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Tesoro comes up dry

Development: Officials say 550 proposed homes of the Tesoro del Valle project wouldn’t receive water

Posted: August 10, 2010 9:55 p.m.
Updated: August 11, 2010 4:55 a.m.

There’s no water to support more than three-quarters of the unbuilt homes in the Tesoro del Valle community in Saugus, water agency officials said Tuesday.

Developers are working with the county to build another 714 homes north of the existing Tesoro del Valle community, which is located north of Copper Hill Drive and west of San Francisquito Canyon Road.

But 550 of those homes are outside Castaic Lake Water Agency’s service area — and the agency is unlikely to include them, General Manager Dan Masnada said Tuesday.

And the alternative, the Newhall County Water District, has also said it probably wouldn’t be able to help.

That leaves developers with the task of finding a supply for those 550 homes and paying for it, Masnada said.

“There isn’t water for them,” Masnada said.

The Tesoro del Valle master-planned community is being developed by John Evans and Timothy Collins for land owner Montalvo Properties, LLC.

Evans, contacted by phone Tuesday, declined to comment for this story.

The 1,077 existing Tesoro del Valle homes, the first of two phases of the master-planned community, are within the water agency’s service area and receive water from.

The county had approved another 474 homes to be built in the development’s first phase. But the developers want to shift those homes to the second phase instead, according to county planning documents. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors could consider the revision by the end of the year, county planning staff said.

Masnada said that the agency had enough water for the 474 homes when they were proposed to be built inside the agency’s service area. However, Masnada said that even if the county allows the developer to relocate the planned homes, laws prevent the agency from moving the water supply with them.

“It’s either in, or it’s out,” Masnada said. “If we allowed that, all sorts of developers would play that game. We don’t want to set a precedent. We would be trying to administer those types of projects ad nauseam. We have to make it cut and dry. Our No. 1 priority is to best protect the interest of the folks here today and those who will be here in the future, inside the service area.”

The nearest other water wholesaler is the Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency, which wouldn’t have a shot at annexing the development either, Masnada said. Agencies can only annex property next to their service area, not miles away, he said.

The wrangling over water has been years in the making.

Several years ago, the Castaic Lake Water Agency was in discussions with four proposed developments in the outer limits of Santa Clarita Valley, including Tesoro del Valle. Castaic Lake Water Agency had purchased enough Kern River water to supply about 11,000 additional homes, enough for all four projects.

But state and federal court rulings in 2007 put a wrench in those plans.

The Castaic Lake Water Agency buys water wholesale from the State Water Project and sells it to four Santa Clarita Valley water retailers. The State Water Project’s supply comes from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Certain endangered fish live in that delta, and the court rulings aimed to protect those animals by limiting how much water could be pumped out of their habitat.

With the agency’s main water supply cut back, officials shifted its newly secured Kern River supply to cover their existing water users, instead of the proposed new ones.

The Castaic Lake Water Agency is not expanding its service area unless a developer finds a water source, Masnada said.

The agency administers about half of the Santa Clarita Valley’s water supply, and almost all of that comes from the State Water Project. The other half of the SCV’s water supply comes from groundwater, so theoretically Tesoro del Valle could rely solely on groundwater.

Newhall County Water District, which pumps groundwater and buys its water from the agency, is the most likely to consider expanding its retail service area to include Tesoro.

Steve Cole, the district’s general manager, said that’s not likely, either.

“That’s not really something we’re looking at doing,” Cole said. “The groundwater in the area, I’m not sure would have the capacity to serve the development by itself.”

Even if the district or agency pledged to provide water to the housing development, they’d still have to prove the water supply was plentiful to both Los Angeles County and the Los Angeles County Local Agency Formation Commission, both of which would require public hearings.


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