Korenthal For Water Board

Where is the CLWA on the $210,000,000 Chloride Treatment Facility?

September 8, 2010

Has it dawned on anyone else that the Castaic Lake Water Agency has been strangely silent on the issue of the proposed Chloride Treatment Facility that will raise sanitation rates in Santa Clarita? This is probably because the CLWA is responsible for the plan that will build not only the $210,000,000+ treatment facility in Santa Clarita, but a slew of other projects that will be built and paid for by the Santa Clarita Sanitation District but will benefit Ventura County farm interests. Farming interests, empowered by an out-of-control, unelected Water Quality Bureaucracy has called for Santa Clarita to reduce chloride levels of treated sewage that it dumps into the Santa Clara River. The plan completely ignores the fact that up 80 mg/l of the allegedly high chloride levels come to Santa Clarita from The State Water Project where up to 50% of the water used in Santa Clarita originates.

If this scheme is implemented, Santa Clarita Valley residential sewer fees could go up by hundreds of dollars per year while sewer hookup fees for new businesses rise and much as 10 times current levels. In these difficult economic times, it is irresponsible of the CLWA and their partners in crime to be hiding their involvement in this scam from ratepayers. If I am elected to the Castaic Lake Water Agency Board of Directors on November 2nd, my first order of business will be to work to scrap the Alternative Water Resources Management Plan (AWRM) which is responsible for the complicated scheme that builds billions of dollars of water treatment and conveyance infrastructure that benefits downstream farmers, while your water continues to taste bad, be too hard and chalk full of hazardous chemicals such as ammonia.

UPDATE: Below is my opinion position paper from the  Sunday, September 19th Signal Newspaper. In this opinion piece I talk about the Alternative Water Resources Management Plan (AWRM) that makes up the basis of the Chloride Treatment Facility Project as well as other water infrastructure that benefits downstream farming interests.

Scrap the MOU and Support Ratepayers
By Kevin D. Korenthal
 
You’ve heard the saying, “the devil’s in the details” right? It’s used traditionally to describe things that seem good on the surface, but sour when faced with a more thorough examination. 
 
When it comes to water policy, details matter. They are the only way ratepayers can hold water providers accountable. There’s no better example of this fact than my recent analysis of a 29 page Memorandum of Understanding of the Alternative Water Resources Management Plan (ARWM). The Castaic Lake Water Agency is a signatory to this 2008 agreement, which serves as the foundation for the current debate regarding the construction of an expensive Chloride Treatment Facility. 
 
In my work as the executive director of a statewide association of public works building contractors, I review and comment on detailed legal agreements all the time.  Accordingly, as someone who wants to represent CLWA ratepayers, I wanted to better understand what we’d all been committed to. Accordingly, I jumped right in and looked directly at the details.
 
The Good:
 
The MOU (which defines the Alternative Water Resources Management Plan or AWRM) has some positive points especially as it relates to the document being a comprehensive plan to increase water flow to the Santa Clarita Valley and surrounding areas. It also reopens the question of what reprocessed sewage water can be used for by requiring a study of its potential uses. This of course presents a bit of an incongruity because studies, or lack of them, are being blamed in part for the dubious determination that chloride levels in excess of 117 mg/l are harmful to strawberry and avocado crops downstream.
 
The AWRM Plan as defined in the MOU is an extremely complex set of instructions that, if followed, alleges that several water sources that are currently unavailable to Santa Clarita and the surrounding area (including vast portions of Ventura County) will become available once again.
 
The Bad:
 
The problem is that the AWRM deems the construction of various water infrastructure projects necessary to accessing these additional water sources.
 
The Santa Clarita Sanitation District will be responsible to fund construction of the East Piru Well Network as well as East Piru Conveyance and Extraction Wells. These are examples of projects listed in the MOU that the Los Angeles Sanitation District will fund and build but will not own or benefit directly from. This means that Sanitation District ratepayers in Santa Clarita are going to bear the cost for water infrastructure projects intended to benefit Ventura County farmers with no guarantee the increased water flow will reduce water costs. Without lower water costs, Santa Clarita ratepayers could face hundreds of dollars annually in higher sanitation fees. Businesses could also be hammered. I’m very concerned about how this will impact ratepayers and our local economy.
 
Moreover, the AWRM presupposes that a chloride treatment facility is necessary, yet there isn’t the scientific research to substantiate this claim. Studies to confirm this were never completed.
 
The MOU also assumes that a single use chloride treatment facility is the only way to bring all chloride levels, whether in Los Angeles or Ventura County down to proscribed levels.
 
Page 2 Section B: of the MOU reads: The AWRM Program, in comparison with the conventional approach, would have economic, public acceptance feasibility, timing, environmental quality, and water supply benefit.
 
Based on my analysis, I believe that the only thing the AWRM ensures is that CLWA ratepayers get the shaft in the name of ensuring that downstream interests have access to plenty of chloride-free water with which to address their own water quality problems. Or better stated, we pay for it, they benefit from it. Sanitation District ratepayers will see a dramatic increase in sewer fees while businesses seeking to open or expand businesses in Santa Clarita will be greeted with sewer hookup fees 4 to 5 times higher than they are today.
 
Nowhere in the MOU is a guarantee that after spending all this money and building the infrastructure suggested that Santa Clarita will receive additional sources of water. It really depends on the mood of the powerful other interests. Furthermore, there is nothing that would indicate that an increased water flow will offset rising Sanitation District fees. Again, we’re on the hook to pay for a return that isn’t certain. 
                                                                     
Having pledged in my campaign for Castaic Lake Water agency to protect ratepayers and ensure that they are receiving quality water that is reliable and reasonably priced, I simply cannot support the ARWM. Instead, I believe we must scrap the MOU, go back to the drawing board and forge a solution that addresses our water quality and supply needs in a fair and equitable way. 
 

Kevin D. Korenthal is the executive director of a state-wide association of public works building contractors and a candidate for The Castaic Lake Water Agency Board of Directors. He can be reached through his website at http://www.korenthal.com.

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