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Candidates in sync at water forum

Two incumbent water board members discuss water rates and chloride levels

Posted: October 12, 2013 10:50 p.m.
Updated: October 12, 2013 10:50 p.m.

Common ground was the name of the game for two incumbents running for re-election to the Newhall County Water District board that took part in a Saturday forum held by local media outlets at the SCVTV studio in Newhall.

The two participating candidates, B.J. Atkins and Maria Gutzeit have both served multiple terms on the board, which oversees water services for a wide cross-section of the Santa Clarita Valley, including portions of Newhall, Castaic, Canyon Country and Saugus.

Both Atkins and Gutzeit trumpeted water rates charged for Newhall County Water District customers as a key success of the district, saying they have been kept low and steady over the last few years.

Both also said they have concerns with a phased plan from the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District to address the chloride level of water discharged into the Santa Clara River, which currently exceeds the state limit.

Gutzeit said she thinks the plan would send too much water from the Santa Clarita Valley downstream, since the preferred alternative plan outlined by the Sanitation District entails using supplemental water to dilute salt in the water before it is discharged into the river.

Atkins agreed on that point and said he thinks people have been led astray by what the plan actually entails.

The Castaic Lake Water Agency’s purchase of the Valencia Water Company last year was another common point for the pair.

“I do have a problem with it because it was illegal,” Gutzeit said, adding that she believes the move violates legislation that was passed to allow the CLWA to purchase another the Santa Clarita Water Division, another water retailer, more than a decade ago.

Atkins, who sits on the CLWA board of directors as the representative for the Newhall County Water District, voted against the purchase last year.

“It was almost clandestine how it went down, and I am still mortified,” Atkins said, adding that he too thinks the purchase is “blatantly illegal.”

That acquisition would give CLWA control over roughly 84 percent of the retail water connections in the Santa Clarita Valley.

The two represented half the field running for the three seats on the district board that are up for grabs on Nov. 5. Incumbent Kathy Colley, who is seeking her second term on the board, and challenger Carl Puckett did not attend Saturday’s forum.

The forum was hosted by The Signal, SCVTV, KHTS AM 1220 and College of the Canyons Cougar News.


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