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Monday, Apr 15, 2024

Assembly Passes Santa Clarita Water Bill

A bill to dissolve three water districts in Santa Clarita Valley and create a new agency has passed the California Assembly and is on its way to the state Senate. Senate Bill 634 was approved with changes to the original bill on Wednesday. The original bill was introduced in February by Sen. Scott Wilk (R- Antelope Valley.) “I see it as a win-win for our area,” Wilk said in a statement. Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) presented the bill in the Assembly. “SB 634 will establish a new water agency that will unify regional water resource management for joint efforts to address the many water challenges faced in the Santa Clarita Valley,” Lackey said in a statement. The bill would merge the Castaic Lake Water Agency, which owns the private retail water service provider Valencia Water Co., and the Newhall County Water District into a new entity called the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency. The new agency will take over all services, cash, assets, liabilities and employees of the water entities, and be able to buy property and build projects. It will also deliver water from different sources at retail and wholesale prices, according to the bill. Castaic Lake Water Agency is a State Water Project contractor, and that would be taken over by the new water agency if the bill passes. The new agency will also be able to “contain lands situated in more than one county, and the agency may annex lands situated in another county.” According to the bill, the two water entities, which have been in talks to merge since 2015, hired a third-party entity to analyze the financial feasibility of the new entity, conducted their own study, reached out to the public and established a website. The consolidation idea came around as a way of settling litigation between the entities arising from Castaic Lake’s purchase of Valencia. According to the bill, the numerous retail water providers serving the valley have created a fragmented structure with redundancies, conflict between the agencies and barriers to an integrated way to manage water regionally. However, the bill says, the providers have been able to provide reliable and cost-effective water service. Wilk says the new district will save money, be more transparent and enhance environmental and watershed protections. The Santa Clarita Valley region has 270,000 people, according to the bill. If the bill is approved in the Senate, it will next go before Gov. Jerry Brown for consideration. A public hearing on the application to form the new agency will follow the agencies’ official application to L.A. County.

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