folks would find themselves well used to the mine by the time of the 2000 election.

Now obviously those gentlemen worked for a corporate predecessor of Cemex. Those "perfunctory" public hearings resulted in grassroots public outrage that then found itself in the Santa Clarita City Council Chamber, where enough monetary resources and lunacy existed to fight said mine.

The last I checked, the calendar said "2013" and all the gravel still lies safely in the ground in Soledad Canyon.

Now Carl Boyer, in his oft-referenced historical book detailing the history of Santa Clarita’s rebellious tendencies, put forth the historical accident of the large government bureaucrat.

This truly accomplished and knowledgeable functionary expects a certain amount of deference from elected officials and, of course, the general public — since this individual stands among a handful of people who can keep the creaky machine of outsized local government moving forward.

When doing his or her work, this individual generally expects his elected "charges" to nod knowingly when making their pro forma presentations. When the "public" shows up, it generally will amount to a handful of folks with mild mental illnesses who use their three minutes to talk about encroaching sharia law and Masonic conspiracies.

The elected folks then rubber-stamp their recommendations and they can go about their business of planning how to "spike" their final defined benefit pension payout.

Mr. Sam Unger, executive officer of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, probably thought he was walking into his usual easy presentation on Tuesday night when he strode into the Santa Clarita City Council Chamber with his chloride slide deck and binders of "scientific studies" meant to convince Santa Claritans of the urgent need for an expensive water treatment plant to remove salt from waste water discharged into the Santa Clara River.

But instead of finding some complacent hillbillies on whom he could drop some knowledge, Mr. Unger found a tribe of unconquered Seminoles.

For those not familiar, I refer to the 500 or so Seminoles who retreated into the Everglades after the Second Seminole War in Florida, and whom the United States government left alone.

Mr. Unger, rather than finding complacency and bored agreement, found four of the five City Council members, in fact, painted up for war, lambasting the high-level functionary on his presentation and assertions.

And that all happened before the public participation. Instead of the usual gadflies and conspiracy theorists, Mr. Unger found an engineer (Alan Ferdman) who trained himself on this issue, reading everything available.

Worse yet, an actual environmental scientist, Maria Gutzeit, debunked Mr. Unger’s binders full of "science," pointing out correctly that they merely constituted a summary of earlier research and chloride contamination and did not actually entail current readings and impacts from the agricultural interests in Ventura County.

How will this resolve itself? Frank Ferry, whose fire and passion even "haters" appreciate when directed against someone attempting to victimize the entire community, mooted the possibility of "protecting" Ventura County farmers and ranchers from the chloride "poison" with the construction of a giant dam that would funnel all runoff to an equally huge reservoir, thus depriving the Ventura Plain of the H2O necessary for basic photosynthesis.

The city will build no such dam, but like the ruckus that resulted from the proposed sand and gravel mine so many years ago, it possesses monetary resources that can erect a virtual "dam" of litigation and opposing experts and studies that can delay the hoped-for treatment plant for years into the future.

We will truly miss this streak of orneriness, so lacking in our current culture, when the Myers Clan decamps to points South.

Timothy Myers is a Valencia resident. "Myers’ Musings" publishes Saturdays in The Signal.


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