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Lynne Plambeck: Lobbying for chlorides in the Santa Clara River

Posted: April 7, 2010 9:15 p.m.
Updated: April 8, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Perhaps it is a good thing for 70 people from Santa Clarita to go to Sacramento, including many whose bills were paid at public expense.

But if that is the case, then they should be informed about the issues before they go. Otherwise the potential exists for them to do more harm than good.

That may be the result of certain individuals lobbying on the issue of chlorides in the Santa Clara River.

After 15 years of complaints by downstream farmers that Santa Clarita’s salty sanitation plant discharge and water softeners were hurting agriculture, the parties finally came to a negotiated agreement to resolve the issues and comply with the Clean Water Act.

In October 2008, the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District of Los Angeles County, Upper Basin Water Purveyors (several of whom were on this lobbying trip), United Water Conservation District and Ventura County Agricultural Water Coalition signed a memorandum of understanding that provided for an “Alternative Water Resources Management Plan” to address this problem.

The project is supposed to be phased in with a completion date of 2015.

In signing the argument, the agencies stated that “The Parties have determined that this MOU is an appropriate format for initiating implementation of the AWRM Program, and will benefit the water resources of the Santa Clara River Watershed.” The agreement included:
* Conversion of the disinfection processes at the Saugus and Valencia WRPs to ultraviolet light technologies.

* Construction of an advanced treatment facility at the Valencia WRP, consisting of microfiltration and reverse osmosis.

* Construction of brine disposal facilities associated with the brine generated from reverse osmosis technologies.

* Construction of a desalinated recycled water conveyance pipeline from Valencia WRP to the Camulos Ranch surface water diversion.

Members of the city lobbying trip seemed to be totally unaware that such an agreement had been reached after so many years of discharge violations, legal wrangling and discussions, not to mention the completion and certification of an environmental impact report to evaluate the project.

In 2009, the Castaic Lake Water Agency presented a panel workshop for the entire Association of California Water Agencies Region 8, covering a good portion of Southern California, to present this landmark negotiated agreement as an example of how watershed stakeholders can get together and resolve their issues. If I am not mistaken, Santa Clarita city representatives also attended this workshop.

So who is now lobbying for throwing out this hard-won agreement? Why are representatives from our city running to Sacramento to complain about the high cost of chlorides after the water agencies were finally able to reach an agreement that would protect the sanitation plants from being fined for illegal discharges, fines which would end up being paid by Santa Claritans on their sewer bills?

Why did representatives of the water agencies on this lobbying trip not explain the negotiated agreement to the rest of the group? 

Why would they go to the Association of California Water Agencies to present this as a problem when the settlement was showcased by CLWA as a solution?

Or could they perhaps be trying to renege on this agreement?

I hope that is not the case. An agreement is not just the beginning point of additional negotiations, as some in this valley seem to believe. It is supposed to present a solution upon which all parties can rely as they move forward.  

As has been stated in previous Environmentally Speaking columns, most of the salt problem is due to the high salt content of State Water Project water that must be imported from Northern California to fuel future growth.

The sanitation district has rightly addressed that problem by increasing the sewer connection fees required for new growth in order to cover the cost of additional treatment to remove the salts.  

But recently, developers have complained to the city that their costs are too high and should be lowered. Perhaps this is the source of the lobbying effort in Sacramento. Would the city once again like the existing residents to pick up these costs instead of the developers?

That would certainly be par for the course.

Lynne Plambeck is president of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment (SCOPE) and a Santa Clarita resident. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Environmentally Speaking” appears Thursdays in The Signal and rotates among local environmentalists.


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