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Water officials ink Devil’s Den deal

Posted: June 2, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 2, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Local water officials who have gone to the well at Devil’s Den in the past for both water and energy are turning to the remote stretch of wilderness once again — this time with hopes of better managing their debt.

Wednesday was the first official day of a stronger, bolder relationship between the Castaic Lake Water Agency and the Devil’s Den Water District.

Last week, district members authorized a joint-powers agreement between the two water agencies as a way of paying down debt by allowing the agency to issue revenue bonds. The agreement took effect Wednesday.

“Right now, it’s a contingency of sorts to ensure that our next debt-service issue is the most cost-effective possible,” said agency General Manager Dan Masnada. “In order to do so, we need to be prepared to issue revenue bonds.”

The power-sharing agreement gives the agency an alternative method of managing its debt.

It does this by enabling the agency to issue bonds when it becomes cost-effective to do so.

“Ultimately, all residents (of the Santa Clarita Valley) — those that are here today, as well as those that will come tomorrow — will benefit because we will be stretching our dollar investments for capital improvements as far as we can,” Masnada said Wednesday.

As the multiyear drought unfolded in the late ’80s, Castaic Lake’s planners went looking for water.

In their search, they found Devil’s Den about 130 miles north of the Santa Clarita Valley, about 70 miles northeast of San Luis Obispo.

The hot, flat terrain is dotted with a handful of oil wells, and maintained by a single ranching family. The agency benefits in no way from the oil-drilling operations on the property, Masnada said.

Cotton farmers once used Devil’s Den’s 8,600 acres to grow cotton and, of course, needed water for their crops.

When the agency bought most of the property in 1988, it obtained the property’s water rights in the process.

Since then, residents of the Santa Clarita Valley have benefited from the deal, with 12,700 acre-feet of water delivered here each year — enough water to supply about 12,700 homes.

Meanwhile, California utilities are required by state law to have 33 percent of their electric supply come from renewable sources by 2020.

To make this happen, the state offers money in the way of subsidies through the California Public Utilities Commission.

In 2009, agency officials unveiled plans to turn Devil’s Den into a green and sustainable solar-powered, money-making enterprise.

The solar field planned for that agency property could cover up to 3,000 acres, with enough solar panels to cover more than 5,000 football fields.

Using Devil’s Den for solar power generation could potentially offset the agency’s cost of owning the land.

It could also make money for the agency if there’s enough energy generated to sell.

Some of the energy generated by the agency could be used to offset electrical energy it already uses.


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